Giving competitors the boot: Page 3

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At a Glance: Timberland Co.

Company: Based in Stratham, N.H., Timberline manufactures footwear, hiking gear and related goods.

Feeling the pinch: Timberland's manual process of producing forecast and replenishment plans with key retailers via e-mail, fax and voice mail was not flexible enough to support the company's anticipated growth. The process was fraught with unnecessary delays, not to mention a lot of rekeying of data, which often led to mistakes.

Comfortable fit: By deploying Manugistics Group Inc.'s NetWorks S/Collaborate Web-based collaborative planning tool to internal planners and key retail accounts, Timberland will be able to cut its planning cycle from 4 to 6 weeks down to 10 days. And because the process is now iterative and more interactive via the Web, Timberland is assured of more accurate forecasts, which it expects will lead to higher sales.

Yusef Akyuz
Timberland's Yusef Akyuz says the company's planning cycle will be reduced to 10 days by using NetwWorks S/Collaborate software.

Using the Web to improve forecasting is one of the most popular ways companies are trying to stay abreast of customer needs. Unlike Timberland, companies like Eastman Chemical Co. are deploying the process in-house before they hook up key partners. The $4.48 billion manufacturer of chemicals, plastics and fibers is currently using Atlanta-based Logility Inc.'s Demand Chain Voyager software on its intranet to enable 240-plus sales reps to access and share forecasts.

Next year, Eastman will extend the tool, via the Web, to its key customers, allowing them to work collaboratively in real time with sales reps on forecasting. This will replace the existing manual process whereby reps have to place regular phone calls to planners at key accounts along with exchanging forecasts in spreadsheets via e-mail or fax. "That's where the streamlining comes in, in terms of reducing errors and non-duplication of efforts," explains John Hewson, manager of forecasting and planning at Eastman, in Kingsport, Tenn.

Allowing customers to have real-time input via Web-based supply-chain tools will help Eastman do a better job of identifying and timing demand. "We recognize we need to do a better job of satisfying and supplying what [customers] need when they need it," adds Hewson. "The Web lets us do that without seriously impacting our cost structure, without having to hold higher levels of inventory and without flying product around all over the country to meet customers' needs."

Lucent Technologies Inc.'s Rouen, France, Global Provisioning Center also anticipates substantial cost savings by deploying the SupplyIT component of WebPlan's eSupply Chain suite with its key suppliers, according to Raimund Elsen, the plant's manager of program management. The maker of optical and wireless networking products expects over time to replace EDI links with key suppliers with SupplyIT's browser-based tool set. "It brings more flexibility and interactivity than EDI and saves the traditional EDI link cost," which can be very high, Elsen says.

Another way companies are using the Internet to achieve supply-chain efficiencies is through Web-based logistics and fulfillment packages. ShopLink Inc., a $14 million upscale online grocery delivery service covering metropolitan Boston, knows that on-time and accurate delivery as well as a personalized shopping experience are just as important to encouraging repeat business as is its eclectic selection of specialty foods, choice meats and produce. To keep it competitive on that score, ShopLink is installing an Internet-based logistics and routing tool from Descartes Systems Group Inc. in Waterloo, Ontario, to bring efficiencies and knowledge sharing capabilities to its supply chain.


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