5 Ideas & Tips for Effective Supply Chain Improvement Projects
Making regular supply chain improvement initiatives is a crucial task during this time when the demands on supply have never been greater. This is good news because that translates into a great opportunity for profitability. To cash in however, supply chain strategies need to step up, technologically-advanced tools must be taken advantage of, and mutually-beneficial relationships have to thrive.
If you find your supply chain hitting a wall and don’t know how to make it work better and more efficiently, try one of the following low-risk and proven supply chain improvement projects. Or, dive right in and do them all! The rewards are high and worthy of the effort.
Idea #1: Come Up With a Solid Supply Chain Strategy
You can’t expect to get far without first having a solid supply chain strategy that covers everything from procurement to distribution, both in times of plenty and times of leanness.
Some of the areas to put your focus include:
Procurement Strategy: Rather than zeroing in on price, expand your view to account for total cost of ownership of and consumption for a product or service. To get accurate numbers, collaborate with your suppliers to take operations, warehouses, and transportation into account.
Inventory Strategy: Consider the location and quantity of raw materials, items in the manufacturing stream, and finished goods.
Distribution Strategy: Look at warehouses, docks, production facilities, and customers. Set a goal to sync essential processes and deliveries.
To achieve the high levels of strategy required, here are a couple of tips:
Put an internal supply chain council to work aligning the company’s overall goals with specific strategies. Include both executive leaders and lower level managers for a diversified, cross-functional team that can overcome hindrances to operations.
Staff your supply chain structure with maximum effectiveness and efficiency in mind. Create value for all involved.
Idea #2: Implement Supply Chain Cost Reduction Techniques
You can’t be successful without implementing supply chain cost reduction techniques everywhere it makes sense. Just don’t cut corners, putting quality or safety into question. There are plenty of other ways to cut the budget.
For example, accelerate profitable innovation so you can stay one step ahead of your competition. Early decisions can make or break a product’s profitability so it’s pertinent to innovate in the right place, at the right time, and for the right cost.
Another supply chain cost reduction technique is to optimize inventory quantities by forecasting and planning demand. A good tip is to follow the advice given by Supply Chain Quarterly:
“The “real” cost of holding inventory often is higher than the generally assumed 20 to 25 percent. In fact, recent research reveals that inventory holding costs could represent up to 60 percent of the cost of an item that is held in inventory for 12 months. Those findings included the holding cost of insurance, taxes, obsolescence, and warehousing.”
Idea #3: Optimize with Technological Integration
We all know that manually driven processes are a huge reason for a lack of visibility along the supply chain. This is especially true of global companies.
You must review end-to-end to find areas where technology can improve the process (rather than first buying into a specific software package and finding where it can fit). Then, go a step further and use technology to gain data and detailed reporting. This will better inform the supply chain council on how to improve performance and plan strategically. Ensure each automation is well-managed and maintained throughout the cycle.
An oft ill-tapped resource is your company’s own IT department. They are professionals who keep up on all the latest tech and have a solid understanding on what can actually work well for your particular supply chain. Involve them in discussions and heed their tech advice.
Idea #4: Embed Sustainability into Every Step
Being “green” is no longer optional. Buyers everywhere are more concerned than ever about doing business with socially responsible companies who work toward the greater good of their employees and the community. There exist substantial opportunities for companies to place “planet” as high on their list of priorities as “people” and “profit.” Here’s what you can do to ease the burden your supply chain imposes.
First – Make sustainability a core component in (and requirement of) your supply chain strategy.
Second – Go back to the basics and analyze energy/resource consumption, and resource/material movement in real time. Focus on reducing carbon inefficiencies, lowering waste, and optimizing transportation.
Third – Keep the momentum going by continuing to improve through audits, benchmarks, and best practices.
Idea #5: Mitigate Risk From Every Side
Constantly reviewing compliance with policies and procedures at every stop on the supply chain will help avoid risk. Do this by using the following 8 Tactics Every Business Needs for Supply Chain Risk Mitigation:
Critique your risk exposure by performing audits and run through potential disruption scenarios to identify areas of risk. Consider risks to your suppliers as well, such as geopolitical, regulatory, weather, and labor markets. Take a free risk assessment to find potential liabilities.
Prioritize the risks you uncover by the probability they will occur and the impact they may have. Start working on the most likely/highest impact risks.
Prequalify each of your suppliers, looking at their product quality, employee management, and financial stability.
Diversify your primary and secondary suppliers around the world to make yourself less vulnerable to interruption.
Involve your suppliers, transporters, data managers, and customers in your risk mitigation planning.
Ensure you have all the proper insurance coverage and verify that your suppliers do as well.
Keep correct, transparent records.
Periodically reassess your risks and analyze data in real time.
When you come up with a supply chain strategy and complete these supply chain optimization projects, you’re in a much better position to weather any storm that comes your way. You will no longer have to wonder how to make your supply chain more efficient or which supply chain cost reduction techniques to use, because you will have already made the strides you need to stay on top.
Just remember, your part in the supply chain is limited, so take the steps necessary to collaborate with all your vendors, suppliers, and contractors as well to reduce risk further and ensure unparalleled success.