Supply Chain and the Meaning of Life
When you read the words “supply chain”, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? How would you define “supply chain” to someone who had never heard the term before? I think your answer to these questions actually reveals a lot more than you might think about your beliefs and views on supply chain… and my guess is that if you’re here, reading this blog post, then supply chain is something you are either interested in or practically involved in. So, let’s get to the bottom of what Supply Chain is really about.
When I think about Supply Chain, the imagery of a real, physical chain is what comes to mind. I see cold, hardened links of steel, seamlessly bound together creating a shared bond of immense strength. You might already be wondering where I’m going with this, but the analogy of a chain can take us deep into the keys of a strong and seamless supply chain if we are willing to descend further. Here are some other things about a chain that come to mind:
- A chain is one object, and cannot be separated or it is no longer a chain.
- If any single link in the chain is made of a different material and is not as strong as the rest, that will be the “breaking point” in the chain.
- The whole chain is always stronger than any individual link making up the chain.
- The difference between a chain and plain links of metal are the connectivity and seamless integration between each piece.
With all of this in mind, my belief is that closely and seamlessly connecting members of a supply chain is the most beneficial thing you can do to benefit the whole. Again, bringing members of a supply chain closer together in my opinion is more effective than strengthening any one individual member. Immense effort can be spent strengthening individual chains (i.e. supplier fill rate improvement, plant productivity and efficiency gains, increased forecasting accuracy, etc.) but without collaboration and integration amongst these pieces, you are never going to experience the true effect of a supply chain. Behind all of our factories, machines, products, strategies, and plans, the real value of the supply chain is hiding… human beings. If we want to get to the heart of supply chain, then we should be spending our time getting those human beings more connected, collaborating, and striving toward common goals. A seamless, integrated chain can only be formed when the voice behind each “link” decides to truly join together with the other links.
What does this mean practically for you or your business? What are some steps you can take to move towards a more integrated and strong supply chain?
1) Create steady rhythms of collaboration and communication between key partners in your supply chain. This could look like weekly PDCA calls, monthly supplier visits, or quarterly vision planning sessions with key supply chain partners. The key is to keep the open, honest conversation and collaboration going between all parties.
2) Identify processes or business functions where your most valuable resources (people) aren’t being empowered or connected to the rest of the chain. Break down barriers and allow them to collaborate-cross functionally.
3) Hire an expert to help! LeanCor Supply Chain Group excels at connecting members of existing supply chains and deepening their level of collaboration through a steady application of Lean concepts and practices. As a third party logistics provider, we are adept at helping you to leverage existing relationships and take your collaboration to deeper levels by integrating ourselves into your business, training your people, and helping to perfect your processes. We have a proven track record of results and can lead you or your business into a stronger and more complete supply chain. Feel free to contact us through the website for further details.
All of this talk on interdependency, shared vision, and common goals… it really starts speaking to deeper themes that go beyond the world of business. As humans, the things we pursue together will always be more lasting, beneficial, and rewarding than the accomplishments we achieve alone. I hope that this discussion is just a small step in deepening your belief in that concept. I also hope that your view on Supply Chain has been challenged for the better. If you are already on board with these concepts, then I hope this post has revitalized and encouraged you to keep moving forward. My challenge for you today is to get outside of your normal rhythms and try collaborating with your fellow links in the grand chain of life.
Written by Colin Willis, OPEX Team Leader at LeanCor
Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group
LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Google+