How B2B Managed Services Can Enhance Customer Centric Supply Chains

In my previous blog entry I discussed the supply chain complexities associated with a high tech company supplying components to two different car manufacturers.  I split the supply chain complexity into three areas, Technology/Standards Complexity, Regional Complexity and Industry/Process Complexity. Now given that I highlighted some of the customer facing complexities facing this particular supplier I thought it would be worthwhile trying to explain how B2B Managed Services can help address some of these challenges.

Supporting  Your Customer’s B2B Communication Requirements

Many suppliers today work with a diverse range of customers, each possibly requiring a totally different way of connecting with them. For example in the automotive industry in Europe most companies will require their suppliers to connect with them via OFTP or the newer standard OFTP2.  However, what if in this case the high tech supplier is working across different industries such as healthcare, consumer electronics, and automotive?  Three different industries, possibly three different connectivity methods, how will a supplier manage this complexity?  In addition, in this example, the high tech supplier is being asked to send information to plants located in different regions around the world via regional networks such as ANX, ENX and JNX.

GXS Managed Services can help the supplier address their customer’s connectivity requirements as it allows information to be exchanged across any communication method. GXS Managed Services can effectively mediate between any communication method. If the high tech supplier provides the Managed Services platform with documents via an FTP connection the platform will then ensure that the customer receives that information via their preferred connectivity method, eg OFTP. In addition, as GXS Managed Services has interconnectivity to many different private networks around the world, the platform ensures that documents are routed via the correct network to the customer.

Supporting Your Customer’s Messaging Standard Requirements

Many large companies today use a variety of different document standards and depending where the company is based in the world will quite often determine the type of EDI document that needs to be exchanged.  Whether it is mapping to ANSI, EDIFACT or RosettaNet type documents, each requires a clear understanding of its structure in order to map against another document type. Mapping is a highly specialised skill and many smaller companies simply do not have the resources to be able to undertake such a task.

GXS Managed Services offers a mapping service to undertake the creation of any-to-any document maps. Irrespective of the format that the document is sent to the Managed Services platform, GXS will map the document to the appropriate format required by a supplier’s customer. GXS has experience of creating document maps across different industries and supporting different regional specific requirements.

Improving the Quality and Compliance of Information Sent to Your Customer

One of the key challenges facing companies today is ensuring that information from external trading partners does not contain errors. If errors are found in externally sourced documents then these will have to be reworked before the information can be entered into a back office system such as an ERP system. In fact a recent study by AMR Research found that 2.9% of externally sourced transactions entering an ERP system required exception processing or error handling. A simple error in a document such as an incorrect part number, shipping address or pricing figure can impact downstream business systems if they are not corrected. If a supplier could ensure that information sent to their customers was clean and accurate then their customers would not have to spend time and effort correcting or reworking the information.

GXS Managed Services can provide a way to check the quality of information held within an EDI document.  Using predefined business rules all documents sent across the Managed Services platform can be analyzed and if an EDI document contains incorrect data then an alert would be raised and the document can be corrected as required. If errors can be detected and corrected before a customer receives the document then it means that they will be able to use the information within their own B2B and back office systems almost immediately.

Improving Community On-boarding to Win New Customer Contracts

Large suppliers need to be able to offer a competitive difference when competing for business from their customers. One of the challenges facing a large supplier is ensuring that they can get their own supply chain ready for doing business with a new customer anywhere in the world. If a supplier is able to demonstrate to a potential customer that they have the people, process and technology in place to onboard their own suppliers in a relatively short time then they will be in a much stronger position to win a new supply contract.

GXS Managed Services offers a comprehensive community management and supplier on-boarding service. Irrespective of where suppliers may be located in the world, GXS can ensure that medium to small sized suppliers are on-boarded as seamlessly as possible to a B2B platform using the appropriate connectivity method and deploying the appropriate B2B tools to suit their needs. Whether using web forms, desktop EDI software or Microsoft Excel based forms, GXS has the tools to be able to onboard any supplier quickly and efficiently anywhere in the world.

Communicating with Your Customers via a Highly Available B2B Infrastructure

Many suppliers today are asked to support their customer’s business or production processes. In most cases the suppliers have to ensure that production critical information reaches their customer in time to inform them of an impending delivery of parts. If parts do not reach a production line in time and if the customer does not hold any buffer stocks it means the customer may have to suspend production until the parts arrive onsite. Advanced Ship Notices (ASNs) are normally used to co-ordinate delivery of parts to a production line and ASN’s are critical to supporting Just-in-Time and Supply-in-Line-Sequence production processes. These processes rely on the smooth, efficient and co-ordinated supply of parts to the production line. If the customer operates a supplier rating system, as some of the larger automotive manufacturers do, then the supplier may be downgraded and a fine may be imposed if parts are not delivered within a certain production window.

GXS Managed Services operates across a highly available B2B infrastructure comprising of two data centres connected via a high speed OC12 network connection. Redundancy is built into each data centre which contain best in class servers, storage devices and network routing equipment from leading providers. With an availability of 99.95%, GXS can ensure that production critical documents, such as ASNs, can be exchanged between suppliers and customers without delay.

Proactive Monitoring of Customer Related B2B Transactions

For suppliers to be able to guarantee the delivery of B2B transactions to their customers they ideally need to have end to end visibility of the transaction process itself. Whether it is ensuring that documents are successfully converted into SAP IDOC format before being transmitted to a customer’s ERP system or tracking the progress of an ASN, being able to proactively monitor any B2B transaction would help a supplier to offer a much better service to their customers.

GXS Managed Services offers a proactive monitoring service which ensures that if a problem occurs with a B2B transmission then it can be dealt with immediately. Quite often the problem can be detected and sometimes resolved before the supplier is even aware that there may be a problem. Proactive monitoring of B2B transactions can provide a valuable service and can contribute to increased satisfaction levels between suppliers and their customers.

Supporting Your Customer Anywhere in the World With a Flexible and Scalable B2B Platform

The globalisation of today’s manufacturing industry has meant that supply chains have had to become more flexible than ever before. Whether a manufacturer is looking to establish a manufacturing plant in a booming economy such as China or looking to utilise low cost labour in Mexico, key suppliers need to be able to ensure that parts can be delivered irrespective of where a new plant may be located in the world. Suppliers need to ensure that their B2B infrastructure has the flexibility to support their customer’s manufacturing operations anywhere in the world.

GXS Managed Services offers a flexible and scalable B2B infrastructure so that as the needs of a customer changes then the supplier’s B2B infrastructure can be changed accordingly. GXS has experience of working in most of the industrialised regions around the world providing support in local language, local time zone and working across local business conventions. GXS can therefore make recommendations on how to expand B2B services into a particular region. This allows the supplier to focus on their core competencies and hence strengthen their overall relationship with their customers around the world.

So in summary, GXS Managed Services helps a supplier to reduce the complexities of working with their customers by:

  • Ensuring that suppliers can connect to their customers anywhere in the world, via any communications protocol or across any industry/regional specific network
  • Allowing customers to receive B2B information in exactly the format they require via extensive any-to-any mapping capabilities
  • Improving the quality and accuracy of B2B information exchanged with customers
  • Ensuring that a supplier’s own supply chain is ready to work on a new customer contract and exchange B2B information as soon as possible
  • Being able to support a customer’s manufacturing process by ensuring that production critical documents such as Advanced Shipping Notices can be delivered within a specific production window
  • Proactively monitoring B2B transactions so that if any problems occur they can be resolved as quickly as possible, with minimal or no disruption to a customer
  • Offering a best in class, scalable and flexible B2B platform so as the needs of a customer change, any new B2B requirements can be supported as soon as possible

For further insights in to the complexities of running today’s supply chains please can watch a recording of a recent webinar entitled ‘Enhancing Customer-Centric Supply Chains’, by Clicking Here

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