The supply chain as a whole is a 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 only reasonable to apply solutions the same way: piecemeal. However well this may work for each individual node, 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 Overall Goals
You can't measure success, failure or take actionable steps towards improvement unless you know both where you stand currently and where you need to be. Ideally your goals should incorporate at least one firm number or percent, such as "reducing stock-outs by 10% next quarter." This will ensure that your entire warehouse team and network of trading partners have something to shoot for, rather than a vague push towards "greatness". If possible, deliver regular visual feedback - frequent charts and reports in a high-visibility area will help everyone stay on track.
Step 2: Get in a Huddle
A manager issues directives, but a leader isn't afraid to roll their sleeves up and join the effort. Explain to your team why each initiative in your plan is important, and don't be afraid to lead the charge. A team motivated is one that's primed for success, and imparting cause-and-effect working knowledge is a crucial step in making that happen. Rick Bohan of Industry Week lauds 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.
Step 3: Don't Let Problems Coast
Even a demonstratively inefficient workflow will resist change, so it's vital to adjust poor behaviors or techniques as they're spotted, not when you can get to them. The longer a problematic process is allowed to continue, the lower your chances of quickly and permanently course-correcting it. If your team is using an outdated report style or is consistently sloppy about imputing metrics and research, that effect will echo and put a dent in your supply chain strategy. Management can also be a contributing problem, as Hernán David Perez also explains in Supply Chain Quarterly. If your management team is sending the wrong messages to your employees, you'll want to nip that in the bud as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could end up having to replace managers and untangle process snarls throughout your entire in-house team, all while wading through day-to-day operations.
Step 4: Assess on an Ongoing Schedule
No facet of supply chain management is ever truly finished; it's an ongoing effort that requires frequent check-ins, clarifications and adjustments to work properly. Assessments are similar to oil in a car - without an oil change, the parts may keep moving, but they certainly won't do so smoothly, and eventually the entire engine will break down. If your team knows that assessments are part of your overarching strategy, they're less likely to skip the small considerations and more likely to stay focused. Make the assessment process motivating - consider building in recognition or bonuses for high marks on assessments to influence your team with positive reinforcement.
Your supply chain strategy needs to remain flexible while still embracing a few fixed points - that will take the dedication of your entire team, employees and managers alike, to hit the mark. Keep every team member as informed as possible and listen to their suggestions and you'll be well on your way to turning your supply chain goals into a reality.