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Why Is It So Hard To Know When It’s Time To Upgrade Your Supply Chain?

Published:11/09/2020 | Posted by Christian Goulding, Patrick Whittaker and Thomas Zelaya

As advisors and consultants to various companies tackling all facets of supply chain and logistics solutions, we are constantly evaluating the viability of the strategy and processes that are in place, and if it provides the greatest operational advantage.  We are always working to offer hiring solutions that make a positive impact on an organization.  And in every discussion, we run into the same question, “How do I know when it’s time to upgrade our supply chain?”  To answer that question, let’s start with the basics.

What does “Supply Chain” really mean?

First, we must be on the same page when using terminology. The word Supply Chain can be used in many different ways depending on the company, industry, or individual. Supply Chain can be used as a broad term or to describe a different function. When looking up the word “supply chain”, an overwhelming number of definitions, strategies, and acronyms will appear. Which article about supply chain is correct? Are there truly this many strategies and models of supply chain?

To break it down into its most simplistic viewpoint, supply chain is a system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in supplying a product or service to a consumer. Logistics refers to the movement, storage, and flow of goods, services and information inside and outside the organization. How you structure your supply chain will ultimately dictate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your business.

With that being said, most of the foundational messages and strategies on the internet pertaining to supply chain are correct in theory. This is the case because the supply chain organizational structure, along with a company’s overall supply chain strategy varies depending on the size, scope and product/service offering(s).  Supply Chain execution is truly custom to the individual needs of every business, so every industry has a different supply chain, and there are various supply chain models a company will incorporate and layer into their organization.

If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It…Right?

There’s an adage, “Don’t fix what isn’t broke.” For many years this was how companies viewed their Supply Chain functions. As we’ve progressed through the digital age, and more and more students graduate with Supply Chain & Logistics degrees, we find new ways to cut costs, establish and measure KPI’s, help efficiencies or gaps, and provide better/faster service.  Many times, it’s done with new technologies, innovative solutions and software that enhance supply chain capabilities and forecasting.

The biggest fear for most is, “Will I still see ROI if I make changes?  Will it be worth the disruption?”  The answer is, YES!  But you have to be smart in how you approach it. We have seen companies invest in the wrong areas and end up burning lots of capital with few results.

Before making any major supply chain and logistics changes or implementations, you need be open to explore the following concepts:

  1. Does the current staff have the right expertise and background to manage a transition or do I need to find people who have previous success in this area to avoid mistakes that will cost time and money?
  2. You need to UPGRADE at the critical positions – identify and understand which hires have the most impact on the cost of doing business.
  3. Are you willing to hear and be open to fresh ideas and take new approaches to make your processes better?

Just because “it’s not broke” doesn’t mean there’s not a better way, or one that’s more cost-efficient. But you have to be willing to take the time to evaluate and hire those that will make the changes necessary for your business to not just “keep up” with the status quo, but move forward to embrace new solutions that create key competitive advantages in your industry. In this disruptive and uncertain landscape, can you afford not to make those changes?

Why Make Changes Now?

During 2020, we saw one of the biggest Supply Chain disruptions in history. In no other time has business supply chains been more impacted, while simultaneously becoming critical to allowing people to continue their daily lives. If you don’t believe me, think about how difficult it was to find toilet paper during the height of the COVID pandemic.

From the outside, it may appear this time of rapid change and turnaround is something new, but for the supply chain professional, change, adaptability, efficiency and  asking the question “how can we do this better?” is always a constant focus.  The major disruption seen in 2020 just made everyone ask that question at the exact same time.

We have learned that it’s imperative to embrace innovative approaches and solutions from programs like Six Sigma, Lean, Continuous Improvement, Operational Excellence, that allow companies that have wisely adopted them, the ability to adapt more effectively and quicker than those who did not have similar solutions in place.  More importantly, these applications have proven that the “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality does not work for the supply chain world. And in fact, getting caught in that comfort zone can create a dangerous mindset of resisting new and innovative ideas into the business, sometimes when they are needed most, or like in 2020, when you may have no other choice in order to survive.

The actions taken around continuous improvement naturally breed efficiency, but also develop crucial problem-solving capabilities, no matter what the situation.  Although chaotic by its very definition, disruption, when taken advantage of, can be a very good thing for an organization. We see this all the time with extremely successful global corporations, such as Amazon, Walmart, and McDonald’s, which have been able to quickly and effectively adapt to constant change around them, while seamlessly continuing to meet global demand.

The Supply Chain and Logistics team at StevenDouglas fulfills placements and implements hiring solutions across America.  You can reach out to us any time if you have questions about supply chain and logistics strategies for your organization, what applications may be best suited for your business, or need feedback on your supply chain model and options.

Article by Contributing Authors:

Christian Goulding, Director – Supply Chain Search, Atlanta – CGoulding@stevendouglas.com

Patrick Whittaker, Director – Supply Chain Search, Atlanta – PWhittaker@StevenDouglas.com

Thomas Zelaya, Director – Supply Chain Search, Chicago – TZelaya@stevendouglas.com

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About StevenDouglas: StevenDouglas, one of the nation’s leading Search and Interim Resource firms, is a recognized leader in identifying and providing access to top talent and executives for companies since 1984.

The firm has been connecting premier candidates to their client base that spans an array of high-demand disciplines, and a broad range of industries.  StevenDouglas is nationally known for search expertise in Finance & Accounting, Human Resource, Information Technology, Financial Services, Operations, Sales & Marketing, Legal, Risk & Compliance, Supply Chain & Logistics; As well as providing interim resources and staffing for Information Technology, Finance & Accounting, and Human Resources.

StevenDouglas supports companies at any phase, including start-ups, emerging middle-market, and Fortune 500 companies.  The firm also has established relationships and a successful track-record with private equity and venture capital firms, as well as family offices. It’s one of the fastest growing recruiting firms in the U.S. with locations across the country, including a presence in Latin America & Canada.

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