Strengthen Your Supply Chain

In yesterday’s blogologue I told you that your brand was a terrible thing to waste – and that the strength of your company’s brand ultimately lay in its supply chain, and not the latest fad dreamt up by your company’s marketing mogul. This means that, unfortunately, it’s up to you to protect the brand, and not the apathetic advertisers who lounge around all day being “creative“.

So how do you do that? The Industry article Strengthen Your Supply Chain that I referenced yesterday has some good starting points. It tells you to focus on five key elements that cover most of the basis. It’s key elements were:

  • traceability
    you should be able to track all products, components, and raw materials backwards and forwards through the manufacturing process
  • measurement
    basically, testing; identify the components and risk points (start with the hand-off points) and then have internal quality assurance personnel or an independent auditor test each component and at each risk point
  • certification
    certification programs set guidelines and involve an additional process of checks and balances: these usually fall into regulatory, industry self-regulation, and third-party certification
  • efficiency
    be sure to adopt a traceability and testing program that works with day-to-day supply chain operations
  • organizational buy-in
    successful supply chain management depends on the cooperation of employees at each and every level

To this I’d also add, at a minimum:

  • Visibility
    It’s important to not only know what goes into your products, but where each raw material, component, and product is at all times. Could they have been tampered with? And, if you are dealing with consumables, how long did they sit on the truck? Could they have gone bad?
  • Modeling
    In order to be sure you have the right process, including the right checks and balances, you need to be able to model the supply chain as it is, as it should be, identify the differences, identify what could go wrong, and insure an appropriate test is included for each hand-off point, risk, and exception.
  • Supplier Management
    You ned to insure that your suppliers understand the importance of the process, are following the process, and are reporting any and all problems that arise, including those that they are able to detect internally. (If too many problems arise internally, even if they are corrected before defective or contaminated goods are shipped, then they need help with their process as the risk of something slipping through the cracks is too great.)

Finally, I’d like to point out that as important as certification is, checking out the certifications is even more important. In some parts of the world, it’s quite easy to buy a faked certification document. Just because a new supplier sends you a certification document, that doesn’t mean they are actually certified. Be sure to check with the organization that issues the certification that the supplier in question was actually certified AND that the certification is still in effect. But don’t stop there – if the certification is one that is actually done by third parties, check out the reputation of the third party conducting the audits. Are there any complaints against them? If so, how many and how recent. In some places, it’s even easier to buy a successful audit then it is to buy a fake certification.