The past year has made the challenges of the supply chain process even more stark. From COVID-19, to new international regulations, and even a boat getting stuck in the Suez Canal, supply chains are as difficult to navigate as they have ever been. And this comes at a time when supply chains are often relying on even more specialized materials from global sources. When there is a small disruption somewhere, the effects are felt on supply chains everywhere.
To become more resilient and prepared to adapt to changing conditions, supply chain teams need to become operationally agile. By being able to flex and adapt to change, supply chain teams can much better weather any storm ahead and maintain operations in continually turbulent environments.
Here are three tips on how you can build an operationally agile organization for a more resilient supply chain.
Improve visibility across functions
One of the best ways to become more agile and flexible is to improve visibility across your entire organization. When more teams understand exactly what is happening, it’s easier to react when change strikes. Kevin Boyle, Director of Marketing and Demand Planning at Metro Industries, says that when information flows, lead times reduce.
“Supply chain can always see what’s coming down the pipeline, and because we can start planning for more complex orders earlier, we can offer customers shorter delivery times,” Kevin shared. “[This] makes it more likely that we’ll win the project.”
The impact is not just felt within one organization, as digital transformation expert Martin Weis from McKinsey points out. “This is what makes it tricky – it's not only you. It’s you and all your suppliers and customers and resellers, which are involved in the supply chain [as well].”
Spot and resolve issues quickly
Rapid issue resolution is another key to staying focused and improving your supply chain’s operational agility. By being able to minimize the impact of issues that crop up, organizations no longer have to devote resources to problems that become larger over time.
Rich Buckley, VP of Global Operations at Metso, worked with his team to build a proactive suite of apps that managed orders, engineering, and inventory that tied together multiple data streams and flagged issues as quickly as possible.
“Everyone should be able to look at the same view and see the latest status updates and who needs to take action next,” Rich said. This resulted in more efficient workflows and more collaborative work, with the ability to solve problems ASAP.
With a team that is equipped and empowered to solve the problems that they are closest to themselves, through a robust citizen development practice, you can ensure your organization can solve pressing issues as quickly as possible.
Better track and act on your data
When data is stuck in legacy systems or scattered across different spreadsheets, it is impossible to act on and utilize that data. In the supply chain world, that can cause a host of issues when trying to make informed decisions about logistics, inventory, sourcing and procurement, and purchasing patterns.
Uniting and activating data is vital to being ready for constant change. Kent Hultstrand, Director of Business Operations at Packerland Broadband, automated tracking, reporting, and trend analysis for all of their parts, from warehouses to trucks. Now, all of this critical data lives in one central hub - a model that some refer to as a supply chain control tower. Further, technicians in the field always have the parts they need to do their jobs, and the ordering process is much more streamlined.
“We also have better visibility into parts usage and can recognize expenses when parts are used versus when they leave the warehouse,” Kent added.
Data loses its value if it is not collected in a centralized location that is easy to access and analyze. Ensuring your data is actionable makes a major difference when trying to make informed decisions on inventory and purchasing patterns.