In a fairly recent article from Supply Chain Brain, it has been reported that several companies have started initiatives meant to bring the advances of new supply chain technology to the farmers of the developing world.
The article highlights very hot-button issues, such as ethical sourcing, environmental impact and the need to support low-income farmers. However, it should also serve as an indication that even the smallest and simplest of supply chains are in dire need of better processes and tools.
From another angle, you could say that sourcing your local, family-owned farmer and operating out of a small stall at the strip mall is no longer justification for eschewing even the mere basic technologies that were once only utilized by larger enterprises.
In fact, there is already a steady rise of accessible supply chain tools for small businesses. The truth is that even the owners of the smallest, most localized establishment have a more extensive supply chain than they have ever realized in the past which they are suddenly recognising!
Now, it is perfectly understandable for smaller supply chain leaders to shy away from undertaking tech initiatives for fear of the cost, resource time and distraction. However, it is still important for them to come to grips with the unseen complexity of their local networks. There is nothing wrong with taking baby steps but the time to start taking those steps is now!
Fortunately, getting started can be quite easy (despite the myriad of offerings on the software market). It is all about understanding what you need most now and then map out the other needs in the long-term. Here are just some examples:
If you are having trouble tracking your supplies on a spreadsheet, then it is a sign that you need to graduate from using rudimentary record-keeping tools and switch to something more professional.
For instance, you could be struggling with a growing pile of unused raw materials that are creating waste. But with the right analytics tools, you can simply put the data of your daily operations and the resulting calculations will show that the waste is because the stockpile of the unused material is disproportionate to other components.
Don’t worry about needing to a hire a full-time analytics expert just yet, but you do need a means to organize the data of your supply chain and give you more accurate numbers. As the adage goes, numbers don’t lie but they can still be easily miscalculated and misunderstood if a lot of the processes you are using are still manual.
For this specific example you need to better understand exactly how much raw material your manufacturing process needs and when. Then armed with this information, you need to have a discussion with your purchasing officer about modifying this suppliers deliveries to better meet your needs and of course with this will come some other benefits like better accounts payable arrangements to better match your off-take of raw materials.
So you say you have a process but tend to just perform it through routine memorization instead of actually describing it in every detail to ‘keep things simple.’ Unfortunately, keeping it ‘simple’ is also keeping it ‘risky’ and very likely a lot of employers and business partners will have already found it frustrating that it is not so well-defined. In fact, your process can have its own set of deficiencies that you may not be aware of unless it has been compared to another process that is more standardized.
This is where process mapping tools come in. The very best ones are made with the input of supply chain experts based on many years of experience in a particular industry. Why spend too much time experimenting on a process just to re-invent the wheel? Start taking serious measures to formalize your process and map it out for others to better understand. If you dont have a mapped out process, a place that says, this is our starting point, how ever will you improve from there?
If your biggest problem comes from inconsistent and non-transparent delivery services, then you have to consider cost-effective measures for tracking. The initiatives for the small farmers, recall paddock to plate, as just one of the many that are striving to provide more transparency for smaller businesses.
One example is the use of blockchain, but there are plenty of others, to really reinforce transparency throughout the entire journey of your products and raw materials. Start looking to participate in networks that incorporate improved technology and bring more consistency to your supply chain.
As with a lot of enterprise tools of the previous age, a lot of major supply chain tools are already making their way into the hands of smaller business owners. Take advantage of these developments. There are plenty of tools available for smaller businesses, that are quick and easy to implement and will drive significant improvements in your business along with the value you deliver to customers without causing significant cost!