Supply chain issues continue to plague companies in every sector of the global marketplace — with no apparent end in sight. Promises of supply chain stabilization have yet to materialize, and while many companies have adapted to constant delays and shortages in the short term, others have patiently — and sometimes fatally — awaited the promised recovery. The time for waiting and seeing has passed. What can product managers do to help their product lines weather the enduring supply chain storm?
Relationships are critical to business success, and supplier relationships are among the most important. Without solid supplier connections, businesses risk missing out on the opportunities a good working relationship brings. Add in ongoing supply chain problems, and the value of a steady supplier relationship skyrockets.
An expansive network is good, but don’t underestimate the value of strong relationships with top-tier suppliers. Learn the names and faces of the suppliers you interact with regularly, and make friendly conversation with them. The best way to form solid supplier relationships is to treat everyone in your network less like a faceless delivery service — and more like the human beings they are.
As with any relationship, the most important factor in doing business with people is communication. Clear communication about what’s happening now, with inventory on one end and supply chains on the other, keeps everyone informed about prices, supply, demand, and delays. Transparency helps prevent problems and makes it easier to solve them when they inevitably occur.
Professional product managers (PM) are the single source of truth about their product lines. That means developing internal relationships that encourage your colleagues and leaders to respect and rely on your counsel. For supply chain recommendations to upper management, start with thorough research and the most current conditions. What is disrupting the supply chain right now? How is it affecting production? The answers to these critical questions can change from one day to the next, so keep yourself, your team, and company leadership informed.
Next, research potential solutions to present to the decision makers. A shorter supply chain is one possible answer as they are, in general, more difficult to disrupt. Think national suppliers rather than global, and prioritize real-time tracking systems that allow you to follow your supply chain from beginning to end. Real-time tracking provides accurate delivery information, and it helps you spot the weak points in your supply chain and recommend solutions early.
The final step in shoring up your supply chain is developing alternatives. Supply chain disruptions will happen, and while they may not be as extensive next time around, bad weather, labor disputes, and backlogs are a fact of life that will occasionally affect business and industry.
Mitigate supply chain problems before they happen with the following suggestions:
- Stock up. For necessities and regularly used items, recommend increasing order amounts to build up inventory and avoid running out when supply chains lapse.
- Keep everyone informed. Data-driven predictions and trends are a valuable resource for supply chain planning. Present relevant data in strategy meetings to support your recommendations.
- Create backup plans. Options are never a bad idea. Build alternatives into your supply chain strategy, so they are in place and ready to go if/when your supply chain fails.
- Encourage digital transformation. Smart inventory and tracking tools keep you informed, and real-time data keeps your supply chain solutions flexible and your company more agile when current events demand adaptivity.
Supply chains remain unstable and will always be subject to disruption. Current events and natural disasters aside, supply chains work best when they’re as dynamic as the world in which they operate. To resolve supply chain challenges in the short and long term, recommend building strong supplier relationships, overhauling inefficient operations, and implementing technology solutions.