The 10 Steps in the Journey to Supply Chain Excellence

These 10 key initiatives will drive value from supply chain networks in 2015 and beyond

Ed Rusch
Ed Rusch

The interconnectedness, expansive footprints, co-dependency within the process industries and the dynamic supply chain interactions in an inter-enterprise network mandate that companies adopt a continuous improvement strategy in order to be successful. Using these initiatives, business leaders will gain greater profitability, improve productivity and increase customer satisfaction to drive more value out of their supply chains.

A business network’s strength sits in the quality of the dynamic interactions happening across the supply chain that ultimately determine prosperity and economic growth for all participating parties. Conducting commerce, securely and reliably, with a critical mass of customers, suppliers and logistics service providers gives businesses a real competitive advantage.

The 10 top initiatives for building a better supply chain are:

  1. Realize unprecedented visibility. While the definition of supply chain visibility differs among companies, it is still important to define what visibility means to a company, and then align processes to gain the specific kind of visibility needed and desired. A significant area of business pain is supply chain visibility according to many surveys. 
  2. Gain indisputable understanding. Synchronize transactional data gathered across the business network to drive insights into information and align it with business needs. A supply chain that senses and properly responds to market demand or supply disruption allows companies to make both better and faster decisions.
  3. Respond to an infinite variety. When businesses talk about tens of thousands of companies and individuals communicating with each other, all the differences in the way they each operate and think about their business processes create massive complexity in the center. A business ecosystem isolates a company from this complexity and removes friction in commerce.
  4. Impact people’s lives. A business network has a huge impact on people’s lives. When a critical mass of partners are actively participating, companies reduce the amount of time trucks need to spend on the road, the amount of product sitting in a warehouse, the obstacles and stress people need to overcome in order to do their jobs well, and more.
  5. Laugh out loud (LOL) more. Business-to-business (B2B) social is expanding rapidly, even in supply chain management, improving communication and collaboration among supply chain trading partners. It is an invaluable tool to help identify new innovations, understand market trends, learn evolving practices and more. Even sharing LOL moments with each other will strengthen a company’s immune system, boost energy, protect businesses from stress, etc.
  6. Exceed contributions to sustainability. By eliminating paper-based processes with order and invoice automation, companies lower energy usage, save trees and water, and lessen greenhouse gas emissions. Collaborating with carriers in a business network allows a company to leverage unused capacity, maximize loads, optimize modes and lower transportation resource allocation.
  7. Deliver differentiated customer service. Supply chain operating network ecosystems enable companies to speak the language of their individual customers, greatly improving customer service and satisfaction, while also providing the agility needed to keenly respond to ever-increasing customer demand fluctuations or supply risk.
  8. Make the impossible possible. It’s not uncommon for very smart people to spend months figuring out how to make complex business processes work best for them, and in the end, compromise often trumps the ideal. A business ecosystem makes what was the impossible now possible—with a business and its individual partners securing respective tailored processes—and it all fluently works together. 
  9. Eliminate waste and unnecessary costs. Partners running blind to each other’s operations are unable to sense and respond to potential disruptions throughout the supply chain, which can adversely affect inventory levels and working capital. Integrating partners across a business network eliminates these issues.
  10. Adopt an outside-in skillset. Adopting an outside-in supply chain is strategic, focuses on what matters to the customer and creates collaborative partnerships that derive real value over time. Companies need to be flexible to work with and meet trading partners on their terms, while still operating with their own ideal processes in place.

It is important to select a B2B network provider that is not only very active in your industry, but one that also has a demonstrable track record of delivering results for your industry. The effectiveness of any business network or ecosystem depends on the amount and quality of trading partners participating on the network. The more trading partners in your industry on the network, the better collaboration, communication and cost savings you will experience. In addition, it’s also important to consider the breadth of business processes supported, and the capabilities within the network to build and leverage the benefits of the ecosystem quickly and effectively with a critical mass of your trading partners.

Ed Rusch is the vice president of corporate marketing at Elemica, a supply chain operating network provider for the process industries.

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