BOL.COM CONNECTS SUPPLY CHAIN PARTIES TO THE SUPPLY CHAIN PORTAL
Source: Supply Chain Magazine, by Marieke Lenstra
In August 2013 Bol.com opened a large leisure shop with over 15,000 items. It is the fourth specialty store. In February, Bol.com opened a shop with a collection of animal supplies and everything for gardening. In May, a specialty store with 20,000 residential articles followed. With the addition of specialty stores, the assortment grows rapidly in width as well as in depth. In order to connect suppliers, the web shop uses Supply Chain Portal next to EDI, for the order-to-pay process.
At Bol.com almost everything has been outsourced: Bol.com buyers manage the buying process, but for all following activities are being outsourced to suppliers, fulfilment partners and delivery services. The web store offers a total of over seven million articles and deals with hundreds of suppliers. That makes it a complex chain with many players. "We want to control this chain by ourselves. Transparency and clear communication are necessary then", says Harm Jans, Manager Operational Excellence Logistics. Harm’s team is responsible for making structural improvements in deliverability.
"It's nice to know that you’re receiving only fifty pieces instead of one hundred. But it's even better if you all look at the same information’’.
In the past, a lot of calls were made and emails were sent about questions regarding the orders. Who has agreed to something? What price was it again? What quantities are delivered? "It's nice to know that you’re receiving only fifty pieces instead of one hundred. But it's even better if you look at all the same information, " Jans explains.
To prevent e-mail and miscommunication, EDI connections were established. "That works very well for the group of suppliers that we frequently send purchase orders, or suppliers that we send purchase orders for big quantities. For those suppliers who have a smaller order volume, it is less attractive to invest in an EDI connection due to lower sales. The IT costs associated with setting up such a connection are quite high. We therefore sought an alternative", says Jans.
Harm Jans, manager of operational excellence at Bol.com, considered to build an application himself. "We needed a solution which was beneficial for our suppliers. So, no solution where, after pressing a button, it took three minutes for the screen to appear, or whit a lot of error messages. But to build the application ourselves meant a huge time investment of the IT department and instead of building the application, IT can also work on other projects’’.
This was a reason for Bol.com to have a look at various suppliers of such a solution. As most of the wishes were already incorporated in Incore's Supply Chain Portal application, the choice was easily made. Within three months, the first version was live. Meanwhile we work with version nine’’.
The Supply Chain Portal is the key link to communication between Bol.com and its suppliers. Bol.com, suppliers and logistics service providers can work on it manually through the web, but it also handles logistical and financial messages, in EDI and in other formats, and translates them into the Bol.com backend system. Also the messages which go from Bol.com to vendors, pass through the portal.
Bol.com now maintains a two-track policy in the order-to-pay process. For suppliers with higher order volumes they set up an EDI connection. Suppliers with a smaller volume Bol.com, work with the Incore Supply Chain Portal. "This requires a bit more handwork for the supplier, but no initial investment is required because Bol.com can provide connection to the portal for free. If the order volume grows at a later date, they can still switch to EDI’’.
Managing the portal takes little effort from our employees. This is a great outcome since the number of suppliers will only increase with the opening of even more specialty stores. ‘’Offcourse we guide suppliers in the use of the portal, including the connection. We are able to do this with one full-time person. In advance, it was difficult to predict the workload that the portal would put on my department. I'd rather not have a department that is four times bigger. Then the portal would be much less attractive’’, says Jans.
’’Docdata can indicate when they want suppliers to deliver. It looks a bit like dock & timeslot planning’’
Bol.com has also linked the inbound planning to the portal, for their fulfilment provider Docdata. "Docdata can indicate when they want suppliers to deliver. It seems a bit like dock & timeslot planning’’. The next step Bol.com wants to make is chain management, with even more transparency. "Hereby you can think of damages or deliveries with incorrect quantities. How do you deal with that? It will be easier to straighten things out if you all look at the same information’’.