The ongoing global pandemic has caused exponential changes in the supply chain and logistics industries. Shipment delays, lack of resources, and holes in communication are the primary challenges. These ongoing disruptions leave teams questioning their current processes.
Such recurring pain points have caused many to reevaluate existing tools and solutions in order to fortify communication processes and achieve better results. To realize this goal, teams must follow best practices in procurement and supply chain management to resolve common challenges and build a consistent and resilient workflow.
Procurement and Supply Chain: What’s the Difference?
Before discussing the common challenges emerging in these industries, it’s important to understand the difference between both procurement and supply chain.
- Procurement involves obtaining goods, services, or works from external sources, including raw materials, packaging, and repairs.
- A supply chain is a network of information, functions, and other resources that turn the materials from procurement into goods and services for distribution.
Managing a supply chain entails overseeing the complete flow of goods and services, from raw materials to finished goods ready for distribution.
Businesses rely on a complex system of manufacturers, suppliers, and logistics teams to deliver products ready for distribution. The challenge lies in keeping the flow of goods and materials consistent while also maintaining cost. The cost for goods and shipment services cannot exceed the sale amount, and transportation must adhere to strict delivery schedules. Additional concerns include inventory management, storage, quality standards, and customer service, among others.
To succeed in these industries, teams must follow best practices to drive growth, foster resilience, and fortify each link in the chain. This begins with internal operations.
Best Practices in Procurement and Supply Chain Management
Following supply chain best practices mitigates risks and sets teams up for positive beginning-to-end solutions. Here are four best practices to follow.
1. Centralize Internal Team Communications
Effective internal communication is vital for supply chain and procurement teams. This best practice leads to positive results such as:
- identifying bottlenecks sooner
- increasing customer satisfaction
- facilitating internal collaboration
- improving organizational agility
The method by which teams conduct internal communications plays an important role. For example, with the rise of remote operations, teams communicate digitally now more than ever. With daily correspondence conducted via email and instant chats, keeping communication clear and concise is critical.
The solution? Centralize communication to reduce risks of miscommunication and errors. Many teams already communicate through one company email account. However, this method lacks a way to track who has seen which email, or to know if an email has received a response.
Often, teams simply assume management has seen and addressed issues that haven’t been flagged in some way. This causes emails to go unanswered, unresolved, or worse, to receive multiple replies, which reveals a lack of organization amongst a team.
Gmelius is a communication platform that centralizes email communication via one shared inbox for teams. This means multiple team members can address and manage emails together through Gmail.
A shared inbox solution allows teams to assign and delegate emails to other team members to ensure accountability. This is critical in defining ownership within a team. Another core feature that sets Gmelius apart from other shared inbox solutions is the ability to build internal conversations on the side of any email.
Email notes allow teams to communicate with other departments in real-time. Effective supply chain management requires expedient approvals for budgets and timelines. This key feature eliminates the need to forward or cc emails that can delay response times. All communication is centralized and expedited to improve clarity amongst supply chain and procurement teams.
2. Utilize a Platform with Secure Document Sharing
Organized and secure documentation is a critical best practice for procurement teams and supply chain management. Inventory lists, purchasing orders, and other critical documents must be organized and easily accessible to ensure a smooth workflow.
When searching for a secure platform for document sharing, consider Google. As of 2019, Google has worked with over 1,000 suppliers in over 70 countries. Its endless offering of features make it an excellent platform for supply chain and procurement teams. With Google Docs and Google Drive, administrators can set permissions, apply specific rules, and enable file sharing outside an organization.
Gmelius offers integration with Google Workspace so teams can share documents within their team's shared inbox. More importantly, Gmelius’ email notes allow members to add various attachment types to a conversation to provide immediate resources in real-time. Rather than waiting on an email attachment, team members can simply attach a document to a conversation.
3. Automate Manual Actions
A reliable procurement process requires end-to-end efficiency. Accelerating digitization to reduce risk-prone procurement processes, like negotiating terms or sourcing a supplier, is hugely beneficial for procurement teams.
Automation also reduces the risk of human error and further expedites workflow by streamlining daily tasks. Managing an influx of emails can be difficult for a large team. One lost email may contain a missed opportunity that could jeopardize a procurement process. Applying automation rules to daily tasks creates impactful change in securing processes and even save your team hours per week
A best practice in email automation is creating customizable email templates. Composing the same email over and over wastes time that could be spent on critical operations. Instead of re-creating emails, create templates that address different needs.
For example, email templates can be utilized for purchase orders, confirmations, or status updates. Automation rules can then set a specific time to send the email. Gmelius offers email templates for Gmail so team members can share responses to streamline workflow and ensure professionalism across departments.
Automation also applies to SLA policies. Service level agreements (SLAs) are critical in the supply chain industry, as they detail the expectations for services, deadlines, costs, and other terms of agreement between clients and companies.
Applying automation rules notifies staff of emails that require responses by a specific time to avoid breaching SLA policies. Gmelius offers rule-based logic to enforce such SLA warnings. The above image displays a simple “if” and “then” structure so teams can remain alert to conversations that require immediate action items.
4. Build a Transparent Workflow
27% of organizations found that increasing transparency in the supply chain helped prevent disruptions and bottlenecks. Visibility drives sustainability and increases ownership for team members. The ability to see the big picture of procurement is key in identifying potential holes in the process. A transparent workflow can be established using visual elements. A prime example is Gmelius’ use of Kanban boards.
Gmail Kanban boards offer a project management system that instantly shows teams which phase each project is in and who's working on it. A procurement process entails acquiring goods, reaching out to suppliers, manufacturing supplies, and distribution to the customer. As a step-by-step process, communication and transparency are critical. Kanban boards provide visual elements so teams can see a client’s exact position at any point in the process.
The above image displays an example of a Kanban board’s visual project management that allows teams to see what needs to be completed, what is in progress, what is pending, and completed tasks. Instead of guessing the status of a shipment, team members can simply move a task into the corresponding column for a clear status report.
Applying automation rules to Kanban boards can adjust the placement of tasks without manual action. This further expedites workflow and ensures processes remain on track. If team members have questions, they can simply tag colleagues in a task to notify them of any changes or concerns.
To many businesses simply trying to stay viable during a global pandemic, the future of procurement seems unstable. However, implementing these best practices guarantees a sustainable process that can grow with a company.
In a recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study, 45% of respondents reported that the pandemic is accelerating the automation of the procurement process. The result? Not only are they seeing benefits, but they can also see clearly how increased automation is becoming the future of procurement.
Gmelius offers countless features that apply to these best practices in procurement and supply chain management. If you are looking to expedite workflow and build a process that lasts, check out our features and integrations and learn how Gmelius is built to improve team communication and collaboration. Ready to get started? Sign up today!