Business naturally wants to expand and build on itself, but strong support and infrastructure are the difference between success in growth or a mismanagement-driven collapse. Without those two magic traits—scalability and flexibility—you could be building a magnificent sand castle doomed to the next "tide" of a port closure, materials shortage or other industry obstacle.
Supply chain strategy is your insurance against uncertainty, even in the most volatile market. It gives you a clear order of operations, encourages covering your bases and helps cement operational policies and decision-making so that your entire team is invested in supply chain success.
And there are a few things to keep in mind when forming your own.
No Chain is an Island
In a recent article for Forbes, industry expert Lora Cecere emphasizes that intra-company networking at every facet can help define success. Teams working on individual projects should be aware of other projects launching simultaneously. Even if they don't share materials or manufacturing components, one may tie up transportation, warehousing or stocking efforts, causing delays in the other.
C-level executives need to have at least a basic understanding of supply chain structure. Their decisions will ultimately be affecting everything from your budget to your workforce size, so it’s important they understand the impact they have on your success. Cecere also cautions that goals should touch on more than one silo in terms of vertical excellence—an echo chamber doesn't offer sustainable success and may even be a source of false confidence without other contextual goal-based data from elsewhere in the company.
Transparency Is Absolutely Necessary
If you've been hesitant or too busy to properly assess and improve your transparency before today, it's time to roll up your sleeves and make it happen. Every supply chain strategy relies heavily on current, actionable data in the same way that electrical device depends on an outlet. If the connection isn't there, nothing is going to work. To put it plainly: you need to know what you have; your suppliers need to know what you don't have, and the end customer needs to know what they will have and when. If you're depending on periodic inventories and supplier suggestions alone to stock your warehouse or put in manufacturing orders, you're already running behind.
Transparency—and the lack thereof—was the most important supply chain obstacle to overcome, according to 84% of respondents in a 2014 industry study. If your peers are focused on fixing the issue, you should be as well lest you risk losing market share to a more efficient company with a stronger supply chain than yours.
Keep Your Team On Board
No matter how well-documented or outlined a strategy for a supply chain may be, the people implementing it are intrinsically linked to its success. Losing supply chain professionals in a period of growth can hamstring an upward trend as quickly as a port strike. It is critical that you check in, maintain and expand relationships as needed. The trick to managing your supply chain workforce is to carefully balance succession setups with employee empowerment during day-to-day operations. You never want to leave yourself exposed to a talent gap, but nor should you consider them a foregone conclusion in your words and actions.
Brian J. Gibson, Sean P. Goffnett and Zachary S. Williams liken talent retention and development to sports team management in a recent article for Supply Chain Quarterly, explaining that building a "dynasty" of core supply chain professionals will offer the benefits of great individual talent and the stability of an excellent team at the same time.
Pushing your business ahead without a supply chain strategy in place can be like walking a tightrope without a safety net. You might be able to make it to the other side, but only in an absolutely perfect situation with no outside influences—a scenario that's all but impossible. Safeguard your efforts, your people and your growth by defining the tracks, speed and goals of your supply chain operations before they're defined for you.