By Jeff Rosen, JS Rosen Consulting
When it comes to scaling high-growth businesses, there are many issues that are unique from a supply chain perspective. These can include: not having a stable supply-and-demand for your products or the right data, processes, tools or plans to help mitigate these issues, as well as frequently being tied to smaller or lower tier contract manufacturers and fabrication suppliers. Looking at large global corporations for supply chain strategies isn’t helpful as the scale of their leverage, resources and relationships far exceeds that of startup companies.
Today’s era of closed global borders and remote resource management further compounds these existing issues. Read on for some top areas you can focus on to help overcome these hurdles and build a successful supply chain.
Effectively managing your suppliers right now is more difficult, but far from impossible. You can protect yourself by putting financial oversight in place on your suppliers to ensure that their business is stable. Remote supply chain monitoring including more frequent updates on key risk areas is critical, as you will not be able to do it in person where these gaps are likely more readily visible. Proactively figuring out how to best negotiate in times of unpredictable volume and changes, in addition to taking a holistic look at your current partners and if you need to engage new ones, are also important steps you can take. Try not to default to previous modes of supplier management which may not necessarily work during these times.
Planning and Forecasting
During this time of uncertainty, you need to take a hard look at what the right data, tools and processes are to oversee product demand/supply planning, as well as the critical planning variables on which you should be focusing. More data may not be the right path; instead, performing faster iterations and shorter planning cycles with the ability to react quickly, will likely result in a better outcome.
Getting and Keeping the Right Team
Having the best supply chain team is critical to the success of your strategy. You need to look at what types of resources you need- whether full-time, part-time or contract – and how to source, vet and retain top talent. Other areas to consider are how COVID-19 is making most work remote and how you can best manage onboarding, and increase team motivation, collaboration and performance in these new environments. Employee engagement doesn’t stop at hiring, especially during these times.
New Product Introduction (NPI)
Working collaboratively with engineering and supplier partners on your product introduction is critical and even more challenging when team members may not be in the same location. Being flexible is key: investigate how you can proactively address engineering and supplier needs and requirements and how the plan and tasks may need to be adjusted accordingly. The NPI process may not be as rigorous as you would like in other times, but addressing risks and removing barriers is what will pull the team closer together.
Efficiency and Productivity
With workflow management becoming increasingly difficult, both internally and with suppliers, you need to figure out how you can best assign tasks and activities and effectively manage their execution and communication. Evaluating and adopting new processes and tools while considering the right scale and complexity and financial costs can be enormously helpful with this initiative, and significantly increase productivity.
In summary, having a flexible but optimized supply chain strategy that is adaptable and works for your business, not someone else’s, can take a tremendous burden off your resources. Ensuring that you have the time to focus on more business-critical activities such as competitive intelligence, keeping abreast of industry trends and developments, and new product innovation, will help you continue to gain an edge in the market.