Supply chains are bigger and more complex than ever before. Nearly 50 million tons of goods moving every single day in the US alone. In order to run a successful and competitive business, it’s more important than ever to have an efficient system that can manage risks and resolve issues. And while supply chain management software is evolving every day, the time it takes to understand the problems and make critical decisions is still becoming longer.
A big reason for that is inefficient communication practices between different companies within a supply chain. The time it takes from data processing to actionable steps taken is too long. When multiple autonomous companies work together to plan and execute supply chain operations, it’s easy to see how collaboration problems between supply chain partners can arise.
That’s why supply chain collaboration (SCC) software is so important, especially for organizations that have complex SCM systems that span across several autonomous entities.
What is Supply Chain Collaboration Software?
Supply chain collaboration is defined as the process in which two or more autonomous companies work within the same supply chain management system, coordinating the planning and execution of the supply chain together.
It’s easy to see how important communication can be, especially between larger, multinational companies. With numerous departments that play a part in the global supply chain process, a clear communications strategy must be established in order to effectively manage a single supply chain management system implemented across organizations.
With supply chain collaboration software, companies can develop an effective communications process between each other, which leads to numerous benefits such as better inventory planning, reduced costs and overall optimization of SCM processes.
When you have large companies working together, traditional communication systems simply aren’t enough to both maintain a grip on the supply chain data and make quick decisions.
An established collaboration system allows for real-time communications that provide more accurate forecasts. This also makes it easier to make informed decisions across a wide spectrum of SCM areas.
Here are some of the main benefits of a comprehensive supply chain collaboration software solution:
Supply chain collaboration software provides unique opportunities to make your supply chain more efficient. The ability to track real-time data of supplier and distributor performance allows you to clearly understand the patterns in place so you can make the necessary adjustments.
The goal of a supply chain management system is to consistently build value between all parts of the supply chain. If both the suppliers and the distributors work to deliver value for each other in the long term, this allows for the involved companies to grow their partnership and reap the mutual benefits of the process.
And increased collaboration between the parties involved in the supply chain is the only viable solution to ensure growth. Without an effective collaboration system, it’s very difficult to make consistent improvements in the supply chain.
Another huge benefit of collaboration software is the potential it gives to reduce costs across the supply chain. As relationships between companies evolve, over time it provides opportunities to save on numerous expenses because the procedures related to the supply chain become more efficient.
Without an SCC system in place, the initial collaboration practices aren’t likely to be very efficient, which leads to numerous problems across the supply chain. And while, over time, the communication would improve, it makes much more sense to start reaping the benefits of streamlined SCM procedures. These procedures can be implemented quickly and painlessly using supply chain collaboration software.
A study by Science Direct has shown a clear correlation between collaborative practices. Practices such as effective information sharing and joint effort at improving performance are key factors in improving overall satisfaction and performance of a business.
The relationship between supply chain collaboration and an increase in customer satisfaction may not be obvious, but having an efficient system for collaboration can greatly contribute to becoming a better service provider for your customers. If the supply chain is streamlined by effective collaboration between suppliers and distributors, it can help find new ways to improve customer satisfaction by delivering a better service. This, of course, provides a huge competitive advantage.
How Are SCM and SCC Different?
The main difference between supply chain collaboration and supply chain management is that the latter covers a much wider range of functions.
Supply chain collaboration software mainly focuses on improving the way multiple companies collaborate and improve the performance of the supply chain.
So while it’s a very important piece of the puzzle when trying to develop an efficient SCM system across two or more organizations, it can’t replace the SCM software solutions that have numerous benefits reaching far beyond the scope of SCC solutions.
SCC can be a stand-alone solution, but more often than not, it can be found as an integral module of a supply chain management solution.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the seven best-rated supply chain collaboration software solutions from our Leaderboard. Make sure you consider these heavy-hitters in your collaboration software comparison.
SAP’s SCM system is great all around and has spectacular collaborative capabilities. Whether your collaborators are internal or from an entirely different company, SAP has you covered.
SAP allows users to share the most important information for increased visibility of forecasts, inventory information, orders and much more. Open access to this information fosters cooperation to the highest degree, desegregating silos and ensuring more informed decisions all around.
Employee onboarding is also more efficient, encouraging user adoption so you can be sure key players are on the same page. SAP can be deployed in the cloud or on-premise.
Oracle’s supplier chain collaboration software is another great choice. Like SAP, it allows sharing of information with your supply chain partners. You can do this during both the supply chain planning and execution phases. During planning, Oracle provides contract management to secure your partners’ dependability. Users are able to collaborate on order forecasts with suppliers, see changes in real-time and make plans with the same information your partners use.
During the execution process, all parties are savvy to updates on production, order management and the source-to-settle process. This product is available as a cloud solution or on-premise.
Epicor centralizes collaboration using their ServiceConnect module. This module includes a supplier portal built on service oriented architecture to facilitate your collaborative efforts. Users also can take advantage of this module to view payments, see stock levels and process POs and RFQs.
This solution is available as a cloud-based product or on-premise. You can also get a custom quote for the exact needs of your business.
This vendor ranks towards the middle of our Leaderboard, yet still makes its supply chain collaboration features a top priority. Infor allows collaboration with your supply chain partners at all levels. This software involves your suppliers, customers and distributors at each step for maximum coordination and efficiency. Users are able to see a mismatch between supply and demand sooner, reducing costs down the line. This system also displays forecasts and order performance to further bring down costs and increase customer satisfaction.
This solution is available in the cloud and on-premise as well. Like Epicor, Infor also provides custom quotes depending on the scope of your supply chain.
Manhattan Associate’s solution is great for a number of industries. This system includes features built for specific purposes, supporting industries such as food and beverage, retail, life sciences and more. So no matter your line of work, supply chain collaboration is readily available.
This software contains a secure portal your trading partners can access online. This portal enables real-time participation from both your upstream and downstream suppliers. In addition to facilitating communication, this module provides document management. Sharing your sensitive documents electronically has never been more secure. This system also allows all parties to participate in PO acknowledgment and negotiation.
This solution is available as a cloud-based product only, which may seem limiting. However, cloud computing is actually revolutionizing supply chains as we know them.
OM Partners’ system is simpler than the other offerings on this list, but still has fantastic collaboration capabilities. OMP Plus supports sharing of information across forecasting, planning, and sales and operations modules. Users can collaborate using short-term or long-term forecasts allowing cooperation at all levels of planning.
This system is available on-premise and as a cloud-based product.
Although last on our list, Elementum’s SCM Suite still includes excellent collaborative capabilities. A large part of Elementum’s brand is emphasizing preventative supply chain measures. As such, their solution relies on big data and analytics for high visibility. This way, you and your partners are always on the same page. Not only do you have the same supply chain information, but also you are privy to the same forecasts. With this solution, you can discover issues early, saving your team time and money.
While you might find greater visibility with their cloud deployment, this product also comes as an on-premise solution.
These products are all wonderful choices for companies that absolutely need collaborative software. But we also rank top systems that are strong in other areas of SCM. Each system receives a score from our analyst team based on how well it can fulfill common requirements. To see the best systems for planning, transportation, procurement and other requirements, make sure you check out our Leaderboard. Does your company utilize any of the products on this list? Tell us what you love (or don’t love) about them in the comments!