How do you collaborate? A look at supplier collaboration

Published November 21st, 2013 by Nazli Erdogus 9 Comments

I love to get my hands on new devices and applications that can be used in the workplace. With so much access to technology today that allows workers to be in constant contact with colleagues, you would think that collaboration would be easier than ever. But, recently, I read an article arguing that there is increasing demand for more face-to-face communication in organizations. Of course, face time with colleagues is not always possible for businesses for multiple reasons, including time constraints and the high cost of travel.

According to a survey of over 1,000 U.S. employees, conducted by Kelton Global, people were asked how they prefer to collaborate and surprisingly 72% of respondents answered in person, 23% answered online and 5% answered via phone or video conference. In addition, nearly two in five employed Americans feel there is not enough collaboration in their workplace. There definitely seems to be a gap here. So while reading these articles, I said to myself – wait a minute, I know that we can help facilitate better collaboration in the workplace, as least for supply chain professionals!

This research takes me to our annual user conference, Kinexions, which was held a few weeks ago in Scottsdale, Arizona where our customers, partners and prospects got together to hear about recent developments in RapidResponse and our customers shared their stories of successful RapidResponse deployments. We also had something unique at this conference: we were able to show ‘supplier collaboration’ in RapidResponse. This feature enables an efficient and effective process between buyers and suppliers. Using RapidResponse, enterprises have direct supplier interaction with automated B2B data exchanges for a number of different situations.

At our conference, we were eager to present the power of supplier collaboration by adding another element to it.  We showed an integrated demonstration between RapidResponse and the GT Nexus portal. We received positive interest and valuable feedback from industry analysts, customers and prospects telling us how powerful and intuitive this approach is.

The demonstration pointed out a combined solution using the RapidResponse client and GT Nexus portal where suppliers and buyers sense, evaluate, decide and act upon a supply disruption. This integrated solution displays unique capabilities including multi-enterprise visibility, immediate simulations to enact on changes, and coordinated multi-party responses.

The ability to connect with the GT Nexus portal enables the supplier to sense the real-time data across a multi-enterprise level, feed this update to RapidResponse, and let RapidResponse do its magic in re-planning and scenario analysis. The scenario comparison uses a number of business metrics and enables the decision maker to analyze the comparison on financial impacts. Then, it’s time for GT Nexus to be fed back with the analyzed data for action.

This initiative serves a broad interaction between suppliers, buyers and even a possible additional tier of suppliers involved in the supply chain. We know that  letting a supplier have access to RapidResponse to commit to requested dates and quantities is beneficial to improve the flexibility of your supply chain and the profitability of your enterprise. We’re now adding some cream on top of it.

So, what’s next? The big thing is that we are not only collaborating with the supplier, but also letting suppliers to sense changes and the opportunity to make respective changes. With this in mind, we can also say what’s next could be preventing disruptions in your supply chain before they happen. Imagine a world where you can sense the disruption coming by identifying limits through your confidence intervals, looking at important metrics that perform a negative trend, and be able to respond to that as a preventive action. That definitely sounds like the next chapter.

It seems safe to say this integration would definitely bring more than enough collaboration in supply chain platforms to answer the need for more collaboration across different teams, thus enabling companies to do a better job of providing applications that encourage collaboration.

Collaboration is important and we definitely take it seriously.

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9 Responses to “How do you collaborate? A look at supplier collaboration”

  1. Navdeep Sidhu

    I feel like the face-to-face interactions between suppliers help mitigate a lot of confusion. Sometimes it really is just easier to talk to someone for a few minutes than go back and forth via email all day. People, for the most part, still like to interact with other people during the day! And when you are looking at the supply chain it touches so many parts of the organization that you need to make sure everyone is on board.

  2. Nazli Erdogus

    Thanks a lot for your comment Navdeep.
    Agreed, face-to-face interaction makes life easier a lot of times. I also think there is a human error factor involved when it comes to supply chain processes, especially if we are talking with numbers and dates. Making sure everyone in these processes are involved is definitely crucial!

  3. Peter Whitcomb

    This RapidResponse tool sounds really useful and seems like it could mitigate a lot of the issues associated with a multi-supplier relationship. Clearly the buyer would benefit from a central collaboration tool that provides insight and transparency into a particular supplier relationship. However, I would be curious to see the adoption rates of suppliers in a more competitive context or industry where the supplier may retain the power in the relationship. Or would suppliers be willing to collaborate with each other on a certain project when they are in effect, competitors? In any case, its clear from a human nature perspective, that a tool that allows for collaboration across suppliers to run a tighter and more efficient supply chain, is a useful tool. Neat article.

  4. Nazli Erdogus

    Thanks a lot for your interest Peter.
    Indeed, we are aiming to facilitate the interaction between the buyer and supplier/suppliers here. As you mentioned, in case of multiple suppliers being asked for a single part, it`s much faster to feed them the relevant data as a buyer with all the details of the purchase orders.
    Your point in suppliers collaborating among each other is certainly valid, as much as there is competition it could definitely be used to all parties` interest.
    Thanks again.

  5. Sherlley Loo

    Thank you for your article. There is no doubt that face-to-face communication is most efficient. Not only is there not a delay in relaying a message through other mediums such as email but there is not a barrier such as if there were in conference video or phone. RapidResponse sounds like a great technology that can make communication across the supply chains more efficient and effective. There would be a greater power of supplier collaboration and appropriate information can be sent to each buyer and supplier. This makes me think of the Beer Distribution game. However, what happens when the buyer has multiple suppliers of an identical product and wants its suppliers to compete for its business? RapidResponse is straightforward if there is a one to one supplier to buyer. However, if there are multiple suppliers that a buyer can purchase from, this complicates the situation. How can RapidResponse make perform a scenario analysis at this point?

  6. Christie Vowell

    I really enjoyed this article. From personal experience, I can certainly attest to face-to-face communication being preferred. It is easier to foster relationships and commitment when you are able to meet with the other person. The use of RapidResponse seems invaluable to companies. Though I do agree that varying circumstances may require different levels of transparency, there is no doubt that the availability of current and accurate information throughout the supply chain can lead to suppliers being able to more adequately meet demands. Communication between suppliers and buyers is essential, especially in markets with high levels of fluctuations. I think RapidResponse is a great way to mitigate some of the risk involved in volatile markets.

  7. Nazli Erdogus

    Thanks a lot for your interest Sherlley. Having played the Beer Distribution game myself in my undergrad, I understand the reference. Here at Kinaxis we realize how crucial collaboration is between buyer and supplier; If we’re using the beer distribution game as an example, we know that it could cause major implications ranging from being understock to overstock, which would have negative impacts on business.

    You raised a very important point by mentioning a buyer dealing with multiple suppliers. RapidResponse uses ERP as the source, thus, any purchase order coming from the source is considered as the selected supplier. And, it’s definitely possible to have multiple line orders attached to different suppliers, which is fed to RapidResponse. RapidResponse allows supplier collaboration for each of those line items. Having done this feed from the source, scenario analysis can be made for these line items.

    Hope this answers your question, and thanks again for the comment!

  8. Nazli Erdogus

    Thanks a lot for your interest in the blog Christie.

    Indeed, collaboration gets harder considering the fact that there are multiple parties and multiple variables involved in supply chains. The key continues to be effectively adapt to changing requirements and collaborate with multiple tiers in a supply chain as necessary. Here at Kinaxis, we are continuously aiming to mitigate fluctuations through applying a use case approach in our development phases to help support supply chains of various industries, keeping in mind that markets are usually highly volatile.

  9. Mike Oswalt

    Thanks for the good thought Nazli.

    Supplier collaboration is frequently used today. It makes me wonder what supplier collaboration is? I typically want to view it as technology enabled communication… something akin to forum discussions where multiple parties (clients, suppliers, customers, buyers, engineers, logisticians,… ) solve problems related to a product, contract, or order. Others have clearly defined it to me not as technology but, more of a willingness of suppliers to work to provide solutions…resolve problems whether it is accomplished via conference, face-to-face, or otherwise. Companies working together seamlessly to solve problems is fraught with problems… IP protection, data security, and at a most fundamental level who benefits from the collaboration. Collaboration requires effort. Effort requites budgets and funding. “What’s in it for me” controls collaboration.

    Is email the bane of collaboration? How do you ween users away from email to participate in collaborative environments?

    Without the direction of solving a business problem (closely tied to a business process), collaboration more closely resembles comments on a blog posting.

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