In late November, Aravo announced their latest solution release with a number of key upgrades from past versions. Even though Aravo is competing in a highly competitive supplier information management market with the likes of other best of breed vendors (e.g., RollStream, CVM Solutions, Hiperos, Xcitec, BizNet), procurement suite vendors (e.g., Ariba, Emptoris, Ivalua) and ERP providers (both SAP and Oracle, the latter of which has two competitive products), their latest release introduces one key advantage into the supplier management mix: part-level visibility. It would be easy to miss this in the headline of the announcement proclaiming that Aravo now has "new tools and features include support for critical product-level risk metrics, independent third-party data integration, and flexible business critically indexes."
What interests me most in the announcement is something far more specific. And that's the "part-level risk visibility" that Aravo has introduced. Aravo frames the concept that "key to supplier risk management for products companies is the ability to monitor supplier performance and the associated risk at the product level. Understanding product risk from the brand down to the part level is critical in avoiding product quality and customer delivery failures." To date, Aravo and all of its primary competitors have to only be able to account for certifications, industry standard adherence and conduct on the supplier level (much in the same way that many early spend analysis tools did not achieve anything close to item-level visibility by relying only on A/P level information).
Yet if you want to solve the most vexing supplier management and supply risk challenges extending beyond financial risk, you must begin to consider how to track risk, performance and other metrics at the line item level -- not the supplier level. This also goes for truly certifying supply chains as free from maladies such as conflict minerals/metals, counterfeit or substandard parts or components, or even potential sabotage (e.g., China in the case of military applications for integrated circuits). In my view, item/part level traceability and visibility will be critical for making the supplier information management market for direct materials. And it will give Aravo and at least one of their competitors (who is not far behind) a fighting chance to define a critical mind space rather than getting lumped in as a nice-to-have extension of other areas.