Kinaxis, TraceLink partner on supply chain planning

Supply chain planning and collaboration come together in a new integration of Kinaxis RapidResponse and TraceLink's healthcare and pharmaceutical industry supply chain network.

Kinaxis and TraceLink are aiming to make it easier for manufacturers and suppliers to plan for and collaborate on supply chain logistics.

A new partnership integrates the Kinaxis RapidResponse supply chain planning platform with TraceLink's Supply Chain Work Management, an application that allows multiple enterprises to collaborate on processes. Together, they'll provide manufacturers and their suppliers with better access to data on exceptions in supply chain processes and a more straightforward method for communicating, according to the companies.

The Kinaxis RapidResponse supply chain planning platform can provide companies with data about issues like exceptions within minutes, but clearing those exceptions with their suppliers is challenging, according to John Bermudez, vice president of product marketing at TraceLink.

Meanwhile, the TraceLink Supply Chain Work Management application connects manufacturers to suppliers on the TraceLink network, which includes 286,000 unique users in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, according to the company. The application enables them to run "multi-enterprise processing," he said. This means that the manufacturers can work on the same data and collaborate on formulating a new plan, removing a significant supply chain pain point.

"One of those processes is talking to your suppliers when you rerun a plan," Bermudez said. "When Kinaxis decides it needs to change data on a purchase order, right now, generally that requires the email and telephone tag game to a supplier to get it resolved."

Collaborating with suppliers on a new plan

A common supply chain problem occurs when a manufacturer is shorted from its supplier on components needed to make a product, Bermudez said. Kinaxis RapidResponse can identify the exception and enable the manufacturer to rerun the plan in near real time, but then the manufacturer has to contact each supplier and determine what changes are needed. Any delays in communication can be problematic, but especially for the pharmaceutical industry, which has changed significantly in the past two years.

John Bermudez, vice president of product marketing, TraceLinkJohn Bermudez

"Many pharmaceutical companies learned the hard way in the last two years that stockpiling inventory was not always the answer, and they're realizing that they need more agility because they saw situations where two years of inventory ran out in two weeks," Bermudez said. "In other cases, because elective procedures were shut down for months, inventory stockpiled and went bad because a lot of pharmaceutical products have short shelf lives."

The partnership between Kinaxis and TraceLink allows the exception to be routed directly to the supplier.

"Both the supplier and the manufacturer have access to exactly the same system," Bermudez said. "They see exactly the same exception."

The suppliers can then take appropriate action to manage the exceptions and reset the plan, he said.

Conrad Mandala, senior vice president, global partner organization, KinaxisConrad Mandala

The TraceLink partnership is part of Kinaxis' program to expand and augment RapidResponse with capabilities that are not native in the platform, according to Conrad Mandala, senior vice president of the global partner organization at Kinaxis, based in Ottawa.

In addition to TraceLink, Kinaxis currently partners with 11 companies, including 4flow for transportation logistics and PlanetTogether for advanced planning and scheduling, Mandala said.

"TraceLink fits perfectly into that spot on the supplier collaboration space," he said.

Mitigating supply chain disruption

The partnership is particularly important to mitigate supply chain disruption for the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries that comprise TraceLink's network, according to Mandala.

"It's critical for companies to be able to keep the supply chain going," he said. "This is real time and is really important, particularly in the pharma industry because people are looking for that information right away to make real-time decisions so there are no delays or the plan stays intact."

Predrag Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst, Technology Evaluation CentersPredrag Jakovljevic

Kinaxis' integration with TraceLink builds on its strengths and addresses some weaknesses, according to Predrag Jakovljevic, analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers.

Kinaxis deployed in-memory database technology well before SAP HANA to enable fast material requirements planning and distribution requirements planning capabilities. It also deployed RapidResponse for concurrent supply chain planning, but it had lacked the business network and planning abilities across its suppliers and the suppliers' suppliers, Jakovljevic said.

"Kinaxis was a good brain, but it had no nervous system -- the network," he said. "This partnership covers that for the life sciences industry."

But, he added, Kinaxis would benefit from implementing similar partnerships in other industries that it serves, such as high-tech manufacturing. Supply chain collaboration and network systems like E2open, Infor Nexus and SAP Ariba can still claim the advantages there, Jakovljevic said.

Jim O'Donnell is a TechTarget news writer who covers ERP and other enterprise applications for SearchSAP and SearchERP.

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