Supply Chain

Eight Tips to Optimize Your Supply Chain

If you work in procurement or sourcing, you’re likely to have heard the word supply chain thrown around quite a bit. However, not everyone in business knows what it means or why it’s so important – and that can be dangerous! A company’s supply chain refers to all of the activities involved in designing, producing, distributing, selling, and disposing of goods and services to customers. It includes all aspects of planning, procurement, production or manufacturing, supply management (inbound logistics), and delivery.


Recruitment is a big process, says sourcing company vice president Jeff Sewell. A lot of companies, just overlook it or they don’t think about it. The way you’re going to look at your business and where you want to be in five years, 10 years down the road; if you have somebody that isn’t thinking along those lines, then I don’t care how long they’ve been around your company, they probably aren’t right for it. To run a successful business, take time to train your new recruits. Train them on internal processes like expense reimbursements and maintaining proper inventory levels. Show them how to interact with customers and teach them what expectations are so that customers are always pleased with their experience.

Talent management

Keeping your talent management on track can be difficult. When you’re a small company, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. Keeping your talent management in-house as you grow keeps everything in one place and takes a load off of your shoulders. By putting all of these functions in-house, you’ll have more time to focus on building up your business. The truth is that only a certain percentage of candidates are going to be right for any given job—and it’s impossible for an outside agency to know what kind of perfect candidate might pop up when looking through their database or if they haven’t connected with them yet. The result?


Just like in a manufacturing facility, employees are key to making your supply chain run smoothly. And while you’re at it, make sure they have enough training and development programs in place so they can become well-rounded employees who are able to adapt and innovate when new processes arise. Consider investing in e-learning as a way of onboarding new talent—it not only helps facilitate communication but also ensures that company information is being transferred with greater consistency than before.


No matter how many tips and tricks you’ve mastered, it’s also important to seek outside help when building a new supply chain. Collaboration is key because there are certain things that no one can do as well as another company. For example, if you’re sourcing internationally or working with unusual materials, you will have no shortage of companies that specialize in what you need. A good rule of thumb: If your business is sourcing products from other businesses (i.e., a buyer), then consider hiring those China sourcing company to help out—they know their end of the market better than anyone else and can optimize your supply chain accordingly.

Lean production processes

In a business context, lean production processes are about using data and analytics to optimize internal operations like procurement and distribution. What’s important is making sure that both short-term and long-term decisions are being made rationally, as opposed to letting emotions or rigid thinking cloud your judgment. It might sound like a tall order, but it’s actually one of the simplest ways for an organization to operate more efficiently—after all, it doesn’t require people or infrastructure changes. All you need is software that can provide visibility into your operations and make smart recommendations based on real-time data inputs. This way, you can stay agile while managing risk.


Whether you’re a retailer or a manufacturer, efficient procurement is necessary for optimizing your supply chain. For instance, as a manufacturer, your procurement consulting firm may be in charge of manufacturing and delivering components (or an entire product) on time, at scale. As a retailer, you might be responsible for fulfilling orders from multiple suppliers—and making sure they all get delivered to customers on time and with consistent quality. To make sure your supply chain is operating as smoothly as possible, there are many elements of procurement that should be considered: inventory management; supplier relationship management; information systems management; materials handling processes; production planning and scheduling; demand forecasting; transportation planning, and logistics; warehousing management and control systems…all these things can have an impact on how efficiently your company operates!

Maintaining internal systems

Developing internal systems for managing your supply chain is a key part of maintaining a good workflow. You can start by organizing suppliers into different tiers and assigning each one an appropriate level of authority within your company. Some companies choose to give their suppliers as much freedom as possible, while others prefer a more restrictive process with additional auditing in place. You’ll want to carefully consider which approach works best for you and your suppliers when developing these internal systems.


Sometimes shipping costs can be so high that they completely wipe out profits. To ensure your profits don’t evaporate like water in a desert, you need to make sure your supply chain is optimized. There are plenty of things you can do, from negotiating with vendors and carriers to restructuring packaging and delivery times. These steps won’t cost you much time or money but will add up over time, helping you turn profit into something closer to gold than sand.

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