Shining light on the supply chain

Organising for someone to come and carry out a service at your home can easily become a nightmare. I think most people dread the thought of hanging around the house waiting for a plumber to fix a leak.

Rooftop household solarOf course there are many businesses that need to visit customer sites. It can be a major customer service challenge. In today’s world of rapid communications and social (or is it anti-social?) media, one of the quickest way to damage your organisation’s reputation is to have employees arrive late at appointments, and turn up with the wrong parts.

Some industries are dominated by tradesmen in vans, with rather haphazard systems for booking appointments and invoicing.

The recent federal government home insulation program showed just how chaotic things can become when demand rockets. The Hawke report into the problems of the insulation scheme is interesting reading. In an extraordinary single year of operation for the home insulation program, 10,000 installers worked in the field – performing 180,000 household insulation installs in November 2009 alone. Australian insulation manufacturers completely ran out of inventory, causing tradespeople to scramble madly for imported materials – contributing to the already chaotic situation.

Clearly, you don’t need to be a big business to have a complicated supply chain.

At the other end of the spectrum, the solar energy sector has grown steadily – and turned into a mature industry. The Clean Energy Council announced this week that regional towns in Australia have some of the highest use of solar energy – with 8 to 12% of homes already using solar. Places like Caloundra, Victor Harbour, Dubbo, Buderim, and Ballina are amongst the highest installed base. Even the big fossil fuel giants are starting to take note, as evidenced by the recent US$1.4 bn takeover of SunPower by French oil company Total.

With most components needing to be imported to order for clients, the solar energy sector has always faced tricky supply chain issues. Dataweave recently implemented a sophisticated Oracle E-Business Suite solution for Clear Solar – one of Australia’s largest installers of solar energy systems. You can read about the project in this recent article in ARN magazine.

When a client places an order with Clear Solar’s contact centre team, they also arrange installation for a specific date and time. This might sound straight forward, but it requires extremely sophisticated supply chain tracking and planning tools, as multiple components need to be imported, warehoused, and field employees allocated to install at specific times.

The Field Services module for the Oracle E-Business Suite makes it possible for Clear Solar’s customer service staff to give estimates of when equipment will be ready for install, and allocate installation staff to accurate appointment slots – taking into account travel times and costs. This all happens at the time of the order being originally made, weeks before the equipment even arrives in the country.

Supply chain issues are clearly important for all businesses importing, installing and servicing goods and equipment. Tier 1 applications like Oracle E-Business Suite can assist in this process and help rapidly growing companies meet customer demand and expectations.

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About normanweaver

Norman has 40 years experience of IT and related technologies. He was the founder and Managing Director of the IT Systems Integrator Dataweave Pty Ltd which was acquired by Deloitte in 2015. Norman is also a Director of Synergy & Taikoz Ltd, home of two of Australia's leading percussion ensembles, and a Director of The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, promoting excellence in sailing and supporting disabled and disadvantaged people through sailing.
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