5 Practical Ways to Streamline Supply Chain Management

Look around. There’s bound to be something within your line of sight that signifies the end of a supply chain. A supply chain represents the total sum of processes it takes to create a commodity, all the way from production to distribution. With so many moving parts, even a small improvement can make a huge difference for companies involved in manufacturing and fulfillment. One tweak can lead to hours of saved time. Consolidating a single workflow can increase revenue. Establishing a centralized way for employees, contractors and vendors to communicate can spare everyone a headache.

Here are five practical ways to streamline supply chain management using modern tools and techniques.

Conduct a Supply Chain Audit

Although conducting a supply chain audit does take time and effort up front, it can pay off in spades down the line. This is where your organization wants to step back and take a comprehensive look at how you do business. As one supply chain director recommends in the Telegraph, “Map out the process from start to finish, and work out how you can get rid of as many middle bits as possible. The biggest barriers are almost always around software and data.”

During the audit, take note of incompatible programs, extraneous workflows and outdated methods. You’ll use this information to make improvements in the aftermath.

Automate What You Can

Although supply chain management is still very much a human-driven activity, certain processes lend themselves well to automation. More companies are turning to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), which “resembles the human nervous system” because each department has a role but the entire system is interconnected through a software “brain.” Everything from payroll to human resources, production, sales, IT and more can come together with the right ERP system in place—in part because it automates many of the more mundane functions, freeing up employees to focus on more crucial tasks.

Make Data More Accessible

Any recommendations for changes to supply chain management must be based in data. This means companies need a way to quickly analyze historical performance data so they can pull insights before acting. Since supply chains tend to involve many different departments, vendors, distributors, manufacturers, managers, you’ll need a way to not only manipulate data, but also communicate insights across this entire network. What’s the quickest way for businesses to get everyone on the same page? Using embedded analytics allows companies to integrate important data features like relational search bars, charts, dashboards and portals across their workflows.

Boost Communication

Boosting communication is such a simple solution, it often goes overlooked. Every extra email, text, phone call, ticket or meeting costs valuable time—and takes away from more meaningful collaboration. Misunderstandings can cause mistakes which require teams to circle back and sort them out. Make sure your company is doing everything it can to maximize secure, efficient information sharing between all parties involved.

Forecast Finances and Demand

The past informs the present, but it also clues companies in on what the future may hold. How can your company accurately stock its inventory if you have no idea what customer demand will be for the holiday season? Your company should be aiming for growth and improved customer service in the future. Forecasting is a huge part of being able to set benchmarks and fulfill future needs. Your business should also keep an eye on industry trends and new software/tools hitting the market. While you may not be able to upgrade right off the bat, it’s always useful to know your options and keep an eye on the exciting future of supply chain management as we know it.

Keeping these five practical ways for streamlining supply chain management in mind, your company will be able to trim the fat, make the most of your data and communicate efficiently.