Supply Chains can be complex and tricky to manage. Managers are often focused on getting the job done and process excellence is usually not a top agenda item.
By keeping track of just 2 key drivers, managers can improve the performance of their supply chains to better serve their customers and beat their competition.
The two factors that are most important in driving supply chain excellence are Automation and Visibility. Automation can mean different things to different people. For sake of clarity, by automation I mean process automation and not the physical automation (conveyors). Process automation is becoming increasingly important because supply chains are becoming intricately complex and involve hundreds of manual tasks which can be time consuming and error prone.
In a business environment where workforce is limited, errors result into people being pulled from other jobs to get them fixed. An example is product recalls which usually requires massive manual effort. If the same process is automated then with little manual effort customers can be notified and specific products be pulled out from shelves.
Automation is even more important in B2B scenarios where an error in a purchase order can have a cascading impact on suppliers. Just exchanging electronic documents is not enough, as it is automating just a small (although important) part of the overall process. Adoption of a BPM (business process management) technology as part of larger integration effort can help automate majority of the critical process points.
Next critical factor is Visibility as it forms the basis for process improvement. Automation and Visibility in fact complement each other. Automation and integration helps you gain Visibility across systems and Visibility uncovers process issues which can be remediated by further automating the process. Supply Chain has hundreds of dots and integrating systems and automating processes across these dots is the most important single factor in achieving excellence.