Over the last two years, we’ve seen the impact environmental and political changes can have on supply chains. Now, it’s more important than ever to have resilient and robust supply chain management processes to navigate and survive these challenges. So, today we look at how to Extend Supply Chain Ecosystems to scale your business.
What is Extending your ecosystem
Extending your supply chain ecosystem is our model’s fifth and final step to Streamline, Connect, Analyse, Level-up and Extend (SCALE) your business. After digitalising core processes inside your factory, the Extend stage helps to create more resilient and collaborative supply chains. You are encouraged to look beyond your internal walls to build lasting partnerships with suppliers that allow you to compete as one extended enterprise. There are three parts to extending your ecosystem:
- Improving supplier sourcing initiatives
- Identifying new opportunities for collaborative projects
- Promoting your business to new prospective customers
1. Sourcing new suppliers
2020 and 2021 have seen significant supply chain disruption. The contributing factors have varied from increased tariffs caused by Brexit, halts to exports due to the pandemic, and even the recent shortage of delivery drivers. All of this has prompted initiatives such as onshoring or supply chain localisation. Now, clamours for Net Zero and reduced emissions are driving manufacturers to consider their own emissions and the sustainability of their supply chain.
However, while the solution may be to change suppliers, identifying and finding suitable new suppliers is a significant challenge. You could try industry associations, trade shows, or networking events, but the events industry suffered a similar blow. Then there are online directories or databases, or even a Google search. These yield varying degrees of success, where the best ones tend to have very narrow focuses and the broader ones are overwhelming and fail to provide the information you need.
2. Identifying collaborative innovation
Alternatively, the solution to these supply chain challenges may lie more in collaboration to improve. For example, how can you work with existing suppliers to help them improve performance? Or how can you collaborate with them to innovate new eco-friendly solutions?
Additionally, there is a broader opportunity for cross-sector collaboration. For example, innovations for electrification could have applications in multiple sectors across automotive, aerospace and rail. Electric batteries for lorries could hold the secrets to innovations for small, electrified aircraft. However, these sectors often operate in silos with minimal exchange of ideas, so identifying these opportunities is increasingly difficult. Get it right, though, and it could dramatically accelerate global initiatives.
3. Promoting capabilities to new customers
Finally, the pandemic also highlighted the fragility and risk in supplying into just one or two sectors. For example, companies in civil aviation saw order books slashed by up to 80% in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately, while diversification is key to mitigating risks, it’s often challenging to identify opportunities to promote existing products and services into various industries. Similar to supplier sourcing, the challenge remains in being seen. In addition, it is challenging to acquire new customers within your own sector, so supplying into new industries or geographic regions is even more difficult.
Extend your ecosystem to SCALE with Fitfactory
Over recent weeks, we have introduced our model to Streamline, Connect, Analyse, Level-up and Extend (SCALE) your business. This week, we focus on the fifth and final step to Extend your ecosystem. In the previous steps, we have spoken about improvements inside your factory and beginning to utilise your digitalisation to improve customer satisfaction. However, companies are only as strong as the weakest link in your supply chain. The Extend stage aims to help you create a more agile, collaborative and resilient supply chain that reduces external risks.
As with most parts of your digital transformation, data is still key here. However, you need extensive data both from companies you know and those that you don’t. Having this information at hand will enable you to identify if your existing suppliers are performing and respond quickly to any issues that may occur. Additionally, it will mean you have insights when looking at new suppliers: their capabilities, approvals, and available capacity – or what risks they might pose to your operations. However, while it’s hard enough to capture information from your existing suppliers, how can you collect data from companies you don’t even know?
Supply Chain Big Data
Fortunately, much of this information already exists in the form of “big data”. Big data is the name given to any significant quantity of data extracted from multiple different sources. It could be any source of information, but the value is in analysing this data to reveal patterns, trends and associations around a specific topic.
For example, if we explore supply chain decisions, you need information about every company that provides a service you need. And there is so much information available about companies available via Companies House, Google, social media and their websites. However, it’s not easy to find. For example, it’s still complicated to find an AS9100 accredited chrome plating shop in Cornwall (unless you’re in the right networks, of course). Similarly, you may not know if your supplier’s supplier happens to be this cement factory engulfed by the La Palma volcano. Suppose you had known that a critical supplier is close to an active volcano; maybe you would have another one on standby or find an alternative supplier altogether.
Essentially, while the data exists, it’s not being utilised in the right way. It’s not collected, structured, analysed and presented in a way that makes it easy for you to use and make decisions.
Extend your ecosystem with Fitfactory
At Fitfactory, we help you extend your supply chain ecosystem to increase resilience, identify new global customers & compete as extended enterprises. We provide a collaborative business-to-business networking platform in which you create a dynamic profile to promote your capabilities, approvals and interests to prospective customers.
Additionally, you can connect within your existing networks and easily find other companies by searching their capabilities and approvals to help streamline supplier sourcing. Finally, by incorporating supply chain big data, you are equipped with critical information when selecting who to work with or when world events occur that may impact your business to help you mitigate risks.
Learn how to SCALE your business
You can learn more about SCALE by subscribing to our blog. We provide weekly updates to support your digital transformation journey, including interviews with our in-house experts, highlights of funding opportunities, and blogs like this one. Next week we will look at the final part of our journey to Extend your ecosystem.