The success of mid-market enterprises is fueled by efficient, integrated and aligned supply chain operations. However, with day-to-day distractions, leadership often has limited time and energy to seek and implement measures to enhance collaboration and productivity across departmental operations. 

To combat this challenge and gain a competitive advantage, mid-market companies should consider creating a supply chain evangelist – an individual responsible for coaching employees and helping departments across the organization prioritize and streamline the supply chain. In addition to implementing strategic alignment, the evangelist offers a clear and compelling vision for the entire supply chain strategy, explaining why change is important to the company and staff.

Many inventory professionals are so demand focused that they are not balancing supply, demand and finance in their operations. Too few owners and senior managers are asking tough questions of nor are asking for recommendations from inventory, purchasing and financial managers about how to improve their company’s inventory management approach. 

There are five critical steps your company needs to take when it comes to inventory management. 

Think of a warehouse as a living organism which is home to all the business processes that take place under its roof – from receipt of products and materials through storage, picking and packing, and then shipment to distribution centers or end customers. In order for the warehouse to fully function it needs real-time data to flow automatically and unimpeded to and from each of the business processes and then back into the central unified core of the warehouse management system (WMS).

Data is the lifeblood fueling the brain of the organism. Any obstacles in the flow of data lead to slowdowns in overall warehouse productivity and result in a less intelligent organism. Real-time data is the key to a smart warehouse – one where information about products, the status of customer orders and inventory levels can be used as the basis of informed decision-making and future planning. Those decisions and plans can then be revisited and adjusted any time there’s a significant change.

As businesses expand, a logical step for most is to manage growth through focused competencies that enable a company to scale by improving functional expertise. Many companies are structured on such competencies that span offices, including globally distributed capabilities. As companies look to implement omni-channel business models, they often opt to break down silos in their systems and organizational structure. But is that necessary to achieve collaboration? In a word, no.

It is true that functional specialization creates more “silos” for a company to manage. And unlike an assembly line, where pieces may move from one station to the next in a linear order, many departments have to work in unison where the workflow is part of the organizational network, not linear hand-offs. For example, manufacturing should be operating in conjunction with sales and marketing as they build out forecasts and manufacturing plans, and the information each provides often needs to be understood in real time. With distributed locations and personnel, it can be challenging to share data and content accurately and at the point of need across the various functional silos.

The saying goes that “one rotten apple spoils the barrel,” and in the food and beverage industry in particular, a mistake made by one supplier can negatively affect the entire brand or sometimes several brands. Recently, the food industry has been dealing with a less than ideal global economy, which has put enormous pressure on both manufacturers and suppliers to significantly reduce costs and streamline operational efficiencies. To tackle this issue and keep everyone happy, companies are beginning to purchase raw materials from global suppliers and are outsourcing their manufacturing processes to contracted vendors. Although this method certainly helps to lower overall costs, it also increases the risk of a mistake by severely muddling the visibility into the supply chain and production processes.

A wholesaler or distributor can have annual revenues of $10 million or more without having sound scalable accounting policies and practices. However, such companies are more prone to significant enterprise risks. 

Lack of timely, accurate financial statements hinders management’s ability to make good financial decisions. Errors or incidents of fraud can go undetected, tax overpayments can occur and high inventory carrying costs may not be evaluated. Amid due diligence, the lack of sound accounting practices may also cause potential investors or acquirers to move to the next opportunity. 

Sound, scalable accounting policies and practices provide a foundation that sustains growth and supports a wholesaler or distributor’s operational strengths. Establishing sound, scalable accounting policies and practices requires:

In recent years, the unprecedented access to information and the consumer’s thirst for knowledge have greatly influenced supply chain practices across many industries. The foodservice industry is particularly responding to a shift in information demand, as various trends like clean eating, gluten-free diets and special attention to food sourcing impact supply chain practices.  

To be able to respond to the needs of today’s consumers, wholesalers, distributors and other supply chain stakeholders are placing more emphasis on sharing as much information as possible about a product or ingredient, in a standardized format, updated in real time. This ensures their foodservice operator customers can display information on their menus, for example, with confidence. One of the first steps in fulfilling consumer expectations for accurate information is to focus on the quality of foundational product data, the extended product information – such as nutritional data, allergens, images pallet height, exact weight and portion sizes – and the processes that govern them to gain logistics efficiencies and increase sales. 

While innovation can be seen throughout the logistics industry, there are some sectors within the industry that still lag behind. For example, in freight forwarding, much of the scheduling of shipments and paperwork is still done by using traditional methods. Because of outdated technology in many sectors, the logistics industry has yet to reach its full potential. According to a survey by Penn State Professor C. John Langley Jr. with the consulting group Capgemini, 75 percent of shippers said the logistics industry could benefit from better technology. 

The good news is that current advances in technology are addressing many of these traditional problems.

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