Supply Chain StrategyThe supply chain is to business what the instruction manual is to consumers: a step-by-step system that ensures the fastest yet most thorough route to a perfect end result. Businesses that invest time and capital into their supply chains, whether for the processing of products or information, almost always reap a very satisfying and profitable return.

This guide highlights six of the best, most popular examples of supply chain strategies. From speed to flexibility, there’s a way to structure your system to achieve a desired result. If you want to test these methods before implementing them, check out this course on how to build a supply chain model in Microsoft Excel.

1. Prioritizing Efficiency

Almost everyone can agree that efficiency is a good thing. This supply chain is ideal when competition is intense, products are similar, and customers are confused. An efficient supply chain will give you the most important advantage: price.

A lower price will allow you to gain a competitive edge (read this blog post on 7 competitive positioning tips and strategies). But to take advantage of this edge, you need to base your production on accurate consumer forecasts, or else you will lose any gains in stagnant product.

Two things need to happen: you need to reduce cost through equipment efficiency and you need to sell everything you produce. Here are some tips to help get you there:

2. Prioritizing Speed

Speed is quite different from efficiency. With speed, businesses generally want to get short-term or short-lived products/novelties off the shelves as quickly as possible. Companies that profit from popular trends feel the need for speed. But it’s not easy constantly manufacturing new products at low prices.

The idea is to bring out products in one huge wave that is the perfect size for the demand. If you have to produce more product when the product is on the out, you’re going to incur more production costs and you might even miss out on a large chunk of business. Here are some ideas on how to shorten production time while lowering cost:

Fashion and retail are prime examples of markets that need speedy supply chains. Use this five star course to learn about supply chain management in retail.

3. Prioritizing Flow

By flow I mean “continuous flow.” This is one of the most popular models of all time. Basically, its ideal is a perfect balance between supply and demand. When a product is relatively stable, you want to be able to supply a “continuous flow” of product to consumers. This means you don’t have to ship a million pairs of Air Jordans to the biggest Foot-Locker outlet in the country and hope they sell in one weekend. Instead, you ship continuous, small batches of product that allow your clients to give you accurate feedback on what they need and what they use (plus it allows them to be more stable themselves, as they aren’t dealing with overwhelming amounts of inventory).

4. Prioritizing Athleticism

An athletic supply chain is ideal when your distribution centers each get a unique product. Many times this is a tricky business, as products are not even produced until they are ordered. Sure, it cuts down on wasted product, but man you’ve got to move like lightening when the orders start coming in.

Therefore you have to be athletic. You have to move gracefully and powerfully. This means that simultaneously you have to be able to produce more than you can ever anticipate, but also less than what is desired.

If you need help managing your inventory, pick up some free advice from this blog post on inventory management techniques and why they are important.

5. Prioritizing Customization

This is just like it sounds. Whereas an athletic supply chain can produce products on a made-to-order basis, customization requires an ability to produce (you guessed it) custom products. The obvious way to accomplish this is to design your products intelligently so that the customization process is as easy and stream-lined as possible.

Naturally, due to the ability of customers to customize their products, making predictions is all but impossible. Still, there is much that can be done to prioritize customization to be profitable.

One of the keys to getting ahead in customization, if you can manage it, is strategy analysis. Find out all there is to know with this master class featuring 30 tools for competitor, company and industry analysis.

6. Prioritizing Flexibility

As all of these strategies are somewhat self-explanatory in their general aims, then you have probably guessed that a flexible chain is designed to accommodate variations in demand, as well as long droughts in activity. One overcomes the droughts by evolving. One might even make a business of constantly designing new products in response to clients’ new problems. It’s all part of the circle of business life.

When problems need to be solved quickly, something changes: price no longer matters. This gives the supplier one advantage that many businesses would love to have. Still, you have to delivery, which means making your supply chain flexible.

Moving Forward

Now that you have a number of solid options to choose from, you need to do some serious thinking and figure out what is going to work best for you and your company. While some of these systems are complex, the key is to always tailor them to be as simple as possible. That’s a common theme. Get invaluable advice with this five star course on solving problems faster by using strategy theories. 

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