Are You Lacking a Goal-Oriented Supply Chain Strategy?

Published : October 14, 2018

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A goal-oriented supply chain is a focused series of connected modules - raw materials to components, components to manufacturing and so on. When the initial approach amounts to what is essentially a collection of moving parts, it seems reasonable to apply solutions the same way: piecemeal. However well this may work for each individual module, that success is at the cost of a greater supply chain strategy - one that embraces a top-down approach and encourages that all-important trait of transparency. Considering today's increased demand for transparency from both the consumer side and that of your trading partners, it's not a facet your company can afford to let slip. 

Step 1: Clarify Your Goals

You can't measure success / failure or take actionable steps towards improvement unless you know both where you currently perform and where you need to be. Your goals should include at least one firm number or percent, such as "reducing stock-outs by 10% next quarter." This measurement ensures that your entire warehouse team and network of trading partners have a goal to strive for achieving, rather than a vague push from “Good to Great” (as Jim Collins describes it). If possible, deliver regular visual feedback in the form of frequent charts / reports in a high-visibility area to help everyone stay on track and see what is needed to accomplish the goal.

Step 2: Join in the Huddle

A manager issues directives, but a true leader isn't afraid to roll their sleeves up and join the effort. Clarify to your team each initiative and why it is important, then don't be hesitant to lead the charge. A motivated team is one that's primed for achieving great success, and imparting cause-and-effect working knowledge of the overall goal is a crucial step in making that happen. Rick Bohan of Industry Week praises the use of old-fashioned techniques to problem-solve while in the huddle; brainstorming meetings, for example, can glean just as much useful information from entry level employees as those in upper management. The key: management must listen and engage the team in discussions / concepts for full buy-in and success. 

Step 3: Problems Don’t Belong On the Back Burner

 Even a demonstratively inefficient workflow will resist change, so it's vital to quickly adjust poor behaviors or techniques as they're spotted. Do not put them on the back burner and plan to change later, it will be too late.. The longer a problematic process is allowed to continue; the lower your chances of permanently course-correcting it. If your team is using an outdated report style or is consistently sloppy about imputing metrics and research, that could put a massive dent in your supply chain strategy. Be careful though, in many situations management can be a contributing problem. As Hernán David Perez explains in Supply Chain Quarterly, if your management team is sending the wrong messages to employees, you must nip that in the bud as soon as possible to avoid turnover turmoil. Otherwise, you could have to replace managers and untangle process inefficiencies throughout your entire team, all while wading through day-to-day operations.

Step 4: Keep Assessing

No facet of supply chain management is ever considered finished; it's an ongoing effort that requires frequent check-ins, clarifications and adjustments to work properly. Assessments should be similar to the oil in your car - without frequent oil changes, the parts may keep moving, but they certainly won't do so smoothly, and eventually the entire engine will break down. If your team understands the assessments that are part of your overarching strategy, they are less likely to skip over the small steps and more likely to stay focused and on tasks necessary for success. Don’t make the assessment process stagnant, make it motivating! Consider putting a recognition or bonus program in place to compensate for achievements. This will incentivize your team with positive appraisals and reinforcement.

Your goal-oriented supply chain strategy needs to be flexible but still embrace a few fixed points. It will take the dedication of your entire team, employees and managers alike, to achieve the highest marks. By keeping every team member as informed as possible and listen intently to their ideas, suggestions and innovations, you will be well on your way to turning your supply chain goals into reality. But don’t stop there, remember your supply chain is ever changing, so the goals will also evolve as you become more focused, efficient and successful.

Logistics Managers Guide

Topics: Supply Chain Logistics, Supply Chain Efficiency, Supply Chain Workforce Management

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