Never too early to prevent wastage

Starting from the development phase, manufacturers must have processes to monitor quality and identify production flaws.

With shortening product lifecycles the norm in the fast-moving retail sector, manufacturing for this market segment requires measures to control production costs, ensure quality and avoid wastage at an early stage.

This means businesses must have processes in place to monitor quality, identify potential product flaws, and align new products with compliance requirements at the development phase, explained Diane Fanelli, senior vice president of industries and solutions, SAP Asia-Pacific and Japan.

This also helps companies avoid costly product recalls after it is introduced in the market, Fanelli told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

"Compatible solutions that work in harmony across a manufacturer's and its partner’s IT platforms, are critical to breaking down silos and preventing flaws in the earliest research stages," she said.

"It's critical that integrated technologies--from supply chain management (SCM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and product lifecycle management (PLM)--are in place to maintain quality control, deliver recall execution and ensure the avoidance of over-recall," she noted.

Jasbir Singh, general manager of manufacturing, retail and distribution division at Oracle Asean, said PLM, customer relationship management (CRM) and ERP are the core applications in manufacturing, from product design and development to internal processes to customer service.

He said these applications provide intelligence, information and insight, enabling manufacturers to identify areas to increase efficiency.

"This enables the adoption of demand-driven supply chains, or delivering what customers need when they need it," Singh said in an e-mail interview.

Stocks of products have to be planned based on expected demand, while keeping in mind the need to minimize the risk of excess inventories and out-of-date write-offs, he said.

"To deliver a profitable balance between these competing objectives, it is imperative manufacturers ensure supply chain responsiveness by sharing information across the entire value chain, from their suppliers to retailers," said Singh.

Piecing the puzzle
For manufacturers, he said, SCM underpins all other applications because, ultimately, data needs to flow across the supply chain to achieve high customer service levels.

"The individual applications are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle--the pieces, or applications, fit perfectly together when they are correctly and well integrated," he added.

According to Fanelli, integrating IT and business processes can also help protect corporate assets.

Singh said: "By integrating supply chain with other key business applications, these supply chain webs provide end-to-end visibility and are critical to increasing competitiveness, margin growth and market share."

According to Gartner, said Fanelli, PLM has evolved from a technology that is used mainly by engineers, to one that enterprise heads know they need to deploy across their manufacturing operations to remain competitive.

"A growing number of manufacturers are adopting PLM to help them drive business through greater product and process innovation and improved execution," she said. "This enables them to drive new products to market successfully, in an environment of shortening product lifecycles and small windows of high margin."