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Essential Steps for Streamlining Your Company's Supply Chain

Stop stressing and start supplying!

By Kari OakleyPublished 4 years ago 3 min read

Supply chain management is one of the most important tasks in the world of manufacturing. Unexpected interruptions at any point can result in delayed processes, wasted supplies, and dissatisfied customers. Overseeing a successful supply chain is one of the most challenging tasks manufacturers face, especially in a globally connected economy with distributed material and assembly networks. Ahead, review the essential elements of a well-managed supply chain, and learn how to implement them for your manufacturing processes.

Discover Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

When everything runs smoothly, it’s easy to forget about the sheer complexity involved in delivering a final product in a timely way. Unfortunately, an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach to supply chain management leaves your organization vulnerable to unexpected system shocks. Avoid surprises by improving your supply chain visibility with new technology that observes processes more accurately than any human could.

The revolution in the Industrial Internet of Things has led to dozens of new smart sensors that quickly report on technical problems and aggregate information for better decision making. With real-time networked measurement information that’s deployable at every stage of your supply chain, you can see the problems your company is facing more clearly and solve them before they impact customers.

Support Just-in-Time Inventory Management

Speedy, responsive supply chains can help keep your company’s inventory costs under control, but the sensitive nature of just-in-time inventory requires a robust demand trigger response system. Supply chain resilience is indispensable for successfully managing just-in-time practices. While this approach helps businesses maintain the leanness of their operations, it also means that any disruption to the supply chain will be more impactful than under a just-in-case management system. Examples of the downsides of this system are easy to find in 2020, as surges in demand and supply chain interruptions roiled previously robust manufacturing processes for consumer paper goods, cleaning supplies, and certain shelf-stable foods.

As a part of your review of supply chain practices, consider what would happen if your company experienced a sudden surge—or drop—in demand, and how your supply chains could handle those situations. Here, too, visibility is key, as understanding each part of the supply chain will reveal any weaknesses that need to be addressed.

Encourage Constant Employee Communication

Each time an employee interacts with an element of the supply chain, there is both an opportunity for error and for increased traceability. Not only can poor communication lead to late deliveries and misplaced items, it can also lead to manufacturing disruptions that propagate down the supply chain, affecting every step of your system. Automation is an essential part of developing a resilient supply chain system, but employees should be empowered to communicate about receipt and delivery of supplies, completion of processes, and any problems within the system they experience.

Centralizing communication and providing clear, achievable standards will allow employees to act as a redundant warning system, notifying you and anyone else responsible for overseeing manufacturing problems as soon as they happen. Especially for “soft” issues that cannot be measured by smart sensors, like vendor shipments that include unauthorized substitutions or incorrect items, employee insight is a valuable resource. Take advantage of it with networked communication protocols that are always accessible. Motivated, empowered employees who feel ownership of just-in-time processes and supply chain strategies are an essential part of keeping your processes running smoothly.

Remove Any Slow-Moving Parts

The ideal supply chain is high-speed and frictionless, delighting clients with deliveries that seem to appear as soon as an order is placed, and keeps costs low by reducing unnecessary inventory. Overseeing global manufacturing processes is an intricate project, so you can’t afford to lose out on cost savings and increased customer satisfaction by ignoring subpar processes or discovering problems too late. Review sensor data, employee notes, and your own experiences to discern where the supply chain encounters friction most frequently.

Deferred maintenance, unexpected freight costs, and inconsistent vendor deliveries are all common pain points for supply chains. With better visibility and communication, you’ll be able to spot minor issues as they arise instead of reacting to problems after they’ve happened. Many manufacturing firms have used smart sensors and connected supply chain technology to render their supply chains 80-90% visible—a level of clarity previously thought to be unachievable.

When your supply chains are run well, your customers may never realize what it takes to deliver the final product on time; they’ll only know that they can count on your company to get it done right every time, ahead of schedule and under budget.


About the Creator

Kari Oakley

Kari Oakley is a fitness trainer from Kenosha Wisconsin. She now lives in downtown Chicago, and loves to get out. She is a big fan of anything adventure, and loves getting a workout in the outdoors.

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    Kari OakleyWritten by Kari Oakley

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