LAS VEGAS — Any hesitance to share data with suppliers is political rather than technical, according to Schenker of  Canada Ltd., since there are tools available to expose information along the length of the supply chain.


is a residue of reluctance to share information outside the organization, said Jim Daunt, manager of  e-commerce for the company, but, for the most part, decision-makers recognize that it is necessary to reach out to partners.

“If you share the correct information, you’re looking at greater efficiency, reduced cost and greater competitiveness,” said Daunt, who gave a seminar Tuesday on business intelligence and achieving supply chain visibility at Information Builders Inc.‘s Summit user conference being held here this week.

Mississauga, Ont.-based Schenker Canada is a division of German-based Schenker Stiennes Logistics, a logistical services company that supports global trade and shipping.

The Canadian operation in the process of rolling out iWay 5.5 software, using its connectors to reach out to partners along the supply chain and share information with them.

iWay’s Adaptive Framework acts as middleware to connect disparate IT systems, allowing companies to exchange information regardless of their infrastructure. For this reason, it’s ideal as a means to connect partners along the supply chain, said Daunt.

This week at Summit iWay president John Senor introduced iWay 2005, the company’s Adaptive SOA Framework, which can be used to integrate Web services into a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Where possible, iWay will be used as an alternative to electronic data interchange (EDI), said Daunt, but the company cannot give up on EDI entirely, since it is still a common means to exchange supply chain data and some partners may insist upon it.

That’s why iWay, a subsidiary of Information Builders, maintains an EDI practice, said Glenn Wiebe, the company’s director of solutions. Wiebe, who lives in Toronto but commutes regularly to iWay’s New York headquarters, said that some companies are unwilling to sacrifice their investment in EDI but may be willing to move from using a value-added network (VAN) to messaging protocols like AS2. 

By introducing the iWay connectors, a business can “expose the supply chain through a consistent set of tools,” said Wiebe.

Companies are learning to embrace multiple data formats — from EDI to XML to flat data formats like comma-delimited — because they need to communicate with partners that may use any or all of those in their organizations, said Daunt, and building an inclusive system is key. 

Most business intelligence vendors, including IBI, are recognizing that these changes are happening, said Forrester Research principal analyst Keith Gile. “Business intelligence vendors must take a look at their environments and open up more hooks,” he said. “All BI vendors will have to embrace standards in order to provide the means to optimize the information that’s generated by and helps support the supply chain.”

The value of the information depends on where a partner is along the supply chain, said Daunt. Manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers all require different levels of access to data and interpret it according to their own needs.

“When you’re building a supply chain visibility solution, you have to give each (partner) what they want,” he said. “You have to give a little something to everybody. . . . Ask your supply chain, ‘What are you capable of sharing and what are you willing to share?'”

Schenker regularly communicates with Canada Customs, for example, whose preference is to receive data in encrypted HTTPS. “Within the iWay system we can can encrypt and do a direction connection with Canada Customs using iWay connectors,” said Daunt, who added that Schenker would otherwise have to write its own customized connectors.

The incentive is not only access to a greater wealth of information, but also to establish closer ties with partners and knit them into your own organization, he added. “If you can build links to customers, you’ve got them all hooked in and it’s harder for them to go to a competitor.”

Sharing information and allowing partners access to data systems is still a “scary concept,” said Daunt, but it is rapidly becoming a business imperative. In some cases, it may actually be mandatory. For example, Schenker participated in an RFID project about a year ago at a customer’s insistence, said Daunt.

Summit 2005 concludes Thursday.


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