Collaborating up and down the supply chain (with your customers and/or suppliers) for mutual benefit is increasingly common in today’s supply chains. A majority of companies that want to share information are not running the same enterprise software systems to make direct exchange possible. Furthermore, IT managers express concerns about security and controlling the information you want to keep private from others. So the question becomes, “What are the options for sharing information with your supply chain partners so that you both benefit from the information that is shared?”
The key to determining the best method of sharing information is to decide what you want to share and how often. The answer to those questions will help determine the best method of sharing. The main methods of sharing information with a supply chain partner are:
1. File exchanges (either one-way or two-way where you and your supply chain partner agree on a file format)
2. Granting limited access to your system for the partner to extract or view data
3. Sending relevant data in an agreed upon exchange format to a third party to act as an intermediary between systems (such as EDI documents through a Value Added Network or Minotaur’s web based dashboard)
4. Exchanging physical documents with the relevant information are scanned as PDFs and emailed, faxed or provided in hard copy to the partner
Each method has its risks, benefits and costs. Let’s look at a few examples and what we would suggest in each situation:
Scenario 1: You co-pack product for your customer and your customer purchases and ships you raw materials.
In this scenario, it is typical that you may receive regular phone calls and email correspondence letting you know of expected shipments you’ll be getting, checking in to ensure that each raw material was received and checking stock levels so they can plan their production requests to you.
Solution: In this scenario, information needs to be timely and primarily the information flowing from you to your customer. Minotaur would recommend our web dashboard as an intermediary tool that can receive information specific to this customer from your Minotaur system and make it available from any web browser to your customer with password protection (meaning it is system and device agnostic).
There is minimal security risk for your company as the web dashboard is accessed off of a Minotaur server designated for that purpose, not off your system directly. The information your partners view can be updated in real time. This could provide a significant savings in terms of reduced email and phone correspondence with partners.
You could also choose to share yield information about your production using the dashboard. For example, while you will work off a standard recipe, you may report to your customer that you had a good day in production and used less raw materials than expected and that information could be valuable to both you and your partner. Your partner will know the typical yield and be able to ensure you have the right amount of raw materials available for future runs.
Scenario 2: You manufacture product and sell to customers that want proof of allergens, ingredients, or quality.
Your customer wants Certificates of Analysis (C of A’s) and lot numbers for each shipment you send them.
Solution: This one is easy in Minotaur. With lot traceability activated on any given item, and with CofA items flagged, you can either print documents at shipping to send to the customer, set up automated emails with this information to go to the customer upon shipment or choose to have C of A’s placed in a particular directory on your server that is visible to customers to access and download if they choose.
For lot numbers, you can send that information on your shipping documents or if your customer can accept EDI documents such as ASN’s (Advanced Shipping Notices) you can send the detail of the shipment (what sku is on what skid, including the relevant lot numbers) in that electronic document. Minotaur offers fully integrated EDI, so you and your partner can exchange standard documents and Minotaur can load received documents such as PO’s automatically and create outgoing documents as part of shipping and invoicing, all seamless to the user once set up. However, once set up, documents flow easily from and to your system and this is the major communication method between suppliers to major grocery chains.
There is no one way or one right way to exchange data with your partners. If you wish to discuss supply chain collaboration through technology further, please Email Us or give us a call at 1-800-668-1284.