Rapid or slow, or even delayed, time to market makes the difference between success or failure of your new products and/or services, and in turn your company.
There are many factors that impact time to market either positively or negatively. Some of these factors can be planned and controlled. Other factors are unplanned and the ability to recover from these quickly is most important.
Regardless, one of the functions that plays a preeminent role in terms of influencing time to market is Supply Chain. Here we discuss the many ways that Supply Chain can help, or hurt, your time to market performance.
With the design of any product or service it is necessary to establish viable and reliable sources of supply. That is the job of the Procurement team.
But more than just finding sources in response to demands from the R&D and Design teams, intelligent Procurement teams are also proactively searching for and qualifying sources in anticipation of future needs. Wisely chosen these suppliers will also serve as a source of competitive information and competitive advantage.
Additionally the qualification of suppliers, the negotiations, relationship building and ongoing management of suppliers ensures continuity of supply and the ability to rapidly respond to any problems and last minute changes in design.
Smart teams also establish alternate and dual sources of supply, further ensuring that there are contingency supply lines and capacity.
All of this not only accelerates time to market but ensures that any problems are dealt with quickly so as to mitigate any delays in getting to market.
If you don’t have all of the materials you need to make your products, and respond to customer demands, then you efforts to get to market will be delayed in the least and will fail in the extreme.
But it’s also more than just having sufficient inventory. The inventory you have must comply with all of your quality standards. Having bad and unusable inventory is just like having no inventory at all.
Notable as well is the fact that demand forecasting is notoriously inaccurate, particularly for new products with no prior history. This has an upside and a downside. If demand comes in higher than expected you will be caught without enough inventory and your rush to market will lead to unmet customer expectations. Conversely if demand fails to meet expectations you can be caught with a lot of inventory that is useless.
The balance is to design a Supply Chain in which your supplier order fulfillment lead times are as short as possible and in which the personalization points of any component materials and assemblies is delayed as long as possible in the cycle.
Sometimes this will mean positioning strategic inventories as close to the point of consumption as possible. In still other cases it will influence offshoring vs onshoring sourcing decisions. And in all cases it will mean keeping lead times and cycle times everywhere as short as possible so that your Supply Chain can respond to demand fluctuations quickly and efficiently.
Distribution Points and Channels
Getting materials from suppliers and getting products manufactured is only part of getting to market. Now you need to get product into your channels or into distribution centres, and at some point into the hands of your end customers.
I worked in one company which had only one centralized Distribution Centre serving the entire country. To get product from one coast to the other meant a delay in getting to market by the amount of time it took to get out of the DC and shipped across the country.
Alternatively think about the Amazon distribution model. With Distribution Centres located in all major cities they can get products into localized markets quicker than any of their competitors. They have created a time to market advantage that is difficult if not impossible for most others to match.
Now not everyone needs to put DCs everywhere across the country. It’s not feasible. Some may elect to leverage Amazon’s existing infrastructure using their Fulfillment By Amazon program. Still others will be able to utilize a series of retail outlets or work with other channel partners.
The key is to get product widely distributed in a uniform manner to establish time to market availability consistent with your broad based marketing campaign.
When you do go to market you must be able to respond rapidly.
For instance in ECommerce you must have inventory on hand so that when customers go to your website to place an order you can respond to any click with confirmation of product availability and a commitment on delivery.
Once an order is taken online your distribution network must be able to fulfill that order instantly. Where customers want same day delivery, and you have promised that level of service, your Supply Chain must respond flawlessly.
In one instance a team I was working with was able to create an industry leading “4 Minute Click to Ship” capability. That gave us a phenomenal competitive advantage.
Rapid time to market can be the difference as to whether your product or service succeeds or fails. It can be the difference between leading your competition or lagging your competition. And it can be the difference between company success or failure.
Supply Chain plays a definitive role in determining whether your time to market is shorter or longer or smooth sailing or problematic. In this article we’ve outlined several of the ways that Supply Chain influences, if not defines, time to market.
What other ways do you see where Supply Chain impacts time to market?