Why SupplyLine Doesn’t Allow Users to Customize a Demand File

Among its many features, SupplyLine allows your supplier to download a CSV file containing all of your demand (firm releases and forecast) for the supplier. SupplyLine provides the same file for every user and, unlike some other portals, does not allow users to customize it.

The ability for a user to customize nearly every aspect of the software they use to fit their preferences seems to be an unalloyed good. In many cases, it helps users to develop their mental model of how the software works.

In the case of portals like SupplyLine, however, customization creates difficulty and confusion.

Portals Are Limited-Use Software

Your suppliers don't use SupplyLine as line-of-business software; they have their ERP for that. Your suppliers use SupplyLine for these reasons:

  • To get your demand
  • To provide their plans
  • To get your POs and contracts
  • To create ASNs
  • To talk to you about your parts

Each of your suppliers uses multiple portals each day. Suppliers want to get in, do what they need to do, and get back to their ERP as quickly as they can.

Understanding your suppliers' goals, SupplyLine is designed to be as quick to use as possible. That includes providing a demand file in a single format that users can't customize.

Intelligence At The Edges

By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation.
Vint Cerf, co-creator of TCP/IP

Vint Cerf made his statement in a written testimony to the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce in 2005. His statement applies to the internet, and it applies to smaller networks as well.

You have a network with your suppliers. In that network, SupplyLine is the middle and your suppliers are the edges. Using the internet as a model, it is important that SupplyLine provide a fixed standard so that your suppliers are free to consume that standard using the intelligence (software or human) that best fits their individual needs.

Creating a Single Truth

When all of your suppliers use the same demand file containing the same columns in the same order, it establishes a single, shared truth about your data across your supply chain. When a supplier has a question about your demand file, your users can ask the supplier to send the file and can read it with no interpretation.

Avoiding Technical Debt

SupplyLine seeks to avoid the largest risk in providing a customizable demand file: technical debt. Your suppliers are going to build processes around your demand file that you aren't aware of. If that download is customizable, then each supplier's processes will rely on a copy of the download file that is customized to that supplier.

That customizability can load you down with technical debt. Changes you make to your data or your portal will break the processes your suppliers have built in ways that you can't predict. That in turn increases the cost of every decision you make regarding how you communicate with your supply chain and puts you behind the curve on improvements.

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