Whether you are an advocate of New Year’s resolutions or not, some quiet time over the holiday period presents an opportunity to reflect on the year past and to consider changes that you would like to make in the following 12 months. In the supply chain world, we are never short of a crisis to manage. We generally have a to-do list that exceeds the time and resources available.
With that context, the concept of a set of resolutions to prioritise items that may not make it to the top of a to-do list may indeed be appropriate.
To get you started I have a few suggestions on items that, if not already addressed – should be considered.
Make real progress on sustainability
Climate challenges are not going away. Whether it is for ethical, customer, regulatory, or financial reasons, supply chain leaders have a key leadership role to play in finding the appropriate responses. Challenge yourself and your team to:
- Understand what sustainability means for your company?
- Plan for how you can you become a leader rather than a follower in this space?
- How are you going to measure the baseline and the impact of plans?
- Start today with small projects that can have a measurable impact
- Commit to plans internally and with key external partners and stakeholders.
Don’t settle for better – push for optimal
Supply chains are operating in a challenging environment with pressures on input costs, labour availability, and capacity. Delivering improvements in this environment requires strategies beyond migrating to cheaper locations, negotiating better, and working harder. Every time we buy something, sell something, or move something, we leave a data trail. Mining that data provides the key to delivering step change improvements.
Use that data to challenge the limits of what can be achieved using optimisation techniques. It may be optimising inventory for service, optimising transport routes, product slotting in the warehouse, or pick methods. Whichever techniques, have your team explore (with help if needed 😉) what is possible when you solve for an optimised solution. The data points to the solution and creates the awareness of the scale of improvement that is available.
Pick at least one project with your team in early 2023 to prove out the capability.
Address Cyber Risk
After three years of managing through disruptions from pandemics, wars, logistics backlogs, energy, labour and input cost inflation – what else could possibly go wrong? Imagine going through all of those without the ability to turn on a computer. What if you are unable to access any of your core systems for a period of several weeks. Consider the risk to customer data. Imagine yourself drafting the communication to customers and suppliers that your systems and their data have been compromised.
Supply chain cyber attacks have been growing at an alarming rate. Even so, we do not hear the details of all of them. By any risk measure, cyber attacks have the potential to have a catastrophic impact on revenue, costs and reputation.
Do not put off the opportunity to engage with a specialist firm in this area. Having started on this journey with our own small business just over a year ago, we quickly discovered that we were potentially a lot more vulnerable than we realised and that a series of simple policy and infrastructure changes put us in a much more defensible position. This is an ongoing journey for us, but one where external expertise is essential.
Invest to upskill your team
The true strength of our supply chains comes from the quality and effectiveness of your supply chain teams. The decisions they take, the processes that they drive and the relationships that they nurture determine how successful your company will be.
One of the most important continuous improvement processes is the improvement and upskilling of your team. Too many times we focus on hiring well to fill key roles, but the real challenge is in creating a learning organisation where the team can grow and develop to meet future needs.
What structures have you created internally to effectively train and develop team members? Have you created career paths to encourage development across supply chain functions and structured feedback loops to highlight skill needs and gaps?
What external educational inputs have you enabled for your team? There is a myriad of external training options from short technical training programs to diploma, degree and masters programs that can be taken in conjunction with work. Do you encourage participation in industry groups, to visit other organisations and learn from their supply chains? Are you looking at assignments to work on key projects with external resources as learning opportunities for key personnel? Do you provide an environment where these external inputs and learnings are welcomed into everyday decisions for the benefit of the entire team?
One of the benefits of the holiday period is the chance to take a break, reflect on the year gone by, and prepare for the upcoming year. Take some time, if you can, to make room on that busy to-do list’ for actions that will improve the long term performance and health of the business.
We wish you all a peaceful and happy holiday and look forward to working with you to strive for better in 2023 and beyond.
Supply Chain Enabled