Designing the Supply Chain

Supply chain design is the practice of creating living models to represent the existing structure and policies of the end-to-end supply chain, optimizing to identify a better future state supply chain and continuously running what-if scenarios to test new strategies and react to changing market conditions. When a company’s supply chain capabilities are directly aligned with its enterprise strategy, the results tend to be superior performance and a strong market position.

Manufacturing giant Toyota uses extremely sophisticated inventory and product life-cycle management capabilities to move products through its channels in half the time maintaining excellent quality. This is a major factor in Toyota’s consistent ability to outpace its rivals in profit margins. Would Toyota’s supply chain model work for your company? Probably not. Every successful company should have an operational design and management style tailored to its own purpose and strategy. Here is a proven process to design a supply chain network that best meets your business objectives.

Clearly Define your Strategy-The most critical step of the network analysis and design process is to identify your primary strategy. If it’s too limited then you will fail to consider and prioritize all the market requirements and factors on which participants compete (features, price, delivery, etc). Strategies also cannot be platitudes, promising all things to all people. Corporate strategy needs to define how you are going to be different and better than your competitors, and it needs to set specific, measurable goals. Then it should be communicated to the organization thoroughly and repeatedly.

Use High Quality Design Data Today’s technology can help you make better decisions as there are many vendors offering supply chain network optimization tools. Alternatively, you can cost efficiently configure your own. Make sure the software you select fully addresses the decisions you need to make and can represent your unique business and logistics network. Typical model components include capacity limitations, customer service requirements, lead times by mode, operating capabilities and the cost of different options.

Structure Supply Chain to Optimize the Strategic Goals- Connect the dots between your strategic goals and how those get delivered by the company. Supply chains that are optimized for cost efficiency will look different than supply chains that are optimized for flexibility and responsiveness. Ask the question, “Which supply chain activity is perfect for my core competence and competitive differentiation?” This step is especially critical in making in-house/outsource decisions. So prioritize your supply chain objectives and accordingly build your supply chain network, choose your supplier base and business terms, devise inventory and planning policy that support your enterprise strategy.

Get Advice during Design Process- Many other businesses in your networking circles, supplier community or common technology users may be excellent resources for supply chain design experience and advice. Ask supply chain modeling software vendors about the design community they support and how you can get involved with other users. Many will be happy to act as a sounding board for your ideas and share the lessons they learned along the way.

Implement and Refine- The supply chain network analysis and design process is not static. Successful ideas are implemented and cost savings are realized. And then things change: a large new customer is added at a new location, more production capacity is added, demand takes a nosedive, or raw material prices swing dramatically. Thus, like all good planning processes, the supply chain network analysis and design process must be on going. This process should be revisited regularly (annually/quarterly) and/or when big things happen within the business.

Asprova provides useful lessons for future modeling and improves the overall effectiveness of network planning. Our advanced planning and scheduling solutions give supply chain designers a collaborative platform to expand the value of supply chain modeling throughout the organization.

Photo credits: Flickr © ILO in Asia and the Pacific

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