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How to improve your supply chain management

First, what is a supply chain? The easiest way to think of a supply chain is first to imagine a house on fire. It's in the neighborhood, blazing, burning, before the days of fire trucks and fireman. So what did the neighbors do? They formed a long, long line, and passed buckets up and down that line, waterful buckets up, empty buckets down for refilling, and so on. That's about the most primitive idea of a supply chain that we can imagine.
So, the idea, then, is that you have all these people linked together passing important items from one person to the next. Person A has something Person C needs, and person D has a delivery truck, and so forth. Neat, effective, efficient. In business, in supply chain management, timing, organization, fastidiousness, and a constant awareness of what's going on are the keys to success.
When managing a supply chain, you might want to keep one or two things in mind:

1. Everyone in the supply chain is a human being. When human beings construct themselves so that they almost resemble a machine, it's easy to start thinking of them as machines. They're no longer humans, they're supply chains. This means that should a break in the supply chain come, the tendency of the manager is to treat the cause of the break as if he was a piece of wiring or a faulty engine. This is a mistake! Wiring and faulty engines don't have feelings; and feelings, for a human being, are the key to their performance, whether bad or good. So, no matter what happens, treat every person in the chain like a human. That way, even if there is a mistake, it'll be fixed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
2. The supply chain needs to be known, by you, down to its last little detail. You've got to be the expert. You've got to do more than just manage; you've got to lead. Think of how a football coach knows every aspect of his team-his defense and offense-his special teams-think of how he knows every play in that playbook, which is about as long as a telephone book and at least twice as complicated. The successful coaches are the ones who do their homework when the other coaches are in bed. Now, you're supply chain management may not be as complicated as a football coach's responsibilities; but it may be more so. The fact is, whatever the case, you've got to be right on top of things all the time.
3. Another part of any successful supply chain management is to know who the best are, who the good are, who the bad are, and so forth. In other words, let's say you can't pick the best delivery service right at the moment because you can't afford it. The tendency of some supply chain managers at this point is to swing over to the opposite side of the pole, that is, to hire the cheapest delivery service possible. But this is a mistake! Try to find something you can afford, the best you can afford, and go with it. Always go with the best that you can afford, even if going with something of lesser quality will save you a buck or two.
4. Communication is the key to supply chain management. The supply chain manager has to be familiar with everyone along the change, every business, supply company, and so forth, that he works with. They all have to trust you equally. They have to be able to think, "if I call on Smith, the job will get done no matter what. This is one of the more difficult areas of supply chain management to deal with.

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