Businesses go through many stages. At inception, business might be simple and consist of serving only a few local customers. Then growth—perhaps from new customers or a new product—adds complexity. No matter what phase your business is at, from the most successful, legendary brand to a smaller, emerging one, every aspect of your business needs to help move your business forward to the next stage. This includes your supply chain.
So how do you know if your supply chain is helping or hindering you as you take your business to the next level? For a global supply chain, this question can be daunting. After all, there is a plethora of elements to consider. At a high level, you can get a decent idea about where your supply chain stands by asking four high level questions:
How efficient is your supply chain?
While some days it may seem like the business world’s mantra is “do more with less,” there’s a lot to be said for an efficient supply chain. Things to think about include how often you have to expedite shipments at the last minute, if your distribution centers make sense for your customer base, even how much time your people spend managing different parts of the process.
Is supply chain reliability a regular concern?
If you can’t depend on your supply chain to work as planned, it may be time to consider some changes. Many shippers immediately assume reliability issues fall on the carrier—and sometimes they do. But there are many other reasons a supply chain isn’t as stable as it could be.
Are you able to secure the capacity you need?
Often shippers that have the most issues in this area serve customers in rural locations or have highly volatile freight volumes. But that doesn’t mean other shippers are immune to capacity shifts. There’s a fine line between maintaining enough carrier relationships and too many carrier relationships. And to top it all off, it’s not always about the number of carriers you can call, sometimes it’s about the quality of the service those carriers provide.
Could your supply chain be more strategic?
This is a trick question. The answer is always going to be yes. Like many things in life, a strategic supply chain will be an ongoing journey that changes as your business changes. A supply chain decision made five years ago may not be what your business—or your customers—needs today. This is especially true with the fast pace of change our industry has seen through advancing technologies.
While this isn’t really a quiz, if you answered yes to more than one of these questions, chances are your supply chain isn’t acting as the competitive advantage it could be.
Mark Derks is currently director of global marketing for C.H. Robinson where he leads their marketing communications and brand management initiatives. His leadership responsibilities include marketing strategy, execution, and operations oversight for North America, South America, Europe, Asia, India and Australia. He has over 20 years of involvement in supply chain logistics and transportation. www.linkedin.com/in/markderks/