Julie Fraser, President of Cambashi Inc., recently wrote an intriguing article in Managing Automation magazine. The article focuses on how a great number of companies rely on outdated business systems that don’t effectively support their current business models.
Her opinion, and it’s one that B2B Connex shares, is that over the last 20 years there have been a number of significant changes in the way we communicate with our network of partners and what they expect from us. The problem is that we haven’t changed our approach to deal with these new realities!
The root of the problem is that systems that made sense 10, 15 or 20 years ago relied on a very limited definition of the supply chain: plan-source-make-deliver and possibly return.
Fraser explains that because partner expectations have changed, our new definition of the supply chain must include: material and supplier substitutions, product design and innovation, aftermarket services, pricing etc.
Does your system take these changes into account?
If not, her solution is straightforward and sensible – we have to improve our approach to collaboration between ALL of the units across our network.
She suggests this can be accomplished by changing our communication processes so they foster true synchronization across our partner network.
By promoting real-time collaboration, our supply chain becomes streamlined, efficient and allows for immediate input and action by anyone in our partner network.
Fraser interviewed Geoffrey Moore, a tech expert for the article. He uses social media as an ideal model for the modern supply chain system and talks about four areas we have to address to create true collaboration with our partners.
1) Mobile – So input can be offered at any time throughout the process.
2) Social – The ability to share facts and insights is crucial. B2B Connex is the first company mentioned as a solutions provider in this area.
3) Ad-Hoc – Because in supply chain management, unexpected events occur and have to be dealt with quickly and effectively.
4) Real-Time – This is the fundamental change that flows from all of the above elements.
If B2B Connex offered one addition to the article’s points, it would be that automation is a vital part of improved collaboration. Many of the time-consuming manual tasks that were necessary in the past can now be taken care of without employee intervention. Automating aspects of our supply chain management leads to increased efficiencies, a significant reduction in human error and allows employees to spend more of their time on core business activities.
If you’d like to read Julie Fraser’s article in full, click here.
For more information about how B2B Connex can help you improve collaboration across your partner network, contact us or click here to learn more.
B2B Connex will be sponsoring and exhibiting at the upcoming 2011 PMAC National Conference in Whistler from June 8th-June 10th.
I will be providing onsite, live demonstrations of the B2B Connex supplier portal solution as well as answering questions about how organizations can streamline their purchasing communication processes. B2B Connex has a number of success stories available from our client base on how the supplier portal solution enabled them to save big on non value add manual tasks such as faxing PO’s.
We will have an exciting contest for PMAC members to take advantage of, all you have to do is stop by and say hello at booth 19.
Look forward to seeing you in Whistler!
About B2B Connex Supplier Portal
B2B Connex Supplier Portal reduces costs and lead times by letting buyers manage by exception, and by improving supplier performance by capturing information not available in ERP systems. B2B Supplier Portal is applicable for both direct material and MRO orders, across multiple plants or ERP systems.
The Purchasing Management Association of Canada (PMAC) is the leading, and the largest, association in Canada for supply chain management professionals. The national voice for advancing and promoting the profession of supply chain management, PMAC sets the standard of excellence for professional skills, knowledge and integrity.
About PMAC 2011 Show
Canada’s premier event for supply chain management professionals is also the largest. Each year, 500 top procurement and SCM decision-makers come to learn the latest developments and best practices in the profession.
When planning a new implementation of the B2B Connex supplier portal, there are 5 steps that must be taken.
The integration is usually done by exchanging XML messages often in the form of flat files transferred between systems. The XML formats are not set, but can be any format depending mainly on the ERP system that is being integrated with. If there is not already an XML based integration available for the target ERP system, one will have to be created for each of the types of business documents desired (PO, PO Confirmation, Invoice, etc.). The creation of new integrations can be done through services or by in-house staff. If in-house staff are doing the integration development services staff can provide the initial understanding of the techniques required to successfully build this integration.
The installation can usually be done in one or two days depending on the complexity of the requirements. For instance, a single server installation that is installed behind a pre-existing firewall might take less than one day, but a more complex installation including multiple servers or tiers in a clustered configuration for load balancing could take 2-3 days to install and verify.
There are several configuration options that need to be set during the implementation of a new installation. This increases with the number of business documents that are being deployed (PO, Invoice, RFQ, etc.) as well as the optional use of additional modules such as the Vendor Information Centre or the B2B Direct module that provides EDI functionality. This configuration can take from one day to a week or occasionally longer depending on this complexity.
The training of business people on the use of the supplier portal is not a lengthy process. This can be done in 2 to 3 days depending on the scale of the implementation as well as the number of people taking part. Business training is given to buyers, managers, A/P personnel etc. to give them an understanding of the work flow in the product and administrative training is given to the staff assigned to support the portal. Supplier training can also be arranged or a “train-the-trainer” approach can be used where your staff instructs personnel about how to train the suppliers that will be asked to access the system.
5. Supplier Rollout
There is a recommended procedure used to bring new suppliers onto the system. This includes ensuring that the suppliers can access the software, that the appropriate information about the supplier is known (email addresses, etc.), and that the suppliers receive the appropriate training on the use of the system. The total time required to bring a single supplier on-board is usually measured in hours rather than days, so this process is minimal provided that you have a process in place.
There are different opinions about how much time an invoice match actually takes. The real difference lies in how accurate you want to be about the historical data in your ERP system. The more accurate you are about your history, the more accurate you can be in the future.
When we help our clients with ROI calculations we usually start with a 60 minute estimate for an invoice match. The reason we use 60 minutes is from past experience. As we have found in other areas, there are often a lot of small manual tasks that people overlook. Keep in mind that a 2 minute task may seem like nothing, but many 2 minute tasks can add up.
When doing an invoice match, there are 2 variables that can differ. One is the number of receipts; the other is the unit cost. Sorting out the number of receipts is often the easier of the 2 problems. Goods were either received or not, with perhaps some items being returned. Sorting out a price difference can be more of a problem. Price change requests are often discussed and approved verbally, with updates not making it back to the Purchase Order in your ERP system. A month later, when the invoice arrives, it is often hard to remember exactly what was agreed upon.
The Easy Way
One simple way to deal with a price difference is to just take the difference and assign it to a variance account. Of course, your accountants will disapprove of this idea. Another simple way to deal with this would be to go to the purchase order itself and change the price “after the fact”. Both of these solutions are simple and they don’t take very much time at all.
The only problem with these 2 solutions is that you have introduced inaccuracies into your historical data. Your current inventory pricing is incorrect since the goods have been entered into inventory at the wrong price. Incorrect pricing in your inventory means that the costing of your finished goods or repairs is wrong. By not correcting the root problem you will continue using the incorrect price for new orders over and over.
The Accurate Way
When investigating the amount of time taken for an invoice match within your organization you need to consider all of the following activities. These may seem trivial, but every minute adds up.
• How much time does it take your accounts payable person to find the match problem through reporting?
• How much time to they take investigating the number of receipts and the pricing?
• How much time does it take to track down and interrupt the buyer when a problem can’t be found?
• How much time does the buyer take looking through old notes or email or trying to remember a conversation from a month ago?
• Is the AP person waiting while the buyer is checking their notes? If so, you are spending the time of two people not just one.
• Do you end up having to call the supplier to discuss the issue? Do they answer the phone right away or do you have to be interrupted a second time when the supplier responds?
• How long does it take to restart whatever tasks were interrupted?
• Once a resolution is determined, how much time does it take to call up the appropriate records in your ERP to make changes?
All of these things take time. A proper ROI calculation needs to take all of these things into account when adding up the time taken.
The Best Way
The best way to deal with invoice match issues is, of course, to reduce the number of invoice mismatches that you have. The only way to do this is to ensure that prices are correct at the time your supplier confirms their orders rather than waiting until invoice time. The best way to ensure correct pricing at confirmation is to implement a system, like B2B Connex, to give your suppliers a way to correct pricing before goods are received.
How do you currently exchange purchasing documents with your suppliers?
Thank you to all of the people who visited our booth at the 2011 ProcureCon Show in Atlanta. We are happy to announce the winner of our draw for a COBY Google Internet tablet. The winner is Erica Hill, from Brown Shoe.
David Kuehner selecting the winner.
For a free trial or a demo of our vendor portal solution, please contact us here
I wanted to let everyone know that we will be attending the ProcureCon show in Atlanta from the 1st to the 3rd of February. We will have a booth at the show and we welcome everyone to join us if you can. We will have demo machines available and will also be giving away an Android based internet tablet that can be used for music, movies, email, web browsing, reading e-books, and more.
I hope we’ll see you there.
We are often asked about vendor invoice processing using a vendor portal. There are many different ways of automating the exchange of vendor invoices which leads to a certain amount of confusion as to how you should solve this business problem. The reason that invoices are more complex to manage than, for instance, purchase orders is that purchase orders are created in a system that you control while invoices are usually created in your vendors systems.
Since the invoices often originate in your vendors system, the complexity is in providing a means for them to transmit those invoices to you as well as to convert the invoice data from their format into your format at one end or the other of the transmission.
There are several ways that your vendors can transmit the invoices to you. Some common methods are: Direct FTP file exchange or the use of web services and the older Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). Files can also be uploaded manually using the functionality of our vendor portal, presuming that your vendors can provide the invoice data in the correct format.
Another way that your vendors can provide you with an invoice is to take a purchase order in the portal and “flip” it into an invoice. This “flipping” is a function in the portal that creates an invoice that mirrors the PO line for line and provides entry fields for the vendor to make any modifications based on specific quantities shipped etc.
There is one other way to deal with invoices presuming that you have a purchasing system that can support evaluated receipt settlement (ERS). ERS modules generate pre-matched vendor invoices within your purchasing system based on the purchase order prices as well as the amount of goods received. These invoices can then be extracted from your system and presented to your vendors for confirmation in the same way that you would send them a purchase order.
You will usually need to provide several of these methods to your vendors to allow for their different technical capabilities.
There are many ways to automate your Purchase Order processing. Often people look to solutions that add automatic faxing or emailing capability to your purchasing system. While these solutions do remove the need to manually print and send your purchase orders to your suppliers, the process stops once the purchase order is sent. There is no provision for the management of the purchase orders outside of your organization or the processing of information coming back from your suppliers.
In this article, I will review some of the benefits that you can realize by using a proper “2-way” communication system such as the B2B Connex Supplier Portal. An on-line supplier portal not only displays the purchase order detail, but also provides the ability for the supplier to make change requests or attach additional information by accessing your system using a browser.
How often have you lost track of the status of a purchase order that you have sent to a supplier? When an order is faxed or emailed, there is no way to ensure that the supplier has received it without a manual follow-up. When a delivery is late, you may find out by running report from your ERP system, but again, any expediting would be done manually.
With a “2-way” communication system, your suppliers would enter their order confirmations electronically when they receive their orders. Any order that hasn’t been confirmed within a few days would be flagged by the system and expedited electronically. There is no way that an order could “slip through the cracks”. In a similar way, orders that are not fully received or shipped by the required date would be flagged and expedited by the system without any manual intervention.
Delivery Date Confirmation
With a “2-way” communication system, suppliers are asked to confirm delivery dates with their electronic order confirmation. They are also given the opportunity to inform you of changes to those delivery dates right up to the time of shipment.
While changes to delivery dates for an order are never desirable, providing a means of tracking the changes and updating your ERP system electronically will lead to more accurate production and maintenance schedules.
Price Change Requests
Similar to delivery dates, your suppliers can be given the opportunity to confirm the prices on a purchase order at the time of order confirmation. In fact, when done electronically, an acceptance of a purchase order by your supplier is their guarantee that the price is correct. If it is not correct, they have the ability to request a new price when confirming the order rather than waiting until it is time for the invoice.
This means that there should never be a difference in the price on a purchase order and its related invoice. This can eliminate invoice match problems. Also, by managing this process electronically, you never have to worry that price changes negotiated verbally or by email will be lost before they are entered into your ERP system.
Evaluated Receipt Settlement (ERS)
Once you have eliminated invoice match problems, you could be ready for the next step – Evaluated Receipt Settlement.
ERS is the process of auto-generating supplier invoices within your ERP system based on the quantity of received goods and the purchase order price. This can only be done if you are sure that the purchase order prices are correct. Once the invoices are auto-generated they can be sent for payment without requiring that your supplier send you an invoice. This eliminates all of the manual tasks of receiving invoices and entering them into your system. It also removes the need for your supplier to create and send their invoices to you.
B2B Connex recently exhibited and presented at the annual OIPMAC Conference. David Kuehner provided his insights on hidden savings in your supply chain.
“Many people consider purchasing to be an overhead expense. However, the automation of your purchasing processes can have a big impact on costs, cycle times, and the accuracy of price data. There are several ways that manual processing can add to your overall costs. Inaccurate pricing can cause invoice match problems, incorrect delivery dates can cause maintenance scheduling problems, rekeying RFQ data can introduce errors in your vendor data that will cause recurring purchase order change requests until the data is corrected. One way to solve these, and other problems, is to implement a “2-way” vendor communication process that will control the distribution of Purchase Orders, RFQs, and other purchasing documents to your vendors, as well as to control the communication of price, delivery, and other critical information from your vendors back to you. ”
If you are interested in achieving savings within your purchasing department, call us today at 866-317-1951 or contact us