Managing relationships with customers tops a recent survey highlighting the top trends in supply chain strategy. A recent post on the Supply Management blog outlines the study, which was conducted by the University of Tennessee and involved 163 professionals from 132 companies. It lists “game-changing” concepts that distributors can use to increase their competitiveness.
Here’s a look at six key supply chain trends to watch.
- Managing relationships with customers: Top firms separate products and customers to create unique supply chain strategy solutions for individual clients. Ideally, the ERP system should be able to support processes that vary by the distribution channel and to segment customers into these defined channels.
- Collaboration: Working together with suppliers can yield significant results. There is incredible value in developing a horizontally integrated supply chain. Supply chain executives need to become more strategic in their purchasing process and develop formalized purchase contracts that are embedded in the ERP system.
- Direct integration: Breaking down silos and integrating processes can lead to impressive achievements. This is one of the top demands from wholesale and retail distributors. They want one end-to-end solution for more efficient processes and more transparent information.
- Availability and accessibility of information: With the advent of Big Data and sophisticated analytics engines, a company cannot compete unless it’s using supply chain analytics to analyze the market data that is out there. This is especially true for any company that’s selling to consumers. They must monitor social media and proactively respond to positive and negative comments.
- Managing demand: Improving a company’s forecast accuracy results in increased revenue, reduced capital and lower costs. Better demand-forecasting engines, which require little business intelligence from the user and are relatively inexpensive, are a much better option than the cost of excessive inventory or the loss of sales due to inadequate stock. Forecasting tools are becoming easier to use, meaning more companies are using them to optimize their inventory and customer service levels.
- Virtual integration: Distributors should stay focused on their strengths and outsource other operations to top-of-the-line companies. This is very common in the age of Software as a Service (SaaS). Not only is software a service, but companies increasingly are virtual entities tying together a multitude of services — such as customer service and order fulfillment — using technology like web services.
Revisit these six trends regularly to stay up-to-date and craft a successful supply chain strategy in this quickly-changing business environment.
Source: Supply Management, July 2013