Megan R. Nichols,
Freelance Technical Writer
Service parts supply chains serve an integral role in nearly every industry. You're responsible for shaping, forming and assembling the individual components of a product so they can be shipped out and assembled elsewhere. A lack of efficiency at this stage can slow down every successive step, which is why optimization is crucial. What can you do to help optimize your service parts supply chain?
1. Increase Material Lead Times
If you, like most companies, are sourcing your raw materials from an external company, your efficiency is dependant on those deliveries. If a load of materials is late or delayed, whether it's the fault of the supplier or something that you can't control like the weather, you won't be able to meet your deadline either.
Work with your supplier to increase your order lead times, so you don't find yourself stuck without the materials you need to get the job done. See if your supplier offers Just-in-Time deliveries — same day or next day services that can help you meet your deadlines if you find yourself short of a specific material. These kind of last-minute deliveries are becoming more common as the demand increases.
2. Choose Your Suppliers Wisely
Your supply chain is only as good as your suppliers. Don't jump at the first one that offers you a good deal on your materials. As the adage goes, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Do your research before you sign on the dotted line, looking into your supplier's reputation and the quality of their product. Make sure that they align with your business culture and practices. You don't want to enter into a contract with a supplier that is going to conflict with your best practices.
Look at your contract with your supplier as a partnership. Both of you stand to gain from this partnership, so make sure you respect it by choosing your suppliers wisely.
3. Bring in Experts
There is a big difference between experience and expertise. If you don't have any experts on your staff, consider hiring some. This will require an investment, but you will need an expert to make sure that all your t's are crossed, and i's are dotted. This is especially important if you're seeking out international suppliers — they may offer better prices on comparable materials, but they also bring the hurdle of international shipments and customs laws.
If you're looking at international suppliers, bring in an expert to increase your efficiency and optimize your supply chain.
4. Don't Neglect Sales Forecasting
Sales forecasting isn't just useful for tracking when your sales are up or down — it can also be a valuable tool for optimization. Sales forecasting allows you to predict when your demand will be highest and when it will be low so you can adjust your supply orders accordingly. If you know that a period of high demand is coming up, you can order more supplies.
Work with your suppliers as well so they understand your shifting needs. You may be able to set up an arrangement with them that automatically adjusts your orders depending on the changing sales seasons.
This way you're never storing more inventory than what you need for a particular quarter, which works to increase your overall efficiency.
5. Look Into Lean Manufacturing
Lean manufacturing techniques have been popular since World War II when the idea of high efficiency, low waste factories spanned the globe. While you might not have the skills or knowledge to adopt an entirely lean manufacturing model, including aspects of this process can help you optimize your production floor.Focus on quality over quantity Focus on quality over quantity — a large order is useless if you have to start over because you've detected defects during your quality assurance inspections.
Take a close look at your standard operating processes and see where they can be improved. The foundations of lean manufacturing — optimization and little to no waste — can be applied to any industry or supply chain.
Whether you're making circuit boards for cell phones or components for surgical implants, or anything in between, efficiency is your greatest tool and your most important ally. These steps can help you optimize your service parts supply chain so you can meet your deadlines easily while still providing a quality product that you'll be proud to stamp your name on.