One of my favorite supply chain topics to discuss is how supply chain can be more than simply getting one item to a particular location, but can also develop a competitive advantage for firms. The standard definition of supply chain focuses on the flow of products, information, materials, services, and payments. Executives can view supply chain as a competitive advantage within this context, but can dig deeper into how to create a strategic supply chain advantage.
Supply chain departments can play an even stronger role in a business as they couple with business partners to influence the organization more. This means the supply chain group of a company works collaboratively with product innovation/design, marketing, sales, finance, HR, and information technology. Working with all these various groups allows the supply chain team to have input on how they are able to help reduce costs or ease struggles in the business environment. A supply chain organization should also work to create valuable technology whether that be through alternative materials, innovative logistics processes, or reworking the network design.
Supply chains are intended to add value to a business rather than be a sunk cost for a business. The best supply chains in the world are able to reduce the cost of doing business and the variability of the business while also improving customer service. Supply chains can expand even further beyond partnering with the internal business groups by working with external business partners, such as suppliers and customers to understand and navigate challenges. This can lead to creative solutions that are favorable to both the company and their external business partners. Perhaps a supplier is having trouble getting space on a cargo ship to move materials to the United States from Asia. If the supply chain has more pull with the carriers, there may be an opportunity to work together to help alleviate the issue.
We want to challenge you this week rethink how you are working within your supply chain. Are you simply doing what is needed to move materials from point A to point B or are you adding further value to the business? There is never a better time than today to start to rethink and reshape how a company is approaching their strategic supply chain advantage considering the ever-growing business challenges on a day-to-day basis. Get creative, be a leader, and initiate change!