The notion of the supply chain is based on the metaphor of links in a chain. Where the bonds are tightest, the chain will not break. And a weak link can cause the chain to collapse completely.
This was never more apparent than recently. When supermarket shelves were empty, Wetherspoon’s ran out of beer and Nando’s had no chicken, it was apparent that there were significant supply chain issues.
Whether caused by panic buying, a shortage of delivery drivers or new importation requirements, these problems impacted suppliers’ revenue and damaged their reputations.
By forging strong partnerships with others in your supply chain, you can mitigate any supply chain issues, reduce the likelihood of serious effects and ensure timely delivery of your goods for your customers.
Both Horizontal and Vertical Supply Chain Collaboration
Typically, distributors will consider working with vertical supply chain partners. That is, those providers that are upwards in the supply chain – their suppliers of either raw materials, components or finished goods.
Working within this linear supply chain comes naturally as the relationships already exist. But there is also horizontal collaboration to consider. This is where companies at the same level of the supply chain work together. It may be that they join forces to work with the same supplier – perhaps sharing the delivery burden, for example.
This sort of partnership takes more effort. You need to proactively identify the right businesses – who may be your competitors too – and reach out to them with your plans for how you can cooperate.
Choosing partners comes down to consideration of which companies share your aspirations, as working with companies that have the same strategic goals is easier. You should also select potential partners based on mutual capabilities and the potential value gains that can be achieved.
Supply chain collaboration is never entirely straightforward, but the benefits are enormously valuable. Improving your bonds with supply chain partners strengthens the entire supply chain, bringing benefits for everyone from the raw materials suppliers, right through to the end consumer.
One of the benefits of integrating with your network of suppliers or customers is that you share information – and in real time.
For example, you can share stock situations with marketplaces like Amazon, eBay or Wayfair. And your suppliers can communicate delivery timescales and status more easily with you.
This produces a greater level of accuracy and transparency, which helps with mutual planning and more effective resolution of issues.
When you work with partners, you are collaborating and taking the time to understand their business. You are each able to standardise working practices and the result is a more harmonious working relationship. Cooperation improves and the resulting outputs across that part of the supply chain come with a higher degree of quality.
When there are multiple stakeholders, each drives the other to meet higher standards – whether that be working practices or ethical and environmental standards.
Improved Cash Flow
Working more closely with your partners always makes for stronger relationships. With close contacts in each company, your staff build a strong network and the payment flows are more reliable and swifter. This ensures that your customers pay you on time, giving you more ready access to cash, if needed.
This works both ways in the supply chain – strengthening relationships with both customers and suppliers makes for a more robust supply chain for all, improving finances across the board.
When you connect your systems to other parties within your supply chain, you consolidate the flow of information.
You can share information such as invoices, receipts, purchase orders, sales orders and shipping notices.
This enhanced level of communication ensures transparency, strengthens relationships and automates processes for greater speed and accuracy.
With strong relationships, you build a more resilient supply chain that can better withstand pressures and has the agility to adjust to variations more easily.
The greater transparency and communication you have with your suppliers means you encounter fewer hold-ups, ensuring a smoother procurement process.
Longer term collaborations have the benefit of positively impacting your bottom line. Each party begins to understand the other’s way of working and begins to play better to their strengths. In turn, this reduces the amount of time you might spend negotiating or sorting out an issue. This saved time converts into cost savings.
By automating processes too, you significantly reduce the amount of time spent on manual document creation and handling. Instead of days, documents take seconds to transfer and ordering is instant, meaning you receive your goods more quickly. Payment and invoicing are accelerated too, reducing payment times.
NetSuite ERP is built for supply chain collaboration. It has automatic and immediate communication options and portal access to connect to your partners’ systems, allowing you to view and update order details and product information.
For more information or a demonstration of NetSuite’s supply chain collaboration capabilities, get in touch.