In a perfect world, the supply chain runs as efficiently as possible while it’s able to be totally responsive. In other words, it will have maximum productivity with the least amount of wastage – the definition of efficiency – and at the same time be able to react to sudden and unexpected demands – the definition of responsiveness. But can the two coexist?
The answer, unsurprisingly, is that the well-run supply chain will get as near to both as possible. It will straddle that fine line between having its system streamlined and lean to maximize profits, yet be able to satisfy an unexpected change in demand, like a sudden uptick, when that occurs.
We’re going to explore five actions you can take to get to that happy medium.
Efficient and responsive supply chains explained
As we all know, the supply chain is that overarching process that starts when an order is placed and ends when it’s delivered; or for a manufacturing facility, from the placement of an order to the completion of the goods.
Efficiency refers to that process taking the least amount of time and using the least amount of resources – being lean. It’s achieved with automation that streamlines and takes care of logistics, and organization that makes everything run like clockwork.
Responsiveness refers to the processes described above being able to adapt quickly to change, to being able to absorb periods of high demand while delivering the same service, and to being able to adapt when something goes wrong like problems with suppliers or machines breaking down. It’s about the supply chain being flexible.
5 steps to make your supply chain efficient and responsive
We’re listing these actions in random order and suggest they’re implemented as and when needed. We also suggest getting the advice of an expert in the area before putting any of them in place.
Step 1: Bring in supply chain experts.
There are a lot of moving parts in a supply chain, parts that are in constant flux. This makes it difficult to control the system, to keep it running efficiently while at the same time giving it the latitude to absorb the unexpected. Which is why it makes sense to have an expert come in and figure it out, to design systems that work for you.
Supply chain experts understand the process and all the factors that affect it. From suppliers and their lead times to the ways individual departments work to logistics, these specialists understand it all and can use that knowledge to your advantage.
Step 2: Automate.
To get your supply chain to that Goldilocks state of being just right – as efficient as it can be while being able to turn on a dime – you have to automate. And a good way of doing that is with Cin7 Core.
From a single dashboard, you’ll have a window into everything about your stock as it moves through the system. You’ll be able to know in detail what’s where and in which quantity, plus the system can be programmed to issue purchase orders for new inventory when the level of items in storage starts to get low. As a bonus, Cin7 Core integrates seamlessly with a host of other business software and applications, many of which you probably already use.
While this oversight and control of inventory keeps your supply chain humming efficiently, the software is accumulating data that can be configured into any kind of report you want. These are reports you’ll rely on when the unexpected happens and decisions have to be made quickly, unexpected events like a sudden spike in demand or a breakdown somewhere that affects the overall system. In other words, they’re the reports you’ll use to be responsive.
Step 3: Cultivate good relations with your stakeholders
It’s common sense really, but if you need those you work with to help you out when you need them to, you have to be on good terms with them. More than that, you need to be on good terms with those you work alongside and with, so they will give you their best all the time. The fancy name for this is relationship management. Good relationship management isn’t about being buddies with your employees or overpaying your suppliers; it’s about being respectful. When that’s projected, everything in a company runs better.
Step 4: Invest in sustainability.
As extreme weather is impacting the health of the world more each year, affecting more and more people directly, the focus, rightly, is on adopting sustainable practices and reducing carbon emissions. Since the supply chains of retail and manufacturing companies are responsible for 92% of those businesses’ greenhouse gas emissions, they are a prime target for this change.
Simple ways for a company to bring sustainability into its supply chain, besides automation, are: using electric vehicles, implementing bulk deliveries, and swapping out paper for tablets. Not coincidentally, these practices also help streamline your supply chain, making it more efficient and responsive.
Step 5: Review and tweak your supply chain regularly.
It’s a given that everything is in a constant state of flux. The demand for goods is changing all the time as is the supply of stock that’s available.There are also factors that affect the way a company works internally – like staff shortages and the introduction of advanced machines such as robots and AI. Changing customer expectations is also a part of these shifts. For instance, when a shopper can get their goods in a shorter time elsewhere, they’ll expect the same speed from you, and it’s in your interests to give them what they want.
Supply chain management has to keep up with these changes. Put another way, by monitoring your supply chain periodically, you’ll pinpoint its pain points and be able to institute strategies to overcome them. It’s how you get your system to have the flexibility it’ll need to absorb market fluctuations in 2023.
There are going to be unforeseen challenges in 2023, but if you have a supply chain that works both efficiently and responsively, you’ll be able to meet and overcome them. Automation can be the answer to many supply chain problems, and Cin7 Core will always fit the bill.
Why not talk to one of our experts? Click here to schedule a time that’s convenient for you.