E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., the $27.3 billion chemical manufacturer, ships products to and from every corner of the world, and uses many shipping companies to do it. The problem: Each shipper had its own tracking application. "It was difficult for us to aggregate a global view of our logistics data," said Mark E. Smith, DuPont's global logistics technology manager. The company needed up-to-date costs and shipping information and easier-to-use technology. "We had no single corporate system for people to get that information," he says.

So four years ago, DuPont began implementing a Web-based suite of supply chain applications by transportation software specialist G-Log. New capabilities have been added each year and employees in the Wilmington, Del.–based corporate headquarters can now draw on a centralized system to access timely tracking and billing information on a global basis. More is on the way in the coming year. Smith is looking forward to an upgrade that will include a new application that is expected to cut the amount of time it takes an employee to complete a transaction in the system by 20%.

Companies have always worried about breaks in their supply chains, but probably never more than today. Global competition makes a failure to meet customers' demands a risky proposition that could lose both short-term business as well as a long-term relationship. Add to that the corporate obsession with smart working capital management and cash flow efficiency, and you can see why the priority for creating an automated supply line has risen dramatically.

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