A quick guide for an optimal supply chain

A quick guide for an optimal supply chain

The supply chain is one of the most important functions of any organization. It doesn’t matter what your core business is, purchasing and delivering resources to your customers or your doorstep is inevitable in your daily operations. With the world filled with innovations and creative solutions, it’s important to carefully select those that will support your business.

And even though we see innovations at every turn, certain market disruptions can easily influence the whole supply chain and make it come to a stop. We’ve witnessed a ship stopping commodities transportation for days, we’ve seen product shortages that forced a national crisis, and companies face losses caused by the lack of parts needed for the end products.

The supply chain consists of multiple links that serve a distinct purpose. We can view it as a timeline or series of steps that need to be completed to get from point A to point B. Missing one step or facing errors in them could lead to breaking the whole chain. Consequently, other functions or operations will be impacted. This could lead to even bigger issues that will set back the company. The worst-case scenario is losing customers because of it or facing customer dissatisfaction. 

So, if the supply chain is looked at as a journey, the stops can be divided into these: the supplier, distribution center, factory, warehouse, sub-distribution or store, an end-buyer, with transportation or hauler in between each stop. Each of those has to be coordinated to have a smooth goods movement and continuous operations. No longer do companies rely strickly on paper manifests and manual coordination. Software solutions and ERP systems have been adapted to simplify the supply chain. But each company is different and they won’t have the same need for off-the-shelf solutions. Supply chains differ from business to business.

To understand this completely, we have to look at each link separately and why we decided to focus on each of them in our work. They all play a bigger role than we think. Without certain aspects of solutions, taking charge of the supply chain would prove to be more difficult.

It all starts with inputs

When you look at the production of inputs or resources needed for creating other products, you can not disregard the importance of getting the best quality and quantity. Your end-product will depend on them. That is why it is optimal having a solution that will keep track of the operations and inputs. Imagine having an operation where you produce thousands and thousands of units daily. Collecting and recording data on that takes time and could be error-prone if done manually. 

An operations monitoring platform is created to use data collected from production machines and various devices that measure input and output characteristics and quantity. It will keep track of the whole production cycle and show information on how each stage is performing. This allows users to see and anticipate errors in real-time, and it provides for better planning and decision-making. A system that collects and transforms raw data into insights and presets it in an easy-to-use platform is beneficial for producers and the next link in the chain.

If you as let’s say, a factory, need certain goods with certain characteristics, having access to information about input production could help you plan your production better and more efficiently. This is also about quality control. When there is a record of each input’s characteristics, you can guarantee the quality of your products and thus enhance customer satisfaction. Employing a predictive part of the solution will help producers see into the future and forecast what, how many, and with which attributes will be produced.

Let’s haul this thing

After having full control of input or resource production can you plan the next step – hauling. 

This might be the most important link in the supply chain cycle. It doesn’t matter that you have produced the best goods or that you have impeccable distribution centers or stores. If there is no optimal and efficient way of transporting goods from one stop to another, you will either face overstocking, backlogs, empty shelves, or worse, production delays. In the last couple of years, the market has witnessed how micro and macro market influences have shaped the hauling industry. Restrictions, tariffs, taxes, and political and economical influences have all formed how we transport goods. When you take into account energy prices, labor shortages, and labor prices, good and on-time transportation is hard to find. Especially if you are in need of perishable goods, you deeply rely on them to get to production on time. Speedy delivery is of the essence. 

For haulers, it is vital to load and unload goods quickly and precisely. Usually, there is some sort of paper manifests that go along with goods, such as delivery notes, packing lists, etc. The driver is responsible for those manifests as well as the goods he’s transporting. There are so many delays either in the warehouse or distribution centers when those paper manifests are not filled correctly, if a paper is missing, or if the system crashed. This can cause delays in hours. If the driver has been on the clock for longer periods, these issues can take up the time when he is allowed to drive. So many factors must be accounted for before any of the goods even arrive at the destination. For this reason, a transportation management solution was developed. 

It comes in the form of a mobile application that each driver keeps on his mobile device. Its purpose is to diminish the need for paper manifests and to minimize errors when filling out the relevant information about the goods. The driver can easily fill out the information about pick-up time, goods he’s transporting, number of pallets or other quantity measures, and information about his vehicle. Each piece of information that usually comes in paper forms, can be transferred into the application by sharing or scanning. This is beneficial if the goods have to be transferred from one driver to another since they won’t be required to fill out the same information multiple times. There is no way to lose important documentation since it is stored in the app that works even offline.

The application provides trackability, meaning that dispatchers and those who contracted haulers, can see when the goods have been picked up and how long will it take them to arrive at the destination. Following their route means that users can anticipate disruptions in it, and plan or adjust accordingly. The application can show if the delays have been caused on the warehouse’s or driver’s part. 

Only when this step has been fulfilled, can the goods come to the buyer’s warehouse and be put into production or sales.

Supply and demand match made in heaven

But, let’s also take a look at one department that needs to coordinate this all – procurement. They usually have a list of suppliers and haulers they use, but sometimes new ones have to be added because of various reasons. They either need to switch suppliers, buy goods they haven’t before, or find cheaper transportation. Production, sales, and market demands will shape procurement efforts. Often, finding the right supplier or hauler is daunting and takes valuable time. Procurers have to employ every resource to find the best ones and sometimes that means spending a lot of time on research. 

A supply and demand matching platform was developed to save time, ensure accurate data on commodities and help create contracts between suppliers, buyers, and haulers, all in one place. The system is created to serve three sides, where each one can coordinate the terms to their liking. Here, suppliers offer their goods with a certain price, quantity, and characteristics. It is almost like a marketplace that doesn’t require them to be physically there. Buyers can set their demands for the goods they need, like price and quantity. They get matched with suppliers that offer the same conditions and they can even negotiate the price. This allows for the transaction between two sides to go much quicker and more efficiently. They can create contracts on the spot and make arrangements that suit them both. Basically, with this, you schedule the goods movement and plan accordingly. Another benefit is that haulers are also present on this platform. They can offer their services for transport under their terms, and other participants can employ them to move the goods where they are needed.

Simplify supply chain management

Supply chain management is a fickle task. Covering each step requires careful planning. People involved in it have to understand company processes and operations that go from suppliers to the customer, from input to output. Attention to detail is necessary and often discrepancies can be missed when trying to get a hold of every single process. 

Businesses need the support technology offers. Software solutions can serve as guides through the supply chain and help in the optimization. They keep track of each link and segment so you don’t have to. It saves time, points out things you might miss, and allows you to concentrate efforts on much bigger things. Having a steady flow of goods will not only reduce costs but raise operational efficiency, and create products that will in the end amplify customer satisfaction.

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Valentina Dugan
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