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Supply chain reporting software taps business intelligence for smart analysis

Manufacturers can gain in-depth analysis of their supply chain histories through supply chain reporting software. Integration with business intelligence data creates an even more comprehensive picture.

Supply chain reporting software looks at a manufacturer's supply chain history and estimates future needs to offer in-depth analysis. The software "is trying to mine all the data from (both) a reporting and analytical perspective," said Bob Ferrari, managing director for Ferrari Consulting and Research Group.

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Supply chain reporting evolved when large companies found they couldn't plan and manage global supply chain business processes with traditional ERP software. Companies discovered that their planning and forecasting needed more than just a historical perspective because things change too quickly in the market. "What happened in the past might not happen in the future," Ferrari said.

The end result is reporting software that today includes analytics and is proactive and forward looking. "What do we think is going to happen? What do we think product demand will be?" Ferrari asked, noting that some reporting is based on historic data elements and some on gathered intelligence for scenario planning.

For example, a manufacturer might look at cutting back production, or eliminating a particular supplier, and use the software to measure impact. In the past, "you couldn't respond to those queries without a lot of data analysis, which took months," he said. "Now you can get at it much quicker."

Though reporting software is used in supply chain management (SCM), it also overlaps with business intelligence tools. "Some of the business intelligence vendors, whether ERP or standalone, have recognized the importance of the global supply chain," said Ferrari. "They've built or are building prepackaged applications with a focus on supply chain business intelligence."

Similarly, ERP vendors have taken more of a data warehousing perspective with their tools. "ERP vendors have recognized that they had to be more directional and more forward looking," Ferrari said. "They've had to bring in more what-if analysis."

About the author: Christine Cignoli is a Boston-based freelance writer who covers IT infrastructures and storage technology. She is a regular contributor to SearchManufacturingERP. Contact her through her website.

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