October 28, 2004, 12:00 AM

A major expansion of web-based supplier collaboration at Sears

After testing with tire suppliers, Sears, Roebuck and Co. has found that web-based supply chain collaboration works and now is rolling it out to sporting goods, appliances, apparel and other products.

After testing with tire suppliers, Sears, Roebuck and Co. has found that web-based supply chain collaboration works and now is rolling it out to sporting goods, appliances, apparel and other products.

After using a Manugistics Group Inc. supply chain collaboration application hosted on the Internet by GlobalNetXchange for Michelin tire purchases, Sears has been able to avoid out-of-stocks while reducing on-site inventory of tires by 25%. "We saw success in terms of inventory management in tires and other automotive products, so that drove us to use GNX to collaborate with suppliers in several other categories," says Tracy Reeder, manager of collaborative supplier relations.

Sears has long had a formal process of sharing sales forecasts with suppliers to better match supply with projected demand, but until it started using the web to collaborate, it wasted too much time in monthly sales forecast meetings with vendors to clarify changes in demand and production, Reeder says.

Sears would tell suppliers of changes in expected demand through phone and fax messages that could get misplaced or forgotten, so managers would spend a good part of their monthly meetings trying to sort out what had transpired since the last meeting and who had the most accurate and up-to-date forecast figures. The confusion made it more difficult for Sears and its suppliers to quickly act on exceptions to planned deliveries to its stores, Reeder says.

The web has changed all that. With the Manugistics/GlobalNetXchange system, Sears and its suppliers now view information updated daily on a web page by both the retailer and its suppliers. When disruptions occur, managers can immediately act on them and show up at monthly meetings to review what occurred. "We have no discussions in meetings anymore on whose data is more accurate," Reeder says.

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