Imposing Stricter Supply Chain Control

But as organisations increasingly look to exploit global innovation and expertise, the supply chain is becoming ever more complex and extended, creating greater risks of miscommunication and inconsistent performance.

So how can a business gain the value of international resources without enduring unacceptable levels of risk? Or attain rapid access to the raft of essential information, from ISO accreditation reports to batch certificates, production statements to proof of delivery that must underpin an effective and compliant global supply chain? And, critically, how can a business store and retrieve this information in a secure, auditable and tamper-proof way without incurring a massive and unsupportable manual overhead?

Stuart Evans, Chief Technology Officer, Invu, outlines the essential value of a document management system, with version control, audit and time stamping, in retaining control over product quality and ensuring consumer safety throughout the global supply chain.

Zero Tolerance
In today’s increasingly international marketplace, organisations of every size are looking to exploit improved communications and technology innovation to access new markets and import innovative products from across the globe. However, while the new business opportunities are compelling, there is also a sharp increase in the need for compliance and information governance. Organisations cannot afford to enter a complex and extended global supply chain without both understanding and managing the risks.

Depending on the customer and jurisdiction, the right manufacturer is not simply just the most cost effective one. With consumers, media and regulatory bodies alike adopting a zero tolerance approach to any failure in product quality, an organisation must also have available supply chain partners with both robust processes and an ability to rapidly prove adherence to those processes. In this way they can choose the right supplier for the right contract.

Real Time Information
So how can an organisation confidently attain an end to end picture of the chain of custody – from inception to final delivery? Despite the perception of a joined up, Internet driven business model, not all information is online or easily accessible. From price lists embedded within massive paper catalogues to spreadsheet based performance reports, organisations face collecting and storing information in a multitude of forms and formats.

With many organisations reliant upon manual processes for recording information from batch certificates to proof of delivery, quality and control become near impossible to track or to demonstrate to partners further down the supply chain. Having to repeatedly ask for the provision of paper documents is time consuming; information then has to be manually filed and, at some point, manually retrieved.

Not only is this process time consuming and error prone, but it is high risk. In today’s social media fuelled and litigation led environment, there is no leeway if problems occur: any business unable to quickly provide proof of compliance and supply chain rigour faces trial by both the public and regulator.

Imposing Control
Without a robust method of maintaining documentation, critical business information may be lost. Organisations need to impose real control over this supply chain data – from catalogues and supplier information, to proof of deliverable, traceability of batches and the method of manufacture. They also need a supplier’s proof of the right to trade via accreditation or membership of best practice societies and kite marks. It is essential to put in a place a process – preferably automated – for capturing, managing and retrieving this information, irrespective of language of origin.

Not only are all these documents essential but they should also be treated and managed differently. A Document Management System (DMS) with a semantic knowledge of the business will recognise, for example, that a certificate is a document that should never be changed – there must be only one version. With a full audit trail, the DMS can flag up any attempts to change the certificate, when they occurred and who was involved. Furthermore, some right to trade accreditations are only valid for a year. An effective records management model will flag when a certificate is due to expire and ensures the business applies for or requests a new one; otherwise the supply chain may be jeopardised.

This full audit trail, combined with version control and tamper-proof model, is key to both imposing excellent information control and proving the accuracy and validity of complex supply chain data.

Proving the Point
In fact imposing greater control over the quality and accuracy of supply chain information is about far more than demonstrating good processes. It is about achieving efficiency in what can be a complex and expensive model; it is about finding effective suppliers – and proving the value of your own business to others in the supply chain.

How can the business determine the next best supplier when the only price list is in the briefcase of a buyer at a trade fair in Vietnam? Or cope with the production hiatus when a critical annual certificate has expired making it impossible to place new orders? Or ensure that potential new suppliers can comply with all the right laws in the relevant jurisdictions, as well as delivering quality product on time?

A single source of trusted, accurate and easily accessible information is key not only to proving the quality of supply chain processes but creating an effective and responsive business model.

Every business is trying to streamline the supply chain, shave off costs and exploit global expertise to gain commercial advantage. However, in this regulatory climate only a fool would risk compromising a hard won reputation by working with another business that cannot provide the right documentation, demonstrate good processes or guarantee information accuracy.

The right information infrastructure not only empowers an organisation to act as a business of high integrity but also delivers the absolute confidence that any information can be produced at any time. It also reduces administration time, cuts errors and creates a smart environment that ensures problems are immediately, indeed automatically, flagged and addressed, transforming supply chain efficiency and reducing costs. By creating a robust data management model, organisations can not only exploit international supply chains to gain commercial advantage but do so in confidence with the knowledge that information is accurate, processes are robust and the entire end to end model is audited, traced and proven.