An Introduction to Supply Chain Management
Supply chain management (SCM) is the management of a network of interconnected businesses involved in the ultimate provision of product and service packages required by end customers. Supply Chain Management spans all movement and storage of raw materials, work-in-process inventory, and finished goods from point of origin to point of consumption (supply chain).
A simple supply chain is made up of several elements that are linked by the movement of products along it. The supply chain starts and ends with the customer.
Customer: The customer starts the chain of events when they decide to purchase a product that has been offered for sale by a company. The customer contacts the sales department of the company, which enters the sales order for a specific quantity to be delivered on a specific date. If the product has to be manufactured, the sales order will include a requirement that needs to be fulfilled by the production facility.
Planning: The requirement triggered by the customer’s sales order will be combined with other orders. The planning department will create a production plan to produce the products to fulfill the customer’s orders. To manufacture the products the company will then have to purchase the raw materials needed.
Purchasing: The purchasing department receives a list of raw materials and services required by the production department to complete the customer’s orders. The purchasing department sends purchase orders to selected suppliers to deliver the necessary raw materials to the manufacturing site on the required date.
Inventory: The raw materials are received from the suppliers, checked for quality and accuracy and moved into the warehouse. The supplier will then send an invoice to the company for the items they delivered. The raw materials are stored until they are required by the production department.
Production: Based on a production plan, the raw materials are moved inventory to the production area. The finished products ordered by the customer are manufactured using the raw materials purchased from suppliers. After the items have been completed and tested, they are stored back in the warehouse prior to delivery to the customer.
Transportation: When the finished product arrives in the warehouse, the shipping department determines the most efficient method to ship the products so that they are delivered on or before the date specified by the customer. When the goods are received by the customer, the company will send an invoice for the delivered products.
Supply Chain Management
To ensure that the supply chain is operating as efficient as possible and generating the highest level of customer satisfaction at the lowest cost, companies have adopted Supply Chain Management processes and associated technology. Supply Chain Management has three levels of activities that different parts of the company will focus on: strategic; tactical; and operational.
Strategic: At this level, company management will be looking to high level strategic decisions concerning the whole organization, such as the size and location of manufacturing sites, partnerships with suppliers, products to be manufactured and sales markets:
Strategic network optimization, including the number, location, and size of warehousing, distribution centers, and facilities. Strategic partnerships with suppliers, distributors, and customers, creating communication channels for critical information and operational improvements such as cross docking, direct shipping, and third-party logistics. Product life cycle management so that new and existing products can be optimally integrated into the supply chain and capacity management activities. information technology infrastructure to support supply chain operations. Where-to-make and what-to-make-or-buy decisions. Aligning overall organizational strategy with supply strategy.
Tactical: Tactical decisions focus on adopting measures that will produce cost benefits such as using industry best practices, developing a purchasing strategy with favored suppliers, working with logistics companies to develop cost effect transportation and developing warehouse strategies to reduce the cost of storing inventory:
Sourcing contracts and other purchasing decisions. Production decisions, including contracting, scheduling, and planning process definition. Inventory decisions, including quantity, location, and quality of inventory. Transportation strategy, including frequency, routes, and contracting. Benchmarking of all operations against competitors and implementation of best practices throughout the enterprise. Milestone payments. Focus on customer demand.
Operational: Decisions at this level are made each day in businesses that affect how the products move along the supply chain. Operational decisions involve making schedule changes to production, purchasing agreements with suppliers, taking orders from customers and moving products in the warehouse:
Daily production and distribution planning, including all nodes in the supply chain. Production scheduling for each manufacturing facility in the supply chain (minute by minute). Demand planning and forecasting, coordinating the demand forecast of all customers and sharing the forecast with all suppliers. Sourcing planning, including current inventory and forecast demand, in collaboration with all suppliers. Inbound operations, including transportation from suppliers and receiving inventory. Production operations, including the consumption of materials and flow of finished goods. Outbound operations, including all fulfillment activities, warehousing and transportation to customers. Order promising, accounting for all constraints in the supply chain, including all suppliers, manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, and other customers.
Supply Chain Management Technology
Organizations increasingly find that they must rely on effective supply chains, or networks, to successfully compete in the global market and networked economy. In Peter Drucker’s (1998) new management paradigms, this concept of business relationships extends beyond traditional enterprise boundaries and seeks to organize entire business processes throughout a value chain of multiple companies.
If a company expects to achieve benefits from their supply chain management process, they will require some level of investment in technology. The backbone for many large companies has been the vastly expensive Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) suites, such as SAP and Oracle.
Since the wide adoption of Internet technologies, all businesses can take advantage of Web-based software and Internet communications. Instant communication between vendors and customers allows for timely updates of information, which is key in management of the supply chain.
Hitesh Patel is a Civil Servant.
A Registered Management of Risk Practitioner and a Full Member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (MCIPS).
Published several articles and working papers on the Foreign Currency Market, The International Financial System, the challanges of Globalisation and the International Political Economy.
Holder of several degrees: a MBA (from the University of Keele), post-graduate degrees in International Relations and International Political Economy (Cantab.), and other degrees in Business Management.