Top 4 tools in managing a growing supply chain

#SupplyFest: Growing Supply Chain tools, Mark Coxhead from Woodsford Tradebridge from Lyonsdown on Vimeo.




It was my pleasure to host a round table session at the 2014 Supply Fest conference on ‘Managing the Rapidly Growing Supply Chain’.

Sitting together with 8 supply chain leaders from organisations including McDonalds; Topshop ; Halfords; Kier Construction and Royal Dutch Shell, 4 key themes emerged.

1. Selecting the Right Suppliers

Selecting the right partners came top for our participants. All had formal supplier qualification processes in place with a strong focus on risk mitigation and for the retailers with suppliers in the Far East, naturally managing corporate reputation risks were high on the agenda. All companies carried out financial health checks of their suppliers, although despite this several had had suppliers either go to (or close to) the wall due to financial issues. Interestingly perhaps, despite the attempt to wrap supplier selection in ‘science’, many participants emphasised the importance of a trusting, personal relationship with potential suppliers….good news indeed for the salespeople out there!

2. Supplier Collaboration

Sharing information along supply chains with 3rd party suppliers was seen as critical, but also a severe challenge. Whilst well established supply chains might have made the investment in collaboration, this was less common (and more difficult) in rapidly growing supplier networks. Seems there is a great opportunity for the right collaboration tool in this space.

3. Agility and the ability to change rapidly

A key issue faced by all rapidly growing supply chains is the ability to react rapidly to demand. Whether caused by the TV ratings of this year’s Tour de France or the popularity of the summer burger promotion, building some kind of flexibility and adaptability into the supply chain was both a top priority and a challenge.

4. Managing the last mile of a Long Supply Chain

It was no longer moving goods around the world that was keeping our thought leaders awake; it seems this is ‘old hat’. Rather it is managing complex local deliveries; with smaller store footprints and omni channel sales strategies and their daily ‘click & collect’ deliveries that is now the biggest challenge.

In the end, sadly it seems that even for the best organisations there aren’t any silver bullets to be found in supply chain management, it is about ensuring continual incremental improvement. That is, hard work.


Mark Coxhead image
Mark Coxhead
Woodsford TradeBridge