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Sometimes research throws up a fact that just stops you in your tracks. And that happened to me with Oracle’s study “Supply Chain Information: The Weakest Link?” which discovered that supply chain managers spend, on average 48 per cent of their time sifting through various sources of information, including emails, spreadsheets and various relevant company databases to keep track of their supply chains.

Apparently, this applies just as much to directors and senior managers, as it does to middle managers, and applies equally across all the industry sectors.

The study found that some managers have to deal with 150 spreadsheets a week (though the average was a mere 13). The cost of hunting around to find all this information is estimated to be £77m a year.

The increasing complexity of supply chains has clearly contributed to the data avalanche. The study, carried out by Dynamic Markets for Oracle, highlights the fact that information is often held in silos and for some the supply chain is constantly changing.

It goes on to highlight the cost of fragmented supply chain information – £1.2 billion is the estimate.

Spreadsheets have been around ever since Dan Bricklin’s Visicalc turned microcomputers from toys into proper business machines back in 1979. It’s a tribute to the success of the concept that major corporations are still reliant on them more than 30 years later.

But perhaps it’s time to have a look for more sophisticated management tools.

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