How to Future-proof Your Supply Chain as a Small Business
Inside this article:
- 4 key benefits of future-proofing your supply chain
- What 67% of CEOs plan to invest in to protect their supply chains
- Actionable steps to build a resilient supply chain (without a large investment)
- A flexible business inventory storage solution that can instantly expand and contract on demand
- How emerging technology like AI and Blockchain can help you stay ahead of the competition
65 percent of businesses close shop within the first 10 years. Untimely business failures — whether these are the result of fewer customers or high expenses, occur due to a failure to forecast and adapt to changing circumstances. By future-proofing your business, you minimize your exposure to future shocks and give your business a higher chance of surviving or taking advantage of future disruptions. Future-proofing includes both internal and internal factors that can put your business at risk. Internal factors include your business’s financial health and location, while external factors include war and cyberattacks.
The pandemic highlighted the supply chain resilience gaps for many businesses. 67 percent of CEOs plan to invest more in disruption detection and innovation processes in response to disruption. Some of the supply chain trends that followed the pandemic and are likely to continue post-2022 include:
- Re-designing alternative supply chain flows — putting up inventory storage capabilities closer to customers and enhancing last mile deliveries and returned goods to reduce logistical disruptions that cause goods to pile up in storage
- An accelerated level of investments in automating supply chain functions by, for instance, having automatic key nodes in warehouses, stores, corporate office buildings, and manufacturing facilities as well as AI-driven predictive analytics and supply chain visibility.
Importance of Future-proofing Your Small Business
Building a resilient supply chain helps you avoid issues such as delays or misappropriation of a customer’s data which can lead to financial losses or litigation. Some of the benefits of proper supply chain management include:
- Improved demand management – Future-proofing your business helps you to easily forecast demand and handle demand changes during high and low demand periods
- Reduced costs – A digitized supply chain through AI forecasting and analytics can help you reduce costs, especially during periods of inflation. Real-time management of production, inventory and distribution will reduce disruptions and risks.
- Optimized logistics management – Future-proofing your business means identifying different ways to move freight as well as alternative suppliers. According to The State of Identifying, new ways of moving freight could reduce logistics costs by 4% even in an unpredictable year like 2020, according to the Logistics Report 2021.
- Better cash flow – Profitability and good cash flow are sure when you can meet demand in all seasons, reduce supply chain costs, and optimize your logistics.
Supply chain involves the entire process of creating, moving, and delivering goods regardless of the quantity or distance. Supply chain management, therefore, is not just for large businesses but small businesses as well.
Preparing Your Supply Chain for the Future
Creating a future-proof supply chain doesn’t have to involve a large financial investment. Here are some actionable tips on how you can build a resilient supply chain as a small business to survive uncertain economic climates.
1. Diversifying suppliers or markets
75 percent of small business owners are worried about how their supply chain may affect their business and a diversified supply chain is the solution. Having a wide network of new or alternative suppliers will help ensure business continuity. One way to achieve diversification is by having a transportation management system (TMS) in place. With TMS platforms, you can track raw materials and finished goods in real-time and optimise procurement, transportation, and costs and get data-driven supplier recommendations.
Proper supplier management, such as documenting processes and keeping a centralised supplier database, can help handle the increase of suppliers. Consider strategic sourcing, pre-qualification, and onboarding of suppliers as well.
Market diversification, which means expanding into new products or services, is a good way to increase market reach and hence sales volume and profitability.
2. Localising your supply chain
Localisation can help your business operate smoothly and at full capacity. Supply chain localisation is about buying and selling your goods locally, a trend which has been growing due to nationalism and environmental concerns and also because global supply chains are more prone to disruptions. Localisation is about ensuring that your products suit local demand and that all supply chain decisions from location to product development and manufacturing models are done locally.
3. Having a Just-in-Case inventory management system
Proper inventory management is one of the pillars of a resilient supply chain. You probably struggle to decide how much inventory to carry to beat supply chain uncertainties. The Just-in-Time (JIT) strategy that involves stocking a certain number of materials and goods you expect to sell plus some safety stock, while still relevant, may not be very future-proof. More businesses are now moving to a Just-in-Case (JIC) inventory approach that factors in forecasted changes.
Containers only require a small initial investment and are also made from corten steel making them secure and durable, a good financial investment. With containers, you also get to add storage space when you need to instead of wasting renting space.
4. Taking advantage of evolving tech
Technology is a big competitive advantage for supply chain businesses, especially those that help with better decision-making and asset management. Emerging techs such as robotics are critical investment areas, including intralogistics in warehouse operations. Other trends in tech include advanced analytics (AA) and artificial intelligence (AI). There’s also a shift from ageing architecture to microservice-based and composable architectures.
One of the areas in which tech is coming in handy is in improving supply chain visibility. Visibility to supplier inventory and lead time can help you better identify available supplies, so you do not run out of stock. In addition, consumers want to know where goods are made and whether they are made ethically and sustainably. Supply chain visibility is especially important in the food industry to trace and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks. Blockchain and related technologies can play an important role in improving supply chain traceability as supply chains get increasingly complex.
5. Improving supply chain flexibility
A flexible supply chain can adjust production levels, raw-material purchases, and transportation capacity easily compared to a traditional supply chain. Some of the ways to be more flexible as a company include keeping buffer stock, having a higher than average capacity to cover for high demand periods, and adding safety lead times to expected cycle times. These strategies may, however, not be good for your business in the long run as they may cost more money or use up more time. Some more sustainable strategies include:
- Using alternative routing modes
- Redesigning procurement processes by selecting suppliers based on speed rather than cost and focusing on reducing lead times.
Meet Future Demand With Flexible Container Storage
Having a safe, flexible, and cost-effective inventory storage system is one of the steps to maintaining a future-proof supply chain. Container storage is not only cost-effective since you can buy on a need basis, it is also secure and long-lasting, making for a good self-storage investment. Buy or hire the best container to match your unique needs.