Web-based supply-chain management for the ‘weakest links’

PLANO, Tex. (April 7) — Targeting the weakest links in the supply chain, a consortium headed by Electronic Data Systems Corp. is developing a web-enabled system to bolster build-to-order manufacturing efforts.

The idea is to help small or cash-strapped companies, which are unable to support expensive electronic links to their partners, strengthen their supply-chain ties and improve their BTO strategy.

EDS will integrate a customer’s enterprise resource planning system with an advanced planning and scheduling system from Paragon Management Systems Inc., Los Angeles, and the Internet Selling System (ISS) from Selectica Inc., San Jose. Then, using an Internet service provider and a browser, suppliers, distributors, and manufacturers can interact, said Michael Atwood, president of EDS Enterprise Solutions, based in Plano, Tex.

Industries with complex supply chains will benefit from EDS solution, said Martin Hofmann, supply-chain-practice leader for EDS.

For example, a typical automotive manufacturer has a four- to six-tier-deep chain, but still needs to get information from small bottom-tier shops that may supply critical parts, Atwood said. Small companies, however, may not be able to afford expensive EDI links to a carmaker, which may be a prerequisite for doing business.

In this case, a company can rent the web-based system on a monthly or per-user basis to provide production and shipment information, according to Atwood.

The ISS tracks product-configuration, component, and pricing information from each vendor and relays it back into the manufacturer’s ERP system, Hofmann said.

Thus, a manufacturer can obtain exact delivery dates and prices for electronic components, Hofmann said.
EDS performs an assessment to define the customer’s trading network and prototype the customization effort. A supplier can get an idea of how much money it would save by working more closely with its partners during this phase, Hofmann said.

“Once we show them the assessment, suppliers might say, ‘Maybe we can save $20 million in inventories this year with GM, Ford, and Chrysler by having collaborative forecasting, joint planning, scheduling, and execution.’ If they see a benefit, then they will do it,” he said.

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