Supply Chain Optimization: Everything that you need to know

Marketing Team
Published on January 5, 2022

The entire process of getting things from the manufacturer to the final client is referred to as the supply chain. This procedure can be optimized to run at maximum efficiency. This is determined using key performance metrics such as total operating expenses and gross margin return on invested inventory. The goal is to provide items to clients at the lowest total cost while maintaining a strong profit margin. Managers must balance manufacturing, inventory, transportation, fulfillment, and customer service requirements to achieve these objectives. Given the complexities involved, supply chain optimization is a marathon, not a sprint, for commercial activity. The supply chain arrangement that now provides the optimal cost-to-service ratio may change in the future. This could be due to material pricing fluctuations, carrier changes, client demographics, or other causes that necessitate constant monitoring.

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To improve efficiency and performance in a supply network, supply chain optimization makes the best use of technology and resources such as blockchain, AI, and IoT. The supply chain of a company is a fundamental business operation that ensures a positive client experience. Customers get what they want, when and when they want it, thanks to a high-performing supply chain that is both lucrative for the company and helps to supply chain sustainability. To better comprehend supply chain optimization, you must first grasp the three key phases of a supply chain: design, planning, and execution/operation.

  • Supply chain design: Upper management's strategic decisions, which are usually long-term and take into account future predictions. At this point, it's critical to research the market. An excellent example of a strategic decision would be the location of a warehouse.
  • Supply chain Planning: This phase is mainly focused on market demand and supply, necessitating thorough market research. However, it's just as crucial to analyze competitors' demand-response techniques.
  • Supply Chain Execution/Operation: The implementation of product flow throughout the whole supply chain is the ultimate phase of supply chain operations. Internal and external operations should both be examined to optimize performance and effectiveness. This phase is concerned with everything from merchants acquiring products from manufacturers to brands making their products (which also includes steps such as assembling and product testing). It also focuses on last-mile logistics, such as receiving items for distribution to regional warehouses before sales.

When it comes to supply chain optimization, the goal should be to make it as customer-centric as possible. Customer-centric supply chains keep the eventual customer in mind at every step of the process, especially when selecting a supply chain strategy and a technology solution to improve business processes.

Best Practices for Supply Chain Optimization

When it comes to optimization, there are rarely simple solutions. The best responses require a detailed dive into a company's unique scenario, which includes suppliers, production, and customers. While there are some tried-and-true supply chain optimization strategies, there is no such thing as a "one-size-fits-all" approach to supply chain optimization. A strategic network analysis will enable you to examine a variety of parameters, including physical facilities and inventory, warehousing expenses, transportation and labor costs, and distribution networks. The supply chain optimization program would often use the company's data to construct several "what if" scenarios to find the most cost-effective ways for manufacturing and keeping inventory throughout the supply chain.

Understanding the most efficient inventory location in the supply chain is one of the goals of the optimization process. Manufacturing, shipping, and distribution costs are all included in this analysis. Because of greater forecasting or just-in-time manufacturing capabilities, your organization may be able to cut inventories. Examining the reasons for establishing and holding inventories under the current system is a common beginning point for the optimization process. Because of inconsistencies in transportation or unclear client demand, your company may believe it needs a large amount of safety stock. The optimization analysis can help your company find a balance between ordering small amounts regularly and ordering large quantities infrequently. Ordering too frequently can result in greater transportation expenses while ordering in big numbers might lead to excessive inventory costs. The supply chain is no longer viewed as a collection of cost centers that support the company's core activity. The supply chain is becoming a major source of competitive advantage. To guarantee that the strategy is understood and implemented by all departments, cross-functional planning and communication are required, as well as executive-level ownership of the supply chain.

Supply Chain Optimization Techniques

You need a strategic evaluation of your supply chain network which will result in a set of plans for the business with a time horizon ranging from now to around five years. The business strategy, as well as the tactical and operational implementation of the optimization strategies, will be included in these plans. Of course, contingency measures should be in place in the event of an emergency, such as a shortage of materials or manpower. These plans will assist your firm in transitioning from a reactive to a proactive supply chain strategy seamlessly. You need not worry about your supply processes anymore.

Strategic Planning: This procedure establishes the company's overarching strategy for achieving its objectives. Inventory management, production, transportation, and distribution goals are established and linked with technology and customer service in this step. Management can assess organizational structures and potential investment areas at this level. Forecasting consumer demand to distribute resources throughout the supply chain should be part of the plan. This approach must be implemented by all departments. For example, if the strategy calls for buying lesser quantities of raw materials more frequently, the purchasing department shouldn't buy a year's supply to save money. Many businesses are finding that the rate of change is outpacing their ability to stay up. Adopting new or evolved business models necessitates a high degree of corporate agility as well as a willingness to change. Significant changes in an organization's structure and capabilities may have far-reaching cultural repercussions.

Tactical Planning: The tactical plan should last one to two years and allocate resources, including the staff, to support the long-term goal. The tactical plan should contain the timing of each stage, any required skills, and any capital requirements, such as extra warehouse space. Outside resources, such as consultants or service providers, should also be included in the plan.

Operational Planning: The strategy is translated into day-to-day actions such as policies, plans, and programs in this section. To increase operating efficiency, the plan assigns resources and measures performance. Operational planning comprises daily, weekly, or monthly actions to schedule and manage the daily routine of performing your business, depending on the activity.

Contingency Planning: The worst-case situations for your firm are covered in the contingency plan, such as severe weather, labor issues, and the loss of important suppliers and vendors. Any situation that could send shockwaves throughout your organization should be included in your contingency planning. The idea is to plan your answer before an event occurs, which will help you respond faster. Another goal is to keep internal and external interruptions to a minimum. Some incidents, such as transportation delays or material shortages, may occur daily, so your responses may already be well-honed.

What are the benefits of Supply Chain Optimization?

  • Cost reduction: A significant amount of expense can be eliminated from business operations through supply chain optimization. Processes that are redundant or ineffective can be discarded or automated. A focus can be made on achieving client requirements with precise, on-time deliveries. Supply chain cost optimization allows for the storage of less inventory, resulting in lower costs and fewer obsolete items in inventory. Furthermore, by streamlining the delivery process, transportation, and warehouse capacity, supply chain infrastructure expenses can be effectively handled.
  • Boost revenues and profitability: Supply chain optimization software provides visibility into all activities while also accelerating supply chain procedures. The customer is more involved in the process than ever before, and the customer benefits from a better experience. The correct orders are delivered on schedule, and the company is far more responsive to the needs of its customers. This shortens the cash-to-cash cycle (invoices get paid faster) and makes it much easier for clients to reorder and expand their business with you.
  • Improve supplier performance: Supply chain optimization software provides visibility into all activities while also accelerating supply chain procedures. The customer is more involved in the process than ever before, and the customer benefits from a better experience. The correct orders are delivered on schedule, and the company is far more responsive to the needs of its customers. This shortens the cash-to-cash cycle (invoices get paid faster) and makes it much easier for clients to reorder and expand their business with you.
  • Improved supply chain collaboration: You can facilitate cooperation and innovation with your ecosystem of suppliers, partners, and customers by consolidating your systems, vendors, and interfaces into a single, end-to-end supply chain optimization solution. This integrated team can make faster, wiser decisions and collaborate to ensure supply chain continuity and manage risks since everyone has access to the most up-to-date information.
  • Integrated supply chain management: Supply chain optimization software enables you to combine and manage all of your supply chain capabilities from a single location. You can learn about supply-chain visibility, sales forecasting, cash flow management, customer loyalty, on-time delivery, credit control, and minimum margin metrics, among other things. This end-to-end visibility and openness in the supply chain enable continuous improvement in operations and planning.
  • Improved Quality: The end-to-end production of a product, from raw materials to final customer delivery, is the focus of supply chain quality control. Quality can be embedded into each level of the supply chain using supply chain optimization approaches, to increase efficiency and minimize waste. This can help with supply chain planning optimization by ensuring that each stage of the process adheres to the quality standards and KPIs established for it.

Supply Chain Optimization past and future

 In the Internet-free world, the focus of supply chain optimization throughout the design phase was on lowering trucking costs, locating the warehouse, and ensuring inventory were in the right place at the right time. Because the world moved at a slower speed and change was more controllable, this worked. Artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have all changed the landscape. The needs of customers have changed. The question of sustainability is crucial. Real-time answers are required in supply chains.

Today, we live in a global network that is becoming increasingly complex and where things happen quickly. Exceptions for traffic, natural disasters, consumer complaints that result in image issues, and more. This causes a sense of unease. How do you deal with it? How do you make it easier for people to make decisions across the supply chain? The forecast can go awry no matter how well you plan. Even when conditions are less than ideal, supply chain optimization keeps supply networks on track. When a local labor supply is unexpectedly disrupted, when extreme weather events have an influence on distribution, or when a major medical catastrophe requires a corporation to reassess how it conducts business globally. Supply chain optimization keeps your operations running smoothly even when there are possible disruptions.

Technology is now used in supply chain optimization to enable enhanced exception management. It's essential if you want to stay competitive. Businesses have superior supply chain insight and real-time decision-making skills — not just within their own company, but throughout the full ecosystem of business partners. Another reason in supply chain optimization's progress is the shift toward business networks, which are communities of trading partners who collaborate and communicate on business processes that span several organizations and have a shared end-to-end emphasis.