Multisite fulfillment processes move to forefront of the demand-driven model

Best known as a supplier of EDI infrastructure, Sterling Commerce has in the last several years assembled a portfolio of supply chain applications for multichannel supply chain execution and fulfillment, and is on the verge of making what it terms “major announcements” in this area over the course of this summer.

07/01/2007


Best known as a supplier of EDI infrastructure, Sterling Commerce has in the last several years assembled a portfolio of supply chain applications for multichannel supply chain execution and fulfillment, and is on the verge of making what it terms “major announcements” in this area over the course of this summer.

“Fulfillment is a major challenge for many of our customers,” says Joel Reed, global marketing VP. “The number of products and channels has grown exponentially as users are dealing with multiple sites and numerous warehouse and distribution networks. Users need solutions to orchestrate the entire process.”

This emphasis on fulfillment has led manufacturers to change their emphasis from supply chain planning to execution, says Reed. “Supply chain execution is much more involved than merely completing orders, as companies must consider profitable growth across multiple channels. Supply chains also must be more nimble as customers want to penetrate new markets and order products in a variety of ways. All this must be done with efficiency and accuracy.”

Sterling Commerce employs 2,500, with concentration on high-tech, capital goods, and retail markets. “We typically do not deal with companies with only one plant or one distribution center,” says Reed. “Our systems are geared toward those with complex supply chains and multiple sites.”

With expertise in integration, Sterling is confident in its ability to manage trading partner communities and networks that use numerous technologies and applications. “You must look at the group as a whole, as well as individuals,” says Reed. “You should consider how to reach all members—whether with portals or workbenches, for example—to manage communities. There are service-level agreements and supplier expectations.”

Helping manufacturers gain supply chain visibility was one good reason for Sterling's acquisition of Comergent, which offers a platform that strengthens Sterling's sell-side capabilities with multichannel order visibility—from order capture through fulfillment. Sterling will integrate Comergent's systems on a single platform, but Comergent also will be available as a best-of-breed module.

Sterling also has an eye on Lean order fulfillment. “The most important point is the order itself, which is the trigger for all events in a demand-driven supply chain,” says Reed. “Most manufacturers have looked at lean and Six Sigma from the shop floor, but it is much more complex when applied to the supply chain.”

Users have the option of deploying Sterling's applications in the traditional mode, or via a hosting option using a subscription “pay-as-you-go” approach. Or customers may prefer a totally outsourced solution, allowing Sterling Commerce to manage the entire supply chain process. Most customers use the managed service approach, claims Reed. “Many companies do not want to build and manage the infrastructure themselves.”





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