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How can the Web help supply-chain development?


Frequently Asked Questions

Within any supply-chain there must be continual, bilateral communication between all parties: in its simplest form, this may be no more than the exchange of orders and invoices. However, the average supply-chain is likely to need to transfer, freely between any/all of its members, a much more comprehensive range of data, information and knowledge, this may include:

  • Product design, manufacture and test data (e.g. design drawings/CAD files, welding specifications/procedures, QA documentation, etc)
  • Procurement data (e.g. terms of contract, production and delivery schedules, quotations/orders and invoices, etc)
  • Commercial data (e.g. current and future business plans, company reports and policies, capability and capacity statements/plans, etc)
  • Personnel data (e.g. capabilities, qualifications, etc)
  • Higher level interaction between personnel to interpret problems and synthesise solutions

Much of the data and information is time-dependent and/or commercially sensitive, thus electronic data transfer is used to ensure speed and confidentiality. (It is generally accepted that computer fraud and/or hacking poses a far smaller risk than that of documents being lost, copied or stolen.) The media by which such data may be transferred and communications made, are, predominantly, public telephone systems, e.g. copper wires, fibre optics, cellular microwave radio (mobile) 'phones, etc, or private communications systems, e.g. microwave data links (terrestrial or satellite), private mobile radio (PMR), etc. The availability, reliability and quality of these systems varies considerably from area to area and country to country. However, the web - which uses public telephone systems - has gained almost universal acceptance as the medium for low cost, easily accessible data transfer and person to person communications.

Thus the web is the default data transmission medium for most commercial supply-chain management software packages and for the simpler (frequently developed in-house) systems requiring only email transmissions. The global availability of web access enhances its attraction for businesses with global operations and/or supply-chains, where staff need to communicate at all hours and from anywhere (not necessarily the office).

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