Five tips to streamline your supply chain

Analysing and streamlining the supply chain is one way to help companies respond more quickly to market changes while boosting operational efficiency.

Here are five simple steps that can result in more efficient, profitable and flexible operations.

1. Review and optimise supply chain processes
A high-level process review to document the business' current state, and identify ways to streamline supply chain operations is essential. The process of integrating supply chains can help pinpoint where problems are occurring along the process, enabling businesses to take surgical action and further reduce costs and pass savings along to their customers.

2. Integrate supply chain data from A to Z
Every transaction typically touches several systems including enterprise resource management system, sales forecasts, manufacturing resource planning systems and financial systems. In many cases, information also needs to be shared with parallel systems owned by customers, partners and suppliers.

Within medium and small business, data integration is traditionally done through file (i.e. xls) uploads, batch updates, manual updates or spreadsheet uploads. All of these processes are time consuming and error prone. By adding an integration layer, information flows can be automated, and shared more quickly and simply.

3. Eliminate duplicate data
When duplicate data entry processes are eliminated, labour hours and time are saved, and the resulting system is easier to maintain. With the advent of tablets and smartphones in the workplace, data entry can be done in the field, which speeds up information flows and improves customer service.

4. Leverage existing systems
Many in-house systems, developed over years, can be inflexible, complex, hard to use, and difficult to integrate with newer systems. But much of the data they collect can still be useful for planning and analysis. For example, a mobile supply chain can be developed using data from existing information systems.

5. Think ahead
Streamlining supply chains helps businesses look beyond tactical order fulfillment and gain a better understanding of future customer needs. Analysing and streamlining the supply chain is a learning process not just for improving product deliveries today, but also for improving customer service in the future.

Streamlining the global supply chain provides increased efficiencies throughout the entire product life cycle. By improving the accuracy of demand forecasts and schedules, optimising production lines and reducing costs companies are more flexible and profitable. Having a better understanding of supply chain processes and data is an essential first step required for successful optimisation.

Stephan Romeder is general manager at Magic Software Enterprises Europe

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