[Guest post from Tim Sharpe]

Put your hands up if you have no customers or suppliers.

Sam springs out of his chair, ready to run out into the loading bay. It’s a cold, wet, windy night, but his coat is still on the back of his chair; a late change of plan means his team are unprepared. His Shift Manager’s out on the plant, nowhere to be seen. Has his operations team realised that Silo 42’s loading valve needs to be locked off?

If not, 40 tonnes of polymer worth $60K will go straight through that open valve onto the floor and cause a production stop costing about 20 times this. As the manager of the logistics company providing a service to the plant’s owner-operators, this is not a mistake he wants to make.

Yet businesses everywhere run this risk. Production plans often have to change to meet a valuable, urgent order at late notice. A late switch of grade or change of plan has a greater impact the further down the manufacturing process you go – so for a logistics function at the very end of the process the impact can be huge and the time to react short.

Never has it been more important to use real-time data to good effect. Suppliers want to react faster, to take advantage of the smallest advantage. Customers expect this kind of agility and build long and profitable relationships with suppliers who can meet their needs. Where once there was an acceptance that B2B operated under different rules to B2C, now we all expect excellent service in our work lives too – and reward it with loyalty.

Of course, real-time operational data is part of the story; the rest is locked up in your data warehouse, ERP, CRM, OEE or any of the other myriad systems around the enterprise. The context of a developing situation is in there in the purchase orders, maintenance reports and other data. Bringing this together with real-time data gives genuine visibility and allows everyone involved to react appropriately to developing situations.

The technology is available today to de-risk business processes and so build trust into our relationships and agility into our enterprises. We start by bringing together real-time and enterprise data, making it available to the whole virtual team regardless of their organisation structure or corporate identity.

Back in Sam’s office, as he goes for the door he checks the big screen TV in the corner of the office; Silo 42 is locked off, ready for product. Out in the loading bay his Shift Manager is just reviewing the loading plan on his iPad; he looks up, gives him a cheery wave and a shrug which says, “Customers eh? What can you do?”.

About the Author:

Tim Sharpe Co-founder and CEO/MD of Sabisu; a cloud application for seamlessly sharing your business information with communities of colleagues, clients and suppliers – your data stays safe and everyone can work with it. Google me, or my twitter handle @timjsharpe and you’ll find what you want to know.

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