Integrated supply chain management: a comparison of experiences amongst Australian and Malaysian companies

This paper presents the findings from the first phase of a two-phase project that examines integrated supply chain management (ISCM) in Australian and Malaysian businesses. Phase 1 in Australia involved detailed in-company research to document, in the form of case studies, how suppliers have adopted the supply chain management strategy and practices, the specific benefits achieved and the problems/challenges faced. In Malaysia, Phase 1 took the form of a focus group discussion session involving representatives from five organisations. Phase 2 of the project will involve a large questionnaire survey of organisations in both countries. This paper presents the key findings from Phase 1 of the project. For the Australian suppliers, the cases indicate that there are significant benefits derived when implementation has been strategic rather than reactive. These include 1) lead time and inventory reductions, 2) improved data accuracy and customer service, 3) better demand forecasting and revenue increases coupled with cost reductions. Limitations recorded included 1) an increased level of complication in despatching processes, 2) problems with system compatibility, 3) some added complications in marketing practices and 4) greater vulnerability to sudden changes in demand (ie through operating more streamlined systems. The Malaysian focus group discussion results identified Malaysian retailers to be lagging behind their Australian counterparts in the adoption of ISCM. Many MNCs operating in Malaysia are well ahead of their local counterparts in the implementation of the elements of ISCM. The current approach taken by Malaysian companies appears to be "Reactive" or "Tactical" with barcoding and some EDI being the main technologies being adopted. However, companies interviewed showed interest and enthusiasm to apply this technology in the future.