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Supply chain visibility

July 31, 2018

The rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ever-changing government regulations have put a new strain on supply chain managers. You need to know everything about your supply chain — from farm to fork — and you need to know if everyone along the way is producing, hiring, and acting ethically and within FSMA guidelines.

It’s a lot of information to gather and analyze for meaningful insights. However, if you can gain a higher level of supply chain visibility, you can shift toward thoughtful, proactive processes focused on building strategy rather than rushed, reactive cycles that exhaust your time and resources.

Of course, better visibility doesn’t happen overnight. But there are things you can start doing now to move your processes toward better supply chain visibility. Here are four ways to create a proactive advantage within your supply chain:

1. Use Tech

Manual processes can’t keep up with the sheer amount of data gathering and storage currently required to manage supply chains. That’s why many managers, like you, have turned to tech to help them gather and analyze hundreds of thousands of data points connected with supply chain management.

Finding a quality management software (QMS) that fits your process is like adding a multitalented employee to your team. The right software will ease your information overload burdens, freeing up the time you need for proactive, strategic planning.

Sure, a robust QMS will give you a great way to gather data through audits and assessments, but you also need tools that will help you onboard and manage suppliers. Here are some other things to look for in a comprehensive QMS:

  • Compliance management
  • Centralized document management
  • Supplier onboarding
  • IoT integrations
  • Corrective action tools (CAPA)
  • Search-driven analytics
  • Automated reporting
  • Ad-hoc reporting

Using a QMS is key as you move forward with these other proactive solutions as well.

2. Be Strategic

You have a lot to do every day in a short amount of time. When it comes to food safety, shortcuts aren’t an option. However, you can save time and do more when your strategy includes managing by exception. This means you can set up processes that require attention only when noncompliance occurs, so you can focus your efforts where they’re needed most.“If you had a crystal ball (and it actually worked) you could look into the future to fix noncompliance issues before they become liabilities.”

This is where a comprehensive QMS can be your greatest asset as a database for your single source of truth. Your team will spend less time gathering information and documentation, and you’ll spend less time accessing the right information to create a searchable database. When these two processes are integrated and streamlined, you will more easily see noncompliance issues and implement corrective action more effectively.

Adding this type of laser focus to supplier management means you will spend less time organizing information and more time improving your business.

3. Respond to Trends

If you had a crystal ball (and it actually worked) you could look into the future to fix noncompliance issues before they become liabilities. The reality is that you need your data, not fortune telling, to give you meaningful insights into your supply chain. When you can gain a holistic view of your production and distribution process, you can see and fix noncompliance trends that hurt your business. This kind of visibility can help you react quickly to immediate problems, but it also gives you insights into improving your processes proactively.

4. Keep Learning

The hidden key to proactive supply chain management is a continual cycle of gather-see-act-repeat. It may be a never-ending cycle, but with each cycle comes the potential for process improvement. This puts you in a great position to help your company deliver on your brand promises.

Of course you’re learning from your own data sets, but it’s also important to keep tabs on new trends and tech in the food service industry, including the expectations of regulatory bodies and the consumers themselves. You don’t have to delve into deep research to learn more about your business; it can be as simple as subscribing to newsletters, attending conferences, and following trending topics and industry leaders on social media. When you can get out in front of industry trends, you’ll start creating a proactive advantage that will outshine your competitors.

Creating a proactive advantage is only one benefit that comes with gaining visibility within your supply chain. Check out the article “Supply Chain: More Visibility, Fewer Problems” to learn more.

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