6 Steps to Improve the Supply Chain Process

10 min read

If your company is just starting out, you may not have to worry about such ‘mundane’ issues as the supply chain processes. However, as the company takes off and orders start streaming in, there is one hire you need to make pretty quick; that of the supply chain manager. This is the 3PL logistics specialist that will ensure orders are processed and items delivered in the most efficient manner possible.

At the end of the supply chain, you want to be certain there is a customer who swears by the beauty and value of the goods they’ve just received, not swear to never buy from your company again.

To make sure this does not happen, the supply manager must commit to tweaking and improving their efficiency approaches as your company continues to grow, and as the business environment evolves. Below is a six-step guide on how you can improve your supply chain process to keep your busing growing.

Step #1 – Enhance the Visibility of your Supply Chain

The one thing you need to do as a supply chain manager is to make sure you are ahead of the latest supply chain strategies in your sector. If you have been keeping tabs on what is cutting, the phrase “supply chain visibility” is not foreign to you. The phrase refers to a company’s ability to track every aspect of your product as it moves from the warehouse to a customer; or from another supplier and into your hands.

To enhance visibility, you could give a supplier limited real-time access to your inventory so they can understand how things currently stand at your establishment and move to supply goods to avoid disruptions or work stoppages. Such visibility also allows your in-house team to access information about supplies so they can proactively act without the need for back-and-forth communication.

Giving your colleagues, suppliers, and customers the ability to ‘see’ into some of your back-end operations takes off pressure in inventory planning and communication. Everyone who should ‘know’ can ‘see’ where everything is at. They can, therefore, act when they are supposed to without prevaricating.

Step #2 – Automate

Supply chain processes can get messy and complicated in the absence of automation. The sheer volume of operations and repetitive tasks can ground business to a halt faster than anything else. Always automate repetitive tasks and any other process that lends itself to automation. You can even push suppliers to automate if working with them is compromising your systems and dragging down your efficiency.

Step #3 – Manage

Once your automated system is up and running, get your team and other relevant players on board automation strategies to make sure the process is managed and maintained efficiently. If this calls for training or retraining, by all means, go for it. The benefits of automation are way too immense to dither on such ‘mundane’ issues as a training budget. Besides, it may be better not to automate than to have a mismanaged system that is misfiring on all cylinders.

Step #4 – Bring the IT Department on Board

The IT department is a critical cog in the supply chain wheel. They should be brought on board at the planning stages, not only when their software and hardware expertise is urgently needed. If the supply chain has to be automated, having the IT department on board from the initial stages is critical.

As the supply chain manager, always consult them for changes in software to streamline the supply chain processes. To translate your goals into a system that uses appropriate technologies and software, you need the IT guys. This is the only way your supply chain system can stay ahead of the competition.

Step #5 – Evaluate your Training Strategy

If there are efficiency issues in the supply chain, someone is sleeping on the job, or they are not adequately trained to handle the tasks assigned to them. If the latter is the case, you may have to rethink your training programs to realign them with the current realities. Get all heads of departments, especially those in charge of manpower, together in a room and critically look into your training programs for possible areas of improvement.

Look into all the training procedures and materials to make sure they are relevant and focused on productivity. You might also want to take this time to evaluate staff morale to identify where the slack is coming from.

Step #6 – Have a Comprehensive Project Plan

Efficiency is not a destination; it’s a process. To increase your supply chain efficiency, you need a plan to make sure the momentum is sustained. The project plan should ensure that everyone is working towards a pre-defined goal or objective. It provides the framework from which everything else flows. The framework includes an effective distribution strategy, risks and opportunities, communication channels, promotes cross-functional decision-making, and strategic investments to boost the capacity of the supply chain process.

With customers becoming more discerning and assertive, the speed at which you process and fulfill orders is critical.

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