Experts Show How to Revamp Supply Chain Organization

How to improve the efficiency of the supply chain organization? Leading experts will tell you how to build a team and create 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 behavior - 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 this 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, and highlight areas of concern and possible improvements that could be made.

2. Lloyd Snowden, Partner at Oliver Wight EAME 

To stay on top of today’s complex and competitive international business environment, it is more important than ever for organizations to keep improving performance internally and to strive for business transformation. In order to achieve excellence in terms of change, businesses need to recognize that it is their people that are the key drivers in creating change. So for successful and sustained transformation, leaders need to address behavior 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 projects and ultimately drive change – thus transforming your business. 

3. William Pegg, Director, Synthesis Group

A few tricks to consider lifting 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 on 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 a 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. Strategic 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 a problem, the best way to deal with it is to be direct and not sugarcoat it. Employees should not be scared to come and discuss and negotiate 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 manufacturing and six sigma movement provide an example of a well-formulated doctrine embodied in the “five principles of lean.” Most businesses have published principles or doctrines 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 has been unstated or unclear expectations. Take the time to put together some guiding operations management 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.

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Last review and update: July 5, 2022
About the Author and Editor:
Ben Benjabutr is the author and editor of Supply Chain Opz. He holds an M.Sc. in Logistics Management with 10+ years of experience. You can contact him via e-mail or Twitter.