October 2021 | Commentary | The Lean Supply Chain

Supply-Side Accuracy and Timeliness in Volatile Times

Tags: Inventory Management, Labor Management, Technology

While improved demand accuracy in your supply chain is critical, it is equally important to have supply-side accuracy and timeliness, especially now. The disruption the pandemic caused for global supply chains is getting worse, creating shortages of consumer products and making it more expensive for companies to ship goods where they’re needed.

Paul A. Myerson, Instructor, Management and Decision Sciences, Monmouth University and author of books on Lean and the Supply Chain for McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Productivity Press, 732-441-3879

Today's long and complex supply chains—with their increased uncertainty due to the pandemic, and environmental and other disruptions—has increased the importance of knowing exactly what inventory you have, and where it is, in real time (or as close to it as you can get).

Supply-side accuracy and timeliness refers to the what, where, and when of materials and documents:

What—inventory control, orders, transfers.

Where—physical location…plant, warehouse, in-transit or customer.

When—timeliness of information.

People, Process, Technology

Where should you look to measure and improve supply-side accuracy?

On a strategic level, it is helpful to think in terms of "people, process, and technology" when analyzing potential business improvements.

People. Besides identifying, screening, and hiring the best talent, this goes largely to the topic of training once people are onboarded; this pertains to supply chain partners as well. Proper training—and re-training—helps to ensure that staff are correctly taught and understand the company's inventory control practices and procedures.

Training should be a continuous process in your business operations. Providing ongoing professional development opportunities allows staff to refresh their skills, to retrain, or to update their competencies and experience. As the saying goes, "We're are only as good as our people."

Process. Supply chain management, with all its various activities, is the basis of a well-functioning business and requires error-resistant processes. If you don't use best practices such as cycle counting to know how much inventory you have in facilities throughout your extended supply chain (including what inventory your carriers, suppliers, and your customers have), as well as accurate and timely paper and electronic order and other transactional documents, then you could be in real trouble.

Technology. Inventory and transportation management systems track the lifecycle and movement of stock as it comes and goes out of your business. Today's inventory and transportation management systems make it easier for you to track your inventory throughout the extended supply chain.

This gives the right people access to that inventory and enables you to have an accurate record of inventory movement throughout your supply chain, and get insight from inventory activity and history. Technology such as EDI, barcode scanning, and RFID helps to minimize errors and improve accuracy.

Having real-time inventory visibility up and down the supply chain gives you the additional benefit of anticipating issues before they become a crisis. A number of good cloud-based logistics execution platforms are designed just for this.

By focusing on supply-side accuracy and timeliness, you can cut down on unnecessary excess inventory and outages, and meet demand more precisely in this volatile environment.






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