April 2005 | Commentary | Supply Chain Technology

Collaborate for All-Star SCE Implementation

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Building relationships among partners in a Supply Chain Execution (SCE) software implementation is like getting an all-star team to work together. Each player can be great, but it is the combined teamwork that makes the difference when the game begins.

To achieve success, roles and objectives have to be clearly defined, and teams must work to the strengths—not the weaknesses—of the individual players. The resulting technological solution will be as good as the management that makes it.

The partnership between HighJump Software, a 3M company, and CIBER Enterprise Solutions, a division of CIBER Inc., is one example. CIBER was recently hired by Major Brands Inc., Missouri's highest-volume distributor of premium spirits, wine, and beer, to implement HighJump's SCE software. CIBER acts as a consultant/systems integrator, lending its expertise in the wine and spirits industry to HighJump. Thirsty work surely.

Major Brands needs a supply chain execution solution to drive measurable cost reductions. The SCE system will help the company achieve these cost savings by directing and optimizing supply chain activities that enhance both inbound and outbound shipment processing, including more refined picking techniques in Major Brands' warehouse operations.

Major Collaboration

Major Brands sells and distributes alcoholic consumer beverages through multiple channels including grocery stores, bars, restaurants, and a range of retail outlets. The company chose the SCE solution based on its need to execute changes in customer demand and to more effectively manage seasonal variations in shipments of all sizes and volume.

"The suppliers we serve need to know their products are on the shelves as quickly as possible," explains Patrick Quinn, vice president of administration for Major Brands.

A collaborative effort that is the hallmark of CIBER's approach brought HighJump's supply chain execution suite to Major Brands. HighJump's SCE solution includes warehouse, transportation, and yard management; supply chain visibility; supply chain event and collaborative inventory management; supplier enablement; mobile solutions; and RFID capability. The suite can be seamlessly connected to ERP and manufacturing execution software.

The software streamlines manufacturing and distribution from the point of source through consumption using integrated solutions that optimize inventory flow by facilitating collaboration among customers, suppliers, and trading partners.

Collaboration between CIBER and HighJump is crucial to the success of their partnership. "Projects with CIBER—such as the Major Brands implementation—are very much a collaborative effort," says Mike Star, director of strategic alliances, HighJump. "As a partner, CIBER participates in all aspects of the implementation—project management, installation, and product configuration.

Depending upon customer and project parameters, CIBER can either lead the project or augment the HighJump team. Regardless of the role each party plays, both companies must ultimately share a commitment to the project's success."

Continuous Improvement

Both HighJump and CIBER view their relationship with the customer as ongoing. "We strive for continuous improvement and additional investment returns to further drive value for customers such as Major Brands," Star says. "CIBER typically drives this value through various forms of operational consulting, and HighJump offers additional application functionality where it will benefit the customer."

Extensive planning is crucial to the success of any implementation process, and CIBER walks the walk.

"Failure to plan is planning to fail," says Cal Petty, CIBER's supply chain director. "Half of every project involves 'client side activities.' CIBER supplies a methodology, honed through hundreds of SCE implementation projects, to ensure no vital activities are missed and that appropriate time is dedicated to tasks."

Because it acts as a consultant and implementing partner to the vendor and user, CIBER must be fair when choosing software providers. It stays fair by working closely with the customer to establish detailed criteria for scoring before ever discussing any specific vendor. This quantitative process ensures that the company, not CIBER, has selected the software.

"We receive no consideration from any vendor we work with on any project," says Petty. "We work hard to provide an objective scoring environment that gives clients the right information to select software that best suits their needs after considering all relevant factors."

After a company makes a software selection, CIBER communicates the scoring results to the vendors.

"We remain objective here, too," Petty notes. "Communicating to vendors about why they were or were not selected centers on how they scored, rather than any independent subjective factors. We also provide details about our selection time line and methodology to the vendors up front so they can make an informed decision about participating in or declining a project."

Tapping into Experience

Sometimes companies ask CIBER not to select a vendor, but simply to recommend a solution. When CIBER makes a recommendation under these conditions, "we rely on our knowledge of the client's industry, and the processes that have made a difference for similar companies we've worked with. We also tap our experience and training using many leading supply chain execution applications.

"We invest heavily in training our people on a variety of software applications, which allows them to thoroughly understand each one's strengths and weaknesses," Petty adds. "We take all this into account, along with the client's needs, when we recommend any vendor."

CIBER then performs a rapid gap-fit analysis for the customer so it can better understand the total cost and make an informed purchasing decision. After the selection, but before an implementation begins, CIBER works with all parties to carefully define and agree upon the roles and responsibilities, time lines, communication plans, and issue escalation to ensure the expectations of all parties are clear. Once that baseline is well established, all parties can easily recognize whether or not commitments are being met.

Next month, in part two of our look at supply chain execution software implementation, we continue our investigation of this partnership and the companies' commitment to collaboration on behalf of their client's business goals.

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