Supply chain management software

How to choose supply chain management software


Different businesses will have different needs when it comes to supply chain software. It may be that all you need is software to handle electronic document exchange, eg purchase orders conforming to a standard format such as eBIS-XML.

At the other end of the scale, software systems can integrate an entire supply network and automatically transmit customer orders throughout the entire supply chain.

Supply chain management planning software

Supply chain management planning software applications can:

  • give a centralised view of the supply chain
  • allow businesses to plan production and resourcing
  • help businesses determine the right transportation mode, carriers and routes, and plan loading capacity

Supply chain management execution software

Supply chain management execution software applications can:

  • combine information about inventory and purchase orders to ensure manufacturing materials are available on time
  • help businesses generate production schedules, determine when products will be available for customers and their cost
  • automatically determine and respond to changes to plans according to circumstances
  • monitor every stage of the supply chain from price quotation to delivery

Before choosing a system, talk to your partners and suppliers about technical issues and compatibility. If you don't consult them, you may end up choosing a system that your partners can't connect to.

If you're not the biggest business in the supply chain, you may not have a choice in deciding which software package to buy. Supply chains are often controlled by the biggest companies, requiring your system to be compatible with theirs. Read more about the challenges in supply chain software implementation.

How to evaluate supply chain software options?

If you're not tied to one major customer, you have three options. You could:

  • Use supply chain software tailored exactly to your needs. Keep in mind that bespoke solutions are generally more expensive and difficult to implement.
  • Use the supply chain-related modules of larger software suites.
  • Use an enterprise resource planning system - a fully integrated packaged software that helps businesses manage core activities, eg product planning, parts purchasing, inventory maintenance, customer service and order tracking.

Note that supply chain software packages are:

  • often tailored to specific industries, so pick a supplier with industry experience
  • a vital link with customers and suppliers, so make sure your supplier is financially sound and provides reliable support

Consider hiring a consultant to help you evaluate the packages on offer.