Making changes to improve your supply chain can often seem complex and challenging. Taking a two-pronged approach – a broad view of the total supply chain while also identifying smaller, momentum generating wins – can simplify the path toward effective change.
Here are three ways to improve your supply chain.
1. Fully understand the root causes of problems before implementing solutions
When people come together to solve problems, they are often quick to offer solutions. Khaled Mabrouk, the founder of Sustainable Productivity Solutions, has worked with many growers and shippers in integrating front-line employees into the problem-solving process and provides his insight. "Most people start with solutions and just go and apply them," Mabrouk said.
"The reality is you should take time to understand the problem and collect a little bit of data, try to get at what is the root cause of the problem." Many leaders evaluate work after it has been completed, and provide employees feedback based on the quantity and quality of output. Mabrouk stresses the importance of observing the work while it is progress.
It may be possible to observe people who have a better technique that eliminates movements and speeds up the process. Such small innovations can be shared with others.
2. Encourage management development initiatives even when faced with lack of time and resources
The good news is that new technologies are increasingly scale-able and flexible. Small islands of automation, for example, in conjunction with the use of RPCs, can act to boost the storage capacity and order picking capabilities of existing distribution centers, while collaborative robots (cobots) and autonomous forklifts can work safely in a human environment to reduce worker travel time and staffing requirements.
In one real life example, the use of IFCO RPCs enabled SOK, Finland’s leading grocery retailer, to launch one of the world’s first automated warehouses for fresh fruit and vegetables. Automation projects are becoming increasingly popular for retailers looking to increase their competitive advantage.
3. Look for small wins before moving your entire supply chain in sustainability mode
Management and consulting firm Bain & Company writes, "if companies have learned anything from their efforts, it is that it takes a systematic approach and host of engaged participants—a village—all aligned and working together toward the same end goal of positive system changes". It takes trading partner and supplier collaboration to make definitive progress.
However, the firm notes that small steps such as product innovations or process improvements can help build momentum toward change. One area of collaborative, low hanging fruit is the introduction of IFCO RPCs, a simple step that can significantly, and provide momentum towards other wins.