10 Tips on How to Manage Your Supply Chain

February 9, 2019

The success of a business relies heavily on the management of a supply chain. A well-managed supply chain can make the difference between a business that is thriving and one that is barely skating by. If you are looking for ways to take your business to the next level, you need to implement methods that will help you innovate and intelligently manage when it comes to operations. These supply chain management techniques will help your business reach its fullest potential across all functions.

Use Data Intelligently

Businesses need to use methods to track the operations of a supply chain. With continually advancing cloud-based technologies, it becomes easier and easier to track certain metrics, such as where stock is located or how much is being moved throughout a warehouse. Technology like barcodes or RFID tags, automation systems, and warehouse management software make it simple to enforce tracking.

Beyond just tracking data, it is important to expertly analyze it to figure out how to maximize potential within the supply chain. Data shouldn’t be tracked just for the sake of feeling productive—certain data should be targeted in order to help businesses better meet their objectives.

One metric that could be beneficial to track, for example, is the popularity of certain products among customers. Recording and looking at trends in the types of products consumers desire will help you make smarter decisions in your supply chain management techniques. 

Making this information easily trackable and accessible can help businesses react to certain problems that arise, or make improvements to certain processes, in a timely manner. Smart use of data allows your business to operate smoothly and at its full potential, and puts you ahead of the game when issues come up.

Pick a Supply Chain Management Software in Your Niche

A supply chain management software is essential for optimal business functions. However, without doing a bit of research into the options out there, you could end up with a technology that doesn’t cater to your needs as well as others might.  

If you are looking for a supply chain management software, put in the time to finding technology that was designed specifically with your industry or unique needs in mind. This means you’ll find systems that better serve your business needs. You’ll also spend less time trying to customize the system to your requirements, and the output will likely be much more beneficial than with a more generic, less targeted software. By using the best software for your needs, your supply chain management capabilities will improve dramatically. 

Be Flexible and Adaptable

In the absence of willingness to innovate and adapt, businesses end up getting stuck in a rut, and eventually fall behind their competitors who are regularly evolving supply chain strategies. Once you have valuable data that can inform changes in your supply chain management techniques, you must be willing to be flexible and make the adjustments that will benefit the business. The market is continually changing, and a successful business is one that goes with these changes and adapts accordingly. While some may wait until a natural end to make adjustments (such as the end of the quarter or year), it is best to adapt as you see fit. Technology gives businesses the opportunity to react to changes in the market practically as they happen. They just need to be willing to modify and act accordingly.

Beyond making changes to the partnerships and structures that already exist, a business should be looking for ways to expand beyond what already exists in their supply chain. Maintaining relationships and systems is important, but it could be beneficial to take a look at the supply chain and see if there are ways to improve productivity or exceed goals. A new partnership with a contractor, a different warehouse configuration, or a new warehouse space altogether may be the link between a business’s ability to reach the next level.

Maintain Clear Communication

When looking into how to manage a supply chain as effectively as possible, one of the key strategies people turn to is communicating clearly and maintaining relationships with a lot of people. In order to maximize productivity and reduce any error, you need to ensure you are clearly communicating all information to the top players in your supply chain. No person should be left out, and you should make sure all information is communicated—not just the main points. Keeping everyone fully in the loop will help ensure everyone is on the same page.

Beyond minimizing mistakes and reaching full productivity potential, clearly communicating with partners will help you maintain and enhance relationships. If things ever go wrong, you will have solid relationships to turn to in order to help mitigate the issues. Strong relationships should be highly valued in supply chain management, and it is necessary to do your part to maintain them.

Clear communication should also be extended to all employees. Your communication shouldn’t stop at the top level players in the supply chain. Keep an open line of communication for employees of all levels to ensure any issues or suggestions are handled promptly and effectively. This supply chain management technique keeps employees happy, and may even open doors to valuable insights that may improve operations even more.

Maximize the Potential of Each Partner

Building solid relationships with your partners and suppliers can also lead to additional knowledge about what they can bring to the table. While you may hire a certain partner to fill a specific need, they may have a wider skill set than you were initially aware of that you could benefit from.

As you build relationships with your partners, start to take note of services they offer or skills they have that could serve your business. Rather than wasting time looking for new people to bring in when certain issues or needs arise, you can check in on this information and see what valuable players you already have as part of your team. Tap into the resources that are at your fingertips, and see if there are ways to maximize the potential of suppliers and partners that are already part of your supply chain.

Monitor the Performance of Partners

Besides knowing a partner’s strengths and abilities, you should also keep track of their performance and note any errors or delays that are disrupting the supply chains normal functions. A successful business uses a supply chain management technique that involves monitoring performance and then actually using this information to inform suppliers of what has been working well—and what needs to be improved upon.

Create a system to measure the work and progress of your partners, and see if any changes need to be made. It is vital that you communicate with partners of any areas where they need to improve in order to perform at their highest potential. Clearly communicate your views of their performance, so that they don’t blindly continue operating in a way that doesn’t have the best interests of the business in mind.

Integrate Plans Across the Business

The planning processes within the sales, operations, and corporate arms of a business can often be forgotten about when it comes to strategizing how to manage a supply chain. However, in order to function as efficiently as possible, the plans of each of these segments should be taken into account. Integrated planning allows for the highest, most productive business operating possible. By bridging the gap between these functions, the implemented supply chain management techniques can more accurately reflect and work in line with the objectives of the entire company.

Be Timely with Payments

It’s no surprise that your relationships with suppliers will be stronger if you pay them on schedule. Keep track of contracts and invoices, and ensure payments are being sent at the agreed upon time. More suppliers are accepting business to business corporate cards, such as MasterCard, Visa, or EuroPay. These are more streamlined and efficient, so you may want to consider paying through these avenues to keep your suppliers happy.

Be Aware of Locations

When managing a supply chain, you should be fully aware of the physical location of both your customers and suppliers, as well as what products are going to or coming from those locations. Since your supply chain may have key players across the state, country, or even the world, it is important to have a finger on the pulse of these locations in order to react quickly if any events happen in those areas, such as natural disasters or inclement weather. You’ll immediately know what operations or people are affected, and what actions need to be taken. Procuring this information ahead of time will minimize risks and help you act quickly and proactively when issues arise.

Implement Sustainable Practices

When considering how to manage a supply chain in the best interest of the business, sustainability should play a key part in your decision making process. Doing your part to ensure daily operations are as sustainable as possible is essential not only because it helps the planet—it gives your business an advantage in the eyes of employees and customers alike. Sustainability should be one of the key requirements for functions across the entire supply chain. Find ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your operations, make less waste, minimize energy usage, recycle, and more to make a more sustainable supply chain system.

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