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Optimised Supply Chain Management: A Guide

By
Ashley Mooney
April 28, 2022

Optimised supply chain

Effective supply chain management (SCM) benefits both businesses and consumers. Proper management can promote the production of higher-quality products and speedier delivery. It helps refine commerce practices and boosts the economy. And with an understanding of how the supply chain works, and what is needed to manage it, companies can establish better business operations. 

The stronger a business's supply chain processes, the better the buying and fulfillment experience it can provide for customers. When companies have great communication and collaboration across their multienterprise supply chain network, they can fulfill orders faster, increase data accuracy, and adapt quickly to changing market conditions. 

If you want a refresher on supply chain management basics, keep reading. Or, you can skip right to our Tips for Optimising Supply Chain Management. 

What is Supply Chain Management?

Supply chain management (SCM) refers to the process of tracking, operating, and analysing supply chain channels, partners, and processes. SCM helps to optimise the various steps involved in getting a product made and distributed, which is especially crucial for enterprise companies and omnichannel sellers. After all, the larger and more expansive a business is, the more complicated the supply chain can become.  

In short, supply chain management is the art of keeping things running smoothly. 

 

Why is Supply Chain Management Important

Supply chain management is a crucial activity for most businesses. It is essential for a company's success, and impacts everything from product manufacturing on one end to buyers’ shopping and fulfillment experience at the other. A well-managed supply chain is more than an operational must—when fully optimised, it can drive higher profits and better customer satisfaction.  

Here are just a few reasons why strategic, well-thought out SCM processes are so important: 

 

Meet Customer Demand

To succeed in today’s competitive markets, businesses need to not only meet consumer demand, but also stay ahead of it. Well-managed supply chain operations can help: 

  • Anticipate correct product assortments and quantities for procurement/stocking based on customer behavior 

  • Reflect inventory accurately on store shelves or eCommerce product pages 

  • Provide updates on fulfillment to keep customers “in the know” 

  • Deliver the right products, right on time

Deliver on Customer Service

Imagine a pizza shop. Ideally, it should receive orders within minutes of a phone call or online order, make the pizza to the customers’ specifications, and make deliveries promptly. The customer expectation is 30 minutes or less, generally. If the pizza is two hours late due to poor communication between the steps in this “supply chain,” the customer ends up with cold pizza and a good incentive for a bad review. But a pizza that arrives within that 30-minute window with all the right toppings and still piping hot is the perfect recipe for creating a happy, returning customer. 

Customers today have high standards for their shopping experience, be they consumers or business buyers. They want a simple buying process, transparency from brands, and packages delivered when they expect them. Supply chain management enables all three. 

 

Control Operating Costs

Supply chain management plays a key role in reducing operating costs. By monitoring the supply chain, businesses can illuminate the areas where their operations could be more efficient. 

SCM can decrease costs for the following: 

  • Purchasing: Retailers rely on effective supply chains to move expensive inventories quickly to avoid the cost of holding products in stores and warehouses.  

  • Production: A stock shortage quickly adds up in lost sales opportunities, but excess stock can be just as expensive—not to mention wasteful. Monitoring the supply chain is especially crucial for optimising production processes. 

  • Transportation: Logistics costs are among the highest in the supply chain. Better SCM lets you make strategic logistics decisions that lower costs, like consolidating shipments, negotiating carrier rates, and more. 

  • Unseen Costs: Poor supply chain management can leave your business blind to costs caused by time-consuming manual processes (overhead), data errors (chargebacks), and more. 

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Steps in Supply Chain Management

Traditional systems involve the following five supply chain management process steps: 

  1. Planning: Before a business creates a product, it must plan and manage all the resources needed to meet its customer's demands and needs. In the planning phase, companies identify their goals and determine the metrics needed for measuring their supply chain's success. 

  1. Sourcing: The next step is finding suppliers. It is important for companies to establish processes for maintaining and monitoring relationships with suppliers when sourcing materials. Key processes in sourcing include placing and receiving orders in addition to managing inventory and authorising supplier payments. 

  1. Warehousing: Some businesses operate their own warehouses, while others use 3PLs, but all need to manage inventory storage within the supply chain. This includes transportation from manufacturing plants to warehouses, as well as inventory tracking within the warehouses. 

  1. Delivery and Logistics: After manufacturing products, companies must find ways to get them into the hands of their customers. They coordinate orders and schedule deliveries. Once the business receives orders and payments from its customers, it must figure out the best practices for delivering its products efficiently and cost-effectively.  

  1. Returns/Reverse Logistics: Another aspect of supply chain management is creating a network and procedure for addressing defective or unwanted products.  

Product manufacturers also need to account for product development and production as key steps in their supply chain. While downstream purchases inform brands on how much to produce, sourcing enables them to easily see how much they can produce with the resources they can access via suppliers. Plus, if there is a manufacturing boom or delay, it will inevitably impact all other points in the supply chain.  

 

Tips for Improving Supply Chain Management  

#1: Standarise Key Processes and Communication Methods

Standards govern how entities within a network complete a task, and organisations that use a set of predetermined standards for trading partner communication can drive efficiencies throughout the supply chain. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is a standardised communication method commonly used to enable trading partners to transact business messages like purchase orders, invoices, and Advanced Shipping Notices (ASNs), and delivers a range of business improvements – from cost savings to improved accuracy, and more.

#2:Integrate Channels for Better Visibility and Agility

Businesses can improve visibility and agility by unifying their selling channels within the same digital platform. The corporate landscape can change quickly, and supply chain agility can mitigate risk and increase the likelihood of success.

#3:Automate Where Possible to Save Time and Costs

With competition fiercer than ever, organisations need to ensure they can pass on savings to their customers. Automation enables businesses to cut costs and save time by accelerating manual, often error prone processes, and as a result, offer a more valuable service to their customers.

#4: Leverage Data to Make Strategic Decisions

Accuracy is vital to successful decision making. Organisations that can validate business decisions with data, stand the best chance of making the most efficient and accurate decisions based on their requirements.

#5: Review Your Supply Chain Strategy and Processes Regularly

The most successful supply chains are flexible and as a result, they need to be consistently reviewed. In business, guarantees are hard to come by, but regular supply chain reviews can insulate your business from risk and provide the best chance of success.

Stay Connected with TrueCommerce

Use this supply chain management guide to better understand how SCM works and benefits consumers and businesses alike. TrueCommerce makes streamlining your supply chain simple. 

TrueCommerce integrates all your business's connections and helps you manage them through a single suite of commerce services. We offer a powerful, cloud-based platform that has exceptional scalability. The integrated dashboards and alerts keep your team on top of critical processes in your supply chain. 

Interested in learning more about what TrueCommerce can do for your business? Contact us for more information today! 

About the Author: Ashley Mooney is an eLearning Specialist with more than 15 years of experience educating business users. Since joining TrueCommerce in 2013 as part of the Implementations team and then moving to the eLearning department, Ashley has helped numerous businesses navigate the complexities of EDI systems, giving them the tools they need for EDI success. Ashley lives outside of Pittsburgh, PA, and in her spare time enjoys singing, teaching piano, cheering on the Pittsburgh Penguins, and spending time with her son, Brandon. 

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