Tips

Supply Chain and Logistics Process Mapping: Why and When to Do It

Supply Chain and Logistics Process Mapping: Why and When to Do It

If your company has ever hired a logistics consulting company (or any type of consulting firm for that matter), you may have noticed how keen their consultants are to carry out logistics process mapping at the start of a project. Rest assured, process mapping is not simply a way to earn some extra consulting revenue. There is a very good reason why supply chain or logistics process mapping is high on the list of consultants’ priorities— and why it should be high on yours too.   Why Consultants Love Logistics Process Mapping So why are consultants so enamoured with logistics process mapping? It’s simply because it’s a great way to learn about your business, as well as to gain knowledge crucial in solving the problem or issue at hand. During the time they spend mapping your processes, consultants come to understand how and why things currently work the way they do. It’s also an excellent opportunity to pinpoint possible bottlenecks and pain-points, which can then become the basis for improvement initiatives.   Why You Should Love Process Mapping Too Logistics process mapping is a very worthwhile exercise for your company to execute, regardless of whether you use consulting help or not. For one thing, creating and maintaining current process flow diagrams will save you some money if you should hire a consulting company in the future (since consultants can refer to your documentation instead of carrying out their own process mapping). For another … well, actually there are many other ways in which logistics process mapping can benefit your operation. For example: It makes process improvement projects a lot easier from the outset It can improve general process understanding across your organisation Process maps are invaluable for use in training activities, particularly when on-boarding new hires Process maps are also perfect for presenting key business processes to external stakeholders, suppliers, service providers, supply chain partners, and customers   When to Perform Logistics Process Mapping Given the advantages of a set of fully detailed process maps, there is really no bad time to map your “as-is” logistics processes. However, there are some situations in which it’s especially desirable for processes to be documented in a visual format. Here are some examples of just such a scenario: Internal Benchmarking: If you are benchmarking performance across a large logistics network, process mapping will make it easier to identify how and why some...

Read More

Supplier Days: A Great Way to Jump Start Supply Chain Collaboration

Supplier Days: A Great Way to Jump Start Supply Chain Collaboration

It’s also no secret that supply chain collaboration, while invaluable, is something easier said than done. If this is something your company is endeavouring to master, a great place to start is with your direct suppliers. One way to get the collaborative ball rolling with suppliers is to host a supplier day (or a series of them). Let’s take a look at how supplier days can work and the benefits to be obtained from using them to promote supply chain collaboration.   The Objective of Supplier Days The main purpose of a supplier day is to host representatives from your direct suppliers at your plant or distribution centre, inviting them to take part in a one-day program of collaborative activity. During that day, you will offer a tour of your facility and present some information about how your business and supply chain operates. The remaining slots on the schedule would allow for one-to-one (or team-to-team) discussions between your team members and those of each supplier, to generate ideas and begin formulating plans for ongoing collaborative initiatives. Ultimately, the goal of a supplier day is to jump start supply chain collaboration by cementing relationships between individuals and teams, and identifying ways in which collaborative efforts can deliver add value/reduce costs within your supply chain.   Maximising the Value of Supplier Days In order to get the best from a supplier day, activities should be carefully planned. Aside from promoting collaboration, you can derive extra value from the event by tapping into the knowledge of each supplier. There is no better time to do that than while providing a day’s hospitality and giving them a close-up insight into your operation. Try to steer clear of discussions about pricing, but instead focus on how each supplier can help you to reduce operational costs and/or improve your product and service quality. To aid this approach, it can be helpful to revisit your factory or DC floor with each supplier and let them see how their materials/products are used or how they flow through your facility.   Tips to Aid Supply Chain Collaboration With Supplier Days Remember that a supplier day should provide value for the companies that you invite as well as for your own organisation. The following tips will help you to plan supplier days in a way that actively encourages supply chain collaboration: Listen more than you talk: The focus for...

Read More

3 Steps to Keep Forced Labour Out of Your Supply Chain

3 Steps to Keep Forced Labour Out of Your Supply Chain

Australian fashion companies have been making the news lately, but not all of them in a good way. At least two luxury clothing brands were publicly criticised for their inability or unwillingness to disclose the sources of their products, leading to speculation that slavery or forced labour might be an issue within their supply chains.   Keep an Eye on the Neighbours Of course the problem of forced labour is an issue for supply chains everywhere in today’s global economy, but with Southeast Asia’s (home to Australia and New Zealand’s closest trading neighbours) notoriety as a hotbed of modern slavery, it behoves Australian retailers especially, to protect their reputations by ensuring product and material sources are squeaky clean, at least to the first two or three tiers of supply. That’s not necessarily an easy task, but it’s certainly possible, as companies like Cotton On and Kmart have demonstrated. If your organisation sources materials or products from overseas (or even if your first or second-tier suppliers do), the following steps are strongly recommended to safeguard its reputation in a society increasingly sensitive to human injustices. 1. Map All Supply Chain Sources It’s no longer OK to be satisfied that your direct suppliers claim no involvement with forced labour. The sensible—if onerous—thing to do is to map all your supply chain sources to at least two-levels deep, but ideally all the way back to the source of raw materials. 2. Assess The Risk Once you know the location of all material sources in your supply chain, you should base next steps on a risk assessment. The assessment itself should not prove too difficult. Quite simply, if your company is connected with suppliers in China, Southern Asia, or Central Africa, these will be your high-risk regions. 3. Audit all Your Known Suppliers This step can be expensive, but not as expensive as a loss of reputation might be if forced labour is discovered in your supply chain. An audit means someone—either from your company or appointed to act on its behalf—physically visits the suppliers to investigate working conditions and the employment status of their workers. A physical audit of suppliers is the only sure way to uncover forced labour or similar unethical practices. The alternative, should any of your suppliers be acting unethically, is to try and limit damage if the public eventually discovers the issue. Before discounting the expense of auditing...

Read More

What’s in Your Supply Chain Insurance Portfolio?

What’s in Your Supply Chain Insurance Portfolio?

The last few years have provided a number of opportunities (if that’s the best expression) to test what happens when disaster strikes at the heart of just one link in today’s convoluted supply chains. Flooding in Thailand, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and a number of other disasters left companies across the world struggling to make products available to their customers and remain profitable. With that in mind, does your company have adequate supply chain insurance to cover against all eventualities?   How Much Supply Chain Insurance is enough?   Of course there might always be circumstances in which insurance won’t protect your organisation. However, by taking steps to access the following four insurance types, you will at least be protected against the most likely scenarios: Cyber insurance: Who would have thought the day would come when supply chain insurance would be needed for electronic information? However, losing control of your ecommerce platform or your customers’ personal data can have effects just as damaging as physical losses. Cyber insurance has hence become an essential part of every supply chain insurance portfolio. First-party commercial property insurance: A good first-party commercial property insurance policy will cover your company against supply disruption resulting from loss or damage, not only to your own facilities, but also to those of upstream suppliers and downstream customers. Cargo insurance: Containers fall off ships all the time, truck hijackings and trailer thefts are commonplace. To make sure you can recover inventory losses resulting from such events, your supply chain insurance portfolio should certainly include cargo coverage. Trade disruption insurance: Neither first-party commercial property or cargo insurance will protect your organisation from a supply chain interruption caused by supplier bankruptcy, workers’ industrial action in the country of your supplier, or similar event; unless that event somehow results in suppliers’ property damage or the loss of goods-in-transit. Trade disruption insurance therefore, should be sought to plug the gaps left by the other two instruments.   Secure the Broadest Coverage When shopping around for the insurance products you need to cover your own company, it’s critical to try and secure policies that also protect you against events befalling first or second tier suppliers and customers, wherever they may be located. Supply chain insurance is not cheap and when things are peachy in your supply chain, it’s easy to wonder at the justification for premiums. It only takes one significant event...

Read More

5 Quick Tips for Handling Seasonal Supply Chain Peaks

5 Quick Tips for Handling Seasonal Supply Chain Peaks

There’s a “ber” in the month, which means that for some, the festive season has arrived. Certainly in supply chain circles, it’s time to start anticipating the seasonal uplift in throughput and making plans to meet the extra demand. If this will be your first Christmas in a supply chain management role or you just need some ideas to avoid being caught out by the seasonal flood of orders, the following five tips for handling seasonal supply chain peaks should help you to plan ahead more effectively.   1. Extend your DC storage boundaries   Exceeding the standard capacity of your warehouses or distribution centre is a common seasonal issue. That means it might be time to get inventive with your use of space in your facility. Can some products be stored outside of the warehouse in your yard? Is it practical to close off some aisles and use them for packing or other processing tasks? With a bit of forethought, it’s surprising how much you can increase available storage space.   2. Prepare quick-hit training programs for temporary staff   Work with your human resources team to develop an abbreviated training program to quickly bring seasonal workers up to speed with your workflows, site layout, safety code and common procedures. This will enable temps to ramp up quickly and deliver optimum productivity.   3. Plan appropriate tasks for temps   Try to divide the workload in your facility in a way that keeps the most critical and complex tasks in the hands of your permanent workforce. Simpler and less skill-intensive activities are the ones to farm out to temporary staff during seasonal supply chain peaks.   4. Shift your shifts around   Consider extending standard shifts by an hour or two per day for the peak season; add an extra day if you normally operate five or six days per week, or even introduce an extra shift on a daily basis.   5. Prepare to work with some Plan B service providers   You might need to work with some extra carriers or other service providers during seasonal supply chain peaks. Identify the providers you want to work with now, and test them with some work before demand dictates that you use them. These are just a few ways to help you meet the seasonal supply chain peak at Christmas time. Perhaps the most important thing to bear...

Read More

5 Tips for Selecting a Logistics Consulting Firm

5 Tips for Selecting a Logistics Consulting Firm

As you may be aware, a large part of what we do at Logistics Bureau Group is helping supply chain and logistics companies improve their business through our consulting services. That means that since The Logistics Bureau was launched back in 1997, we’ve had plenty of practice in understanding the customers who call on us for assistance.     As one who has made a career from matching consulting specialists to customers, I ought to be able to offer some guidance to you, the prospective customer; whether you are looking for a logistics consultant right now, or will be seeking one in the future. So here are five quick tips which, in my experience, will help you select a logistics consulting firm that fits well with your business and its project needs.   1. Practice due diligence and ask for a list of references, gather proof of technical qualifications and check that the prospect has worked on similar problems to the one you are trying to solve. 2. Look for a lead consultant who listens more than she talks. During your initial discussions, observe how well the consultant pays attention to what you and your colleagues have to say. It might be wise to think twice about engaging a consultant who wants to hear her own voice rather than yours. 3. Vet the consultant’s business plan thoroughly. Expect the plan to follow a clear methodology and to include milestones and quality control measures. 4. Assess the likelihood that the consulting team will accommodate your firm’s business culture. Some consulting organizations prefer to apply rigid industry standards, but in our experience, this only interferes with the customer relationship and hampers project progress. 5. Investigate the consultant’s approach to teamwork. When selecting a logistics consulting firm, you really can’t ask enough questions about teamwork and flexibility. The best partners will be those prepared to mentor and build rapport with your team, especially if you are engaging them for a major project that will require careful change management.   Consultants with the right qualities and the credentials to prove their worth might not come with a bargain basement price tag. But selecting a logistics consulting firm should be a process driven by the search for excellence, rather than one that laser-targets the lowest cost. If you keep these five tips in mind and consequently engage the right consulting company, you should find...

Read More