Analysts estimate Hong Kong's export industries could achieve annual savings of more than $9.2 billion and win access to new export markets through the adoption of key export supply chain management (SCM) practices. Hong Kong Article Numbering Association chief executive Anna Lin has the task of educating SAR businesses about the importance of SCM which she believes will be critical to Hong Kong maintaining its global competitive edge. To that end, the HKANA, in association with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, is organising an Export Supply Chain Management conference, titled 'The Future of Global Export Competitiveness', at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre next Tuesday. The conference will enable delegates to: Recognise and address changing consumer and market trends. Achieve optimum supply chain efficiency. Enhance global competitiveness. Retain customers. Improve their bottom line. It will have two keynote speakers - Jim Lewis, president of Liz Claiborne Casuals, whose address will focus on retail and consumer trends in Hong Kong's export markets, and Victor Fung, chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. The Hong Kong Article Numbering Association is an independent, non-profit organisation established by the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce in 1989. It acts as the local industry support body promoting and advising local industries on the use of the international EAN standards and technologies for global SCM. The association's mission was to 'facilitate international trade and to increase organisations' business efficiency', Ms Lin said. 'We believe, in today's business environment, it is not just price and quality that are important. There is also efficiency - how you can get your products and services faster to your customers. Efficient communication is a key component.' HKANA is a member of EAN International, a worldwide body based in Brussels, Belgium. EAN International sets, manages and promotes a system for the identification and communication of products, services, utilities, transport units and locations. It has more than 600,000 member companies in more than 85 countries. 'Supply chain management, in simple terms, is all about balancing the right supply of goods to match demand, using enabling technologies such as bar coding. One of its key objectives is to make information flow more efficient and accurate,' Ms Lin said. 'If we can better manage the supply chain by integrating processes, communicating better with each other and streamlining some of the unnecessary procedures, we will be able to take some of the costs out of the supply chain. 'The biggest challenge which businesses in Hong Kong face is greater worldwide expectations for service and speed of delivery,' she said. Retailers in Europe and the United States, for instance, now seek to react almost instantly to consumer demands. 'If you don't have the right products on the shelves you will not be able to satisfy your customers,' she said. But with businesses increasingly reluctant to stockpile inventory, the need for a fast and easily monitored international supply chain was paramount. 'Until now, everyone has concentrated on internal operations, streamlining processes within their own companies,' Ms Lin said. 'But now, with more and more globalisation, we have to look at virtual enterprise: how you, as a business, can work more closely with your customers and suppliers to cut costs and increase sales.' If Hong Kong companies could not meet this challenge, traditional customers in Europe and the United States would turn increasingly to new manufacturers and suppliers closer to their home markets. 'To combat that, Hong Kong exporters must find a way to catch up with supply chain management,' she said. Ms Lin said it was important Hong Kong's small and medium-sized firms got up to speed on SCM.