Bad News Everywhere

 The drumbeat is like the thumping of a migraine. The manufacturing sector is in a recession. The supply chain market is in a recession, or at least the growth rate has plummeted. Vendors are dropping like flies or "repositioning."

Cheery, huh? Wait, there's more.

Supply chain projects are running afoul of departmental turf wars and scope creep. The return on investment is elusive. Cynicism is creeping in. Executives are yanking funding midproject so they can meet Wall Street expectations for quarterly earnings.

Integrating the thousands of fax-happy small businesses is no picnic, either. And then dirty data can ruin even a great piece of supply chain software.

So why don't we all just give up and get a root canal instead? Because bringing automation to the supply chain is too important, that's why.

For one thing, what better time than a recession to be wringing waste and inefficiency out of your relationships with trading partners?

For another, we've never before needed to know so much about our far-flung supply chains.

The ongoing war on terrorism means companies suddenly want to know where their goods are at any given moment. (Consultants call it "supply chain visibility.") That way, the goods can be rerouted around problem areas, and managers can account for the inevitable delays of our newly security-conscious world. But it requires robust information systems to give business managers the data they need for fast decisions.

As they say, everything has changed since Sept. 11 - even supply chain planning. Instead of a religious devotion to just-in-time inventory, the new world order requires flexibility and resilience.

Maybe you can be a hero and build a supply chain system that brings good news to the bottom line - and your career.

Mitch Betts (mitch_betts@computerworld.com) is director of Computerworld's Knowledge Centers.

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