Ten strategies to develop a best-in-class supply chain

Jim Tompkins, president of supply chain consulting firm Tompkins Associates (www.tompkinsinc.com), offers these Top Ten strategies to achieve supply chain excellence. By following these strategies, according to Tompkins, you will be aware of coming trends and be able to choose the ones that best fit your company's goals and culture:

1. Educate. As a foundation to supply chain excellence, all departments within your link and all links in your supply chain must have a common understanding of the supply chain.

2. Benchmark. As a first step to identifying opportunities for supply chain improvements, understand how your performance compares to your competitors, to other industries, and to best-in-class.

3. Assessment. As a second step to identifying opportunities for supply chain improvements, understand the status of all departments within your link and all links in your supply chain as compared to the Six Levels of Supply Chain Excellence. This process includes:

  • Level I, Business as Usual — working hard to instill best practices in individual departments within your link.
  • Level II, Link Excellence — looking within your link for opportunities to remove boundaries between departments and pursue continuous improvements.
  • Level III, Visibility — turning the lights on outside your organization to see the information that needs to be shared with other members of your supply chain, revealing what is and isn't working.
  • Level IV, Collaboration — working with other suppliers, vendors and customers to maximize customer satisfaction and drive out costs throughout the chain.
  • Level V, Synthesis — synchronizing new ways of thinking and strategies to provide even greater cost reduction and enhanced customer satisfaction.
  • Level VI, Velocity — Reducing the lead-time to incorporate continuous improvements throughout the supply chain.

4. Prioritize. As a last step in identifying opportunities for supply chain improvements, use the information from your benchmark and assessment efforts to identify specific targets for supply chain enhancements. Do not take on more than you can accomplish, and establish momentum for results.

5. Weakest Link. Be aware that your weakest department within your link and the weakest link in your supply chain will drive performance. Your weakest link will not rise to the level of your strongest link — the opposite will occur.

6. Communicate. Communicate, and even over-communicate, with all involved in your supply chain so that everyone understands what, why, when, who and where. Let there be no surprises.

7. Partnerships. Only join with supply chain partners who are ready to partner. Working to establish a partnership with a link that has not achieved Level II Link Excellence will not net positive results.

8. Leadership. On each supply chain initiative, identify the proper skill sets required to lead the effort. Assure clarity of roles and responsibilities and cultural compatibility.

9. Core Competencies. Identify your core competencies and outsource the rest. Determine the unique business processes that make you successful, and then use a robust process to outsource other functions so that you are able to focus on core competencies.

10. Continuous Improvement. An ongoing process of continuous improvement for all core competencies and all outsourcing within your link, as well as all links within your supply chain, is required for you to pursue supply chain excellence. Never stop pushing for the next level of excellence.

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