It goes without saying that the digital age of the supply chain has arrived. By now, most businesses with a product to move have some sort of supply chain or transportation management system. Even those who are relying on spreadsheets and email are lightyears ahead of where we were just a decade ago. But what digital offerings will really move the needle for your business? Which ones totally change the game and pave the way for growth and efficiency?
One of the more exciting trends in supply chain management tech is purchase order management. Most suppliers boast the ability to digitally manage a PO, but what does that really involve? Ability to upload and share a PO with a vendor, realistically, has become table stakes in today’s marketplace. But what should supply chain managers seek out in purchase order management? What should be the new table stakes?
Control Beyond the PO
For purchase order management to be truly effective in a supply chain, it’s important that it’s coupled with deep control over your vendors and compliance, as well as management and visibility down to the line item level. When your control goes back to the inception of the purchase order, you gain visibility of your shipment before it really becomes, well, a shipment. This deep visibility makes it easier to keep track of where your product is made, where it’s in transit, and where it’s headed right down to what container it’s in or which truck it’s on to help you make more informed decisions about your logistics. With this type of data, you can make buyer’s consolidations overseas, change your container size, and better plan and forecast. Keeping all this data in one place keeps everyone working from a single version of the truth, enabling you and your supply chain partners to plan better and move product more efficiently.
A Single Version of the Truth
The most standout feature that allows a purchase order management tool to really transform your processes is, plain and simple, a portal. When you’ve got one home base where document storage, communication, and tracking all happen cohesively, you gain unprecedented efficiency and accuracy. Here’s why we think this is important:
A good supply chain management portal will allow you to upload, store, and collaborate on documents in one space. This way, everyone is working from the same documents, rather than versions that may be updated for some parties and not for others.
Communication should also take place in this portal. If you’ve never had the ability to tie messaging to a specific PO or shipment, get ready for your world to change. You’ll no longer have to worry about that bill of lading that’s sitting in the inbox of the guy who’s out sick today. You’ll also be able to say goodbye to scrolling through email threads and clogged inboxes. If you communicate with your supply chain partners via phone, you can move some of that communication to an instant message, which adds in the sense of security that comes with documented correspondence.
Not only should you be able to know which POs are set to ship at the same time, but also the exact products and quantities within those POs. When your packing list finally arrives in your email inbox, the last thing you should have to do is open a spreadsheet and try to consolidate and make sense of your orders, Instead, look for a solution that gives you a detailed view of this information, already organized and easy-to-digest in one place.
While the last few points covered this in some ways, it’s worth elaborating. So many logistics professionals waste countless minutes logging into different sites, searching inboxes, and shuffling papers. A good software tool will allow you to not only store documents and correspondence in one place—it’ll also enable you to organize these items by purchase order, shipment, and more. When your supply chain partners also have access to this organization—bills of lading, contracts, and SLAs all tied to the order at hand—prepare for a major upgrade in your process reliability and compliance.
Data and Analytics
Luckily, when you have all of your production, purchase, and transport data carefully documented and stored in one place, it becomes really easy to analyze them. Look for a software platform that provides some sort of birds-eye view of your supply chain to keep track of timing, what’s on the water, and alerts and exceptions. Information like on-the-water reports allows you to make better forecasts and financial reports by knowing exactly what inventory you have and when you’ll be able to access it. If you have the ability to dig deeper into these numbers, you can recapture hours of work and wasted time. In some businesses, there are a few roles dedicated solely to calculating statistics like landed cost. If your PO is managed in the same place as your logistics and your customs management, you can get those numbers at the click of a button with 100% accuracy.
Realistically, there’s no one-size-fits-all for supply chain solutions. Every business functions differently, faces different challenges, and works within different budgets. The most important thing to look for in a PO management solution is that it works well for your supply chain. It’s easy to assume that these solutions always incur a large up-front cost, but that’s not always true. If you have a more restricted budget, look for a solution that offers a pay-as-you-go model, charging you on a per-shipment basis rather than an annual subscription or an up-front purchase. With countless tools to choose from, take the time to find the solution that relieves your biggest headaches or fills the gaps in your team.
For questions on what solutions may be best for you or to learn what Navegate can do for your supply chain, contact us.
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