Collaboration: The New Standard in the Supply Chain

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  • Published: April 1 2013
Collaboration is becoming more and more critical to managing the supply chain process. Collaboration can take many forms in the supply chain, such as visibility, data sharing, collaborative forecasting, outsourcing, sharing resources, or joint processes. Context is needed to understand what is meant by collaboration". In this report, TEC Research Analyst Bob Eastman looks at collaboration and how it relates to demand planning and forecasting, sales and operations planning, vendor-managed inventory, and logistics, and gives important milestones marking the development of the use of collaboration in the supply chain over the last 50 years.

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Collaboration has become a popular concept in the supply chain space. While it may not have quite achieved the saturation status of “big data” or “the cloud” it has earned its place on any technology buzzword bingo card.

Collaboration is becoming more and more critical to managing the supply chain process. Once a competitive advantage and differentiator, it is now quickly becoming table stakes for having a competitive supply chain.

With this, many supply chain vendors have learned that it is wise to use the term “collaboration” and its variants in some abundance when talking about their products, solutions, and value propositions. One vendor touts “sourcing and supply chain collaboration with vendors and suppliers”. Another claims their tool “can aid in collaborative decision-making.” Yet another claims to be a “cloud-based supply chain collaboration platform.” One vendor says that it is focusing its collaborative capabilities for the aerospace and defense industry, while another touts a focus on the grocery industry.

What “collaboration” or “visibility” means in the context of demand planning and forecasting is different, however, than what is meant in a vendor-managed inventory context, or in the logistics segment of the supply chain space. It is very important to understand what is meant by such terms as “visibility” and “collaboration,” and the context in which these terms are used. How is one to make sense of all of this? Following is a framework and a few examples to help sort this out for you.

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