Between a global economy, regulatory uncertainty, and technological advances, it’s no wonder supply chain managers worry about keeping pace, managing cash flow, and meeting customer expectations.
We’re outlining six issues facing supply chain managers today. These are some of the most common, and they’re not going anywhere, despite advances in technology. Which of these impact your business and keep you awake at night?
Remember when you thumbed through a catalog, wrote out an order form, and mailed it in to buy something? Then, you waited for processing and shipping. Today, as consumers, we’ve gotten used to placing orders online, practically instantly, then waiting no more than a couple of days for our goods to arrive. With rising customer expectations, it’s getting harder and harder to produce what customers want, when they want it. That’s not all, though. We also have to get those materials or products delivered to the right location at the right time and in the right quantity. It sounds simple, but delivering superb customer service will always be an issue in a complicated system like a supply chain, no matter how much technology streamlines steps along the way.
In a similar vein, managing inventory is a balancing act. And it’s critical for both meeting customer expectations and controlling costs, which we’ll explore next. There are many inventory management models, but the crux of all of them is having enough materials on hand to avoid delays and meet expectations, but not so much that you’re faced with rising carrying costs or inventory loss or damage.
Managing operating costs is always a challenge, in part because we have so little influence over so many aspects of supply chains. Fluctuating fuel and transportation costs (especially on the heels of natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey), costs related to regulatory compliance, and commodity prices are all outside forces on our systems. Then, add in technology upgrades, training, and competing for skilled workers, and it quickly becomes clear that there’s a lot more to the equation than simply adding up your manufacturing, warehousing, and transportation expenses.
There are many kinds of risk to manage, and we cover some of them, like price and quality, in our blog, What is Supply Chain Risk?. Current events also give us some prime examples of the uncertainty we have to factor in, like Hurricane Harvey or the coast-to-coast solar eclipse, that clog roadways, shut down suppliers, halt deliveries, and drive up the cost of fuel.
Supplier risk is always a factor, too. We have to consider how many and which suppliers to use, how to manage those relationships, and what to do if one of them experiences a shortage, shutdown, or bankruptcy.
Finally, cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important, as we digitize more and more of our processes. It’s especially important as we look to the Internet of Things to coordinate systems and share data with suppliers and partners.
It takes people: trained, talented people, who are qualified to work along your supply chain. Our jobs today look quite different than they did even twenty years ago, and that’s sure to be true again another decade from now. This risk alone, a lack of qualified workers, may be cause for outsourcing some of your supply chain. (Related: 3 Benefits of Outsourcing Your Supply Chain)
The global economy has many benefits but also introduces new areas of concern, like customs issues, regulatory compliance, import/export taxes, and uncertainty about product safety and quality. The recent eclipse is an example of this issue of product quality and safety. People across the nation bought eclipse glasses labeled by overseas manufacturers as “ISO certified,” only to get late notice that products had not, in fact, undergone the required testing to earn that certification. Differences in international safety and quality standards can require additional time and expense for verifying compliance with our nation’s, or your company’s, standards.
Supply chains are becoming increasingly complex, and many factors come into play that are beyond your control. Understanding the issues facing supply chain managers is a first step toward planning and improving your agility, and another way to solve these issues is to outsource elements of your supply chain to an expert, like Accuserv.
Contact us to see how our innovative supply chain solutions can benefit your business.