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10 ways to improve supply chain efficiency

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A recent survey has pinpointed ten game-changing supply chain trends that can help companies improve their operations. (Ferret readers can download the full report for free - see link at the end of this article.)

World-class companies need to revisit these trends on a regular basis to stay abreast in today’s dynamic and rapidly changing environment. Companies also must be open to considering new challenges, such as the application of business analytics to big data and cloud-based applications.

Companies surveyed ranged in size of revenue from US$75 million to US$500 million. Fifty-nine percent of the participants surveyed were manufacturers, 26 percent were retailers, and 14 percent were service providers.

The study highlights some of the latest trends that companies must consider as they look to the future.
 
The ten trends addressed in the survey are:

1. Customer relationship management
Leading companies are successfully segmenting their products and customers and developing tailored supply chain solutions for each segment. This approach allowed one firm to eliminate nearly half (48 percent) of its inventory while still improving on-shelf availability from 96 percent to nearly 100 percent.

2. Collaborative relationships
A win-win collaboration between supplier and customer may be rare, but it can produce amazing results. These collaborations should be built on a foundation of common metrics, shared benefits, and trust. OfficeMax collaborated with its supplier Avery Dennison to dramatically increase revenue by more than 22 percent, achieve product availability to more than 99 percent, significantly decrease inventory by 34 percent, and save more than $11 million in logistics costs.

3. Transformational strategy
Only 16 percent of firms have a documented multiyear supply chain strategy, yet developing these strategies can produce spectacular results. Whirlpool used a transformational strategy to deliver record-high service levels while decreasing inventory levels by over US$100 million and logistics costs by US$20 million.

4. Process integration
Of great concern to supply chain organizations is the functional silos that still exist and disrupt supply chain performance. One opportunity that can have tremendous impact is integrating purchasing and logistics. Although both functions are traditional supply chain functions, the research confirmed significant payback when these two areas align their objectives and operating plans.

5. Driver-based metrics
Simply changing the performance measurement and goal-setting system inside a firm can greatly enhance the overall performance of the supply chain. Procter & Gamble applied this concept and dramatically increased customer service levels, market share, and sales.

6. Information sharing and visibility
Firms are changing the game by sharing and linking together masses of information from multiple sources (also referred to as big data) and interpreting the data using business analytics expertise.

7. Demand management
No one buys a company’s stock because of the company’s ability to forecast. Yet increasing forecasting accuracy along with integrating the demand and supply functions across the supply chain can drive higher revenue, lower working capital, and decrease costs. Leading companies are leveraging big data and new approaches to better forecast demand.

8. Talent management
Talent management is the number one requirement for transforming a supply chain. Critical competencies in hiring top supply chain talent include global orientation, leadership and business skills, and technical savvy.

9. Virtual integration
One of the fundamentals of a great supply chain is for a company to stick to what it does well—its core competencies—and leave the rest to world-class service providers. When outsourcing, firms should create a win-win vested outsourcing framework with its service providers.

10. Value-based management
Supply chain excellence is the key to creating shareholder value. On average, the supply chain controls 100 percent of the inventory, manages 60 to 70 percent of cost of goods sold, and provides the foundation to generate revenue by delivering outstanding availability.

The Game-Changing Trends in Supply Chain survey was conducted by the University of Tennessee (UT) and sponsored by Ernst & Young. UT supply chain management faculty surveyed 163 supply chain professionals from 132 global companies to develop the list.

Download a free copy of the full survey. [Registration required.]

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