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Supply Chain Planning Software: What Is It and How Can It Elevate Your Business?

By Michael Dautner, June 12, 2023


Supply chain planning software has completely transformed how various types of businesses, including food manufacturers, conduct day-to-day operations and processes. Since its creation, supply chain planning software has helped businesses better manage their operation from every point of the supply chain, from order reception to delivery of products. In this article, we aim to give you a full comprehensive rundown of what supply chain planning software is and who it serves. As part of several industry-specific solutions, inecta has proudly provided supply chain planning software to the food sector for over two decades. 


First Things First—What Is Supply Chain Planning Software Anyway? 

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Supply chain planning software is a type of computer program or application designed to facilitate and optimize various aspects of supply chain management. It helps businesses streamline their operations by providing tools and functionalities to plan, coordinate, and manage the flow of goods, information, and finances across the supply chain network.

The primary goal of supply chain planning software is to improve efficiency, reduce costs, enhance customer service, and ensure timely delivery of products. It integrates data from multiple sources, such as sales forecasts, inventory levels, production capacities, transportation constraints, and customer demands, to create comprehensive plans and strategies.

Key features of supply chain planning software typically include:

Demand forecasting: The software analyzes historical data and market trends to predict future product demands, allowing businesses to optimize inventory levels and production schedules.

Inventory management: It enables companies to maintain optimal inventory levels by tracking stock levels, monitoring demand patterns, and automating replenishment processes.

Production planning: Supply chain planning software assists in optimizing production schedules, capacity utilization, and resource allocation to meet demand while minimizing costs.

Distribution and logistics optimization: It helps determine the most efficient routes and modes of transportation, reducing lead times and transportation costs.

Supplier management: The software facilitates collaboration with suppliers, managing orders, tracking deliveries, and ensuring timely replenishment of raw materials or components.

Risk management: Supply chain planning software identifies potential risks and disruptions in the supply chain, allowing businesses to develop contingency plans and mitigate impacts.

Analytics and reporting: It provides real-time visibility into key performance indicators (KPIs), generating reports and analytics to support data-driven decision-making and continuous improvement.

By leveraging supply chain planning software, organizations can streamline their operations, improve productivity, enhance customer satisfaction, and gain a competitive advantage in the market.


How Long Have Businesses Been Leveraging Supply Chain Planning Software?

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Supply chain planning software has been around for several decades, evolving alongside advancements in technology and the growing complexity of supply chain management. While it is difficult to pinpoint an exact date of origin, the concept of using computer-based tools to assist in supply chain planning can be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s.

During this period, businesses began to explore computerized approaches to manage inventory, production scheduling, and logistics. These early systems, often referred to as Material Requirements Planning (MRP) systems, focused on optimizing production planning and inventory control within manufacturing environments. MRP systems utilize algorithms and mathematical models to calculate material requirements, plan production schedules, and manage inventory levels based on demand forecasts.

Over time, as supply chains became more complex and extended beyond the manufacturing realm, the scope of supply chain planning software expanded as well. The rise of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems in the 1990s integrated supply chain planning modules with other business functions, providing a more holistic approach to managing the flow of materials and information across the organization.

In the 2000s, with advancements in computing power, data analytics, and connectivity, supply chain planning software evolved further. Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) systems emerged, offering more sophisticated algorithms and optimization techniques to address complex supply chain challenges. These systems incorporated capabilities such as demand forecasting, inventory optimization, production planning, transportation management, and network design.

In recent years, supply chain planning software has continued to evolve, leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud computing. These advancements have enabled real-time data processing, improved predictive analytics, and enhanced collaboration capabilities within supply chain networks.

Today, supply chain planning software plays a critical role in helping businesses optimize their supply chain operations, reduce costs, improve customer service, and navigate the complexities of global supply chains. It is an essential tool for organizations aiming to enhance supply chain visibility, agility, and responsiveness in an increasingly competitive and interconnected business landscape.


What Sort of Businesses Can Benefit From Supply Chain Planning Software? 


Supply chain planning software can benefit a wide range of businesses across various industries. Here are some examples of businesses that often require supply chain planning software:

Manufacturing Companies

Manufacturers can use supply chain planning software to optimize production schedules, manage inventory levels, coordinate with suppliers, and ensure timely delivery of finished goods to customers.


Retail businesses can utilize supply chain planning software to forecast demand, optimize inventory levels at different store locations, manage promotions and pricing, and improve order fulfillment processes.

Distributors and Wholesalers

Supply chain planning software can help distributors and wholesalers manage inventory across multiple warehouses, track product movements, optimize order processing, and streamline distribution operations.

E-commerce Companies

Online retailers and e-commerce businesses can leverage supply chain planning software to manage inventory across multiple channels, synchronize stock levels, streamline order processing, and optimize last-mile delivery.

Logistics and Transportation Providers

Logistics companies can use supply chain planning software to optimize routes, manage transportation capacities, track shipments, and improve overall supply chain visibility and efficiency.

Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Organizations

Supply chain planning software can help pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers manage complex supply chains, track expiration dates, ensure regulatory compliance, and optimize the distribution of critical medications and medical supplies.

Food and Beverage Industry

Businesses in the food and beverage industry can utilize supply chain planning software to manage perishable inventory, track batch numbers, comply with food safety regulations, and optimize the supply chain for freshness and quality.

Automotive Industry

Automotive manufacturers and suppliers can benefit from supply chain planning software to manage complex supply networks, optimize production schedules, coordinate with suppliers, and ensure timely delivery of components.

These are just a few examples, and in reality, any business that operates within a supply chain can potentially benefit from supply chain planning software to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, enhance customer service, and gain a competitive advantage.


Is Supply Chain Planning Software Really Necessary?

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The short answer is yes. Supply chain planning software is highly important in today's business landscape. Here are some reasons why it holds significance:

Improved Operational Efficiency

Supply chain planning software helps streamline operations by optimizing various processes such as demand forecasting, inventory management, production planning, and logistics. It enables businesses to reduce inefficiencies, eliminate bottlenecks, and improve overall productivity.

Cost Reduction

By optimizing inventory levels, production schedules, and transportation routes, supply chain planning software helps businesses reduce costs associated with excess inventory, stockouts, inefficient production, and unnecessary transportation expenses. It enables better utilization of resources and eliminates waste.

Enhanced Customer Service

With accurate demand forecasting, businesses can ensure that they have the right products available at the right time, reducing stockouts and improving order fulfillment. Supply chain planning software enables businesses to meet customer expectations, deliver products on time, and enhance overall customer satisfaction.

Increased Agility and Responsiveness

Supply chain planning software provides real-time visibility into supply chain data, allowing businesses to monitor and respond to changes in demand, supply, or market conditions promptly. It helps businesses adapt quickly to fluctuations, minimize disruptions, and make informed decisions to stay competitive.

Supply Chain Optimization

The software facilitates end-to-end supply chain optimization by integrating data from various sources and providing advanced analytics. It helps identify bottlenecks, optimize production capacities, improve inventory turnover, and streamline logistics, leading to an efficient and responsive supply chain network.

Risk Mitigation

Supply chain planning software allows businesses to identify and mitigate risks within the supply chain. It helps in assessing potential disruptions, developing contingency plans, and implementing risk mitigation strategies. This enables businesses to minimize the impact of unforeseen events and maintain continuity in the supply chain.

Strategic Decision-Making

By providing comprehensive data and analytics, supply chain planning software enables businesses to make informed strategic decisions. It supports scenario planning, facilitates analysis of various alternatives, and helps in evaluating the impact of different decisions on the supply chain performance.

In summary, supply chain planning software plays a crucial role in optimizing supply chain operations, reducing costs, improving customer service, enhancing agility, mitigating risks, and enabling strategic decision-making. It is a valuable tool for businesses aiming to achieve operational excellence and maintain a competitive edge in today's complex and dynamic business environment.


How Can Businesses Acquire Reliable and Efficient Supply Chain Planning Software? 

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If you are a food operation, inecta offers multiple solutions that integrate supply chain planning software for your particular industry. For all other kinds of businesses: Acquiring supply chain planning software can be achieved through the following methods:

Commercial Software Vendors

Numerous software vendors specialize in supply chain planning solutions. Businesses can research and select a vendor that offers a software package that aligns with their specific requirements. These vendors typically provide licenses for their software, either through a one-time purchase or a subscription model. 

Custom Development

Some businesses opt to develop their own supply chain planning software tailored to their unique needs. This approach requires significant resources, including a dedicated team of software developers, analysts, and domain experts. The advantage of custom development is the ability to create a solution specifically designed to address the organization's supply chain challenges and requirements.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

SaaS providers like inecta offer supply chain planning software as a cloud-based service. Businesses can subscribe to the service and access the software over the internet without the need for on-premises installation and maintenance. SaaS solutions often provide flexibility, scalability, and regular updates, and businesses pay a recurring fee based on usage or the number of users.

Open-source Solutions

Open-source software offers businesses the option to use and modify the software's source code to suit their needs. There is open-source supply chain planning software solutions available, such as Openbravo, OroCommerce, and Apache OFBiz. Open-source solutions can be cost-effective and provide customization opportunities, but they may require technical expertise and ongoing support.

When acquiring supply chain planning software, businesses should consider factors such as their budget, specific requirements, scalability, integration capabilities with existing systems, user-friendliness, vendor support, and the software's track record in the industry. It is often beneficial to involve key stakeholders from different departments within the organization, such as supply chain, operations, IT, and finance, to ensure that the chosen software meets their collective needs.


What Does Supply Chain Planning Software Typically Cost?

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The cost of supply chain planning software can vary significantly based on several factors, including the vendor, the specific features and functionalities included in the software, the deployment model (on-premises or cloud-based), the scale of the business, and the duration of the license or subscription.

Here are some cost considerations to keep in mind:

Licensing Fees

Some software vendors charge a one-time licensing fee for their supply chain planning software. The cost may depend on factors such as the number of users, the level of functionality required, and the complexity of the implementation.

Subscription Fees

Many supply chain planning software solutions are offered on a subscription basis, where businesses pay a recurring fee. Subscription fees are often based on factors such as the number of users, the level of support required, and the duration of the subscription (monthly, annual, etc.).

Implementation and Customization Costs

Depending on the complexity of the software and the specific needs of the business, additional costs may be incurred for implementation, configuration, and customization of the software to align with the organization's supply chain processes and requirements.

Maintenance and Support Fees

Ongoing maintenance and support services may be provided by the software vendor as part of the package or as an additional cost. These fees typically cover technical support, software updates, bug fixes, and access to new features and enhancements.

Integration Costs

If the supply chain planning software needs to be integrated with other existing systems (such as ERP systems, warehouse management systems, or transportation management systems), additional costs may be incurred for integration development and testing.

It is challenging to provide specific cost figures without knowing the exact requirements of the business and the chosen software vendor. The cost can range from thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the size and complexity of the organization's supply chain, the scope of the software implementation, and the level of customization and support required.

It is advisable for businesses to engage with multiple software vendors, request detailed pricing proposals, and carefully evaluate the features, functionality, and return on investment (ROI) potential of the software before making a decision. Additionally, businesses should consider the long-term costs, including ongoing maintenance, support, and potential scalability requirements, when assessing the total cost of ownership.


Is Supply Chain Planning Software Easy or Difficult to Leverage For Users?

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The ease of use of supply chain planning software can vary depending on the specific software solution and the user's familiarity with the system. Here are some factors that can influence the ease of use of supply chain planning software:

User Interface (UI) Design

A well-designed user interface with intuitive navigation, clear labeling, and logical workflows can contribute to ease of use. User-friendly interfaces make it easier for users to interact with the software and perform their tasks efficiently.

Training and Documentation

Adequate training and documentation provided by the software vendor can greatly assist users in understanding the software's features and functionality. Clear instructions, tutorials, and support materials can help users quickly learn how to use the software effectively.

Customization and Configuration Options

Supply chain planning software that allows for customization and configuration based on the organization's specific needs can enhance ease of use. The ability to tailor the software to match the terminology, processes, and workflows familiar to users can improve adoption and ease of use.

Integration with Existing Systems

Seamless integration with other systems used in the organization, such as ERP or warehouse management systems, can simplify the user experience. Having a single interface to access relevant data and perform tasks reduces the complexity of navigating between multiple systems.

User Support and Assistance

Access to timely and responsive user support from the software vendor can alleviate difficulties and ensure users receive assistance when needed. A knowledgeable support team can address queries, resolve issues, and guide users in effectively utilizing the software.

While supply chain planning software aims to provide powerful functionalities to optimize supply chain operations, it may require some level of training and familiarization for users to utilize its full potential. The ease of use can also depend on the complexity of the organization's supply chain processes and the user's level of expertise in supply chain management.

To assess the ease of use of a particular supply chain planning software, businesses should consider requesting demonstrations, conducting user trials, and gathering feedback from users who have experience with the software. It is important to involve key stakeholders and users in the evaluation process to ensure the chosen software aligns with their usability expectations and supports their specific needs.


Can Supply Chain Planning Software Help My Business

As you can see, there’s a lot of ins and out involved in supply chain planning software. Ultimately, the benefits are clearly evident. Optimizing your business’s supply chain through reliable, advanced software can completely revolutionize your operation. inecta’s myriad of food industry-specific ERP offerings can help get your business up and running with highly advanced supply chain planning tools. Whether you’re a food manufacturer, beverage bottler, produce grower, or seafood processor, inecta has the perfect ERP to help elevate your supply chain. To learn more about how inecta’s cutting-edge ERP solutions can help your business, sign up for a personalized demo today!

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