Why Agility Matters in the Supply Chain—and How to Achieve It

Markets fluctuate. Tariffs rise. Suppliers come and go. In this world where change is the only constant, best-in-class companies know that agility is the key to success when it comes to managing their supply chain.

As companies grow and their supply chains become increasingly complex, many experience a natural inclination towards standardization. While having uniform processes in place can be useful, too much rigidity can leave companies slow to adapt and respond to problems. Worse, it may stifle opportunities for improvement and growth.

In the first of our ongoing series on how companies can increase supply chain efficiency to gain a competitive advantage, let’s explore a few ways that managers can bake agility into their network to create a more responsive supply chain.

Balance corporate governance with local flexibility

As organizations grow, the challenge of wrangling local facilities grows with them. Without strong controls and oversight across the organization, leaders can struggle to keep regional supply chain managers in line, resulting in issues like non-optimal carrier use, unapproved premium freight spend, and all manner of unnecessary costs eating into the bottom line.

Centralized governance at a global scale prevents regional facilities risk from becoming a law unto themselves. But too much standardization can cause its own problems, making it tough to account for local needs.

The key is to strike a balance between corporate governance and flexibility on the ground. A robust transportation management system (TMS) can help, allowing companies to implement processes on a global scale while still allowing for flexibility at the regional level. For example, the TMS can be set up to curtail reckless spend by triggering an approval process for certain shipping options.

But these overarching processes and protocols don’t need to restrict a regional supply chain manager from making the right decisions for their facility and the organization as a whole. Local business customs, carrier relationships, and customs requirements can still be taken into account, without sacrificing visibility or control.

Have a back-up plan

While it’s tempting for companies to stick to single sourcing for easier management, it’s crucial to have a back-up plan. A network of key suppliers creates a more robust system that’s able to maintain integrity if any unexpected obstacles arise.

That’s not to say companies should avoid single-source procurement altogether, just that they can bolster their supply chain by identifying a few different suppliers in advance. It’s not enough to have back-up suppliers’ names and phone numbers. Since different suppliers have different capacities, companies should do their research and have a clear idea of the most cost-effective solution for any need that arises.

By keeping this list on hand and up to date, it’s easy to make a quick pivot, should the worst happen. The last thing any company wants is to have their entire supply chain grind to a halt for days or even weeks just because one crucial component becomes unavailable. A back-up sourcing plan also allows companies to weigh up their options quicker if a supplier’s prices suddenly increase or the company’s own needs shift.

Use real-time data to uncover actionable insights

Data is the key to end-to-end visibility—but waiting for quarterly reports is no longer feasible. Real-time data allows companies to rapidly identify problems and make strategic pivots before a molehill can grow into a mountain.

Besides catching problems, companies can use big-picture shipping data to spot immediate opportunities to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and more. They might, for example, realize that they can consolidate smaller shipments, thus avoiding leaving room on the truck.

This kind of agility is only possible with the right data—and the right tools to analyze and visualize it. Companies can collect data from across their disparate systems using their TMS. From there, they can adopt business intelligence (BI) solutions to quickly draw actionable insights from it, enabling faster response times and greater profitability.

Greater agility, greater efficiency

In today’s volatile market, those companies that can rapidly adapt to change and head problems off at the pass are the ones that will survive and thrive.

Full visibility is an essential component of agility. CTSI-Global’s transportation management system pulls real-time shipping data on a global level—making it easy for companies to preemptively deal with bottlenecks and identify new opportunities. With this data in hand, our suite of business intelligence solutions consolidates vast amounts of information into an easily digestible format for fast, actionable insights.

Gain the advantage of agility. Contact CTSI-Global today for an analysis of your opportunities for supply chain agility.