For CIOs, Driving Supply Chain Efficiency Starts with Simplifying Systems

Posted on 
June 15, 2023
Mike Crowe
Specright Board Member, Industry Advisor, Retired CIO

From a business perspective, 2023 is being billed as the “year of efficiency” – and for good reason. 

Most companies, regardless of where they fall on growth trajectory, are being forced to look at costs as interest rates and inflation continue to rise. 

As a result, CIOs are being asked to take a hard look at their organizations, existing systems and new opportunities for efficiency across the enterprise.

But driving efficiency doesn’t have to mean reducing headcount. 

The reality is, the supply chain technology landscape has evolved drastically over the past 10-20 years. 

For established organizations, this has correlated with an explosion of systems for specific use cases and functions. And as a result, many organizations are operating in data silos.

And each of these systems doesn’t just have an ongoing cost to use, but associated costs to support and upgrade. 

For example, a CPG company might be operating using a system of ERPs, PLMs, Quality Systems, shared drives, and spreadsheets. And each system is typically used by a specific team or function, so procurement and finance teams live in the ERP, product teams live in the PLM, Quality people in Quality Management systems, and just about everyone else (think packaging) gets by with spreadsheets and shared drives. 

On the surface, this might not seem like a big deal – but expensive, niche IT skill sets are often needed for support and, with supply chains changing and moving at breakneck speeds, these systems quickly become bottlenecks. 


Because baseline data is not easily accessed across the organization – or their suppliers. Even with the advent of APIs, which make it easier to integrate and share data across systems, core data is still poorly managed. And it results in employees hunting through spreadsheets, recalls due to mislabeled products, and the inability to quickly stand up new suppliers. 

That’s why many companies are looking to new systems that challenge old supply chain paradigms. And for CIOs overseeing supply chain teams, there are bountiful opportunities to consolidate and create efficiencies from a systems perspective and speed up product development as well cross-enterprise collaboration. 

Instead of a system for each function, this new approach is data-first, not function-first. More specifically, a focus on digitizing, centralizing and collaborating on specification data.

Today, specification data, ranging from raw materials to formulas, ingredients, packaging, bill of materials, and so on, live in different systems, including spreadsheets. 

Implementing a Specification Data Management Platform to address this not only drives efficiencies, but can also rescue costs. We’re seeing this in real-time and the ROI is real. 

One of the largest chemical manufacturers recently implemented Specification Data Management platform to instant results. In just 4 weeks, they replaced 11 systems in 6 countries for 3 different business processes. 

The idea is simple: when it comes to supply chain, everyone needs to be operating off the same core data, with relevant tools for each of their functions. 

For example, quality teams have the ability to log Supplier Corrective Actions Requests (SCAR) and associate it to the relevant product. Procurement teams can easily pull packaging specifications and share them with suppliers for bids. Product development teams can copy and edit formulas in real-time and pull over all relevant documentation. And packaging teams can quickly pull up similar packaging to rationalize SKUs. 

The shift to this spec data-first approach will not only solve current challenges related to efficiency, but also enable organizations for the future. 

When we look at emerging technology such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, companies with the strongest data foundations will be able to leverage advanced capabilities. 

After all, how can you harness these technologies without the baseline data required to train these models? 

Technology leaders that embrace the year of efficiency will not only help their companies meet the business objectives today, but also the challenges of tomorrow.

Learn more about my involvement with Specright here.


Mike Crowe

Mike Crowe served as Colgate-Palmolive’s Chief Information Officer for 9 years and spent a total of 34 years in Colgate before retiring at the end of 2022. As CIO, Mike forged many successful technology partnerships and elevated software development capabilities to support the Company’s broader strategic growth priorities while also strengthening Colgate’s financial discipline and efficiency model. Prior to joining Colgate, Mike was in the healthcare software industry working for Shared Medical Systems followed by Seton Hall University in support of the Health Corporation, Archdiocese of Newark. He also contributed to the development of the operating system for the US Aegis Naval Weapons System while working for Computer Sciences Corporation as an intern. Mike received his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer and Information Sciences from the University of Delaware, where he, and his wife Ellen, also created the Crowe Family Scholarship.

Currently, Crowe is an independent board member for Specright, Co-Chair for the Digital Supply Chain Institute within the Center for Global Enterprise, and an advisor to Trustmi, Sageview Capital and Cyberstarts. In early 2023, he co-founded Team Steve: The Steven Crowe Legacy Fund at Curesearch for Children’s Cancer along with his wife Ellen and their children, Matt, Patch and Becky.

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