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Digitization will boost supply chain value, executives say

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CSCMP EDGE panel says that technology will help improve delivery times to meet strict customer demands.

Digitization of supply chain management procedures will take on greater importance as order-to-delivery times continue to compress, a panel of top executives said on Wednesday during the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' (CSCMP) 2017 EDGE annual conference in Atlanta.

This digitization, however, need not be complex to yield significant savings, according to the panelists. For example, Boston-based General Electric Co., (GE) had discovered that its ordering functions were not adequately leveraging its formidable scale, and that the company was paying different prices for the same product, said Jennifer Schopfer, vice president and general manager, transport logistics for GE Transportation. By "pulling data together and doing basic analytics," GE resolved the issues and, in the process, saved US $40 million, she said.

Michelle Livingstone, vice president of transportation for The Home Depot Inc., the Atlanta-based home improvement giant, said digitization is critical for supporting the company's "interconnected" retail strategy, which will emphasize providing customers with a uniform shopping experience rather than a siloed approach between brick-and-mortar and digital interfaces.

Barbara Schwarzentraub, director of global supply chain and operations for heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc., said one of the Peoria, Ill. based company's biggest pushes will be in the area of additive manufacturing, more popularly known as 3-D printing. The ability to print parts on site rather than order materials and wait for them to be shipped from a factory or a warehouse "will change all of our physical networks," she said.

The panel discussion was sponsored by AWESOME (Achieving Women's Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management, and Education).

Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the $40 million in savings were for the GE Transportation unit and not for the company as a whole. We regret the error.

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