4. Describe a supply chain information system in terms of its key elements, requirements, and capabilities.
5. Identify the four primary categories of supply chain management software and discuss their primary functions. Answer: Organizations are looking beyond efficiency-focused applications to systems that provide the ability to react quickly to marketing and demand changes, communicate decisions clearly and quickly to everyone affected, and flexibly manage multiple types of supply chains. Supply chain planning applications and suites help organizations evaluate demand for materials, capacity, and services so that effective fulfillment plans and schedules can be developed. These planning tools assist with decisions regarding the number and location of facilities (network design), where to purchase materials (strategic sourcing), when to build goods (production planning and scheduling), and how to deliver the goods (routing and scheduling). Shorter-range planning tools that support sales and operations, production, and distribution planning can leverage accurate forecasts. Supply chain execution tools and suites carry out key tasks from the time an order is placed until it is fulfilled. This order-driven category of software focuses on the day-today activities required to buy, make, and deliver the materials that flow through the supply chain. Supply chain execution doesn’t rely upon a single software program but consist of a group of tightly integrated tools that link well with supply chain partners’ systems to share relevant data and provide visibility. Successful implementation can provide users with improved inventory visibility, improved data accuracy, faster throughput and higher inventory turns, better control of transportation costs, and improved customer service. Supply chain event management tools collect data in real time from multiple sources across the supply chain and track the inventory as it flows through the supply chain, providing graphical displays of expected and actual inventory levels and other key data at each location. As the geographic scope and number of companies involved in a supply chain grow, the ability to monitor activities exceeds manual capabilities.