Find examples of how two of the following organizations can improve their supply chains: manufacturing, hospitals, retailing, education, construction, agribusiness, and shipping. Discuss the benefits to the organizations.

Regardless of industry, a good quote-to-cash (Q2C) process is critical to improving the supply chain. Forecasting is an essential component to managing the supply chain, the tighter the forecast, the better the supply chain management process becomes which ultimately improves time to delivery.

Retailers can leverage market and customer intelligence to try to predict demand concerning volume and products more accurately, allowing them to align their inventory management practices with customer demand. No one does this better than Amazon. Amazon has built a platform that leverages machine learning algorithms to create and predict demand; these algorithms also help Amazon masterfully manage the supply chain. Amazon collaborates with customers, allowing customers to create lists, build shopping carts, performing predictive analytics all along the way and making suggestions based on customer buying patterns, steering customer toward specific shipping options and subdividing customers by providing a premium membership option which gives Amazon even more predictability. Amazon also collaborates with suppliers, providing them with analytics on purchases, buyer demographics, and leveraging EDI to for product availability in both the Amazon fulfillment centers as well as marketplace fulfiller warehouses, managing re-orders based on demand and automagically adjusting reorder thresholds. These are just a few of the ways that every retailer can streamline their supply chain. Amazon uses technology to solve an age-old problem elegantly. Because Amazon has become the place people go on the Internet to search for products their market intelligence is incredible, this coupled with their automated fulfillment process, and the scale they have been able to achieve has made them a retail titan.

Manufacturing companies who rely on components or materials from various suppliers can leverage CRM (customer relationship management), ERP (enterprise resource planning), and MRP (manufacturing resource planning) systems to improve visibility and enable quicker and more accurate decision making. In many cases, EDI (electronic data interchange) can be used to create connections to supplier allowing manufacturers to understand supplier inventories in real-time and suppliers to understand manufacturer demand. EDI can benefit both the consumer and supplier.

Regardless of industry good forecasting, efficient communications between buyer and suppliers, standard operating procedures (algorithmic and automated, even better), and an empowered workforce (information is power) can help to address the “bullwhip effect”. The “bullwhip effect” is a term used to describe the impact on the supply chain when there is a significant variance between orders places with suppliers and sales to end customers. When an inability to forecast demand occurs and consumers over order buy, regardless of demand this ripple effect on the supply chain is known as the “bullwhip effect”.

There is no magic bullet to supply chain improvement. Those who endeavor to leverage efficiencies in supply chain management for competitive advantage need to be committed to continuous improvement and the realization that the optimizations put in place today may be different tomorrow.


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