Top tips to build a robust supply chain

All businesses need to ensure its goods and services are procured at the lowest cost and meet the company’s needs in terms of timely delivery, quantity, quality, and location.

This is essential in not only providing the best customer experience, but also in ensuring you stay on top of your competitors, as consistency in the supply chain is key. However, the supply chain management world is constantly evolving and it is key to keep pace with both market expectations as well as opportunities.

Choosing and procuring the right technology is just the beginning of the variety of challenges that are present when managing and securing an IT supply chain. Organisations need to ensure effective asset management configuration and deployment are continuing to take shape, while maintaining technology standards and continuity of supply.

Here are some top tips in managing and creating a robust and effective supply chain, with experience and advice from the largest FTSE listed British IT service provider with over a 30-year heritage in IT and information enablement.

Be clear on expectation and deliverables

Many organisations will issue identical performance indicators and market assessment techniques on all engagements they have, irrespective of the technology being purchased or outcome desired by the business.

This is a detrimental approach as nuances and subject matter expertise are unable to be imparted by the partner that could potentially save money, time or actually mitigate risk.

Truly assess each engagement and accurately as well as realistically assess the desired outcomes/output that you wish to achieve, in comparison to work loads and true capabilities of workforces and systems.

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Capitalizing on Cross-Docking

Today’s marketplace is moving faster than ever, and companies are challenged to distribute their products more quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively; cross-docking can be a useful tool to help keep pace with customer demand.

While cross-docking is not a new phenomenon, this process of moving material from the receiving dock straight to the shipping dock is gaining traction as more companies recognize its value in today’s competitive business environment.

Why Cross-Dock?
Companies choose to cross-dock for a variety of reasons.

Common benefits include:

Increased speed to market – With high turn rates and reduced handling, cross-docking helps to increase efficiency and get products to market faster. While typically associated with durable goods, cross-docking can be effective for temperature-controlled, perishable and high-value/high-security products as well, thanks to its high velocity.

Reduced costs – Cross-docking requires a smaller footprint than traditional warehousing and often utilizes less labor as well. The practice also eliminates the cost of inventory and product rotation. Considerable freight savings can be achieved by consolidating LTL shipments into full loads.

Improved service levels – Because product is shipped in bulk and picked at the cross-dock, the practice offers great flexibility for changes to orders further down the supply chain. This helps to ensure a more accurate – and more responsive – process with shorter order cycles.

Prime Candidates for Cross-Docking
Just about any type of product can be cross-docked, but cross-docking is particularly effective for companies that are moving heavy volume on any given day and need to do it in a precise way where service is critical.

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External Insights Critical to Effective Supply Chain Performance

Traditional forecasting models that leverage historical data to predict future performance are the tools used by most supply chain executives to plan critical functions, yet these predictions are frequently inaccurate. In fact, research from KPMG International, in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit, shows that most quarterly forecasts are off by 13 percent—meaning that supply chain managers are basing their decisions for ordering materials and scheduling distribution on erroneous projections. The result can mean surpluses or shortages, potentially costing companies millions either way.

There is a better way to anticipate supply chain demands—one that can vastly improve projections, and decrease the discrepancies between forecasting and reality, therefore helping supply chain executives perform their jobs more effectively. Few companies take into account macroeconomic factors, global manufacturing activity, consumer behavior, online traffic, weather data, etc. when making business projections. Yet companies that do identify leading performance indicators using such external data earn more than a 5 percent higher return on equity than those that use only internal metrics. Leveraging external factors, in addition to internal performance measures, is proven to result in more accurate, effective forecasts. Not to mention that improving forecast accuracy can represent huge bottom-line benefits. For a billion dollar manufacturing company, for example, improving forecast accuracy and overall return on equity even 1 percent can equal a $3 million increase in net income.

Forecasting accuracy, improved through external factors, benefits multiple business functions—from financial operations (shareholder value) to human resources (adequate staffing) to marketing (product innovation)—but is especially impactful on the supply chain management function.

Improves Inventory Management

Improved forecast accuracy using external drivers equates to reduced inventory management costs, ultimately improving bottom-line profit. By accounting for external factors, companies can see a 10 to 15 percent improvement in forecast accuracy, significantly decreasing the cost of excess inventory. By ordering raw materials based on correct projections, supply chain managers no longer have to worry about discounts necessary to move excess inventory or the cost of warehousing excess materials because they are ordering accurately from the start.

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