A 21st century supply chain cannot be static. The pressures from changing regulations, supplier needs, world economic instability and natural disasters have led to a volatile and uncertain industry. While we are not able to predict every interruption and challenge, we must embrace a new business climate in which adaptability is not only a source of competitive advantage, it is core to the survival of a company.
But a company can’t just survive: It must thrive in this era of uncertainty. Simply reacting to changes in customer demand or market volatility without having the foundation of an adaptable and flexible supply chain may lead to profitability in the short-term, but it is not sustainable.
Tools for adaptability
To ensure an adaptable supply chain that supports these goals, you must be able to rapidly respond to sudden changes within internal and external supply sources. This requires creating processes and plans that have operational flexibility and an experienced team that can execute them. Often, this means a top-down commitment from supply chain managers and others. Developing consistent processes that can be applied to key supply chain activities ensure standardized operations at any location.
Technology also plays a huge role in building a flexible and adaptable supply chain. Adaptive supply chain technology can help you respond in near real-time without compromising operational efficiencies. For example, a solution that provides visibility across an extended supply chain — including visibility to orders, plans, supplies, inventory and shipments — is key to successfully coordinating events across a network. With technology like this, you can react more quickly to changes in demand or supply.
Building a strong foundation
At the core of any solution must be a warehouse management system (WMS) that is the foundation of best practices for receiving, put-away/flow-through, inventory management, order processing and more. In addition, you should have the ability to build your own company-specific businesses processes, particularly if you operate in a very tightly regulated or complex distribution environment. Some solutions even offer the flexibility of picking and choosing exactly which workflows you need to maximize efficiencies.
To provide maximum adaptability, a WMS should allow you to respond to changing needs quickly by easily deploying new functionality and the latest supply chain innovations. In this complex and fast-changing world, supply chain systems can’t wait for complicated and costly upgrades that require endless interdependent configuration switches and risky source code modifications. A WMS that is constantly updated and allows you to install only the features and functionality you need without excessive costs or disruptions opens up a whole new world of speed and efficiency.
Supply chains have never had to be faster, more accurate and more flexible. Leveraging the right technology to easily reconfigure them to meet current requirements and be ready for the future will separate the companies that are thriving from those that are simply surviving.
Chuck Fuerst is the director of product strategy at HighJump Software. He has more than 12 years of experience in the technology market, working for supply chain and ERP software companies to deliver innovative solutions. Chuck is responsible for monitoring supply chain industry and technology trends and identifying ways to enhance the value of products for HighJump’s customers. He holds a Bachelor degree in Marketing Management and Innovation from Concordia University.