In today's fast-paced, highly competitive business environment, having an effective and efficient supply chain is critical to success. Companies must be able to quickly and accurately respond to changes in demand, disruptions in their supply chain, and shifts in market conditions.
To do so, companies rely on supply chain execution (SCE) software.
What is Supply Chain Execution Software?
Supply chain execution software refers to a set of software tools and systems used to manage the various activities involved in the supply chain and the movement of goods. The activities range from sourcing raw materials to delivering finished products to customers, and everything in between.
While not an exhaustive list, supply chain execution tools often fall into one of the following categories, each designed to meet specific needs and goals.
- Supply Chain Planning Systems (SCP): Help forecast demand and plan production, inventory, and transportation strategies. They aggregate data from various sources, like sales forecasts, production schedules, and inventory levels, to form a complete picture of the supply chain.
- Supplier Relationship Management Systems (SRM): Help organizations manage relationships with their suppliers by improving processes around supplier selection, contract management, supplier performance monitoring, and invoice processing.
- Global Trade Management Systems (GTM): Help organizations navigate the complexities of global trade, including customs regulations, trade agreements, and shipping and transportation requirements.
- Transportation Management Systems (TMS): Help manage the movement of goods from one location to another. They help with carrier selection, route optimization, load planning, and shipment tracking, and help provide real-time visibility into the status of shipments.
- Warehouse Management Systems (WMS): Help manage the movement of goods within a warehouse or distribution center. They improve processes around receiving, storage, picking, and shipping while providing real-time inventory visibility.
Benefits of Supply Chain Execution Software
One of the biggest benefits of supply chain execution software is increased efficiency in different areas of an organization’s supply chain. Many of these systems automate manual tasks so organizations can reduce the amount of time and resources required to manage the flow of goods. This frees up valuable resources to focus on higher-level strategy and decision-making.
In addition, supply chain execution software can provide improved visibility into suppliers and the flow of goods. This can enable organizations to quickly and accurately respond to changes in demand, disruptions in the supply chain, and shifts in market conditions.
Another key benefit of supply chain execution software is improved data accuracy. By automating tasks such as data entry and reconciliation, organizations can reduce the chances of human error or omissions, ensuring that data is accurate and up to date. This leads to improved decision-making, as organizations have access to accurate and real-time information about the status of their supply chain.
By increasing process efficiency, enhancing supply chain visibility, and improving data accuracy, supply chain execution software helps organizations make data-driven decisions to reduce risk across the entire supply chain and deliver meaningful ROI.
Challenges of Supply Chain Execution Systems
It's important for organizations to choose the right supply chain execution software for their needs. However, there are a few major challenges for organizations in doing so.
- Challenge #1: Many supply chain execution software options focus on one specific need, which means organizations often must purchase different software for each of their needs and then attempt to connect them all into an ERP or other internal system. Connecting all these disparate systems can get extremely complex and expensive, and more complex systems often require the help of IT teams, which can also slow down the setup and implementation process.
- Challenge #2: Organizations often overestimate their needs with software purchasing decisions, which leads to purchasing more complex software than they need.
- Challenge #3: Related to Challenge #2, software providers often bundle a large list of features into their software, but often the buying organization only needs a few of the features. Both Challenge #2 and Challenge #3 result in the organization paying for and trying to implement software options that are more complex, expensive, and time-consuming than needed.
- Challenge #4: Related to Challenge #1 above, because so many supply chain execution software options focus on one specific need, there are historical gaps in an organization’s overall supply chain execution system.
In our article, “Find the Best Supply Chain Visibility Software for Your Business” we explored a number of important questions to consider that could also apply when considering supply chain execution software providers.
A Missing Link in Supply Chain Execution Software Solutions
The shipping container is the most standard asset in the world’s supply chain. Despite how ubiquitous the shipping container is, tracking and managing it has historically been one of the biggest gaps in most supply chains.
Logistics teams have numerous places they can go to find ETAs and other container milestones such as ocean carrier websites, port and terminal websites, etc. The problem is each of these sources provide completely independent data, thus requiring some guesswork on container milestones such as ETAs, Available Date, and Last Free Days.
What makes container tracking difficult is that key milestones across a container's journey are interdependent and work together as pieces of the larger container lifecycle puzzle. Without one, the puzzle is incomplete, which is where most attempts at container tracking have historically fallen short. And not having complete and accurate container tracking data creates blind spots that impact other parts of a company’s supply chain processes and systems, causing delays and unnecessary costs.
Let’s say you have 50 shipping containers on the water headed to the Port of Savannah which will be going to your distribution center in the Atlanta, GA area, approximately four hours from the port. All 50 containers are on the same vessel and the ocean carrier is giving you an ETA of 7 days from now.
Using your TMS you start to schedule and plan drayage to pick up your 50 containers at the Port of Savannah and have them delivered to your distribution center. You’re also using your WMS to plan labor for receiving and stocking the goods when they arrive. And maybe you’re planning order fulfillment if some goods in the containers have already been sold or allocated to a customer or retail location.
Everything is scheduled as needed. Then a few days later, the ocean carrier’s website indicates the vessel is delayed by two days. Now you’re scrambling to reschedule or find new truckers to pick up your containers to avoid demurrage and trying to reschedule everything at the warehouse.
At the same time, you’re also planning for the next rounds of containers that will be arriving within the next week or two, and making sure your emptied containers get returned to the terminal on time to avoid detention charges.
Most of this is because there’s a gap in not having complete container tracking data with highly accurate predictive ETAs in the supply chain execution software stack.
The Missing Link in Your Supply Chain Execution Software Stack
Gnosis Freight’s Container Lifecycle Management™ platform (“CLM platform”) is the first logistics and supply chain execution software focused on the shipping container and is designed to mimic the approach logistics professionals use to conceptualize their supply chains and manage the full lifecycle of their containers.
See our What is Container Lifecycle Management article to learn more about this approach.
The CLM platform leverages Gnosis Freight’s proprietary Marlo™ container tracking engine and the most complete container tracking data available, which powers more than 20 CLM Enhancements that can be bolted on to the CLM platform and tailored to a company’s exact needs.
These CLM Enhancements bring many of the elements of more specialized supply chain execution software options into a single platform. And because they are tailored to each company’s supply chain needs, you only pay for exactly what you need.
Here are some examples of CLM Enhancements and where they can supplement or enhance the more traditional, specialized supply chain execution software solutions.
- Smart Forecasting = Supply Chain Planning Systems (SCP) - Utilize SKU-level data around your shipping containers and Gnosis’ advanced analytics to project inventory levels and plan purchasing.
- Automated Invoice Auditing = Supplier Relationship Management Systems (SRM) - Automatically approve or flag ocean carrier, drayage carrier, or other invoices for review based on invoiced amounts versus those agreed upon.
- ISF Filing = Global Trade Management Systems (GTM) - Connect directly to U.S. CBP and file ISFs. Maintain a database of your shipping parties, HTS codes, and other data, reducing your time to file to just a few clicks.
- Drayage Optimization = Transportation Management Systems (TMS) - Automatically allocate orders to different drayage carriers for maximum efficiency and reduced drayage costs. (Case Study)
- Inventory Optimization = Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) - Manually or automatically allocate or redirect containers to different warehouses or customers based on what’s in each container, current inventory levels, and contractual obligations. (Learn more about Inventory Optimization)
It’s important to note that many of these types of solutions require complete, reliable, and highly accurate container tracking data only available from Gnosis Freight.
For companies to execute quickly on changes in demand, disruptions in their supply chain, and shifts in market conditions as described in the opening paragraph, the Container Lifecycle Management platform is a must have addition to the supply chain execution software stack.
With the ability to help further automate processes, reduce manual tasks and data entry, and bring supply chain and logistics teams and their internal and external partners together into a single system, the Container Lifecycle Management platform results in deeper supply chain visibility, improved processes, reduced costs, reduced risk, and better collaboration, helping companies unlock the full potential of their supply chains.