Surviving Supply Chain Integration: Strategies for Small Manufacturers

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  2. Good Relationships Are The Key To Effective Supply Chain Integration
  3. Good Relationships Are The Key To Effective Supply Chain Integration - Miller Fabrication Solutions

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Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! The managed flow of goods and information from raw material to final sale also known as a "supply chain" affects everything--from the U. The nature of a company's supply chain has a significant effect on its success or failure--as in the success of Dell Computer's make-to-order system and the failure of General Motor's vertical integration during the United Auto Workers strike.

Supply Chain Integration looks at this crucial component of business at a time when product design, manufacture, and delivery are changing radically and globally. This book explores the benefits of continuously improving the relationship between the firm, its suppliers, and its customers to ensure the highest added value.

This book identifies the state-of-the-art developments that contribute to the success of vertical tiers of suppliers and relates these developments to the capabilities that small and medium-sized manufacturers must have to be viable participants in this system. Strategies for attaining these capabilities through manufacturing extension centers and other technical assistance providers at the national, state, and local level are suggested.

This book identifies action steps for small and medium-sized manufacturers--the "seed corn" of business start-up and development--to improve supply chain management. The book examines supply chain models from consultant firms, universities, manufacturers, and associations. It is quite common for opposing experts in a case to be well-acquainted with one another and with their likely expert positions. The real pros are those who turn down a lucrative expert role when they are not persuaded of the merits of the case or when a negotiated settlement would be both achievable and an obviously better solution for all parties.

Conflicts of interest For some reason, there's a peculiar notion out there that all business services ought to be considered consulting. In our view, that's ludicrous. Organizations whose revenue streams are derived from performing services—whether warehousing or running IT departments—aren't really consultants, either. Ross Perot's billions, ventured into operational consulting through acquisition. The firm Accenture presents an interesting meld of service delivery and consulting.

Real estate companies that do network design make some people feel uncomfortable, and parcel shipping companies that want to design supply chains raise some nagging questions of independence. LSPs are often guilty of delivering what they call consulting solutions as part of their business activities. We have nothing against any of them.

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But at some point the solutions they propose are likely to lean toward their mainstream service offerings, aren't they? Although there have been some instances of vendors actually charging money to recommend their own products, it is possible for a service provider to dispense honest, independent advice. Here's the test: Does the "consultant" describe and offer up competitive alternatives to its own service?

Why do we need consultants? There are lots of reasons to make use of consultants. Here are some:. Consultants and supply chain management So far, these points could apply to any element of an organization's operations. How do they apply to supply chain management specifically?

Supply chain management is not unique; it can benefit from the tactics and techniques applied across all types of business operations. But there are some specific examples within the supply chain community that illustrate areas where honest-to-goodness management consultants can add genuine value:.

The list could be longer, but you get the idea.

The trick is to find the right consultant for the right problem. How do you select a consultant? What's important in a consulting relationship? Aside from competency, the issues are "chemistry," style, and comfort. Typically, you are going to be working with the consultant s for some time. If there's a style mismatch, tolerance wears thin very quickly. If your organization is culturally welded to a megafirm approach, it's usually pointless to open the bidding to a lot of solo practitioners.

Good Relationships Are The Key To Effective Supply Chain Integration

On the other hand, if the organization is confident and secure and wants to cut through the fog to get the answer, the solo practitioner can be marvelously effective in terms of time and cost. If the problem has some size or complexity, the small or mid-sized firm, or a team of solo practitioners, can be the right way to go. Competence can be evaluated from references and from experience. Experience means work that the people who are actually on the job have actually done, hands-on, not an endless list of organizational qualifications. There are a few additional points.

As you evaluate the possibilities, look for a good listener, one who's more interested in you and your business than in his or her own credentials. Take that a step farther. Try to ferret out whether he or she is comfortable departing from the script when an unexpected subject pops up. Finally, be sensitive to the consultant's sense of context, the confident ability to wrap a specific solution in an appropriate setting of process design, information technology, best-in-class practices, integrated planning and operations, and corporate strategies. Not that every problem needs the entire universe to be analyzed before a solution can be considered.

Still, a good consultant can articulate when and to what degree these elements may be important. How do you find consultants in the first place? For starters, use directories. Talking with industry peers or networking in your professional community can also be good ways to find out about consulting professionals. Check out the Internet, which is generating consulting contacts at a level undreamed of a few years ago. Anybody worth anything has a web site. Be sure, however, to concentrate on web site content rather than gee-whiz site design and graphic effects. A grim reality Turnover in the consulting field is incredible.

Supply Chain Integration Strategy: Best Practices

The average consulting career is less than three years. It's a tough lifestyle: tough on the individual, tougher on families.

Good Relationships Are The Key To Effective Supply Chain Integration - Miller Fabrication Solutions

While inertia may keep some larger firms going during difficult times or market shifts, those same firms will not hesitate to downsize or redeploy people. The solo practitioner, though, faces almost no barriers to failure and contributes mightily to the profession's turnover rate. He or she may not have the financial resources to see things through or might not have the background to move with marketplace demands.

The solo practitioner might burn out from the travel and workload factors that affect almost all management consultants at one time or another.


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There are people who make consulting a lifelong career. Most bounce from firm to firm, a few years here and a few years there. Those who are with successful small firms tend to stay in the game longer. Very, very few establish long careers at one organization. So, the odds are heavy that the person you really liked the last time you hired a consultant is no longer at the same organization or even still in the game.

In the end As much as we believe in the value and potential efficacy of consultants in building and improving supply chain excellence, it can be overdone. The normal company doesn't need consultants to answer every question. And it might not need large numbers of them, if the consultant is inclined to leverage the knowledge and experience of internal teams.

The Role of Consultants

It's a bit like the people on radio talk shows who answer their own questions before the call is over. The solution frequently lies within the company, and it may only need a little probing and direction to get on the right path. For more information, go to www.