Turning Visibility into Value

An effective order management program can help you boost performance from vendors and throughout your supply chain

Order Management

In today's competitive global marketplace, you can't afford to waste time sourcing suppliers or waiting for information on the status of shipment orders. And to plan and manage variability, you need more than simple track-and-trace capabilities as your visibility must extend into supplier domains. You need detailed, complete, real-time order information to resolve issues and capture opportunities now -- and a flexible tool to analyze and improve performance later.

A robust order management program -- not just an order management system -- can help you make those leaps from visibility to value, whether the shipments are moving into, within, or out of your organization. And while technology is a critical component, it can't optimize your supply chain on its own. The people and processes that support your order management program are equally important to its success.

The right program can enable both your vendors and your supply chain as a whole to perform better. Here's how to think about implementing or upgrading your company's approach to order management so that you can meet the ever-increasing demands of your own customers more efficiently.

Getting suppliers up to snuff

Let's start with your suppliers. Chances are that you're working with a number of vendors far from your company's own operating locations who are interacting with a variety of carriers, buyers and planners. It's also likely that some of them are not as technologically sophisticated or process-oriented as you would like. Trying to manage myraid suppliers in-house, however, isn't an efficient use of your team's time, and culture and language differences can quickly translate into quality and timeliness issues.

It only takes one communication breakdown with a vendor to set back your supply chain. That's why it's critical to handle tasks such as purchase order routing, order receipt confirmation, and order acceptance and revisions electronically. An automated process decreases risk and lead-time variability, but that's only the beginning. Building a strong order management program also incorporates vendor training and compliance measurement to improve their performance and consistency over time. A well-designed program should also enable smooth onboarding and integration of new suppliers.

Third-party logistics providers like UTi can help -- first, by sparing you the cost and difficulty of trying to build and operate your own order management program. Some 3PLs can also provide 24/7 vendor oversight, working with your suppliers in their local languages to help ensure compliance with documentation requirements, scheduled milestones, shipping authorization criteria and regulatory requirements.

With a strong order management program, you can clearly and easily follow and adjust the progress of your components from any number of vendors to your manufacturing locations, your distribution facilities, and on to final delivery. Such a program also reduces risk, manages exceptions and course-corrects as needed. It also builds an audit trail to measure and improve performance among production suppliers and transportation providers.

Gaining visibility to every level

A good order management program will also provide multiple electronic channels for you to track your orders, and not only by P.O. number, but by SKU, product attribute, part number, consignee number, container number, warehouse number or any reference number you choose. The program should also provide role-specific views of orders and inventory movements.

That means you'll have the flexibility to track orders before they're completed and shipped, and to make any necessary adjustments in the flow to relieve bottlenecks or take advantage of consolidation opportunities, whether among supplier shipments or within your own dynamically distributed inventory movements, to accommodate changes in customer demand.

Such an approach offers several interesting vendor management options related to the manufacture, shipment planning, and packaging and shipping of your goods. For example, with detailed container packing visibility, you can stage, reroute and prioritize order shipping, and you can capture container and capacity utilization details to maximize efficiency, including consolidating shipments. A good order management program will enable you to drive this process yourself or in partnership with your 3PL to the degree you desire.

How might your company ensure freight is optimally consolidated and routed? With enhanced visibility and responsiveness, you can aggregate weight and volume via ground, air and ocean; for example, by switching from LCL to FCL and/or 20-foot to 40-foot containers. In addition to improving utilization, you can optimize routing options and in some cases bypass your warehouse or distribution center altogether. Working with the right partner, your order management program can also help you shift value-added functions (such as barcoding, pick-pack, palletization and quality control) closer to origin, where costs tend to be lower, enabling you to make smarter customer order fulfillment decisions as you approach destination.

Partnering to optimize results

To achieve better results, your order management program and transportation providers need to work hand in hand. UTi enables you to do that most effectively by tying together your vendors, internal operations and customers with our air, ocean and ground transportation services and our dedicated order management team. You get access to our global infrastructure and personnel to source information across geographies and vendors, leveraging our local market knowledge and eliminating the need to find or establish your own resources in multiple locations.

Our dedicated order management personnel around the world also provide complete global time-zone coverage to serve you 24/7. Our people deliver a program that has evolved with 20 years of practical experience and has enabled us to serve a variety of manufacturers and retailers directly as well as to orchestrate services to them among multiple 3PLs.

We know as well as anyone that order cycles and practices vary widely among verticals. UTi Order Management is flexible and rigorous enough to play in all industries.  Perhaps most critically, our system is able to deal with data in the language of the client -- you -- as an extension of your business, so that you can begin reaping the benefits quickly.

Our expertise particularly comes into play as your shipments flow internationally. UTi's industry-leading customs brokerage service is fully integrated with our order management solution, and we electronically feed all order management data into brokerage systems for pre-capture. This is critical to enabling you to allocate against in-transit or on-order inventory, and to optimize DC-routing and drop-shipping internationally. Other value-added options of UTi order management include support for supplier pay-for-performance models, in which financial incentives are based on improved compliance.

Stretching your potential and performance

As we've seen, better managing the order, freight and financial flows of your supply chain requires more than just increased visibility. Extracting value depends on your ability to act quickly and intelligently on the information, and to improve the process over time. UTi's order management expertise, infrastructure and related resources enable us to deliver competitive advantage to your supply chain, and to help you take a more strategic approach in managing product flows based on quality data, sound analytics and innovative options.

We also recognize that different companies are in different places on this journey. That's why our order management solution is designed to work end-to-end or by segment, depending on your current supply chain needs, as illustrated in the images accompanying this article. To learn more, reach out today to your local sales representative or the UTi Order Management team.

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