Essential Steps For A Streamlined Supply Chain
Unless you’ve only been running your business for a couple of days, you’ll be aware of how important the supply chain is to your bottom line. If parts and materials don’t turn up on time or at all, you can’t fulfill your promises to your customers. If you can’t fulfill those promises, the professional reputation of your brand gets tarnished, you lose customers to your competitors, and you’ll struggle to maintain healthy profit margins. If you want to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive business arena, then you need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to analyze and improve your supply chain. The best way to do this varies from company to company, but here are some general tips to point you in the right direction.
First of all, make sure you’re conducting regular and thorough reviews of every little process involved in your supply chain. If you know that your supply chain could be better, then a high-level process review aimed at understanding the current state of the business is absolutely essential. Take a walk around your factory floor or stockroom, observing each and every process as it happens, and try to pin down any problems which are coming up. Then, get into contact with your main suppliers and vendors, and try to carry out more or less the same process. Don’t get confused if you don’t find any huge, glaring errors right away. More often than not, you should be looking out for lots of smaller issues which all contribute to an inefficient supply chain. When you identify these issues, you can take action to surgically remove them, measure your savings, and pass them onto the end consumer.
Next, make sure you’re integrating all the data that makes up your supply chain. It’s 2016 now, and that means that every process involved in every business is much easier to measure. However, this is only true when it’s all integrated and managed properly within the existing structure of your business. If your business is like most modern ventures, every single transaction is going to be passed through various different systems. Financial systems, sales forecasts, resource management systems and manufacturing planning systems may all be a part of the process. In a lot of cases, all that information will need to be accessible to partners, suppliers and customers too. Like many small businesses, you may currently have a data system which relies heavily on uploads, batch updates, excel spreadsheets, manual updates and regular files. While these might serve their purpose in the long run, they can also be very prone to error, and take up more time than you can realistically spend. When you introduce a layer of integration, however, you can automate the flow of information, share it faster and make the whole process more simple.
Next, consider outsourcing certain phases of your supply chain, and leveraging existing systems for better guaranteed results. I totally understand the angle of keeping everything in-house. You’ll save some of your capital which can be used for growth, it will be easier to manage your supply chain, and the root causes of errors will become obvious straight away. However, you may be better off in the long run by outsourcing various processes in your supply chain. A lot of in-house systems, particularly within smaller businesses, have proven to be inflexible, hard to use, overly complex, or simply difficult to integrate with more modern systems. If you can’t get a certain part of the process just right, then it may be worth looking into outside services, like Red Stag Fulfillment. While your system may have holes in it, a lot of the data you’ve been collecting over time can still be very useful when it comes to analysis and planning. If you’re operating within a mobile supply chain, for example, there’s sure to be ways you can develop it using the data from your existing information systems.
One fool-proof way for any business to improve their existing supply chain is going through their information banks and having a big clear-out of any duplicate data. When you eliminate all the duplicate data floating around in your system, you’ll immediately start to save time and labor hours, and find that the system you’re using is much easier to maintain. These days, with so many smartphones and tablets being used within businesses, employees can carry out data entry as they work. This will speed up the flow of information, and improve your customer service across the board. Sure, you might have been working around duplicate data for some time, and managing to keep all your supply chain processes more or less as they should be. However, there’s likely to be various stunted parts of the process which don’t seem like much on the surface, but are really costing you a huge amount of time and money.
Once you’ve followed the advice above, you’ll probably see a significant improvement in the way that your supply chain is operating. However, your work certainly shouldn’t stop there. For your supply chain to be as streamlined and efficient as it possibly can, you’ll need to think ahead. Forget your current system of order fulfillment for the time being, and try to understand the future of your customer’s needs. Keep conducting reviews and try to pick up on any patterns which are arising, predict where this is going to go in the future, and prepare for these changes. You should also stay updated on industry news, and any emerging technologies which could help to streamline your supply chain even further. When you’re analyzing and streamlining every phase in your supply chain, you’ll be learning a lot about your business, and the industry as a whole. Make sure you’re applying these lessons so you can steer clear of any pitfalls on the horizon.
Take the time to streamline your supply chain, and soon enough you’ll start to see greater efficiency in every part of your product’s lifecycle.