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Beyond the Four Walls—Achieving Upstream and Downstream Inventory Visibility

Infor LX | BPCS | Infor LN | Baan | Infor M3

When an enterprise has many suppliers, dealers/distributors, and customers spread out across the globe, it becomes important that it gains better visibility into inventory outside of its direct ownership and control, on both the supply and demand side. On the supply side, the company has outstanding POs and needs reliable estimates of when those will ship, as well as early indications whenever there will be delays in shipment. Once shipped, updates on the estimated time of arrival (ETA) are important, particularly when there are delays.

This external visibility is even more important during times of disruption. Early visibility into disruptions in supply or rapid changes in demand is key to providing the intelligence to drive agility. By responding earlier, faster, and with more accurate intelligence, a company has more options, makes smarter decisions, and avoids catastrophes.

How do you get that visibility? Here are some options…

• EDI—EDI can provide POs (EDI 850) for orders, ASNs (EDI 856) to communicate what has been shipped, Inventory Inquiry/Advice (EDI 846) with updates to on-hand inventory at various holding locations, including status (on hand, committed, on order, etc.), forecasts (e.g. EDI 830 planning schedule with release), shipping schedules, and other useful information about inventory in transit or at rest. EDI can be challenging for a smaller company to implement, especially without the right partner and solution. For this reason, not all suppliers or customers will necessarily have EDI. In those cases, an alternate approach, such as a portal, is needed to serve the remaining non-EDI trading partners.

• Supplier and Customer Portals—Portals provide a way for suppliers or customers who do not have EDI capabilities to update inventory, production, and order status. This requires some training and communications so that the trading partners use the system consistently, properly, and in a timely manner. (Portals to ERP for Infor LN & Baan Only)

• External Inventory Locations/Accounts—Some ERP systems allow supplier or customer stocking locations to be set up within the solution, so those locations look like another distribution center or plant, but with the inventory in those locations not being owned by the company. Personnel at the supplier or customer can then be given an account within the ERP system to update their inventory information. The account may provide additional functionality to the supplier or customer as well. If the trading partner actively uses the system to run a part of their operations, the data are more likely to be timely and accurate.

• API Integration—Trading partners may provide inventory data via an API in the ERP system.

• Planning Solutions—provides the ability to proactively manage the entire customer order backlog from top to bottom. It begins monitoring orders as soon as they’re booked and identifies and prioritizes those critical events that must happen every day so they can be managed and get orders produced and shipped on time. (OTTO - On Time Orders for Infor LX, BPCS & M3 Only)

Now more than ever, good inventory management, with accurate inventory data, is a core element of success for manufacturers and wholesale distributors. Having the right products, in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities—and doing so at a low cost—drives profitability, cash flow, customer loyalty, and success for a company. This can be a difficult balancing act, especially when demand is volatile and supply disruptions occur. It can be achieved with the right inventory strategy, process disciplines, risk management, and capable systems in place. Excellence in inventory management, with the right systems, is key to enabling businesses to survive in challenging times and thrive in the market during good times.

Not sure where to start? Crossroads RMC consultants have expertise with all of the options listed above and can help you realize optimal inventory management, regardless of the size of your organization. 800.762.2077,, or ask us to contact you.

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