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Strengthen the Supply Chain to Build the Product Pipeline

Designing the Supply Chain

An efficient and well-organized supply chain is key to a new product being introduced to the market. Supply chain managers must think more proactively, with an eye on innovation, to balance product flow and costs during a product’s life cycle, from the launch and growth phases to maturity and market decline stages. The supply chain must change in response to this evolution in the marketplace. As sales increase, the supply chain must meet demand and deliver product. The company may shift from low volume to high volume in terms of its supply chain. Improving supply chain efficiency is also a necessary step as the product matures.

Innovation can be a key factor that can influence and impact the supply chain throughout these stages. According to Michigan State University’s blog on innovation in supply chain, there are five aspects of the supply chain that can be innovated to meet consumers’ needs and save on costs:

  1. Design for Manufacture: Design the product to make it easy to produce, thereby reducing the costs of manufacturing.
  2. Design for Assembly: Design the product to minimize the number of components, easing the assembly process. Often, this results in building subsystems that are easier to put together.
  3. Design for Product Serviceability: Design the product for ease of assembly, disassembly and component reuse. These products are often easier to repair, compared to products that are assembled with bigger components, making individual parts more difficult to access.
  4. Design for Six Sigma: Design the product to eliminate failures, improve consistency and reduce costs. For example, an appliance manufacturer decides to use one type of electric cord – instead of a dozen types – across all of its products. Standardizing parts throughout the supply chain is a good example of design for Six Sigma.
  5. Design for Environment: Design the product to reduce its environmental impact throughout its lifecycle. This might be accomplished through less packaging, a more efficient supply chain or by recycling waste along the way.

Scaling the Supply Chain

If your company has successfully developed an innovative product or service, you might be at the stage of the process known as scalability, which All Things Innovation looked at in a recent post, “Sizing Up Your Innovation’s Impact.” Perhaps you have created something new but your hard work isn’t over yet. It is just beginning, as you gear up to bring the product to market.

It will be key to work with the supply chain and its specialists to get the product pipeline flowing. The challenges are numerous, and there will be many bottlenecks along the way. Stay committed to pursuing the best results possible by scaling viable ideas into products, services and businesses, all while keeping in mind that it’s value creation that you’re after. It’s time to scale up.

Benefiting the Chain

Supply chain specialists can bring several benefits to an innovation team. We asked ChatGPT some ways in which supply chain specialists can contribute and add value to an innovation team:

  1. Market and industry knowledge: Supply chain specialists often have a deep understanding of the market dynamics, industry trends, and customer preferences. They can provide insights on supply chain complexities, logistics, and distribution networks. This knowledge can help the innovation team align their solutions with market demands, optimize their supply chain strategies, and make informed decisions about product development and commercialization.
  2. Supplier management and collaboration: Supply chain specialists have expertise in managing relationships with suppliers, vendors, and partners. They can leverage their networks to identify potential collaborators, negotiate contracts, and establish strategic partnerships. Their experience in supplier management can help the innovation team access necessary resources, secure reliable suppliers, and streamline the procurement process.
  3. Cost optimization: Supply chain specialists are skilled at analyzing costs associated with the procurement, production, and distribution of goods and services. They can contribute to the innovation team by identifying opportunities for cost optimization, efficiency improvements, and waste reduction. Their input can help shape the innovation process to ensure cost-effective solutions without compromising quality or delivery timelines.
  4. Risk management: Supply chain specialists are adept at assessing and mitigating risks within the supply chain. They can identify potential bottlenecks, vulnerabilities, and disruptions that may impact the innovation process. By integrating risk management practices into the innovation team’s workflow, supply chain specialists can help anticipate and address potential challenges, ensuring a smooth and resilient supply chain for innovative products or services.
  5. Time-to-market acceleration: Supply chain optimization plays a crucial role in reducing time-to-market for innovative solutions. Supply chain specialists can contribute by streamlining processes, improving coordination between different stakeholders, and minimizing lead times. Their expertise in inventory management, production planning, and distribution can help the innovation team meet project deadlines and gain a competitive edge.
  6. Sustainability and ethical considerations: In today’s business landscape, sustainability and ethical considerations are increasingly important. Supply chain specialists can contribute by evaluating and integrating sustainability practices into the innovation process. They can help identify eco-friendly materials, assess the environmental impact of production and distribution, and ensure adherence to ethical standards throughout the supply chain.
  7. Continuous improvement: Supply chain specialists are accustomed to continuous improvement methodologies, such as Lean or Six Sigma. They can apply these principles to the innovation team’s processes, identifying inefficiencies, optimizing workflows, and driving improvement. Their focus on data-driven decision-making and process optimization can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the innovation team.

The Resilient Supply Chain

The supply chain is often the backbone of the company. And it’s not just about the latest technology, new drones, or IT software solution. It’s about the deployment of proven technologies and processes, and the small gains that come with incremental innovation and improvements over time.

Overall, supply chain specialists bring valuable expertise in market knowledge, supplier management, cost optimization, risk management, time-to-market acceleration, sustainability, and continuous improvement. Their contributions can help the innovation team navigate the complexities of the supply chain, optimize processes, and deliver innovative solutions effectively, and with agility.

As Supply Chain Game Changer notes in its article on supply chain innovation, “As supply chain leaders, we have the power to influence and transform the way innovation is developed, nurtured and implemented in our industry. The future of the supply chain is based on collaboration, connectivity and agility, and most important, being resilient. We need to work together to continue bringing innovation throughout the supply chain and ensure that it is fostered by all levels within companies.”

Video courtesy of Association for Supply Chain Management


  • Matt Kramer

    Matthew Kramer is the Digital Editor for All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has over 20 years of experience working in publishing and media companies, on a variety of business-to-business publications, websites and trade shows.


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