Have you felt the great inertia which seems to have been holding back the advancement of total supply chain management over the past few years? It’s hard to put your finger on, but it truly exists as companies are uncertain which of the latest technologies are the right investments to truly manage their supply chains in real time and fully interact with their trading partners. Our belief is that to make the next major leap in the widespread implementation of supply chain management requires the development of a specific set of SCM Standards for both scm implementation and the technologies to support this.
Without such standards and a community of interest supporting them, no comfort levels on which technologies to buy and how to implement them can be safely established. This indeed is a long process and significant work has already been undertaken by groups such as the Supply Chain Network Project.
RFID (Radio Frequenct IDentification) is one of the key technologies required for this purpose and to understand more about RFID applications for SCM, see Are You Ready for RFID? as this technology has suffered through a long evolution which is rapidly becoming a revolution. Perhaps even catching some of the major software providers offguard who are now rapidly playing catch up to ensure their applications are compatible with and support the use of RFID and other new methods.
So what is meant when we say that SCM Standards are needed? Well at the basic level, there needs to be a standard developed for the physical processes required for efficient functioning of supply chains in conjunction with the technologies such as RFID and others. These others include electronic catalogues, vehicle location devices, security technologies, smart returnables and wireless devices to name some of the most important. But beyond this, also required is a definition of the required systems applications and how they may be developed and used in a “standard” methodology to support interoperability between trading partners in diverse supply chains.
To give you an idea of these application requirements, what we’re looking at are Activity Hubs, Dashboards and Standardized Database Structures. Such SCM standards will most likely roll out on an industry by industry basis, with some items slightly tailored or customized to support each industry, but there’s no doubt in this author’s mind that without the development of strong SCM Standards, the forward movement required to achieve the heady goals set for SCM applications will not be made. So when you’re looking at future investments in SCM technology and infrastructure, you may first want to look at what standards are being developed and where they’re headed to avoid bad investments or the need to replace current technologies sooner.
Take some time to look at what is happening in the area of Supply Chain Management standards development, get involved, contribute and participate in one of the most exciting periods of development in the history of Logistics and Supply Chain Management.