A supply chain represents all the steps a company needs to take its product from supplier to customer. This integrates all business functions and activities into one cohesive model, allowing for fluid coordination between every department, from marketing to product design.
Formulating an optimized supply chain is vital for any retail startup. Breaking each phase down makes it easier for businesses to spot opportunities to save money, while consumers benefit from how much faster the resulting production cycle becomes. This is particularly valuable, considering how much customers appreciate fast service, and failure to comply could ruin a company’s reputation.
If you are a retailer looking to finetune your business strategies, paying closer attention to your supply chain could trigger significant improvements in productivity and revenue.
How does a supply chain work?
A basic supply chain can be split into three core elements:
- Supply: Obtaining the raw materials required to make the product, considering aspects like where they come from, and how long it takes them to reach where they’re next required.
- Manufacture: Assembling the raw materials needed to create the finished product.
- Distribution: Transporting the products through a network which could include warehouses, merchants and stores, with the aim of reaching the consumers.
The overall aim of a supply chain is to provide a product in appropriate quantity and quality but at the lowest possible cost. This requires careful coordination between all parties, preparing for any potential changes in supply and demand, and working to improve transportation wherever possible.
Some of the most important factors to consider include:
The journey of all parts of a product is key to success in any retail business, and need to be moved in a timely manner from one stage of the process to another. Regular quality checks should also be conducted at appropriate times, ensuring that the finished product is quickly delivered to meet customer needs.
Even a basic supply chain involves a large number of people, from suppliers and manufacturers to clients and those responsible for the transportation of goods. Establishing strong communication channels between everyone involved guarantees that each stage of the supply chain will flow and develops correctly.
As each stage of a supply chain depends on the prompt and successful completion of the one before it, a strict schedule is of the utmost importance. Creating deadlines before the process begins allows for every facet of the supply chain to be supported if anything is delayed.
Supply chains should also factor in a product’s performance once it has reached the customer. This means ensuring that they are completely satisfied with the service, coordinating repairs or replacements of any products, as per the warranty. Businesses benefit from being able to regularly conduct quality checks once their products have reached stores and consumers’ homes.
All financial elements, including inventory, accounts and bills, must be managed through a supply chain. Clearly defining each factor prevents any cash flow issues which could derail the rest of your business model.
All businesses must ensure that their supply chain is dynamic, and allows for a smooth transition of information from start to finish. It must also help maintain relationships with every person involved in the process for optimum effect.
Which tools will improve the supply chain?
Some of the biggest retailers such as Walmart and Home Depot dedicate huge departments to managing their supply chains. For smaller business owners, this may seem impossible to replicate, whether through a lack of tools, contacts, or budget. However, there are plenty of accessible resources that startups can turn to improve their own supply chain.
For instance, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems cover every aspect of business management by organizing data at a central location so it can be shared between various departments. This gives you real-time access to information regarding everything in the supply chain from products in the inventory to the availability of raw materials.
The most popular of these systems is SAP, which stands for Systems, Applications And Products, and guarantees up-to-date, accurate data that can be accessed across all departments of a business. This can lead to better management, increased productivity and fewer losses. Newcomers are recommended to reach out to SAP recruitment specialists, who can help businesses find a supply chain expert to join their team. Rather than outsourcing, hiring an in-house SAP specialist will mean there will always be someone on hand to provide in-depth advice and analysis.
Another useful tool is the Magaya Cargo System, which allows small and mid-sized businesses to manage cargo and freight operations between air, ocean, and ground shipper and carrier networks. This immediately generates all import and export shipping transactions and allows you to instantly print or email all documentation, create labels, and share data with US Customs. The system also lets customers track their goods online, which helps boost customer satisfaction by keeping them informed of where in the supply chain their orders currently are.
Meanwhile, Spendwise enables companies to track, manage and control spending by organizing orders, invoices and other bills and expenses. In addition to using the software to place orders, you can also create budgets, and formulate over 25 useful reports to help you keep on top of your finances. As a web-based platform, it can be accessed anywhere without installing any additional software.
It’s imperative that you prioritize your supply chain if you want to see continuous business growth. Formulating an optimal supply chain is no easy task and will take plenty of trial and error. However, there is no better use of your time and effort.