Supply Chain Missteps

Enough with bad puns and trying to be clever. I’m not going to use the headline “Unlocking the Power” or talk about strengthening links or shedding shackles. The subject deserves seriousness.

A fact of supply chain management these days is this: Activities related to supply chain management aren’t what they could be—or should be—because most companies aren’t taking advantage of technology, cultivating relationships with their suppliers or infusing enough quality concepts into the process to keep things humming along.

Two surveys from earlier this year by Accenture seem to back this up. One survey reported more than 70% of the respondents thought supply chain technology was being underutilized and collaboration between companies and their customers on planning and forecasting could be improved.

As companies become more reliant on other organizations and reach around the world to form relationships, supply chains are being put to the test, another survey noted. The risk of supply chains snapping (perhaps under the pressure of untested processes, relationships or technologies) has forced more executives at U.S. companies (nearly two-thirds, according to the survey) to invest in backup plans to preserve some semblance of structure.

Three articles in this month’s issue of QP touch on technology, quality and partnerships as they relate to supply chain management.

Our first article, written by a study group at Pennsylvania State University, looked at the power of radio frequency identification and how companies could use this technology (and resulting data) to make better decisions and forecast production and distribution. But the data can be overwhelming if not analyzed correctly. Like many things, insight inside numbers can be easily lost—and spark more questions than answers—if you’re not careful.

In another article, Charles R. Matthews reminds us it’s sometimes easy to overlook quality management concepts and strategies when it comes to supply chain management. Companies and their suppliers need to be in sync on this subject to be as efficient as possible.

Our third article raises the question, “Are companies aligning with their suppliers in truly strategic partnerships?” Not always, Joel Ericson writes. He shows how a company can strengthen its command of its supply chain through the incoming product inspection process. This control can make a huge difference in the quality of suppliers.

The authors and surveys raise legitimate questions about supply chain management. And let’s face it, the ramifications can be serious—not just to one company, but to an industry sector, a slice of an economy or a geographic region. But the questions are being asked, and the discussions are happening. Not all is gloom and doom.

There are reasons to stay upbeat on some of these unchained maladies.

Rats. I held off as long as I could.


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