Stephen Gregory, Head of Regional Engagement at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) and the University of Huddersfield, explains how fully understanding your business, the market, and customers can help you excel at your supply chain.
Supply chain is essential for sustained performance and growth. However, a company must truly understand what it is good at, why customers are spending money with them, what their USP is and what sets them apart from the competition. It’s also important to know how mature their market is and where it is going and have an eye on future product development or co-developing new products. No company must stand still and assume it will continue to prosper. It needs to be open to collaborative working and understand the value of a supply chain.
Excelling at supply chain will maintain that critical relationship between your customers and suppliers and help your business grow and prosper. However, many businesses are unsure what a successful supply chain looks like and how to achieve it.
Employ the right people – A company must have the right leadership to achieve supply chain excellence and growth. Be aware of training and development needs and opportunities and how to best use your people. The leadership team must be able to identify value and be open to sharing data and information in the right way. There must be a desire to develop and train the individuals employed in the business.
Audit Health and Safety (HSE) procedures – Most companies in supply chains look at a business’s HSE Policies and Procedures and its attitude to safety. It is so critical to an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), because of risk management in the supply chain. Another important thing in supply chains is carbon footprint, so consider how that can be reduced.
Focus on quality – A company must understand the requirements of its sector and have the appropriate accreditations in place. It must be on top of any updates or changes. It must understand what quality looks like to its customer.
Cost and efficiency – Obviously cost must be minimised. Work with your supply chain to share costs and work together to make reductions. Lean procedures are also critical, as well as maximising Digital Manufacturing opportunities. Make sure you understand where they add value and take cost.
On Time and In Full (OTIF) – Optimising the logistics performance to assist in achieving OTIF. This is critical to a company’s success. A business must understand its role in products, components or services reaching its customer on time and in full. What are the risks to its chain if there are issues and how could they be mitigated? Understand how working together things can be realised.
Building customer relationships – Make sure you understand your customer needs and risks. How can you support and / or mitigate? What will make them happy moving forward – quality, cost, product enhancement? By working together how can you improve the value chain?
Embrace Research & Development (R&D) – New services or product development is essential to stay in front of your competition and strengthen your supply chain. Continuous R&D will ensure your business remains in the game.
Fine tune logistics – Excellent logistical performance effects OTIF, as well as costs. Again, you need to understand what your customers’ needs are, which will add value to your product or performance.
What is your USP? – Understand what you are good at and what your customers are buying. Where do you add value and what more could you do to be an exemplar of the market?
Be flexible – In our everchanging world the ability to have flexibility in your business and manufacturing capability is critical. The effects of Brexit and Trump`s import strategy have yet to be fully understood and the implications they will have on the business world.
Be open to innovation – You must incorporate innovation in every decision you make, in the people, in your processes and the product. With the change in technology around Industry 4.0 and other developments that are now readily available there is ample opportunity to innovate your business. It is important that value is added back to the business by innovative developments.
There is no real rocket science to supply chain, however we do have to be aware of the market around us, our products and what our customers are purchasing. We need to develop the people and processes in our businesses and be flexible and innovative to make the best opportunities of potential changes. The future is going to be certainly different to today, so it’s important to be prepared and stay ahead of the game.