When a disruption happens at one end of the supply chain, the ripple effect grows swiftly and exponentially. And in recent years, the supply chain has been riddled with disruptions. Not surprisingly, organizations are still gathering the tools and processes necessary to solve these challenges and better prepare for the future.
Interruptions caused by the pandemic exposed failures and pain points in supply chain operations across many organizations. Businesses are still profoundly affected by oil embargos, food shortages and delays, a reduced and remote workforce, freight and logistical challenges, and other wide-reaching shortages. It’s difficult to find an industry that isn’t presently suffering from supply chain disruptions, impacting inflation and the consumer.
Successful supply chains are made up of deeply interconnected teams and processes that manage the sourcing, production and distribution of products and services. The key to tackling supply chain disruptions lies in seamless integration of these elements. This, of course, is easier said than done. So how do businesses tackle a tumultuous supply chain? Establish an issue-to-resolution (I2R) process that allows a dedicated team to tackle current and future issues.
An I2R process is a multidimensional, coordinated approach to detect, isolate, assess and resolve issues by a dedicated team. This team identifies the strategy, tactics and people necessary to quickly and effectively resolve or evade that issue. A strategic and documented I2R process provides a clear framework for solving supply chain disruptions, allows organizations to track involved parties and their responsibilities, and monitors whether issues resurface again or when similar issues arise elsewhere.
The I2R process aims to create a systematic approach to analyzing disruptions and the issues associated with them, to quickly resolve identified issues. Following are five steps to optimizing the processes:
Establish an I2R process and team. An organization’s supply chain is composed of many teams, including planning, purchasing, sourcing, quality, production, manufacturing, sustaining engineering, logistics and compliance. The success of multiple teams comes down to each working together with ease. Disruptions can occur at any point in the supply chain; it’s therefore vital to have a dedicated force in place to pinpoint issues. An I2R team offers a knowledgeable, reliable and unbiased source to facilitate the resolution of disruptions.
Create a supply chain “war room” to act as a headquarters for identifying, locating and solving problems. This is necessary in states of crisis, and savvy businesses recognize that today’s supply chain calls for a crisis response. A supply chain management war room acts as a space, whether physical, digital or both, for the I2R team to reside. In addition, it’s a place for leaders to address the big picture and evaluate how disruptions in a state of crisis are affecting supply chain operations.
With a dedicated war room, the I2R team can incorporate crisis management into the process, identify issues, and better communicate the strategies and tactics necessary to reach a solution as quickly as possible. An established war room also allows leaders in all areas of the supply chain to be aware of how current or future disruptions are impacting operations.
Give the dedicated I2R team the authority to delegate problem-solving. The I2R team must be equipped with the skills needed to identify and communicate issues and clarify the steps necessary to resolve them. An unbiased perspective is key, so a dedicated I2R team offers a bird’s-eye view of supply chain operations. Yet the team can’t also be the glue that holds those solutions together. I2R teams should assign “owners” to issues across appropriate teams. The I2R team then communicates directly with internal and external stakeholders, drawing on their expertise to implement solutions. The I2R team should also equip responsible parties with the tools, processes and accountability necessary to enact solutions.
Utilize a dedicated digitized dashboard or issue-management software application. A centralized issue-management system helps organize and filter critical issues based on severity. It can communicate effectively and broadly across teams, and tackle issues quickly by keeping everyone connected. Data collection, management and analysis are crucial to problem solving. A dedicated platform or dashboard organizes data related to past, present and future issues, and quickly communicates strategy and steps to all parties involved in issue resolution. The dashboard ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page when tackling an issue, and maintains a record of processes for ongoing review and improvement. Consider automation when data shows the same issues arising again and again.
Commit to meaningful and collaborative relationships with suppliers to better manage interactions and approach solutions. Effective communication skills are essential to an I2R team, but are especially so to successful supplier relationships. A supply chain war room and dedicated I2R dashboard contribute to effective communication. At the same time, it’s essential to maintain communication with suppliers even when issues aren’t present. Regularly check in, and maintain a mutually profitable relationship, with suppliers of all sizes.
Today’s supply chain issues won’t be resolved overnight. As organizations invest in supply chain technologies such as artificial intelligence, improved analytics and real-time transportation visibility programs, solutions are on the horizon. Most of all, teams and organizations must work together to build processes that make collective problem-solving a part of company culture. To be successful, businesses should implement dedicated I2R teams for supply chain management, requiring a leadership role that reports to key executives. By allow the right people to take the necessary steps to tightly manage supply chain disruptions, organizations can learn to tackle not just today’s widespread disruptions, but tomorrow’s as well.
Sanjay Gupta is vice president of integrated supply chain at Imbed Biosciences Inc.
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