Many factors need to work together for a supply chain network to be successful. A supply chain network includes activities, people, information, materials and resources. Everything in a manufacturing plant is integrated to create an efficient process while reducing costs and keeping the company competitive. Below are four key elements in a supply chain that play an important role in the overall process.

Integration

Figure 1: All parts of a factory must be integrated for a supply chain to be successful.Figure 1: All parts of a factory must be integrated for a supply chain to be successful.Integration allows supply chain managers to gather the details of all actions happening within the supply chain. Everyone and everything within the manufacturing process must be integrated for proper communication and operation. If something goes wrong in a properly integrated supply chain, managers are immediately notified of the problem and the system adjusts so that work continues until the issue is fixed. Integration allows managers to monitor the entire operation, identify where things can be improved and fix issues quickly. This strengthens communication and reduces errors while saving money and time.

Tracking

Efficient day-to-day tracking goes hand in hand with integration. Managers must monitor every part of the manufacturing process. An operations team looks for areas of inefficiency and finds solutions to those problems. The solutions could include adding new software or technology to the process, changing the way the process operates or anything else to keep the system running the best it can. Data should be constantly collected to find areas that need improvement. Tracking data leads to improved communication, streamlined efficiency, and reduced costs and errors.

Purchasing

Sourcing the right materials for a product impacts the entire supply chain. Managers need to find the right balance of good quality materials, low costs and availability. If a material isn’t high quality, time and money go to waste. Managers need to stay a few steps ahead of the whole process so they can make sure that there are enough materials on hand. Low quality materials can lead to unhappy customers, but they can also slow the entire supply chain down. If a material breaks during manufacture, it becomes wasted material and the entire production process must start over. But managers also need to make sure that they are not spending too much on materials. Overspending can lead to financial issues down the line for the company.

Flexibility

Supply chains need to be very flexible. At any point, the process may need to change or adjust. If there is a problem that the system cannot work around, then the manufacturer will have to deal with dreaded downtime. A supply chain incorporates complex partner networks, production cycles and customer needs and demands. Constraints and parameters are constantly changing. There are a lot of things to balance at the same time. The system needs to be able to respond to challenges and changes without bottlenecks or disruption to production. A supply chain network must have plans in place to work around anything that comes its way.

Each of the many factors that go into a supply chain is important to the overall process. For a successful supply chain, all factors need to be considered. Supply chain managers must track and gather data, purchase the right materials and make sure all areas of production are flexible and integrated with each one another. If all the elements are there, then the supply chain network is on track for success.