Solving common supply chain communication issues with specialized digital solutions

The success of your business is inextricably linked to the performance of your supply chain. Even intermittent hiccups in replenishment schedules or minor inaccuracies in demand forecasting can quickly become sources of uncertainty, fulfillment delays, and major business risk. Keeping in constant contact with your suppliers and other vendors is the simplest way to avoid these issues.

However, exchanging complex business requirements and important documents comes with challenges of its own. Here are a few supply chain communication issues that retailers commonly experience, and ways that dedicated digital solutions address these challenges.

Poor Document Management

Many businesses rely heavily on email for a wide range of day-to-day business processes, including coordinating orders and invoices with their suppliers. While email is far more convenient than phone calls and conventional mail, it’s still a very inefficient and error-prone way to conduct business.

Imagine creating a purchase order as a PDF and sending it to your supplier via email, only to realize that you forgot to attach the actual PO document! Or how about those times when you spend precious minutes hunting for the right invoice or PO through hundreds of emails? Maybe you saved the email attachments to a separate folder on your computer, and you’re not sure which file is the most recent version. Maybe you need to find out how many POs you sent to each of your suppliers this week… When you’re working against the clock to fulfill orders on time, these aren’t the sort of details you should be spending your time on.

Specialized digital solutions for communicating with trading partners and suppliers is much faster and more convenient than email. Instead of preparing a paper document, scanning it, attaching it to an email and sending the email to the right address, you can send the same information from your organization’s ERP system directly to your supplier or partner’s ERP system. This kind of partner integration provides fewer opportunities for manual error, and takes far less time and effort.

Incompatible Partner Standards

Dozens of data formats and data transport protocols exist, so it shouldn’t surprise you to discover that your suppliers use different standards than you do. Some use XML while others use JSON. Some might even use their own proprietary formats.

It isn’t just data formats that differ from partner to partner. Each organization has its own set of business rules that it applies to each type of document the send or receive, or even to specific segments or fields in a document. Fail to comply with these rules and you might be asked to prepare and send those documents again.

Modern partner communication solutions eliminate the complexity caused by mismatched standards by intelligently translating between different standards and keeping track of each vendor’s unique set of business rules. These features are especially useful when you need to onboard a new trading partner quickly.

Scalability

If your company only sends fifteen or twenty business documents a day, email might actually be a workable solution for vendor communication. However, as soon as your business grows and you begin to send fifty to a hundred documents each day, relying on email will cripple your operations. Put simply, email fails to scale.

Modern organizations need to plan ahead and choose communication systems that can support peak transactional workloads, even if their business growth exceeds all expectations. Modern partner communication solutions are designed to process thousands of transactions an hour without any noticeable slowdowns. If your communication infrastructure becomes sluggish under high workloads, your efficiency will suffer, and so will your bottom line.

Each of the pain points mentioned above can wreak havoc on your ability to align inventory with demand and efficiently fulfill orders, and ultimately result in business risk, lower margins, or even loss of business. A scalable supply chain communication solution that integrates with your organization’s ERP platform is a worthwhile investment, and if you don’t have a modern system in place already, now is the time to explore your options.

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