Software for viable supply chain management for SMEs

While SMEs represent a potentially large market for Supply Chain Management (SCM) software, more than two-thirds of Europe's SMEs recently polled were unaware of suitable SCM products for their company. But IST project PRODCHAIN is developing a toolbox aimed to support SMEs trying to reorganise their customer supplier business processes so they can participate in global production networks.

Demonstration in Bologna
At the recent eChallenges e2003 conference in Bologna, the PRODCHAIN project held a workshop focused on the 'PRODCHAIN toolbox' and its various elements. The aim of the toolbox itself is to enable companies to select appropriate Supply Chain Management (SCM) concepts and best practices considering the companies' situation and performance in a production network.

The toolbox seeks to enable companies to overcome the main obstacles of introducing SCM concepts. The two main obstacles, according to findings of a PRODCHAIN survey, which has been conducted among more than 200 logistics and IT experts across Europe, were "No appropriate SCM software available, which fits to the needs our company" and "Missing structured approach for introduction of SCM concepts."

"In order to design such a tool, extensive research in industry had to be performed for the methodology, which is behind the tool," says project manager Martin Weidemann. "Some of the findings of this research have been explained in the workshop as well."

According to Weidemann, the demonstrations went "very well", receiving positive reaction from the audience.

"We were able to get into a discussion with the audience and kept them interested," he says, noting that several requests were made for further information on project results and the toolbox.

"Some experts in the audience asked us to do full day workshops, since the findings of the project are quite significant and too much information has been provided within too little time. Furthermore, the question arose on who will commercialise these findings," he adds.

Among the results, PRODCHAIN has investigated the critical processes in customer-supplier-relationships, modeled entire networks, deducted different company types through an analytical cluster analysis, defined sets of performance indicators, which correlate to each other, build up a benchmarking database to assess performances, and did intense research on SCM concepts and best practices.

Weidemann stresses that the fact that PRODCHAIN managed to keep industry interested in its work (beside its industrial project partners) is a strong foundation for validation of project findings.

"Another advantage of PRODCHAIN is, that one starting point for the theoretical research part had been the SCOR model of the Supply Chain Council, which will ease the take up of our research findings in industry," he adds.

What lies ahead
Currently, Weidemann says the industrial partners of PRODCHAIN are implementing the SCM concepts that have been found most useful for them during the course of the project and by the toolbox. A prototype of the toolbox is under design.

Weidemann also notes that a series of three workshops is being prepared for industry, which will promote the project findings and the toolbox and will gather further feedback on its usability. In addition, another workshop for the IMS community is planned at the IMS forum 2004 at Lake Como in May 2004.

Martin Weidemann
Forschunginstitut fuer Rationalisierung
Pontdriesch 14/16
D-52062 Aachen
Tel: +49-241-47705336
Fax: +49-241-47705199

Source: Cordis - IST Results (http://istresults.cordis.lu/

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