Your Supply Chain: More than an Expense, a Competitive Advantage

Often, supply chains are viewed as an unavoidable expense in business—a drain rather than an advantage.

Yet, certain market changes have increased the number of companies that realize their supply chain can be so much more. In fact, a solid supply chain can be the advantage that sets you apart from competitors. In a global market, there’s almost always another company out there similar to yours—someone else with the same rates, same service, and same products. But the company that uses their supply chain strategically can stand out from the rest and win more business.

Why Are People Becoming More Strategic about Supply Chains?

This shift in thinking continues to advance for many reasons, including the progress of the logistics industry, the globalization of the market, and the recent economic recession. The past decade has seen the development of both strong educational programs and advanced technology for the logistics industry. This has led to more innovative talent and the technology to support strategic solutions. Add that to longer, less predictable lead times that span continents rather than regions and it’s easy to see why supply chains are in the spotlight. To top it all off, the recent economic recession has caused shrinking market share, less customer demand, and more pressure on overall budgets than ever. Companies are looking for change and more are turning to their supply chain. Smart businesses are moving beyond simple procurement to strategy and beyond price to relationships.

How Can You Develop a More Strategic Supply Chain?

Sometimes, these tight budgets have the opposite effect and cause companies to reject change for fear of the expense involved. The first obstacle many companies face is getting approval to integrate new processes. The easiest way to secure the support and backing to integrate change is to make your efforts and the end results measurable. Companies that are armed with the right data and a good managed program take supply chain changes and translate them to their balance sheet. So apply this practice to your business. Track how a change you implement affects your balance sheet, reduces cycle order time, improves cash flow, or impacts some other area of the business. Tracking these changes will not only help secure the support you need within your company, but will also translate to a visible advantage to customers—helping you win sales.

Once you secure the internal support to move ahead, it’s important to develop a strong foundation built on advanced technology. Investments in technology can drive a lot of change within your business—from reducing costs to controlling downstream processes like customer and order management. Even beyond those advantages, smart technology attracts better supply chain talent. The best and brightest individuals in today’s supply chain management programs are drawn to companies that are already doing the new, innovative, and cool things to their supply chain. Hiring quality talent is a way to keep the ball rolling, and foster continuous improvement for the long term.

While you may be able to become an expert at a few key areas of strategizing your supply chain—maybe you’re great at network modeling, or at less than truckload (LTL) consolidation—at some point you won’t be able to do it all. It’s a complex world out there and things are changing every day. If you truly want your supply chain to be that advantage that sets you apart, you’ll need help. In addition to expanding your capabilities, a provider can offer the investment in technology and talent so you don’t have to. With a provider who understands your business, you’ll get the built-in capacity to run models, to execute, to study your advantages—so you can focus on your customers and other revenue generating areas of your business.

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