Do you use GPS mapping on your smartphone? Chances are, it does a lot more than show you where you are—or where you’re headed. It’s also likely to show you alternate routes, provide traffic flow information, pinpoint food establishments and gas stations, and other value-added information.
Now, imagine if you could do that with your supply chain.
Improving supply chain management remains a top concern for suppliers, big and small. Your goods are constantly in motion, and as a result, it is crucial to know where they came from, where they are, and where they’re going. Each step in the process must be “mapped,” allowing for total transparency and visibility across the entire supply chain.
For many organizations, process mapping can be an arduous task. It’s not enough to create relationships with your direct suppliers; instead, you need to consider every business-critical process and function, from sourcing and manufacturing to vendor compliance and beyond.
Supply chain mapping makes this all possible.
What is Supply Chain Mapping?
A supply chain map is a visual representation of all parts, processes, and functions of your supply chain. Every company does supply chain mapping a little differently: You may choose to take a geographical approach (plotting suppliers on a map according to where they are located) or a more abstract approach, only depicting how each function and process relates to each other.
The process of supply chain mapping allows companies and suppliers to engage with one another to increase business intelligence, eliminate waste, improve function, and document the sources of every individual step involved in bringing goods to market.
Supply chains are always fluid. It’s crucial for supply chain management to have the most up-to-date information at their fingertips anytime, anywhere.
A (Brief) Look at Supply Chain Mapping
Supply chain mapping has existed since the first ships crossed the seas along trade routes, but those early maps didn’t provide much information. The official branding of supply chain management didn’t actually get its start until the mid-1990s, when logistics professionals sought new ways to create profit in a rapidly changing industry.
Today, supply chain management and process mapping practices have evolved so far that you can pull up a satellite photo of the loading dock your shipment will arrive on. It’s also much easier for separate components of the supply chain to communicate with each other.
These sophisticated systems allow for increased transparency between buyers, sellers, carriers, etc., including providing real-time updates drivers and the inventory they have in back of their truck.
The Benefits of a Process Mapping
In addition to providing increased visibility and transparency for each link on your supply chain, a supply chain map delivers the following benefits:
- Risk Reduction: Supply chain maps allow you to see where your suppliers and vendors get their materials. This allows you to take quick action in event of a recall.
- Social Responsibility: Are your vendors, suppliers, and distributors in compliance with environmental and labor laws? A supply chain map showing second-, third- and fourth-party partners makes it easy to research companies and organizations you know nothing about, thus keeping your brand safe from consumer backlash and potential legal intervention.
- Competitive Advantage: Creating a supply chain map allows your organization to get a leg up on the competition. You’ll have an early warning system for potential problems, a way to mitigate social concerns and CRM (customer relationship management), and a way to close the information gap.
Start Mapping Your Supply Chain
Creating your supply chain map isn’t quite as easy as entering your destination on your smartphone and hitting “Go,” but advanced software platforms should be simple to use.
No matter which way you choose to map your supply chain, the process remains the same:
- Start With a Whiteboard: A “whiteboard meeting” is the first step in the process. Call in your key players – everyone from your top-tier suppliers (who can then identify their supplies in a cascading invitation strategy) to your CFO (who will have plenty of information regarding cost analysis).
- Plot your entire supply chain on the map in the format that you choose. Many companies use lines, arrows and words in boxes to designate which way each process moves, depending on how the product eventually gets to consumers.
- Identify the process: Once you have a visual representation of how things move the way they do, it’s time to understand why they move that way. What does it take to get raw materials from point A to point B? What is the lead time to get a label from Washington to the main plant in California? Would it be cheaper and less time consuming to put the label on the bottle before it left Washington, thus allowing it to go out to consumers sooner?
- Encourage employee input: Employees may not have been an integral part of your mapping up to now, but it’s time to solicit their input. Having been on the front lines, they’re in a unique position to point out problems and identify possible solutions.
- Check in often: No supply chain map is permanent. As processes and functions change, so will your map. It is crucial to evaluate your strategy on an ongoing basis, updating as necessary and checking in often to make sure everything is going to plan.
The Bottom Line: Good Supply Chain Maps Require Clean Logistics Data
Your supply chain map is only as good as the data you put into it. Dirty in/dirty out isn’t just a colloquialism—it’s an absolute fact. If you’re working with poor data, you’ll get poor results.
If you’re looking for a way to reduce transportation and logistics costs, or discover new avenues for profit, you need reliable logistics data.
Supply chain mapping can help you make better decisions for your company, your suppliers, and your bottom line. The insights you gain may highlight opportunities to establish on-going visibility of clean, reliable logistics cost data from key suppliers and internal systems in a Trax solution. If you’re ready to get started, request a demo from Trax Technologies today.