Tending a business is similar to planting a tree. Just sticking a seed in the ground and waiting will eventually produce a tree, but if that seed is nurtured and cared for, the eventual tree will bear impressive fruit. No matter how steadily your supply chain is currently humming along, an audit will turn up a variety of trouble spots and room for improvements— what you do with that opportunity will determine how much fruit your proverbial tree will bear.
Here are a few tips to improving your supply chain management by shepherding your product from raw material to finished product.
Where Did You Come From?
Imagine that you had to trace back your finished product, right now, as far as possible. How far could you go? Do you know who makes all of your components? How about the raw materials that make those components? Getting to know your supply chain means taking a step back beyond the last step before your facility— it means talking with the individuals or companies that gather up the materials that make your finished product.
As consultant Tim Richardson recently told online news source Supply Management, aligning and integrating the various links in your supply chain can help overcome obstacles like overseas regulation through the power of group understanding.
Real-Time, Actionable Data
As with most concerns in supply chain management, transparency conquers many doubts and concerns. A smart business that works with suppliers to build a network of actionable data gains on a variety of fronts:
- Opportunities can be properly utilized. Knowing, for example, that a frequently-used component is in surplus or on sale is valuable information.
- Shortages can be planned for that much sooner. If a natural disaster or component shortage affects a commonly-used component, businesses that find out quickly can swap for another just as quickly.
- Unexpected windfalls, such as a product becoming a fad or snagging swaths of market share in a short period, can be communicated quickly to a supplier to signal a need for increased capacity before an order is even placed.
With the right data stream flowing into a company, even everyday logistics numbers become valuable tools for improving business efficiency. Has a certain sku been seeing a lot of returns lately, for example? It may be time to undergo a quality check to determine the issue. When a logistics company or supplier communicates these phenomena back to the company, the associated data helps that company make intelligent and cautious decisions about orders in the near future.
Healthcare writer Todd Ebert takes the idea a step further in a recent piece for Healthcare Finance News, stating that "relevant, actionable data is the basic building block for an organization’s economic direction."
Go With the Flow
Above all else, flexibility is the key to efficiency.
While history might claim that efficiency is a rigid, intensely-planned concept, the truth is that in today's constantly-shifting technological culture it's far more important to bend like a willow than stand like an oak. If there are disruptions in the supply chain, a properly flexible plan needs to be able to adapt on the fly, gathering in new producers and distributors to fill in while the initial problem is solved.
Logistics industry expert Genco explains that the ability to change is an integral "tell" in determining a business' ultimate success or failure.
No one knows your supply chain management and dual-side distribution partners the way you do, so do some reconnaissance to keep it that way. Transparency, flexibility and curiosity will all serve you well in the business world, especially when it comes to your fulfillment center operations and delivery systems.