Despite the best intentions of supply chain management vendors to move into the small and medium business (SMB) manufacturing market, officials concede demand for their products is likely to be determined by external factors.
"Large global companies are now moving beyond ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems and getting into surrounding technologies like supply chain management," Adrian Tall, SME director of Deloitte & Touche Consulting's ICS group, said. "As many SMBs are customers of the globals, the impetus to move to supply chain management is likely to come from there."
Failing that, Deloittes will largely depend on the interest vendors like Compaq, Microsoft and SAP can drum up in their new supply chain management solutions to keep it and fellow integration partner Data#3 busy in the SMB manufacturing and distribution space, according to Tall.
"We will be relying on the SAPs and Data#3s to sell their own products in that market. Through our accounting and consultancy practices we will also have the capacity to access the SMBs ourselves," he added.
Deloittes, Data#3, Compaq, Microsoft and SAP are also joining marketing forces to raise awareness in the SMB space. The five companies are this week hosting several seminars - under the banner "The Global Chain Reaction" - designed to inform Australian manufacturing and distribution companies about the strategies they should embrace going forward and how technology can best be adapted to help them do that.
Alan Milwidsky, a Deloitte Consulting partner, claims the key factor manufacturers must recognise is that quality is "no longer a differentiator, it is only a qualifier".
Instead, Milwidsky argues "the era of the virtual customer" is emerging, where the success of manufacturing and distribution organisations will be dependent on their ability to integrate their supply chain globally, anticipate customer requirements, realign their business to incorporate customer management functions like call centres, sales automation solutions, Internet commerce and EDI; move into foreign markets and deliver their products.