Effective supply chain management is essential to managing customer expectations and aiding business growth. In our latest blog post we identify ways you can improve your supply chain management…

The modern business environment is constantly changing. It requires you to remain up to date with the latest legislation, regulatory requirements, changes in the market and technology in order to meet customer expectations – something we discussed here. Agility is key to stay ahead of the competition and creating an effective supply chain can help you achieve this.

Supply chain management is more than simply managing the cost of getting products to customers, it requires agility, strategy and innovation. It’s the systems a business uses, the technology and procedures that connect the supplier to a customer. An efficient supply chain should help you to save money, deliver to clients faster, shorten factory processing times, and improve inventory management.

Here are a few ways you can improve your supply chain…

Adopt an agile business strategy

It’s important for you to encourage change and accept new ways of working to ensure you can maintain your competitive advantage. As explained on McKinsey.com, “…the very best companies continue to evolve and reinvent their supply chains, even if they have already achieved a leading position in their industry. By doing so, they are able to manage risks; respond to changes in the economic, technological, and competitive environment; and exploit new opportunities more effectively than their competitors.”

Keep up to date with advances in technology

New technology has the potential to streamline business processes, increase productivity and ROI. For example, cloud technology is scalable and provides access to data from any location, which allows you to make strategic decisions based upon accurate, real-time data. This is vital when managing a supply chain. You need to keep your finger on the pulse in order to react to changes in the market, or issues with suppliers that may affect your ability to meet your customers’ demands. What’s more, since many SMBs have a limited budget, cloud is ideal, moving from large upfront CapEx into affordable OpEx, and with 48% of UK SMB’s expected to increase their spending on cloud this year, it’s worth considering to remain competitive.

Monitor inventory to improve your cash flow

Monitoring cash flow is important no matter what business you’re in, but when you have vast quantities of product and multiple suppliers, it’s imperative to ensure you monitor what you have in stock or on order. As explained on BusinessBee.com, “…companies must clearly understand how to pay suppliers and logistics companies, how often to pay them, payment tools, and any expenses that get passed to customers. Payment technology, in the context of supplier management, refers to equipment used to pay vendor bills, like point-of-sale machinery, the electronic pad the warehouse staff signs when receiving goods and shipment tracking software.”

Integrate your business systems

As we mentioned in our 2016 predictions, “Integration will be key in 2016. The ability to easily move between business systems and applications will drive the development of integrated CRM solutions. Front end and back office integration will also increase in-line with the demand to be able to predict what customers want and when…” Integrating your systems, workflows and processes will not only allow for collaboration, but significantly improve productivity. It can save vital time and money, minimising the amount of mistakes that often occur as a result of fragmented systems.

You could go one step further by replacing your existing systems with a single solution. For example, an industry specific ERP solutions with supply chain management functionality can easily integrate with existing systems to ensure you have a companywide solution that works seamlessly.

Utilise business intelligence tools

Discover buyer trends and focus on developing services and products your customers’ value by utilising business intelligence. Data analysis and reporting capabilities enable you to monitor performance, identify areas for improvement, allow you to react to disruptions in the market and maximise upon opportunities. As Accenture found, “Embedding big data analytics in operations leads to a 4.25x improvement in order-to-cycle delivery times, and a 2.6x improvement in supply chain efficiency of 10% or greater. Accenture found that embedding big data into supply chain operations accelerates supply chain processes a minimum of 1.3x over using big data on an ad hoc basis.”

Identify innovative partners

It’s important for your suppliers to work with you in developing new products and services, just as Chris Sawchuk, principal at The Hackett Group said, “Discover which suppliers possess capabilities you can tap into to help produce innovations in products, services or go-to-market strategies.” Having a supplier network will allow you to react to market trends and gain support from those who’re able to meet your needs along with your customer’s. Be sure to have a system in place to measure, improve and replace partners, as ultimately, the failure of a key supplier can impact your revenue, growth and reputation.

Trace and track

Effective management of your inventory will lead to faster deliveries, increased customer satisfaction and an increased ROI. By utilising new technology and gaining access to advanced reporting capabilities that provide actionable insights, you can optimise inventory management and distribute products based on real-time demand. As explained on Computerworld.com, “Traceability and recalls are by nature data-intensive. Big data has the potential to provide improved traceability performance; it can also reduce the thousands of hours involved with accessing, integrating, and managing product databases that capture products that should be recalled or retrofitted.”

Find out more about industry specific ERP solutions

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