Module 4 of the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) program is all about information technology. There’s a lot of good stuff here.
Problem is it feels random. There’s also a lot of text. And if you’re not familiar with IT terminology to begin with, it’ll all start to sound the same after a while.
Our suggestion is to allocate enough time to do multiple readings of this section. The first read will be just getting introduced to the terms. You can then start to make the connections between concepts in the following reads.
Normally we like to summarize related points in bullets. Not so easy to do with the content in this module. Here is our attempt.
The first section sets up the link between supply chain management and IT. Try to think about the various ways IT enables the supply chain:
- Data capture and management
- Input to planning across various time horizons
- Information sharing across the entire supply chain
- Facilitates the flow of data, product and cash
- Supports global collaboration
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems often get a bad rap. They’re inflexible and require significant resources to customize. That said, you’d be hard pressed to find any company without some implementation of it.
You can fight it or find ways to work with it. This section is about how to do the latter:
- How to leverage the existing ERP configuration for supply chain management
- How to evolve the ERP system such that it supports supply chain goals
Let’s look at a few specialized supply chain applications. Two basic categories:
- Advanced Optimization. We optimize a host of processes within the supply chain. While there is value in optimizing these individual processes, it’s only secondary to optimizing the larger end-to-end process. But you already knew that. Here you discuss the system tools you can use.
- Event Management. These support the actual day-to-day operations of the supply chain. They monitor the actual flow of goods and information throughout the network. Due to the numerous mini-processes that happen simultaneously, an alert system works pretty well. Meaning, we set standard parameters and the system lets us know if an event crosses the thresholds.
After you have a base plan, a worthwhile exercise is to build “what-if” simulations. This can fall in either group above depending on the horizon.
Now there’s a third group of system tools worth considering. They’re generally bucketed under Supply Chain Planning (SCP).
It’s broken out because it’s not tied directly to processes or events.
- It’s used at the enterprise range
- It helps manage tradeoffs
- It’s used in capacity planning
The output is a master plan based on a specific time horizon. You could argue that from a supply chain management perspective, these tools are the most important. It gets out of the tactical view and produces an overall roadmap for the operation.
This section focuses on how IT further enhances supply chain management. Three basic technologies discussed are:
- Electronic Data Transfer (EDT). Remember the days when electronic data interchange was the dominant method of transmitting information? These days, most of that is happening on the Internet. And not only on the desktop. On devices like the iPhone and BlackBerry as well.
- Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC). Most of us associate radio frequency identification (RFID) with this group. Other technologies in this bucket are bar codes and smart cards.
These technologies are overly documented by specialists. You’ll be better off Googling it yourself and going straight to the source.
Though honestly, if you aren’t up to your ears with RFID talk by now, you’re either stuck in that Lost island or you should really get out more.
The main challenge with data transfer is really how to make all the systems talk to each other. Sounds simple enough right?
OK, just get very smart people with large invested capital together in a room. Have them run a brainstorming session (yep, the same one corporations like to run) and have them vote on a standard for the entire industry.
Right. You’ll have better odds in Vegas than getting that done to everyone’s satisfaction. It’s tough stuff.
This last section is all about e-business. Think about this for a moment. So the tools to manage the movement of a bar of soap from raw materials to the shower are well established. We know how to do this.
Here’s the question. Do those tools remain as effective if say your product can be virtualized? Think CDs, DVDs, books. Or if you want to get nostalgic, 8-tracks, VHS tapes, and well…books.
As we know, e-business isn’t only about buying a book on Amazon.com anymore. (Actually even Amazon.com is not about the original Amazon.com anymore.)
Think Netflix.com, Hulu.com or how Radiohead launched their album In Rainbows 100% online.
We get more than enough e-business coverage each day. Simply try wearing a supply chain lens as you scan through them.
There you have it. Our own take on the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) modules. We hope this deepens your sense for what they include.
More importantly, hopefully it helped you decide if it’s a certification you want to pursue.
If you still have lingering questions, please do not hesitate to send us a note. We’ll do our best to help.
APICS CSCP Hub
Don’t forget you can get our Real World take on all four modules at the APICS CSCP Hub. There you’ll also find other helpful resources on the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional program.
If you want the quick path to all the modules, here they are below:
And finally, if you’re currently preparing for the CSCP exam, maybe you’d like to check out 1000 Certified Supply Chain Professional Questions. It’s a 294-page ebook containing over 1000 CSCP practice questions. In addition to the ebook, you also get access to the Real World Supply Chain team. This means that if you get stuck on any question or topic, you always have an instructor to help you out. Check it out now.