How B2B Integration Drives Superior Supply Chain Performance

Today’s manufacturers face a constant challenge of balancing supply chain efficiency with the investment placed in their B2B integration platform. To try and get a better understanding of whether increased use of B2B solutions and services impacts the performance of a supply chain, OpenText sponsored a new B2B integration related study with IDC Manufacturing Insights. This blog will briefly summarise some of the key findings from the study.

IDC - STUDY - A

IDC conducted a one hour qualitative survey with 270 global manufacturers across the automotive, high tech and consumer product goods sub-sectors. We had representation from eight countries including Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, UK and North America. In order to try and develop the hypothesis, IDC asked a number of questions about current B2B implementation initiatives across the 270 companies and they also asked questions relating to key supply chain metrics across each company. I spent a few months working with IDC on this study, so let me just highlight some of the B2B responses first.

The first question looked at the key business initiatives that companies were embarking on over the next three years and international expansion into new markets was the key project as shown by the chart below. It is interesting to note that while many companies are trying to improve supply chain visibility and improve supply chain responsiveness they were not as high up in the chart as international expansion, develop more services and reduce operational costs. Indeed diversification into new sub-sectors is a key activity for many manufacturers today, for example high-tech companies exploring new opportunities in the growing electric vehicle market.

IDC - STUDY - B

In order to try and understand how pervasive B2B technologies were across the companies surveyed, the next question asked about the volume of electronic transactions that were being conducted today. Given the consumer driven, fast moving nature of the automotive and high tech sectors, I guess it is no surprise that it is these two industries that are exchanging transactions electronically with more than 75% of their trading partners. CPG on the other hand has a relatively low level, probably due to the fact that many CPG goods are manufactured in countries such as India and China where the use of B2B tools is relatively low when compared to other manufacturing hubs around the world.

IDC - STUDY - C

The study found there were a number of business drivers for companies needing to improve their B2B environment over the next three years. According to leading analysts, the manufacturing sector is going to be the fastest growing adopter of new Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) regulations. This was confirmed by the responses to our study which said that increased regulatory compliance was the number one reason why companies were increasing investment in their B2B infrastructure. This was closely followed by an increasing pressure from customers to adopt B2B integration processes.

IDC - STUDY - D

The survey showed that there was a marked shift in terms of the key barriers to adopting new B2B services. One of the main barriers in the past was getting top level management buy in that B2B integration could bring significant benefits to the business. Our study showed that this barrier was the least likely to prevent a new B2B project from starting. In fact the number one barrier to increased B2B adoption was competing IT projects such as ERP. ERP is typically the number one focus area for CIOs and as such tend to get the most budget and resources to deploy. ERP systems typically have to be live by a specific date and if the date slips then IT resources from other projects are pulled in as required. This could leave other IT projects such as a B2B on-boarding project severely exposed. Even when companies have deployed an ERP and B2B environment, our study showed that nearly 40% of companies had still not integrated their ERP and B2B platforms together. Here at OpenText we find ERP B2B integration projects as a key driver for companies adopting our B2B Managed Services environment.

In terms of the benefits gained from B2B integration, companies cited lower inventories as the main benefit. This was most apparent from nearly 60% of automotive respondents who have invested heavily in recent years following the last economic downturn and to help support their global expansion initiatives.

IDC - STUDY - E

As I highlighted at the beginning of this blog post, the study was truly global in nature, covering all the major manufacturing hubs around the world and I just wanted to briefly highlight some of the key findings by region:

  • 71% of German companies trade electronically with less than 50% of their trading partners
  • 80% of Japanese companies said that inventory reduction was a key benefit of B2B integration
  • 62% of US companies trading electronically with more than 50% of their trading partners
  • 27% of Chinese companies trading electronically with more than 50% of their trading partners
  • 57% of South Korean companies said that supply chain complexity was a key barrier to B2B adoption

One of the major goals of the study was to find out how companies were progressing in their understanding of how modern B2B technologies can help drive superior business results. To achieve this, it was important to get an understanding of the perceived performance of specific supply chain activities. Once these supply chain metrics were analysed it would then be possible to see if there was any correlation between supply chain performance and the impact of B2B technologies. Here are some examples of the metrics that were measured as part of the analysis:

  • 50% of US companies can process an invoice in under one hour
  • 73% of Chinese companies have an average time to market of less than 120 days
  • 90% of Brazilian companies perform up to two inventory turns per month
  • 87% of Chinese companies deliver greater than 95% perfect orders
  • 60% of Japanese companies have an average customer order delivery time of less than 7 days

Overall, there were some interesting findings from a supply chain metrics point of view and I will write a separate blog that examines some of these results. But in the meantime I just wanted to include one chart relating to a specific business process that is seeing increasing levels of digitisation, namely invoicing. The chart below highlights the time it takes for the surveyed companies to process an invoice.

The real-time numbers shown below would indicate companies that have adopted electronic invoicing solutions.

IDC - STUDY - F

Acknowledging that the supply chain metrics would be different for each industry, average metrics were created for each industry and IDC then identified ‘top performer’ companies for each metric, ie companies with a performance that significantly exceeds industry average. Building upon this analysis, four ‘performance groups’ were defined according to the amount of times each company was over performing their industry average.

  • Leaders – Companies that are “top performers” in 4 or more metrics
  • Experts – Companies that are “top performers” in 2 or 3 metrics
  • Beginners – Companies that are “top performers” in just one metric
  • Laggards – Companies that are never “top performers”

Now I could just provide the final chart that shows the correlation between B2B integration and these four performance groups, however to get a better understanding of this study and the responses we got from these 270 global manufacturers, I would actively encourage you to download a copy of the study, which is available to download FROM HERE. IDC drew a number of conclusions from the results of the study and the complete list of recommendations are available by downloading the study, however some key points include:

  • Start from Business Integration to Achieve Collaboration – To obtain a comprehensive view
    of the extended supply chain and collaborate with business partners you should first be able to integrate with them
  • Redesign Supply Chains – Having a collaborative information exchange process is core to
    being able to support global trading partners and ensure that supply chains are resilient in the face of volatile demand or unexpected supply chain disruptions
  • Acknowledge the Opportunity of Elevating the Role of Your B2B Infrastructure – B2B infrastructures are in many cases still considered a commodity tool, but moving forward manufacturers will need to make it: ‘The central information exchange layer of the organization’

In summary, the study demonstrated that manufacturers can achieve hard benefits by improving their B2B related processes. In fact the study demonstrated that there was a strict correlation between having a pervasive, more modern and collaborative B2B platform in place and being a leader in supply chain performance. To get a better understanding of the analysis and to get IDC’s direct response to the findings from the study I would encourage you to DOWNLOAD the study and if you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact OpenText. Over the next few weeks I will take a deeper look at some of the industry specific results from the study

Mark Morley

As Director, Strategic Product Marketing for Business Network, Mark leads the product marketing efforts for B2B Managed Services, drives industry and regional alignment with overall Business Network product strategy and looks at how new disruptive technologies will impact future supply chains. Mark also has over 23 years industry experience across the discrete manufacturing sector.

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