How to Use Collaborative Supply Chain Software to Get More Done

5 min readMar 26, 2021


Our supply chain data inputs are expanding, and variables are changing more frequently. Dramatic technology shifts are increasing product complexity by expanding portfolios, parts and services, like with Ford and GM planning to produce both gas and electric vehicles until at least 2030.

Rapid market changes, from the 2008 Great Recession to the 2011 Earthquake/Tsunami stressed and, in some cases, broke supply chains, costing companies billions of dollars. Likewise, the 2018 US tariffs, current economic recession and the recent increase in consumer eCommerce spending have demonstrated that the pace of change is accelerating.

One of the major software tools that powers our supply chains, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, only captures a single linear “Plan A” and it breaks as soon as variables change. Simply put, ERP systems weren’t built to handle the complexity of today’s evolving global supply chains.

Complicating matters further for supply chain leaders, up to 90 percent of the data that goes into managing and executing day-to-day supply chain operations is stored in spreadsheets. This offline data causes costly increased workload, analysis delays and supply disruption when change inevitably happens.

As the amount of our data continues to grow exponentially, so do the challenges to manage it. Leaders need to strengthen their teams with collaborative productivity software tools to empower them to make better decisions, faster.

The Evolving Landscape of Purpose-Built Software Tools

ERP systems are built to control, standardize, and automate processes. This approach works well for predictable, repetitive tasks like issuing purchase orders and receiving inventory, but it doesn’t work well for new ad-hoc tasks which make up most of a supply chain professional’s daily activity. These ad-hoc tasks require careful thought and close collaboration to generate the best business outcomes.

Navigating unpredictable work is a key enabler to realizing an Agile supply chain. Further, supply chain professionals’ ability to receive, analyze, exchange and act on new data heavily influences company financial performance. Today, the challenge isn’t which supply chain optimization areas to focus on, but the lack of available time to act on cost savings opportunities.

The dilemma of which, freeing teams’ time or realizing cost savings, has led manufacturers to spend $30 billion annually in the US on supply chain consultants for extra bandwidth to realize cost savings more quickly. Hiring freezes and budget constraints have resulted in leaders seeking more cost-effective productivity tools that’ll allow their teams to execute at a higher level.

In this quest to improve people productivity, many manufacturers are now turning to Supply Execution Systems (SES), sometimes referred to as Supply Chain Execution Systems (SCES) and/or Supply Performance Systems (SPS). These systems are similar to Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), except focused on increasing team collaboration and daily productivity of supply chain execution. Newer, purpose-built SES cloud software can be deployed quickly and connected to arcane, on-premises or modern, cloud ERP systems.

Leaders should expect up to a 20 percent people productivity improvement within four weeks of deploying SES software. Through focusing on addressing the true bottleneck, people bandwidth, leaders will quickly see a compounding cost savings effect by accomplishing more supply chain cost reduction initiatives. The result is that SES software deployments tend to have a much shorter pay-back period, three months on average, than traditional supply chain software.

How SES Software Enables Teams to Get More Done

Real-time collaboration within SES software empowers supply chain professionals to concurrently edit data with little to no latency, which saves hours of time each week by avoiding the time-consuming exchange of emailing spreadsheets back and forth. SES software also acts as a visibility tool across the enterprise for supply chain leaders while serving as a daily organization tool for individual team member tasks. In general, SES software functionality focuses on daily collaboration to improve individual productivity, enhancing organizational execution speed. The following SES features enable teams to get more done, and in less time.

1. Real-Time Dashboards

Live dashboards for internal and external supply KPIs tend to come with SES software “out of the box”. These dashboards and underlying Lean Supply Chain formula best practices accelerate results compared to configurable database tools that require costly consultants and lengthy setup times. Dashboard widgets can also be tailored to the individual and their respective supply chain subfunction role — e.g., purchasing and stamping — which allows mass customization across the enterprise.

2. Customizable Automated Plan for Every Part

A Plan for Every Part (PFEP) is like a robust football game plan: if you have a better game plan, you’ll win more games. The PFEP tracks plant, product and/or part Lean Supply Chain data inputs, often upwards of 120 total inputs, which offers granular supply performance tracking; as opposed to the typical 35 inputs of rigid, non-cloud-based Lean software tools. Further, your data from bills of materials (BOMs) and parts lists in spreadsheets can be easily imported to significantly reduce the migration time from offline data in spreadsheets to collaborative SES software.

3. Agile Project & Task Management

Make it easy for your teams and suppliers to collaborate more efficiently by adding and tracking day-to-day supply chain tasks. Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) software, for example, focuses on a different value stream: manufacturing; whereas SES software focuses on the millions of supply chain decisions that occur outside of manufacturing. As a purpose-built tool, SES software focuses on the unique needs of supply chain professionals and helps them to make better, quicker decisions.

4. Synergistic Supplier Data Management

New supplier data management technology transforms supply chain management from a siloed method into a collaborative Agile plan. Traditional, offline supplier lists, interactions and notes that don’t have a home in ERP software now have one in SES software. For example, to compress the identify-to-source-to-pay cycle, teams can simultaneously identify and qualify suppliers. Additionally, SES software uses automation to update a company’s master supplier list and contact information in real time, so supply chain professionals can focus less on administrative tasks and more on strategic, value-adding initiatives.


Our needs and technologies never stop evolving. Today, we need purpose-built software tools that empower our teams to confidently navigate and manage our supply chains. As the pace of change accelerates, so too must our execution speeds. SES software provides the promise of a more Agile supply chain path forward that enables our companies to thrive no matter what changes in the world around us.




Supply Chain for Tomorrow’s Technology. Ann Arbor, MI.