'Boost skills in the supply chain to improve your performance'

21 June 2016

Large companies can significantly improve performance across their supply chains by helping develop suppliers’ management and leadership skills, according to a report.

Construction, legal and manufacturing firms took part in a project by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

Small supply chain businesses were encouraged to improve their management and leadership capabilities through activities such as coaching and mentoring.

The project involved launching initiatives to improve management practices across firms, creating online leadership networks and workplace training.

One of the firms taking part in the project was Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which worked with a small number of suppliers to support the implementation of high performance working practices.

A self-auditing tool for suppliers helped to assess skills capability, identify management and leadership needs and tailor a development programme for each supplier.

The tool covered areas such as organisational culture and ethos, organisational capability, customer relations and high performance working practices.

Jon West, director of manufacturing HR and employee relations at JLR, said: “This project has made a significant contribution to our relationships with suppliers.”

Construction company Robert Woodhead wanted to develop a jargon-free training programme tailored to the needs of SMEs, based on skills gaps the firm had identified.

The firm’s “Good to Gold” programme conducted a needs analysis with around 100 suppliers.

Some 23 workshops were held for 85 businesses, including modules on health and safety leadership, construction industry best practice, financial awareness and efficient use of resources.

More than eight in 10 attendees said the training was responsible for a real improvement in their business performance.

Meanwhile, the University of Chester developed a research-based toolkit which combined theories of behaviour, psychology and management to address issues of communication and trust within purchasing organisations and their supply chains in the food industry.

Teams from two multi-national food and drink companies and 20 supply chain firms took part in joint training that was focused on resolving poor communications and inefficient ways of working.

Surveys showed increases in trust between and within teams and increased cooperation in the supply chain.

Overall the UKCES research found management and leadership skill development programmes, tailored to individual suppliers, were more effective than “one-size-fits-all” training.

Face-to-face contact with managers from the purchasing organisation was particularly useful for supply chain development.

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