Collaboration. The word is on everyone's lips these days. Few companies, however, are swallowing the medicine. A new Focus Study by CAPS Research finds that most businesses aren't deploying supply chain strategies that offer true competitive advantage. They are spending plenty of time on evaluating new business models, say authors Stanley Fawcett, Gregory Magnan and Jeffrey Ogden, "but most have not fully grasped the nature of collaboration or the concept of what it takes to achieve a true collaborative capacity," CAPS says. For all that talk of collaboration, most global supply chains remain fragmented efforts in which partners work together on an sporadic basis. Top executives seem to have no idea how to put the pieces together into a coherent strategic plan. "These companies must get their supply chain collaboration in shape quickly before the competition leaves them too far behind to catch up," says CAPS. The study's authors call for a three-step process to evaluate and act on an effective plan. They are: introspection, in which a company scrutinizes its approaches both to customer service and information systems; supply chain design, embracing scanning, mapping, costing, competency and outsourcing management, and rationalization; and supply chain collaboration, in which the company aligns relationships, shares information, measures performance and engages in "collaborative learning."
The most successful companies surveyed by the study adopted a balance approach in which they "performed rigorous analysis, invested in relationships, measured performance, documented successes and promoted constant improvement and learning," CAPS said. The study identifies a number of best practices and compiles them into a benchmarking tool that can foster real collaboration. Without it, the consultancy says, companies remain highly vulnerable to world events. "Today's global supply chains are only one terrorist attack, bird flu pandemic or not-yet-envisioned threat away from disruption and potential chaos," says CAPS.
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