Essential Practices for Achieving Supply Chain Success


Managing a supply chain effectively is one of the most critical yet challenging aspects of your business. It can determine whether your company experiences substantial growth or gradual decline.

In the past, supply chain management focused solely on moving items from Point A to Point B. However, in today’s competitive market, businesses must break free from traditional boundaries. Successful supply chain management now goes beyond mere delivery; it requires a qualitative approach that lowers costs. One crucial element in achieving this is the strategic management of transportation spend.

To thrive in this dynamic landscape and meet heightened customer expectations, a holistic approach to supply chain management is essential. It involves understanding the intricate interplay of various components, from sourcing materials to final product delivery. By optimizing your supply chain and adopting a comprehensive mindset, you can unlock new opportunities and gain a competitive edge.

We have identified some of the important practices for successful supply chain management:

1. Establish a Supply Chain Council:

To avoid profit and efficiency losses stemming from a disparity between corporate and supply chain management visions, it is crucial to set up a supply chain council. This council provides a macro-level view of your company’s needs and operations, considering input from various departments and functions. It typically comprises key stakeholders, such as the supply chain head, corporate executives, department directors, business unit heads, and influential leaders. The council’s insights facilitate data-driven decision-making, advanced cost analysis, and a comprehensive understanding of the supply chain’s impact on the company.

2. Develop a Solid Supply Chain Structure

Optimizing processes and streamlining your supply chain relies on a strong foundational structure. Understanding your company’s specific supply chain requirements enables you to structure it effectively. While some companies prefer a centralized approach, others find success through decentralization. However, a hybrid approach, combining centralized strategy and decision-making with decentralized operations, offers flexibility and adaptability. This fosters better collaboration between supply chain and corporate management, aligns the supply chain with organizational goals, and leverages real-time response from field workers to address unexpected challenges and new developments.

3. Harness the Power of Technology

 Integrating technology into supply chain processes has transitioned from being proactive to becoming a standard practice. However, it is crucial to carefully choose a platform that aligns with your specific needs. Restructuring your supply chain solely to accommodate a platform can have adverse effects. Platforms like ERPs and SAPs streamline processes, enhance visibility, reduce paperwork, and automate activities, resulting in increased efficiency, risk reduction, and data-driven insights for better decision-making.

4. Foster Collaborative Alliances

Effective supply chain management relies on collaborative partnerships. Building strong relationships with suppliers and other stakeholders is vital, emphasizing communication, shared goals, transparency, and mutual collaboration. Without such alliances, supply chain management can become an uphill battle, hampering efficiency, profitability, and even customer experiences due to late or damaged deliveries. Cultivating healthy partnerships ensures a smoother and more successful supply chain operation.

5. Emphasize Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

 Forward-thinking companies are shifting their focus from purchase costs to the total cost of ownership (TCO). Recognizing that acquisition costs represent only a portion of the total expenses, companies now consider TCO for a comprehensive view. This approach enables a detailed breakdown of costs and profit margins, empowering managers and department heads to make accurate data-driven decisions. Establishing a supply chain council with diverse perspectives enhances the accuracy of TCO analysis and further justifies its implementation.

6. Implement Strategic Supplier Sourcing

 Shifting focus from the bid’s bottom line to the total cost of ownership requires finding suppliers who align with this mindset. Price is not the sole factor; other considerations such as operational costs, training, maintenance, warehousing, quality levels, and transportation impact overall costs significantly. Building a dynamic procurement department that can identify strong partners with the right mindset helps offset expenses and increases long-term profitability.

7. Centralize Contract Management within the Supply Chain

Centralizing contract management within the supply chain proves to be an effective practice. When contracts are scattered across various divisions, important factors may be overlooked or contracts can be lost entirely. By consolidating contract management under the supply chain division, compliance improves, contract standardization is enhanced, and leaders gain a comprehensive perspective. This streamlines contract signing, maintenance, and revisions while leveraging overall spend in services for greater savings, reduced costs, and improved risk mitigation.

8. Optimize Inventory for Cost Reduction

Effective inventory management is a crucial aspect of supply chain cost management often overlooked. Warehouse practices vary, making it challenging for companies to identify the best strategies that positively impact the bottom line. Holding inventory can consume a significant portion, up to 40%, of the original acquisition cost. Therefore, competitive companies focus on better inventory management strategies to lower the total cost of ownership and increase profit margins.

9. Conduct Regular Reviews

Maintaining a high standard in supply chain management requires ongoing monitoring and evaluation. Regular reviews, consistent data collection, and analysis not only fine-tune your supply chain but also provide the visibility needed to mitigate future risks. Evolving through efficiency optimization and financial optimization leads to valuable insights into risks and enables data-informed business decisions now and in the future.

10. Establish Control and Risk Levels

Identifying risk factors throughout the supply chain process enhances flexibility and preparedness to address potential issues. Sourcing decisions are a key area where risk identification is crucial, as external factors can increase risk. To mitigate sourcing risks:

  • Identify risks and adopt methodologies for identification throughout the sourcing process.
  • Analyze the probability and impact of risks.
  • Evaluate the cost and financial implications associated with potential risks.
  • Grade or evaluate risks to prioritize monitoring and scrutiny based on their significance and frequency.