Supply chains are a crucial element of any manufacturer’s daily operations. Unfortunately, events over recent years have put supply chains under significant strain as they attempt to compensate for unforeseen environmental, political and economic problems.

During this time, many manufacturers were forced to explore new supply chain options covering everything from discovering new suppliers to new methods for efficient transportation. These troubles the industry struggles with revealed the importance of maintaining a strong supply chain for your operations, as any issues at any point in the chain could have dire consequences elsewhere.

Three Phases of a Supply Chain

The most effective method for strengthening your supply chain is employing management methods that best suit your company’s requirements. Attempting to run a supply chain without essential management will result in an ever-increasing number of issues that will significantly impact your business’s operations. Fortunately, there is a straightforward way to envision a supply chain and begin working toward building a successful one.

Every supply chain consists of three phases that need to be completed to maintain a steady flow, Design, Planning and Execution.

Design is where you’ll develop your plan for sourcing vital raw materials through reliable suppliers.

Planning sounds similar to the design phase, but it has a unique role to fulfil. Whilst an in-depth design will help create a strong chain, it must be flexible enough to adapt to any unforeseen changes in the industry. Supply and demand will fluctuate throughout the year as you do business, and your supply chain will need to be adaptable to suit these needs and ensure you can fulfil your needs.

Execution involves physically transporting your sourced materials to you and distributing the manufactured assets to your clients. You need to monitor this phase for potential disruptions along with the previous two steps and act accordingly. Several plans will help you compensate for any problems and maintain a robust supply chain for your operations.

The Supply Chain Ripple Effect

The supply chain is a very interconnected process that consists of two main elements, upstream and downstream. From the manufacturer’s perspective, they are between these two categories with this stream of materials flowing through them from suppliers to distributors.

The upstream operations are all relevant to you sourcing your materials from reputable suppliers. For example, a compression spring manufacturer will need to rely on suppliers to provide stainless steel, beryllium copper, carbon spring steel, or other materials for their manufacturing operations. Any halt within these upstream elements of the chain can significantly delay the start of production or increase costs as you attempt to source them quickly from other suppliers. The downstream elements are related to outbound logistics relevant to the client. There is less potential for problems here compared to the upstream. Still, any unexpected delays delivering your finished manufactured items to their destination will, at the very least, create an unhappy client who may not create return business.

Maintaining a reliable supply chain demands that every link is a robust and dependable component of a whole. This will enable you to plan ahead and be confident in the potential of your manufacturing business but also be prepared for any unforeseen challenges.

Current Supply Chain Challenges

For the last few years, there have been significant disruptions throughout many supply chains, and manufacturing was affected the most by these erratic changes. Rising costs along with disrupted delivery schedules created increased risk and uncertainty that left many manufacturers concerned about their future. These initial issues plaguing the supply chains have continued to be a challenge to overcome to the present day.

Frequent and unexpected factory shutdowns in China have made sourcing raw materials difficult. In addition, coronavirus cases are still occurring, with the government’s response to shut down whole factories for quarantine. These shutdowns are creating extended lead times and increasing costs for international manufacturing.

The international transportation of goods is also an issue that manufacturers must overcome. Unfortunately, transportation is still challenging, whether in China’s ports or the UK’s Felixstowe port. Many factors contribute to this, including ship shortages, port shutdowns and long wait times.

Fortunately, a robust supply chain can potentially navigate these problems successful with effective management techniques.

How Management Strengthens the Chain

As a tension spring manufacturer, we know how crucial strengthening your supply chain is to maintain optimum productivity. For example, diversification is an excellent way of compensating for the previously mentioned erratic shutdowns. A critical thought to remember is how many ripples an issue on your supply chain will cause for your current work.

If you commit your entire upstream into a single route, then a disruption on that route can be catastrophic. An alternative way of strengthening your chain is by adding the flexibility of diversity. With the current transportation difficulties plaguing many supply chains, we recommend sourcing your required materials from several locations. That way, you are guaranteed to receive some of the needed goods initially.

Investing in reliable, local suppliers is another way of strengthening the chain. The current international logistical problems have shown that the further your goods travel, the more likely there are costly delays. By choosing suppliers closer to home, you can create a more predictable chain and shorten your lead times and expenses considerably.

As experienced manufacturers, we believe that by investing and strengthening your supply chain, you are ensuring that your business can remain competitive within the industry and you can overcome the significant challenges put against you. You can learn more about building a resilient supply chain here.