We have written about this topic before, but this is a subject that is able to be dug into with great depth—supply cha as a competitive advantage. Previously, we discussed this in more general terms. Supply chain can impact various groups, and companies can capitalize on that when they recognize opportunities to leverage their supply chain in new ways. Today, we wanted to focus on a very specific example, which is how supply chain can specifically impact product design to create a competitive advantage.
As always, defining who you are going to be working with can be one of the most crucial aspects of this process. We can assume that in new product design or redesign that marketing, sales, engineering, supply chain, manufacturing, and finance will be involved. Supply chain can impact all of these groups in the process in a number of ways. There are some of the obvious ways that supply chain is going to play a role such as network design (stocking locations), transportation lanes, purchasing of materials, scheduling production, and forecasting. These are going to be included regardless of how involved supply chain is integrated into the process assuming supply chain is already involved in the new product development plans.
However, further integration of the supply chain can reap major benefits. Given the current global environment, supply chains are going to be focused on material availability rather than locking in on price as the key factor. Supply chain can help consult with the engineering group when designing a new product or reengineering to offer insight on the most volatile products. This comes with the added benefit on engineers understanding the supply environment if they are between a few components going into a product. Considering the difficulty with acquiring materials from abroad currently, this also opens the door to the conversation of localizing certain products or at least sourcing from a domestic source. This will also involve finances as costs will also play a role in determining if a material is feasible and what the final price of the product will need to be in order to be profitable.
Working with the manufacturing team can also had many benefits to the business. Scheduling will make sure the product is being produced, but supply chain can do more than schedule. One thought is to organize a kaizen event. This is where an individual identifies a problem and a group get together to work on resolving that problem or improving a process. Supply chain can work to help not only identify problems, but also help with the solution. Supply chain professionals are usually experienced in process mapping and time-studies. This allows for the supply chain to work to observe a process, map it out, and offer solutions to improve the process. This can either be in regard to reducing the time to complete a process or developing a better layout for a process. Safety can also be an important consideration for organizing a kaizen event.
Supply chain can be impactful in more ways than the standard purchasing and scheduling role. Corporations that recognize this ability will development a strong competitive advantage and a more robust product development process.
Do you have a story about how you leveraged supply chain as a competitive advantage and was able to impact product development?
Let us know in the comments!