Looking to add hi-tech magic to delivery process

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2005, 12:00am

Industry leaders are meeting to discuss best practices and ways to boost the efficiency of supply chain management

EFFICIENT SUPPLY CHAIN management has almost become a catchphrase these days. Companies in all industries are convinced that it will work like magic - ensuring timely delivery, reducing inventory, saving costs and increasing productivity.

Intensifying competition and growing demand from customers have forced those in the industry to be highly responsive to changing market needs and client expectations. Those who can serve customers better, faster and at less cost will be the winners.

At the 8th Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) Asia Conference, which opened at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday and runs until Thursday, more than 800 industry leaders from the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), supply, manufacturing, retail, IT, finance, distribution and services sectors across the region have come together to discuss best practices in supply chain and prospects.

This year's conference theme is 'Adding Magic to the Supply Chain' and focuses on the application of evolving technologies with the support of global standards to make the underlying business process more efficient.

A spokeswoman for GS1 Hong Kong, one of the event's organisers, said it had always been an issue for Asian industries, especially the retail business, to get efficient consumer response to cope with market globalisation trends and be responsive to customers' expectations. The key was efficient supply chain management which ensured all players had adequate stocks, timely deliveries, and reduced inventories, she said.

'Collaboration between suppliers and retailers to develop ECR techniques and best practices plays a pivotal role in the process. To facilitate co-operation, we need to have global standards that we all adhere to,' she said.

'GS1 is leading the charge to promote global standards and the adoption of new technologies such as electronic product code (EPC), radio frequency identification (RFID) and global data synchronisation (GDS) to help improve operating efficiency. Collaboration and technology add magic to supply chain management.'

RFID technology enables companies to track and trace any product carrying an RFID tag at any given time throughout the supply chain.

Realising the industry needs sharing of accurate product information between trading partners, GDS, a worldwide internet-based initiative, enables efficient and secure data sharing through a central data pool. It is designed to ensure timely updating of information to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

The benefits are many - cutting back time to market, ensuring adequate stocks, lowering inventory and reducing warehousing and distribution costs.

The conference, jointly organised by ECR Asia and ECR Hong Kong, is being held in Hong Kong for the second time.

ECR Asia is committed to promoting the use of ECR techniques to remove unnecessary costs from the supply chain and increase responsiveness to customer demand. The annual conference provides an opportunity for industry leaders to share best practices in supply chain management, agree on priorities and explore the way forward.

As Asia's key gateway to the mainland, Hong Kong is considered a desirable market place for investors and consumers to pursue ECR development.

The GS1 spokeswoman said Hong Kong's retailing industry, especially those in the FMCG sector, had been adopting supply chain management extensively.

'Efficient supply chain management is not just doing better and faster on your own. The most important thing is working closely with business partners to achieve magical results,' she said.

An effective information and communication system should be established with global standards enabling companies and their partners to do business in a common language, she said.

'It allows information flow in the supply chain to be synchronised with the physical goods flow.'

Technology was making it easier for companies to communicate and exchange data, the spokeswoman said. Improved data exchange and sharing helps companies carry out forward planning in supply chain management, save time and improve efficiency.

The term 'supply chain management' was barely known two decades ago but it is now recognised as being critical to business success.

At the ECR conference, participants will exchange views on best practices and how to achieve more efficient consumer response.

Through the exchanges, they hope to advance ECR development.