Experts Show How to Revamp Supply Chain Organization

How to improve the efficiency of supply chain organization? Leading experts will tell you how to improve a team and create the positive changes that stick.

1. Ian King, Manufacturing Growth Lead at EEF, the Manufacturers’ Organisation

Given the global nature of many of today’s supply chains, understanding cultural differences can be key. Every nation has different practices and ways of behaviour - if we want a successful, well-oiled supply chain we need to tailor our systems and process to suit who we are doing business with.

Similarly, there can be various time zones involved. Try to take account of these when setting up real-time communications, such as teleconference calls. Also be realistic about response times to emails, no matter how urgent.

Finally, make sure you and everyone involved in the supply chain has a clear understanding of what it looks like – the countries, locations, companies, process times, lead times, logistics, paperwork requirements, customs procedures etc.

It pays to visit the whole supply chain, process map it in its entirety and publish to all involved. This will aid greater understanding, highlight areas of concern and possible improvements that could be made.

2. Lloyd Snowden, Partner at Oliver Wight EAME 

To stay on top in today’s complex and competitive business environment it is more important than ever for organisations to keep improving performance internally and to strive for business transformation. In order to achieve excellence in terms of change, businesses need to recognise that it is its people that are the key drivers in creating change. So for successful and sustained transformation, leaders need to address behaviour change concurrently with process improvement. 

Focusing more on people’s needs and building their body of knowledge about processes and their need to be “non-people dependent” enables the process to perform independently enabling people to make decisions. Making decisions builds importance and hence increases their energy for change.

People need to feel valued and if they do, change will be a simple process. Making roles and responsibilities clear, people will be enabled to act without having to constantly refer to management, thus allowing them to contribute through their own initiatives and ultimately drive change – thus transforming your business. 

3. William Pegg, Director, Synthesis Group

A few tricks to consider to lift the effectiveness of a supply chain team:

- Sponsorship: Support from the executive will open doors that otherwise will remain closed

- Brand and Credibility: every business, department and individual has a brand. More than reputation, a brand needs to be deliberately managed and promoted and it’s your credibility that will see this happen.

- It’s all in a name: Win respect from colleagues by pitching yourself as a peer - not a subservient service provider

- Understand wants vs needs. They are not the same.

- Supply chain professionals need to learn to have a greater focus their stakeholders rather than their process

- Communications should never be breaking news, only the public declaration of what’s been agreed in private.

4. Shani Atapattu, Vice President, Overseas Cargo Inc (ShipOCI)

Communication is key when looking to revamp supply chain organization. To improve coordination, it is important to really know each member of your team and how they will react to certain situations. With my team, they know that if there is a problem, I trust them to come to me with their best solution. Planning is the most important thing to keep in mind to improve efficiency. All employees should be cross-trained so they know how to accomplish multiple tasks without wasting time or getting stuck. Finally, in order to improve internal communication, I think it is important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. If there is problem, the best way to deal with it is to be direct and not sugar coat it. Employees should not be scared to come and discuss an issue, because the faster it is addressed, the faster it can be taken care of.

5. Michael Gravier, Associate Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Bryant University

Formulate a supply chain doctrine. Doctrine is powerful. It states a basic principle that guides your team. Doctrine informs each team member about how to solve problems while simultaneously empowering each team member. The lean movement provides an example of a well-formulated doctrine embodied in the “five principles of lean.” Most businesses have published principles or doctrine on ethics and general management, but lack operational doctrine.

Consider this a consensus-making exercise to do with your team. Most often when teams aren’t performing to full potential, the culprit is unstated or unclear expectations. Take the time to put together some guiding operational principles so that your team can make decisions without you, and this will free you up to focus your resources and experience on higher priorities. Be sure to have clear process indicators, and revisit the principles every year as part of regular training and to re-invigorate team motivation.