Improving Flexibility in the Supply Chain

With all the buzz around creating “Supply Chain Agility” lately, one would think there would be a myriad of ways to assess and measure related performance.

Yet if there are, the group gathered to discuss the topic at the recent F4SS Connect Event in St. Petersburg struggled to find the answers. All agreed the concept is an important one to the customer-supplier relationship, so why the disconnect?

Whether for speed to market, leveraging the scale of a third party manufacturer, or avoiding capital investment within the customer’s own operations, it seems that improved levels of agility are inherent deliverables of our industry. We just struggle to articulate it.

For suppliers, the ability to offer (and deliver) an enhanced level of agility will certainly position the organization well with potential customers. Most commonly, this is expressed in lower order-to-delivery lead-times, but there are other aspects to agility that could frame the total view. New product development cycles, low equipment lead-times, rapid access to capital, and clear business continuity plans are but a few.

Aside from the measures, the group also discussed impediments to agility. On a tactical level systems integration and the ability to view planning and scheduling information real time were often cited as challenges. Creating more direct links between the demand signals and the manufacturing plan would go a long way toward improving performance.

In the end, while none of the participants were measuring agility by name, we agreed most were working to improve it. An example – F4SS’s own Integrated Replenishment effort.

Conclusion: For those of us advocating the value of CM&P within customer organizations, those selling the benefits as a supplier, or those working on either side to continuously improve an existing relationship, a focus on agility is time well spent. Let’s not let those efforts go unnoticed!

Lauren Wilson