How to Improve Your Supply Chain Strategy

Five Ways to Improve Your Supply Chain Strategy

Nobody said managing your supply chain was easy. Keeping operation costs on budget, maintaining on-time delivery to customers, managing suppliers, having real-time visibility into all these areas and more. Maybe you’re facing multiple issues – many challenges that led you Google “how to improve supply chain strategy.”

Five ways to improve your supply chain strategy are to:

  1. Integrate systems to meet your customers where they are
  2. Automate manual processes
  3. Proactively work with IT
  4. Train your team often
  5. Implement the right technology

Integrate systems to meet your customers where they are

Supply chain issues are commonly material shortages needed to produce the product or distribution delays. Increased online shopping not only provides more avenues for businesses to reach potential customers but also new opportunities for breakdowns to occur.

Businesses that integrate the right technology with their supply chain can track their operations from end to end and connect all parts of the buying process to meet the consumer where they are. Business software solutions often feature the ability to create digital storefronts that are connected to the backend of your software, meaning your business is more visible and accessible to customers.

However, visibility doesn’t just involve your customers. Insight – or lack thereof – into your operations is one of the top business challenges that distribution and manufacturing companies name as barriers to growth. Problems related to inventory management and planning range from inaccurate stock counts to not having metrics in order to optimize inventory levels. Using business software to track data provides a platform for you to see trends, identify problems, make demand forecasting decisions and more.

Automate manual processes

Visibility is an important aspect of your supply chain strategy and can be improved with automation. Perhaps your business uses spreadsheets to track your inventory and sales. Not only is your data out of date constantly, but also the time needed to track and maintain this information can cost you in the long run.

Integrating business software into your operations also allows you to automate manual processes. For example, instead of performing stock counts by hand, tracking inventory levels through a management system ensures your counts are updated in real time. Additionally, you can use historical data to make informed planning decisions to optimize your inventory.

However, maintain the processes that work for you. The idea of integrating technology is to improve what can be made more efficient and productive, not requiring you to tailor your operations and strategy to fit the technology. Proactively assess your equipment and processes, enhance or upgrade what needs to improve and support those that working optimally.

Proactively work with IT

Many businesses see their IT department as a team of people who come in to fix whatever technology is broken. However, don’t wait until something breaks to call. IT departments are commonly an underutilized group of knowledgeable talent who can spot problems or inconsistencies before they become a larger issue. Making technology assessments routine not only prevents problems that can slow or stop your operations, but can also ensure your IT professionals are familiar if something does go awry.

IT can also make recommendations for improvements before they’re needed. Although your technology and operations may work well, there’s always room for improvement. Taking smaller, incremental steps to optimize your processes minimizes downtime, increases efficiency and reduces costs.

Train your team often

As technology is always evolving, so should your training. Reassess your training programs to ensure that they’re up to date and utilize best practices for your software. This can help ensure compliance and efficiency, mitigate risk and streamline operations.

Once you’ve reviewed and potentially updated your training programs, test them out. Holding routine and periodic training sessions helps employees better understand their roles within the supply chain as a whole, reinforces the skills necessary to perform their jobs well, ensures they are comfortable and proficient in using your business solution and increases job satisfaction.

Implement the right technology

Technology can be a game-changer when considering how to improve your supply chain strategy. However, choosing the right one for your organization and specific requirements is critical. While business software addresses numerous areas within the supply chain, there are several areas that see the most benefit.

  1. Inventory management: Business technology provides crucial advantages for supply chain management. One of the biggest is inventory visibility. Real-time data of inventory levels illustrates an accurate picture of your supply chain and offers insight into your overall operations.
  2. Logistics and tracking: Visibility into the supply chain can improve or optimize your logistics. Understanding where your product is and when has a major influence on your customer satisfaction. Reliable tracking not only ensures you know your product is arriving to the customer when you’ve indicated, but also provides you with the ability to make an accurate recommendation for shipping and processing times.
  3. Demand planning: Data and analytics are critical in forecasting. Using a solution such as a warehouse management system provides an accurate count of how much inventory is in the warehouse, while also tracking your sales. This allows you to make better decisions regarding how much inventory to maintain at a given time.
  4. Costs: There are many ways that the right technology can affect your business costs, but two significant ones are how it can monitor cash flow and reduce costs. Supply chain management systems track where your money is going and how much is coming in. Having a clear picture can help you pinpoint areas to improve, such as negotiating payment terms with suppliers. This can lead to reduced costs over time.

Download Your Guide for Inventory and Supply Chain Management

This trend report surveyed executives and managers at manufacturing and distribution companies about inventory management. The results outline key inventory challenges small- to mid-sized companies face and the best practices they employ to keep pace with complex supply chains.