Remembering our military supply chain

Arlington cemetary

Memorial Day in the US is a time for us Americans to remember those who gave and risked their lives for our freedoms.  In observance of Memorial Day, there will be no article, but instead a salute to the men and women gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Since this is a supply chain blog, I thought it was best to remember those in the military supply chain.  Logisticians do their best work behind the scenes and away from the battlefield but they play a vital role to the success on the battlefield.  Today my salute to them is remembering their work by posting my 5 favorite military logistics quotes:

“Gentlemen, the officer who doesn’t know his communications and supply as well as his tactics is totally useless.”
– Gen. George S. Patton, USA

“You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.” – General Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Forget logistics, you lose.”
– Lt. Gen. Fredrick Franks, USA, 7th Corps Commander, Desert Storm

“Logistics … as vital to military success as daily food is to daily work.”
– Capt. Alfred Thayer Mahan, Armaments and Arbitration, 1912

“Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.”
– Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Commandant of the Marine Corps) noted in 1980

Tank in C17

On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you for your service.

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What can business learn from Moneyball?

Money ball

Brad Pitt once brought to life the importance and value of metrics when he portrayed Billy Beane in the movie Moneyball.  “Sabermetrics” as it is widely known today has really changed the way scouting in baseball was performed.  It elevated the process from tribal knowledge that had been in place for over 100 years to analytics that could measure performance creating a contender out of a small market team.  Just like Sabermetrics, almost all companies today use some sort of data analytics to measure performance.   But just how effective are those measurements and where did they come from?

When used properly, metrics work to support strategic initiatives and provide feedback to all stakeholders regarding the performance of the group quickly and effectively.  However, when they don’t they just become another number.  They quickly become irrelevant and people will just tune out.

Here are 5 ways to make sure your metrics are relevant and adding value to your organization:

  1. The metric fits into higher strategic goals

All metrics must align with your strategic focus.  Every metric created must support the higher goals of the organization.  No metric should be created without it fitting into the bigger picture.  Any metric not in proper alignment quickly losses value and can becomes irrelevant.

  1. Ownership

Metrics must have the proper ownership within the organization so that the individual/group responsible can have as much control over the process as possible.  It is unrealistic to hold anyone accountable for areas outside of their control.  Positive changes cannot be expected by individuals without the ability to change the dynamics of the input.

  1. Simple data

Making the metric as user friendly as possible is the best method.  The most useful data is when everyone can easily understand it and interpret the data instantly.  A great example of a simple metric is in the airline industry and on-time departures.   This is simple, to the point and everyone can easily relate to it.

  1. Publish regularly

However you designate the publication time, make it relevant. Whether it is weekly, monthly or quarterly, the measurement should be on time and relevant.  Data ceases to become relevant if it is outdated.  There is not much relevance to reading old news.

  1. Don’t be afraid to adjust

Keep in mind that not every metric is set in stone. I recently was asked the best way to measure fill rate for a distribution company.  The simple answer is that how you measure is irrelevant if your customer base disagrees with you.  Never forget to check with your customers. They will certainly have an opinion of your performance and how you should measure it.  Ultimately, keeping your customers happy is the goal. Don’t be afraid to get their input.  If your customers disagree with your metrics then you end up looking like you are out of touch.

While there is no denying that effective metrics help guide companies to higher performance, the development of the metric itself can be more about trial and error than pure science.   Constant improvement is the goal in any organization and metrics are no different.  Keeping your metrics, strategy and customer satisfactions in alignment takes constant adjustment.  Relevant metrics are often a work of art in the end.

If you or anyone you know would like more information regarding the use of metrics in their organization please email info@atssoutherncal.com.

Question:  What are some of the most useful metrics you have used?

5 Benefits of Procurement Outsourcing

square-peg-round-hole

Have you ever felt stuck to move forward on a project because the skills required was not a good fit for your resources?  Kind of like the square peg in round hole scenario.  Yet you knew that making it happen would be in the best interest of your organization?  Think about it for a second. How would you handle this at home if you had an electrical issue and you were not an electrician?  The possibility for electrocution is severe enough to call in experts for most people.

Negotiating goods and services outside of your area of expertise can be just as paralyzing.  Many organizations end up spending too much money due to outdated contracts because they are afraid of losing at the negotiation table or they just simply don’t have the resources to engage.  Markets, technology and your needs change constantly. But existing contracts seem to remain the same.  If companies really understood how much money they could save it would be impossible for them to ignore.

But how do you access the savings with limited internal resources. Fortunately, there’s procurement outsourcing.  Here are 5 key benefits of procurement outsourcing that can help any size organization:

  1. Expert talent

Major league baseball allows for the designated hitter (DH) who bats for the worst batter in the lineup. The result provided dramatic increases in home runs, RBI’s and created hall of fame credentials for some players.  Procurement outsourcing allows you similar opportunities to shine.  How many companies have the talent in house that can negotiate freight, utilities, financial services or maintenance contracts? Not many.  But like a DH, procurement outsourcing is there to give you access to the best expertise at your weakest position.

  1. Reduce risk

Procurement outsourcing can reduce your risk because it is only used on demand.  There is no need to keep full time staff. Use it as you need it.  By the project, short periods or if you just need expert help in negotiating a specific category in which you have little to no experience.  For example, transportation companies have full time staffs that do nothing but specialize in negotiation of transportation.  These negotiations come down frequently to highly experienced specialist on one side of the table vs little to no experience on the other side.  Who do you think wins that game?

  1. Reduction in overhead

The focus of procurement outsourcing is to provide added value through better contracts. But one additional benefit is that it reduces overhead costing too.  No need for training, insurance, office space, medical benefits and all the other employee related expenses.

  1. Increased opportunities for procurement solutions

Using in house procurement limits your solutions to only the skillsets and opportunities within your organization.  Procurement outsourcing has the advantage of having a greater vision to procurement solutions that go well beyond your organization.  Through strategic partnerships, ability to pool expert talent and the overall experience allows for the perfect environment for creative solutions that are not accessible through in house procurement.

  1. Core focus

Using procurement outsourcing allows your organization to focus on your core competency. It doesn’t matter if you are a restaurant, manufacturer or a law office.  Keeping your limited resources focused on your core business is crucial to your success.  Asking your procurement team to negotiate contracts outside of their expertise is just not a good fit.  Let them do their job and let experts handle the rest for you.

Just about every organization uses outsourcing services of some kind whether it is legal, payroll, IT or human resources.  Procurement outsourcing is just the next service frontier.  Competition is forcing companies to get leaner and more effective.  How can you ask more from your team that is already stretched thin?  Procurement outsourcing just might be your answer.

If you know of anyone that would like more information on how procurement outsourcing can be a fit for their organization please email info@atssoutherncal.com

Question:  Have you ever felt over matched at the negotiation table?

The next level in the supply chain

Man in tunnel_light

It is time for supply chain professionals to shed some light on how things are made. Global economics can be a double edge sword.  It has the power to increase sales exponentially, but on the other side it has the power of to corrupt and abuse just as easily.  Business today demands companies continually look to make goods and services more cost effective or lose market share. It’s that simple in many cases.  We consumers love getting a great deal, but what’s the real cost in terms of the supply chain practices.  The fact is we know very little about those practices.

Companies that purchase goods and services have a responsibility to understand what practices are really going into their products they sell.  Due diligence in the supply chain can be daunting but worth the effort.  Languages, cultural differences, laws, business environments and many other factors play important roles in how business is awarded.  Labor practices, environmental impacts, working conditions and business practices are real concerns when awarding business to foreign companies.  Companies that profit from these arrangements have a responsibility to be aware of what they are buying.  Why is it that we consumers know more about free range cattle than free people in the supply chain?

The good news is that this awareness is beginning to ramp up.  Recent tragedies and social media are driving awareness that global supply chains won’t be able to ignore.  Unfortunately, for every abuse that has comes to light there are many more we never hear about.  The good news is there are several companies that have begun to leading the way such as Apple and Coke that have really made due diligence apart of their corporate responsibility.

Here are 5 ways to help your organization use your supply chains responsibly:

  1. It starts at the top

Executive teams must make a commitment to support fair and responsible trade throughout the entire supply chain. First level suppliers are not enough. They need to collaborate with their suppliers to go beyond just the first level and ensure all the way down to raw ingredients are made responsibly. Comprehensive policies addressing fair and responsible supplier practices need to be incorporated just like any other quality system.

  1. Transparency in the supply chain

The bottom line is that transparency creates trust.  Collaboration in the supply chain is dependent on trust.  Ensuring quality products has long been the focus for sourcing professionals but now it is time to take the supply chain to the next level and create transparent supply chains practices.

  1. Data systems

Today information is more accessible and relevant than ever before.  Organizations such Made in a Free World help put information into the hands of decision makers that award contracts to foreign suppliers.  This data is powerful and positively impacts lives across the planet.

  1. Third party inspection companies

These companies can provide on-site inspection services and can provide insight into what is taking place onsite.  They are an important part of the process as they can be your eyes when you cannot be at the supplier. It is very important to maintain they are independent from the supplier to provide objective information as to the performance of the supplier. They are beginning to provide oversight into working conditions and environmental issues.

  1. Responsible supply chain practice labels

Organic food supply has created a tremendous amount of awareness when it comes to what practices go into the food supply.  Why don’t we have that for people and the environment?  I think it is time we create labels on our packaging that let’s everyone know these products are made from a responsible supply chain practices.

Supply chains reach and impact people, countries and the environment across the world like few other disciplines.  It is our responsibility to use that influence correctly and reward those suppliers willing to offer transparency all throughout the supply chain.  We see it working with the organic food chain so it is about time we step up and make it work with people and the environment. People are worth the effort!

If you or anyone you know would like to learn more about responsible supply chain practices please email info@atssoutherncal.com for more information.

Question: Do you think adding “responsible supply chain” labels would make an impact to the end user?

Is your procurement team ready for center stage?

center-stage

Centralizing procurement is a timeless argument that has plenty of support on both sides.  Cost savings can be identified quickly, but why should the end user be the one that suffers because some other area is saving money? How does their input figure into the argument?

The great part of centralized procurement is that you control all the pieces. Centralization puts you in the driver seat for better negotiations, increased visibility of demand flows and at the same time increasing your overall level of talent.  The key is to balance the benefits of centralization while not losing the local touch.  Thanks to technology, keeping a localized touch is now easier than ever before.

Cash flow is king and centralizing procurement directly impacts your bottom line like few other business strategies. Here are 5 key benefits that will impact your organization by implementing centralized procurement:

  1. Negotiation leverage

The biggest benefit in centralizing procurement is the benefit of being able to negotiate with your centralized demand.  Would Walmart ever consider negotiations with their suppliers based on an individual store?  Never and neither should you.  Negotiating with your suppliers with centralized demand in mind increases your leverage significantly.  Consider it buying in bulk.  Negotiations change quickly when you can look at a bigger picture.

  1. Increased utilization of resources

Everyone has to deal with limited resources and centralization allows for the most effective use of those resources.  This not just limited to manpower, but other resources such as space, equipment and technology.  Why pay additional expenses for duplicate resources if you have the option to consolidate expenses.  Office space, software licenses, training and many other opportunities exist in the consolidation of procurement. Fluctuations in the marketplace create challenges when attempting to allocate resources and centralization helps to smooth out those peaks and valleys.  Centralized procurement is better equipped to handle seasonal demands, new projects or customer spikes than a localized procurement strategy.

  1. Strategic alignment

Implementing strategic goals across an organization is tough enough, but attempting to implement strategies in procurement when there are different leadership teams is even tougher.  Aligning the teams into one centralized structure allows for a consistent message to be delivered top to bottom. It also lends itself to standardized processes from beginning to end. Key metrics are easily identified, tracked and used for evaluation throughout the process.

  1. Driving down costs through technology

ERP solutions have changed the game when it comes to centralizing procurement.  Centralized procurement is now possible through the use of ERP applications that can be accessed from just about anywhere.  Cloud services make those solutions easier today that what it was just a few years ago.  Now purchasing can essentially stay on top of all localized demands through real time ERP systems.  Inventory levels and logistics costs can be directly reduced through information that is easily accessible in centralized ERP applications.

  1. Procurement outsourcing

Outsourcing is a well-established model that is widely utilized in many areas such as IT, Human Resources or Payroll and is now gaining traction through procurement outsourcing.   Centralized procurement allows for a much easier transition since many of the processes can be standardized and information is flowing through one focal point rather than many points. Procurement outsourcing is an extension of centralization because it allows even greater access to industry experts and potential technology solutions such as eprocurement applications.

Centralized procurement is a strategic solution that helps benefit operational efficiencies across many areas from negotiations to increasing cash flow.  Once upon a time, keeping the localized touch was out of reach with a centralized procurement strategy, but today’s technology such as ERP applications easily helps keep centralized services in touch with end users as if they were just next door.

If you or anyone you know would like to know more about how centralizing procurement can add value to your organization please email info@atssoutherncal.com

Question: Have you ever been hurt or helped by centralizing a procurement function?

4 keys why procurement’s like an ace up your sleeve

Ace up sleeve

It sure would be nice having an ace up your sleeve as part of your “go to market” strategy. Look no farther than you own procurement team.  Procurement has been working to establish itself as a worthy member of the executive team in every industry for years.  Procurement has long lived in the shadows behind sales, operations, finance and IT. Sales teams tend to get a lot of recognition for bringing in the business and it is well deserved.  Operations, finance and IT all seem to have their moments to shine too.  But procurement in general seems to get lost in the shuffle behind those other disciplines.

However, that in no way diminishes their ability to add value to the organization.  Maybe they just need a new marketing campaign.  Years ago procurement was viewed only as a necessary support function to fulfill internal requirements.  It’s continuing to evolve as more companies are seeing greater value being added than just filling a material requirement at the lowest cost.

Procurement’s strategic effect touches just about all areas of the organization.  Here are 4 key areas that procurement can effectively provide a competitive advantage for your organization:

  1. Product design

Developing products is a creative process that can consume lots of time and resources in order to maintain relevance in the marketplace.  Sales and operations typically drive the process, but don’t forget that procurement has direct communications to the supplier network.  That is an incredible resource that is easily tapped into for support to the latest technology and market solutions that extend well beyond your internal capabilities. Go ahead and invite your suppliers to be part of the process, you might be surprised what they bring to the table.

  1. Inventory strategies that increase cash flow

Investing into inventory is one of the biggest expenses for just about any company.  Unless you can turn around and sell the material without further touches, expenses quickly add up like space requirements, tracking inventory, audits, compliance, theft, packaging and support management.  Then there’s the risk of the inventory moving slowly or not at all.  Why not work with the suppliers to find solutions that minimize that risk and inventory investment?  Increasing cash flow, reducing lead time and logistics costs, what’s not to love about those benefits!

  1. Corporate social responsibility

Unfortunately as global commerce continues to expand into developing countries, corruption still exists but the good news is that information has never been more accessible.  There is so much injustice across the world, but organizations have never had as much information as they do today to make informed decisions on where they award their business.  There are major concerns when working internationally such as human rights, environmental issues or intellectual properties. How about turning those concerns around and sourcing responsible suppliers as an example of the right way to do business?  Now that’s an advantage that benefits everyone.

  1. Exclusivity

We all want to standout in the marketplace and having exclusivity in your supply chain is a very real possibility that allows you to be distinctive.  Procurement can drive this exclusivity advantage through strong relationships in the supply chain.  Keeping competitors out of your supply chain is a huge advantage that is best established right from the procurement team.

If you are tired of just being another supplier in the market place and distinction is what you want, look to your procurement solutions as a real advantage.   Advantages like this can be achieved through internal teams or through procurement outsourcing providers.  They have the experts on demand with proven concepts, experience and partnerships available to make ideas like this part of your competitive advantage.

If you know of any companies that are looking for a distinct competitive advantage through their procurement solutions, please email info@atssoutherncal.com for more information.

Question:  What creative procurement solutions have you used to develop a distinct competitive advantage in your marketplace?

Following the money is just the beginning…

money trail

“Follow the money” is a timeless quote made famous in the movie All the President’s Men.  But the point remains just as relevant in today’s business climate.  Accounting departments today can tell us where the money is being spent, just not necessarily why.  This is especially true when it comes to indirect spending which can range from 20-50% of all costs for companies.  But how does that much spending go without proper oversight?

Indirect spend is mostly made up of spend categories that fall outside of core competencies for most organizations. Whether you are a restaurant, law firm, manufacturer or dentist the fact of the matter is you likely are very in tune with every detail from your supplier base through delivery to the customer that involves your core competency.  You have organized the structure of the company to deal with all facets from sourcing, contract development, marketing, sales and customer service.  Indirect spending by contrast has little accountability to any one person or organization in most cases.  Costs such as insurance, fuel, utilities, office support equipment and supplies or maintenance.  These have a way of flying under the radar.

If your goal is just to match last year’s indirect spend budget then you are not asking the right questions.  Business services change, technology changes and your demands are constantly moving.  Take the time to investigate existing contracts. The effort will more than pay for itself.  Here are three ways to help you manage those costs:

  1. Start by following the money – Identify, track and create awareness as to how much and where those costs are being spent. Most people in the organization do not have an understanding of how many total dollars are being spent outside of the areas they directly touch. Awareness is the key to making change possible.
  2. Review contracts – Most companies get into contracts and do not update the level of service timely to account for the shifting demands of their business. Increasing or decreasing staff or new technologies often change your demands on the level of service required. Service `providers also are constantly updating their level of services, rates and not to mention competitors.
  3. Engage partners if you are short on resources– There are many options when attempting to negotiate with indirect services. No one has to go it alone.  Just like you have a core business, there are companies whose core business is to simply negotiate these services for you and they will often times more than pay for their services through their work.  They have the experience, capacity and strategic partnerships already in place to quickly deliver turn-key solutions that fit your needs.

Indirect spend is a very significant factor in cash flow that is seldom properly addressed.  Therefore I think the challenge to procurement should not be to just follow the money.  It is time for procurement to take this challenge to the next level.  Cuba Gooding said it best in Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money” procurement!   That is the question procurement should be answering when it comes to indirect spend strategy.

If you know of any companies that may need help in “showing me the money” please email info@atssoutherncal.com.  We would be glad to assist you in finding solutions that will “show you the money” in your indirect budgets.

Question: what other famous movie lines apply to your business challenges today?

Global sourcing is risky business…

Faceless man

Global sourcing is risky business. These risks come in many forms such as quality failures, environmental exploitation, supply chain delays, stolen intellectual properties, financial fraud or just plain theft. Add in language barriers and cultural issues and the process can be very complex and risky. But where there is risk, there is also reward.

The big question then is the risk worth the reward?  It certainly can be as long as you take some actions to minimize the risk.  One of the best steps you can take it is finding a global sourcing partner to help you navigate the process from beginning to end. They can be your partner behind the scenes.  Here are some great benefits why a global sourcing partner can help you reduce your risks in sourcing products overseas.

  1. Sourcing partners can help break down cultural barriers when attempting to do business overseas. They are fluent in the local language, business practices and can help represent your needs to the potential suppliers in a very professional manner.
  2. Supplier qualification is a very key step and using a global sourcing expert plays a vital role in this process. This is where the expert can pay for themselves. They help validate the supplier through certifications, production capabilities, site location, customer referrals, site visits and much more. Qualifying a supplier up front will save a ton of headaches after the fact.
  3. The type of payment method is another key area that a sourcing partner can help counsel based on the type of transaction. Wire transfer, Paypal, Letters of Credit, open accounts or cash-in-advance are all options and each option has its own set of pros and cons depending on which side of the transaction you are on.  Both sides need to be come to an agreement that facilitates doing business together and a global sourcing expert is a great resource for this.
  4. Maintaining production quality throughout is one of the riskiest parts of the entire process. Setting up the right quality parameters up front is the key to success. Defining the specifications, getting approved samples and establishing ongoing quality checks in the process help to ensure a successful outcome.  I have seen first-hand the costly mistakes of poor quality and the negative effect it can have from lost sales, a bad customer experience and tying up huge amounts of inventory dollars waiting for a resolution. This is truly a case where a dollar of prevention is worth many times the cost of the cure.

Sourcing products from overseas can seem risky but with the right partners it can add a tremendous amount of value to any company.  Global sourcing has been a way of life in business since early explorers developed trade routes around the globe hundreds, if not thousands of years ago. There is no reason to believe this practice will stop anytime soon. It is your choice whether to take advantage of the opportunity or not.

If you or anyone would like learn more about how global sourcing experts can reduce the risk in overseas sourcing, please email info@atssoutherncal.com for more information.  We would be glad to assist you in finding the right partner for your business.

Question: what were some of the cultural challenges you had to overcome when doing business overseas? 

The “people bottleneck” in the supply chain

What is a “people bottleneck”?

Where is all the supply chain talent going?  As we end the first quarter of the 2015, baby boomers across the US are focusing on retirement and taking with them decades of experience creating a “people bottleneck” in the world of supply chain.  Study after study tells us that there is a large gap in supply chain talent coming with no easy answer on how to fix it quick enough to backfill all those people retiring.  So how did we get here?

Obviously, baby boomers have an effect on every industry and supply chain is no different.  The industry can be very challenging with the international demands, technology applications, shifting demand flows and limited resources to make it all come together. Business today demands supply chains to be agile enough to handle all of these issues whether it is a multi-billion dollar corporation or just a mom and pop. Education at universities and through continuing education programs will have to increase their graduates to fill the growing demand.

However, one of the biggest challenges within the supply chain industry has been a lack of incoming talent.  I network with hundreds of people and I consistently find that most people don’t even know what supply chain is.  We need a social media star to create awareness across the board. Think about it for a second, for those people under 25, they don’t know a world that is not social media driven.  Stars have been born from social media yet how many people can name a supply chain star?  Unfortunately the supply chain world does not carry a lot of social media credibility with the under 25 crowd.  Stars transcend their industry and create awareness. People like Bill Gates helped make Silicon Valley cool for the Mark Zuckerberg’s of the world.

Effects:

Despite our ability to foresee the problem, we can’t avoid it. So what’s the effect?  Just like life, those with the greatest resources will have advantages over those without.  Due to the limited talent, the Fortune 500 companies will be able to pull the best talent from the smaller companies causing serious issues in the small to medium size companies.  As baseball season is about to start, this is just  like the NY Yankees taking the best talent from the small market teams after they have developed the talent for years.  This lack of talent at the small to medium size company will create a large lack of efficiency in the supply chain causing increases in costs and delays.  Lacking the in house talent, companies will likely have to restrict their offerings based on the limited resources.

Options:

Awareness must be at the fore front.  Who is the Mark Cuban of Supply Chain that transcends the industry and draws people to it?  Someone needs to step up and create the sizzle that sells the idea it is cool to be in supply chain.  We have technology, globalization and the ability to change in the world due to the business we transact. The education system can help train those interested people through universities and continuing education organizations.  Continuing education is a great place to learn the relevant concepts and potentially find a mentor in the process.  Corporations also have a responsibility in helping educate and need to do a better job.  They benefit the most, so those that put some skin in the game will surely reap the rewards.

Education is the long term solution but it will take years to see the effect.  How will companies deal with the reality of today when faced with a supply chain problem?  How do you fix a problem without the proper tools?  Supply chain outsourcing can be a solution to help until the talent is available. Supply chain issue experts have the ability to quickly diagnose and offer proven solutions without the risk of adding additional head count. Outsourcing can be a much needed bridge to get companies through temporary issues.

If you would like to learn more about how outsourcing can help your supply chain issues please send an email to info@atssoutherncal.com for more information.

Question:  Will the lack of supply chain talent cause you to lose business?

Collaboration creates synergy in the supply chain

UM huddle

Supplier collaboration is like synergy-the whole is greater than the sum of its parts

In sports, working together for a common goal to win a championship is a given. Those teams that do it the best separate themselves from the competition creating lasting legacies that live forever. The winning spirit (a collaborative process) begins when the coaching staff lays the foundation for the season long before the season even begins.

Developing collaboration in the supplier base has a lot of similarities to winning championships.  Collaboration and winning teams share common characteristics such as a team vision, a foundation built on trust, structure and accountability to each other. All of these elements that create winning teams also help drive a shared collaborative team environment.  Creating collaboration in the supply chain, much like winning championships, will separate you from the competition by providing opportunities not afforded to those that work alone. Expanded market penetration, product innovation, cost reductions and shorter lead times are all possible when using a collaborative approach to engaging the marketplace.

So how do you translate winning on the field to collaborative winning in your supply chain?  Follow these four elements and you will be on your way:

1. Invite the supplier to participate.

Sounds simple, but if there has been a long standing relationship or the players have changed over time, it is time to reset. This is especially true if there has been friction in the past.  Besides who doesn’t like a warm invite?  It does not matter if it is about business, dinner or just a drink with friends.  No one wants to feel like they are crashing the party. A warm invite is usually well received and if done in the proper context can help to set the table for a collaborative relationship

2. Establish a foundation

Kate Vitasek (Founder of Vested Outsourcing and world renowned supply chain author) says it best, “trust, transparency and compatibility” help to define the basic foundation of any business relationship.  Once these three key elements are established, the creativity is allowed to flourish instead of being stifled.  It is in this freedom where ideas are developed to create unique solutions throughout the supply chain. The entire supply chain becomes open to discussion so opportunities may be found in planning models, product innovation, pricing, packaging, logistics, capacity, distribution or simply better information.  No one wants to feel boxed into a corner and the right foundation allows people the freedom to engage in new ideas.

3. Develop a structure

Just like a building, once the foundation is set, the structure building can begin.  A common vision helps to frame the structure, but a forum of communication needs to be developed that helps support an environment of ideas and provide feedback throughout the process for what is working and not working.  These communication tools are also key elements in establishing a method for accountability to keep all parties on track.

4. Create incentives

Setting the foundation, creating strong communications and accountability are great, but without the proper incentive, sustainability is difficult. Only through fair incentive policies will all parties feel justly compensated for their involvement. Incentives are not always restricted to just direct compensation.  Incentives such as exclusive rights, product innovations, inventory solutions, additional capacity or shorter lead times may be creative methods that can provide a winning edge over the competition.  What is it worth going to market knowing you can be first with product innovations or shorter lead times?

Champions in sports stand out above the rest of the crowd.  Winning in business involves creating a profitable and sustainable game plan. Collaboration in your supply chain can be a vital key to creating that game plan.  Isn’t it time to make your entire supply chain greater than just the sum of its parts?

Question: what are some of the most unique collaborative projects you have worked on?