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The Visible Supply Chain

Global organizations now deliver shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade almost anywhere on the globe.

The Visible Supply Chain

Global trading is always in flux as ever-evolving trade policies make for a less predictable supply chain process. Learning to succeed on a global playing field is the most significant challenge for global organizations, particularly retailers. To trade and ship around the world, global organizations must contend with local legislative restrictions and tariffs, servicing specialized products for native customers and work with locally-based trading partners.

Retail brick-and-mortar stores have been challenged by a world where the globe is your selling floor and inventory is no longer limited to what you keep in the warehouse or on the shelves. Amazon, a company that has mastered the global supply chain, now finds itself more valuable than Wal-Mart despite only a third of its rival’s revenue earnings. The reason: Amazon has more than 300 plus million products available online while Wal-Mart only offers six million.

Still, mastering the global supply chain is rife with challenges. The potential challenges include bad data, price fluctuations in different countries and poor communication between buyers and sellers. A recent the University of Tennessee and Global Supply Chain Institute study concluded that businesses must solve an “information governance” problem. That problem is responsible for the cancellation of 60 percent of reported transactions per month because of data anomalies. As a result, the study said, properly navigating and governing the supply chain information flow is a critical priority.

Accept the New Supply Chain

Global organizations need to accept a new model to survive: one where there are essentially no limits to the products they offer, and few limits on where they can send items. Learning how to expand your product line intelligently boosts competition and business. Amazon, for example, has been aggressively pursuing vendors from India to its warehouses to serve bargain-hunters in North America.

At the same time, businesses with a global imprint need to master the challenges that a lack of borders creates: the need for compliance; varied shipping rules and correct fulfillment, packaging, and labeling to both domestic and foreign locations.

Better Visibility Needed for Global Business

If you handle global business, you must constantly monitor transactions, including shipping and trading data. Business is now conducted in real-time and global organizations need real-time supply chain visibility to identify problems and bottlenecks.

Supply chain dashboards can help businesses identify suppliers who can’t meet guidelines and fulfillment thresholds and provide insights into which products are in demand, in many cases by country or location, as well as view merchandise flow.

In an age of next or same-day shipping, shipment-tracking time is paramount. Supply chain managers must have complete visibility into what items have been shipped on time and what orders are still unfulfilled. Global supply chain visibility should enable supply chain and merchandising managers to identify trends based on order variances within a specified timeframe; continually update product information such as pictures, colors, sizes, weights and other specifications and support frequent synchronization of inventory with customers’ e-commerce platforms.

To enable global management of logistics and warehousing, electronic information must be shared securely with carriers, customs officials and freight companies including the capabilities to track items in warehouses, located in foreign sovereignties, and determine when supplies are low or overstocked.

Support Real-Time EDI Transactions

This is a critical step. To handle global business, visibility into the EDI (electronic data interchange) process is a must. An ERP (enterprise resource planner) adapter can help integrate transaction flows from your customers in your ERP system. Keeping a close eye on EDI also ensures you are correctly handling purchase order acknowledgments and invoice and advance shipment notices.

Package Logistics: Crucial for Global Trading

Ever receive a package from an exotic location that looks like it arrived via pony express? A lot can happen to a package that makes its way via drop shipment to a customer on the other side of the world. To support global trade, companies need to adapt processes, procedures, and relationships with vendors and be sure that their web services mesh with the major small parcel carriers in different locations, both foreign and domestic. The ability to monitor and adjust order flow is critical to the success of any e-commerce fulfillment process.

A compliance management system anticipates shipping problems using preemptive alerts when incomplete activities approach a violation threshold. These notifications help retailers keep customers happy by removing service-level issues before they become customer service complaints.

Thrive in a Changing Market

If you are a retailer, it is time to prepare for a world of limitless inventory–buying and selling products around the world–often shipping directly to a consumer’s home. The more companies use the tools available to them to solve recurring issues with e-commerce, the more they will be able to thrive regardless of borders or trade policies. Make sure you are taking the appropriate steps to not just compete but get ahead in this changing marketplace.

Peter Edlund is Senior Vice President of Global Product Marketing and a founding member of DiCentral, responsible for leading the company’s global marketing initiatives.

B2B integration can facilitate shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade.

Five Trends Guiding the Future of B2Bi and ERP

B2B integration done correctly is a chance for organizations to cut costs without reinventing the wheel. And by 2020 and beyond, many organizations will have taken advantage of the opportunity to do so.

Here’s how we expect the supply chain to evolve over the next decade.

Expanding the consumer net by collaborating on a global scale. According to the International Trade Administration, less than one percent of the 30 million U.S. companies export goods—a percentage that is significantly lower than all other developed countries. And of U.S. companies that do export goods, 58 percent export to only one country.

These statistics paint a clear picture of one change that organizations must make to compete in the global market. For buyers to properly compensate suppliers and for suppliers to properly meet the evolving needs of those buyers, all organizations will have to automate processes electronically.

According to a study conducted by the University of Tennessee, suppliers captured a 25-percent savings increase by processing orders electronically and 20 percent by processing invoices electronically rather than non-electronically. Suppliers using business-to-business integration as a managed service processed invoices five days faster.

By implementing automated supply chain processes, buyers can pay suppliers quicker than ever before avoiding potential supply chain disruptions. For suppliers, supply chain automation makes it easier to comply with hundreds of different buyer standards, which greatly reduces the risk of incurring penalties, such as chargebacks, for noncompliance.

Embracing the cloud. By 2020, more organizations will have made the transition to a cloud-based infrastructure. After all, cash is king, and the cloud dramatically alters how much organizations have in the bank.

For example, when a large consumer product goods manufacturer moved from a direct sales force to a broker model, its brokers were incentivized to pursue large clients. Sales and revenue skyrocketed, but so did the buyer demands, now that their buyers were large retailers- such as Walmart and Academy Sports.

The growing pool of retailers selling their products each required specific EDI compliance capabilities to distribute those products to thousands of distribution points and millions of customers around the world. By expanding and embracing the power of the cloud, they were able to scale resources to meet buyer demands and expand exponentially without missing a beat.

Enabling better data capabilities for proactive management. When organizations work together, sustaining the forward momentum can be difficult. They have to look at collaboration as a journey, not a destination. We might call this the upward data spiral: the ubiquitous data monitoring of supply chains and continual improvement of how you do business.

As more data enters an organization, decision makers improve their visibility, forecasting capabilities, and ERP (enterprise resource planning). It becomes a predictable way to manage something unpredictable. For instance, online shopping has made the demand of products increasingly unpredictable, but with better visibility into data points, organizations can more easily manage how a product will reach the end consumer.

Moving towards omnichannel capabilities. In 2016, major suppliers have inventory sitting in storage and distribution centers across multiple divisions in varying locations. To enable consumers to view and purchase products across a connected interface of online, mobile, in-store, and other channels, organizations must seamlessly manage their inventory across a complex array of global distribution points.

Omnichannel also offers new business opportunities in the form of expanded distribution and virtual shipping. It is often impossible for stores to hold the inventory of 100 percent of their buyers, 100 percent of the time. Yet by leveraging an omnichannel strategy, organizations can expand the number of SKUs (stock-keeping units) to create an “endless aisle” for customers with various tastes.

These processes provide actionable insight, protect the buyer’s brand, and ensures customer satisfaction. Omnichannel allows suppliers to have more distribution points, buyers to offer more unique products, and consumers to get the products they want when, where, and how they prefer to receive them.

Enlisting B2Bi third-party vendors to address rules and standards. In 2020 and beyond, organizations will be more likely than ever to partner with a specialist with the foresight and experience to manage and maintain compliance for their customers on both sides of the buyer-supplier relationship. The collaborative nature of B2Bi through third party specialists establishes a new paradigm for buyers, suppliers, and consumers alike.

Organizations in 2016 have already reaped the benefits of connecting with third party vendors to help them manage these complexities. The University of Tennessee study found that 94 percent saw significant improvement in their electronic connectivity capabilities when using B2Bi managed services; 68 percent reported their clients said they were easier to do business with after implementing B2Bi managed services; and 69 percent said they could respond more quickly to changes in their clients’ environments after implementing B2Bi managed services.

Today, only 30 percent of the organizations surveyed are using B2Bi managed services.

The future collision of supply-chain management and data ubiquity is already well under way. It’s an upward spiral seized by the most successful retail chains and their suppliers, a collaborative success story facilitated by third-party B2Bi firms.

Peter Edlund is the senior vice president of global product marketing for DiCentral, a leading global provider of B2Bi managed services headquartered in Houston, Texas, with 10 offices worldwide supporting customers in over 27 countries. For more information, please visit

Collaboration technology can make more efficient shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade.

Three Steps to Making Sure Your Supply Chain Isn’t Leaking Revenue

The goal of all business owners is to grow: grow their client base, their operations and, subsequently, their profit margins. Leaders of the world’s most successful companies seek both insight into their organization’s supply chain operations and foresight into future trends in EDI and B2B integration.

Before you can improve your supply chain processes, you need a clear picture of how well you’re collaborating with other members of your supply chain.

The first step is to assess how you collaborate and communicate with your trading partners. Ask yourself,

  • Am I getting the most out of my strategic partners in the supply chain?
  • Am I using the right technology in the most effective way possible?
  • Who can help me improve my current supply chain process?

Self-assessment gives leaders an idea of where they are now and how they can get to where they want to be- at the top of their market.

Follow the Amazon Effect

Consider The world’s largest online retail exchange company knows that any lag in the delivery process can directly weaken Amazon’s bottom line by preventing repeat purchases and driving customers into the hands of the competition.

Amazon avoids these pitfalls by measuring key variables such as delivery times, SKU margins, and cost of invoicing. This keeps them in the know about the state of their organization—at all times—so they can avoid hiccups in the supply chain and maintain their reputation as the online shopping site where customers can find almost anything in the world and have it delivered with unprecedented speed.

Three-Step Supply Chain Evaluation

Whether you’re the manager of an automotive company, the owner of a medical supply distributor, or the operations coordinator of a CPG manufacturer, your organization is capable of leveraging the technology collaboration strategies of some of the world’s most successful organizations for tremendous growth. By reverse engineering the operations of some of these organizations, we have identified specific focus areas for you to examine:

1. Evaluate your business-to-business integration roadmap

  • Does your organization have a technology roadmap?
  • What should that road map look like?
  • How do you address the needs of your various business operations and departments?

According to a study by the University of Tennessee, 88 percent of organizations using B2Bi managed services saw a reduction in overall supply chain operational costs after investing in more advanced electronic collaboration and reporting capabilities. By analyzing your own organization, you can appreciate similar gains.

2. Explore New Vendor and Partner Relationships

  • Have I recently investigated ongoing relationships and technology vendor needs?
  • Are there any gaps in my organization’s processes that can be better managed by a third-party vendor? Can I prioritize the gaps I want to take action on now?
  • Am I missing out on opportunities to simplify my processes and expand capabilities? How can I identify these opportunities to take action?

A third party service provider can also improve your ability to measure and predict key performance indicators for your organization. For example, third-party logistics provider, Capacity LLC, uses cloud-based inventory tracking systems to provide real-time inventory visibility to make it simple for their clients to see what goes on and stay in control.

More than 40 percent of companies surveyed in the same University of Tennessee study on technology integration experienced improved efficiency in onboarding new trading partners when using B2Bi managed services. Sixty-nine percent said that they were able to more efficiently respond to changes in their customer’s requirements when using B2Bi managed services. The right partners can take your organization to the next level.

3. Future Business Trends in Your Industry

  • Am I integrated with my supply chain so I have speed-to-market advantages over my competition? In what areas can I improve?
  • Is my organization keeping metrics on supply-chain functions? Can I quantify and monitor these metrics?
  • Would moving to the cloud enhance my business operations and my ability to integrate with vendors? In what capacity?

Technology moves fast. By understanding collaborative technology trends, companies grant themselves the opportunity to adapt rather than react. Knowing future trends means measuring and predicting what might happen next in your industry and how those trends impact your ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) technology as a whole.

For a precise self-evaluation of your collaborative technology capabilities, take our collaborative technology scorecard, developed by our team in conjunction with the University of Tennessee.

Peter Edlund is the senior vice president of global product marketing for DiCentral, a leading global provider of B2Bi managed services headquartered in Houston, Texas, with 10 offices worldwide supporting customers in over 27 countries. For more information, please visit