To assist procurement managers with the complex task of planning and scheduling, supply chain management (SCM) software is build around the optimization of in- and outbound goods. Core functionality offered by common SCM applications are inventory or catalogue management, distribution scheduling, order/shipment tracking, customer management, invoicing and expense reporting. SCM is often used in manufacturing industries like fashion, food and construction, where web-based dashboards and mobile interfaces allow the precise coordination of planning, sourcing and pricing of materials, parts and components.
Supply chain management software helps manage and monitor the flow of materials, information and finances as they move through a series of processes involved in the production and distribution of goods or services.
There are mainly three flows to manage in a supply chain – the material flow, the information flow and the finances flow. Depending on the nature of your business, you may need a product that specializes in managing any of the three flows or all of them.
The material flow refers to the movement of raw materials all the way from a supplier to a customer, while the information flow consists of customer order processing, delivery status updating, etc. On the other hand, financial flow involves the payment management schedules, credit terms, etc.
Often, supply chain management software helps organizations reduce costs by automating important supply chain activities, such as, order processing and shipment tracking. Products in this category also help identify overheads, improve time-to-market, respond to unforeseen events like shipment delays, make demand predictions, and foster collaboration between suppliers, manufacturers and distributors.
You’ll mainly find two types of supply chain management software – planning software applications and execution software applications. Planning applications help you create a long-term strategy for demand-supply balancing. These products often provide a centralized view of the supply chain, allowing you to plan your production and resourcing in a timely manner. You’ll also find products that help in shipment planning, for instance, by determining loading capacity, delivery routes and transportation modes.
On the other hand, execution applications are more concerned about the storage and movement of raw materials, shipment tracking, warehouse management, and purchase order processing. For instance, these products often match purchase orders with inventory to make sure products are available when needed. Other key functionalities include the ability to generate production schedules, determine pricing, monitor materials and view financial information through every stage of a supply chain while responding automatically to any changes in plans.
While products in this category cover a wide range of features, not all of them may be applicable to your business. You should choose a solution that caters to most of your requirements. Solutions tailored to specific industries are also available. It is also important to ensure the product is compatible with your existing systems and that of your partners or suppliers.
Key features to look for include the ability to manage inventory and customer orders, whether the product provides a self-service portal for more effective supplier collaboration, or if it has a built-in warehouse management system or if it is able to provide complete visibility of your supply chain in real-time. Some other important considerations include ease-of-use, integration with other apps, scalability and vendor reputation.
|API||Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are programmatic intersections with external products or platforms that allow for custom integrations with your own solutions or other solutions you are using.|
|Budgeting||Planning and tracking capabilities for financial budgets and plans often used to manage funds across different departments or for investor / shareholder oversight.|
|Calendar Management||Manage and update calendars for scheduling or consolidation of events across teams, departments or business functions.|
|Customer Management||Manage customer databases and/or track outstanding shipments, payments and more.|
|Dashboard||Dashboards are digital interfaces commonly used to visualise data or give quick access to important features and functions of online platforms. They often serve as an overview gateway in software applications.|
|Data Export||Exporting functionality can be used to streamline the migration of data sets and information across systems, platforms or applications.|
|Data Import||Importing functionality allows you to use data sets from other systems or platforms to cut down on data entry requirements or to more easily migrate records from similar applications you have used in the past.|
|Data Visualization||Data visualization features render a visual interpretation of data sets through the use of charts, infographics and other visual cues generally in form of a reporting dashboard.|
|External Integrations||Integrations with other software products or platforms to improve efficiency and compatibility across systems.|
|Forecasting||Forecast upcoming expenses, sales, revenue, user levels, etc. through the use of predictive methods and past data.|
|Inventory Tracking||Stay on top of inventory levels, to manage the storing, reordering or production of stock items.|
|Multi-User||Supports more than just one user account and generally allows for collaboration with colleagues.|
|Notifications||Includes notification support and sends you alerts with information on important events and other time sensitive instances. For example through push notifications on mobile phones or email notifications.|
|Project Management||Manage projects from conception through the planning stage to delivery and post-project reporting phases. This allows organisation teams to organise resources, plan budgets and improve efficiency in the delivery of project objectives.|
|Scheduling||Schedule tasks, resources, appointments, payments, communications, etc.|
|Supplier Management||Manage suppliers and purchases required in the day-to-day operation of a business.|
|Third-Party Plugins/Add-Ons||Offers additional features or integrations built by third-party developers in form of plugins or add-ons.|