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Supply Chain superiority determines organizational competitiveness.  Some believe that supply chain superiority or excellence is achieved with the help of three elements; process, people and technology.  Another group would advocate continuous improvement, benchmarking and KPIs, and innovative thinking would lead to supply chain excellence.  Do you think these factors drive the excellence?  My answer would be, yes and no.  Yes because these are fundamental requirements of any supply chain but beyond these elements something else works behind the scene to improve your supply chain effectiveness.

In order to make all above mentioned factors to work effectively three factors are critical.  The first and foremost is Collaborative Relationships.  The other two factors are Trust and Commitment.  In my opinion supply chain is all about managing relationships, demonstrating trust in relationships and committing to the core objectives. Let me explain how my theory works.  The below given graphic would explain various supply chain relationships:

As you can see from the above graphic supply chain manages internal and external relationships with various agencies.  Supply Chain relationship with Sales and Marketing, Manufacturing, Logistics, and various Vendors will ensure that the right product is made available at the right time and place at the right cost.  Sales team relationships with agents, distributors, retailers and consumers will make organizations grow and become competitive.

People make things happen, technology give us the ability to establish supply chain visibility and the process drives the activities.  However, all these factors could function in a silo apporach and make supply chains fail.  What is required is an integrated approach and integration is possible by establishing trusting relationships.  Effective relationship management can provide a positive contribution to sustainable supply chain superiority and also help to satisfy stakeholder interests.

Many organizations end up with huge inventories and wrong product on shelf and mounting supply chain costs.  The main reason for this catastrophe is lack of trusting relationships among supply chain partners.  In my opinion all above are supply chain partners.  The partners could include internal members as well as external members.  What is evident is that supply chain fails if the partners working for individual benefits without a common goal.  Someone said, we all stumble, that’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.

Mutual trust was defined as “a shared belief that you can depend on each other to achieve a common purpose”.  Trust plays a crucial role in strengthening relationships and organisational changes and it is a critical component in building a collaborative relationship among supply chain partners. Trust creates an increase in openness among partners involved and it is perceived as a result of effective collaborative relationships and leading to higher levels of partner/customer satisfaction.  Trust is not gained in a day or two; trust is built up over a series of interpersonal encounters, in which the parties establish reciprocal obligations.

“An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises”. In order to turn your promises into performance you need commitment. The third ingredient for the supply chain success recipe is commitment; commitment means to show loyalty, duty or pledge to the core organizational values.  In a partnership commitment plays a vital role along with trust. Someone rightly said, “unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” Unless the supply chain partners are committed to a common goal which could deliver mutual benefits, it would be a challenge to establish a trusting and successful relationship.

According to a recent report from Boston-based AMR Research Inc., “companies that excel in supply-chain operations perform better in almost every financial measure of success. Where supply chain excellence improves demand-forecast accuracy, companies have a 5% higher profit margin, 15% less inventory, up to 17% stronger “perfect order” ratings, and 35% shorter cash-to-cash cycle times than their peers. Companies with higher perfect-order performance have higher earnings per share, a better return on assets, and higher profit margins — roughly 1% higher for every three percentage-point improvement in perfect orders”.  In order to achieve these two key measures (i.e. demand forecast accuracy and perfect order performance), committed collaborative and trusting relationships are crucial.

Hachiko – A Dog’s Story motivated me to write this article. This story is based on a true incident from Japan. This story is about the relationships, trust and commitment shown by a dog and also explains how invincible bonds form instantaneously in the most unlikely situations. We do not realize the value of relationships until reality bites.

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