What comes to mind when you hear the word “synchronize?”
Do you think of a watch, with all its gears turning underneath the surface? Music? Your favorite sports team?
Do you think of your business’s supply chain?
If not, that might be a problem for you.
Just like every gear and cog of a watch has to work in harmony for that watch to be able to tell time, your supply chain needs to be tightly synchronized to be effective. Imagine if one gear of a watch suddenly stopped turning. It would throw off the synchronization of the entire structure and eventually, the other gears would stop or would become ineffective.
Supply chains work the same way. If one link in your chain fails, errors will occur and those errors could cost you customers.
But a supply chain is a vast, complex process, often spanning the country or even the globe. How can you make sure that everything is in sync every time?
It’s a tricky process, but here are some tips to help your supply chain run smoothly:
1. Visibility and Communication
Constant visibility is the key to synchronize your supply chain. Every person involved in creating the product and getting that product to the consumer needs to be aware of where the product is and where it will go next at all times. There should be quality checks done at certain points of the supply chain to ensure that the product is exactly where it needs to be before moving on to the next step. Keep your entire team posted about the process in real time, and you’ll be able to have confidence that the right product will reach the right customer on time.
Admitting error may be difficult, but visibility and communication are especially crucial in the instance of mistakes. If a mistake is made at any point in the process, everyone should be made aware so that it can be corrected. The last thing you want is to lose a customer because they were sent a wrong or damaged product or their product was lost in the mail. Mistakes are embarrassing, but they’re usually correctable, as long as there’s open communication which is why you need to synchronize.
2. Trust Your Data
Where do you get your data? It’s incredibly important to trust the data that informs your supply chain, or rather, to be certain that you have data you can trust. The best way to do this is to clearly define where your supply chain receives your data and make sure it’s the same source for everyone.
A centralized system of communication tends to work best for supply chains. Visibility may be key to the synchronization of the supply chain, but keeping everyone on the same page with trustworthy data is key to maintaining visibility.
3. Coordinate a Strong, Focused Team
While we’re on the subject of clearly defining the source of your information, let’s talk about clearly defining your team. Every part of your supply chain needs to have a clear, focused role. Too many hands in the same task will lead to inconsistency and errors, especially if part of your supply chain is overseas.
Similarly, having to micromanage every step of the process will only slow down your supply chain and lead to unhappy customers. You should have trusted manufacturers, data providers, delivery, and quality control, all of which are managed within themselves so that it’s easier to manage the whole.
4. Assess Success
Keep records and do assessments so that you know which parts of your supply chain work and which parts don’t. An end of the year or end of the quarter assessment is important, but it’s also important to measure your success as you go.
If there’s a weak link or a problem in your supply chain, you don’t want to wait until the end of the quarter to resolve that problem. The longer you wait, the more opportunity a little issue has to snowball into bigger issues.
5. Don’t Rush
It can be tempting, under pressure, to rush the supply chain by doing everything at once, but don’t do it. It’s nearly impossible to provide quality product and service while rushing the process, and in the end, you’ll lose more customers through errors than through taking the appropriate amount of time. This is not to say that you should leave your customer hanging.
Know your supply chain and know how long it will take you to go through the process. Be open and visible about the time the process will take from the placement of the order to the delivery. Once that’s done, just take it one step at a time and leave room for quality checks.
How do you synchronize your supply chain? You don’t put the whole thing on yourself.
At the end of the day, it comes down to having a team you can trust and communicating with each other every step of the way. That’s how you synchronize.