woman standing next to truck and shipping containers

 

The supply chain is the lifeline of any business or organization. Cut it off, and supplies go unreplenished. Projects go unfinished. In extreme cases, a supply chain breakdown can threaten people’s lives. 

During the recent deep freeze in Texas, widespread power failures left millions of homes without electricity, heat, or running water. Grocery stores had to limit their hours to conserve what stock they had on hand because their supply chains were disrupted. The extreme cold made the roads unsafe, left factories and warehouses without power, and the chain ground to a halt. 

In our last post, we talked about how you could strengthen your supply chain via the inclusion of minority-owned suppliers and firms.  This time, we’ll look at how you can manage your supply chain infrastructure to keep it operating as efficiently as possible. 

Manage Your Supply Chain Better

Advancements in technology have made it so much easier for retailers and warehouses to determine what they’ll need, and get it shipped at just the right time. For example, retail sales numbers can automatically signal when new products should be shipped. They arrive before inventory runs out, and in just the right amounts.

Investing in forward-looking technology, like AI and analytics software, is one way to help your supply chain operate effectively. Having reserves in the event of a breakdown is another. No matter what you do, synchronizing the many moving parts between planning, storage, supply, and distribution is key to a strong supply chain. 

A traditional supply chain typically has five parts: 

  • Planning 
  • Sourcing 
  • Manufacturing
  • Delivery/Logistics
  • Returns

Every one of these channels should be optimized for your supply chain to run as well as it can. Doing so increases your supply chain’s value as well as its efficiency. 

Closely monitoring each part of your supply chain helps identify problems before they spiral out of control. Keeping track of inventory needs for both day-to-day demand as well as during peak periods helps anticipate and mitigate shortages. It can even help anticipate staffing needs.

A contingency plan for disaster scenarios keeps the chain flowing when it would otherwise be broken by extreme weather events, man-made disasters, or health crises like the current global pandemic. In the event of an unavoidable disruption, contingency measures make sure that shortages are kept to a minimum.

What Effective Supply Chain Management Looks Like

The best supply chains aren’t necessarily the most efficient or the most cost-effective. Stanford professor Hau L. Lee, who spent 15 years studying the supply chains of 60 companies, identified three factors that separate the best from the rest. Those companies had supply chains that were: 

  • Agile
  • Adaptable
  • Aligned

Lee calls this concept the Triple-A Supply Chain.

Companies agile enough to respond to change stay ahead of fluctuations in supply and demand. These companies are able to respond both quickly and cost-effectively. Proper planning, up-to-date technology, and being adequately staffed all help a company stay agile.

Being able to adapt the structure of your supply chain to demand is another aspect of good supply chain management. Tracking patterns and identifying relevant data is extremely helpful in this area, and something a lot of companies are using advanced analytics technology to achieve. 

Aligning your goals with the goals of your suppliers will also put you in a stronger position. Knowing what your suppliers’ needs are, and how they can help meet yours, creates a reciprocal relationship that fills in the gaps on all sides. 

Lastly, don’t assume your supply chain will work well or be as strong as it is now. Periodic and holistic assessments are critical to identifying areas of weakness and improving upon them before they cause a breakdown. Implementing new technologies and perspectives will help make sure you stay ahead of the curve and continue to meet the needs of your customers. 

How Bellewether Helps Strengthen Your Supply Chain

Bellewether works with its clients in a variety of ways to help them integrate strong, diverse suppliers into their chain. Our process adapts depending on the client need, but typically falls into one of five customizable services: 

  • Comprehensive Corporate Plans: Our clients engage us to create and help launch or implement a strategic, nationally scalable plan.
  • Custom Program Structural Planning and Implementation Support: We structure and assist in the planning phases of a corporate plan, then let the client take it from there.
  • Programming Support: We provide support services including efficacy audits, reporting, training, consultative services, and more.
  • Small Business Assessment: We determine the operational development level of small suppliers, then generate reports and recommendations that shed light on their needs while minimizing corporate risk.
  • Outsourced Services: Corporate and/or government clients engage us to help build the capabilities and capacity of DBE firms, making them better positioned to bid on and win projects.

Incorporating diversity into supplier operations has proven to strengthen revenues, profits, and corporate image.  What’s more, it provides fresh perspectives and knowledge that would otherwise have gone untapped. Small, community suppliers can make a big impact when it comes to knowing what your customers need and want.

Couple that knowledge with effective supply chain management, and you’ve got an unbeatable combination. If you’re interested in implementing change, let us know. We’re glad to leverage our years of experience to help you grow.