Supply Chain Workflows & Process Definitions

Understand, Analyze & Improve Supply Chain Management Business Processes

Understanding Supply Chain Management Workflows and Flow Charts

Supply chain management workflows, or flow charts, show the detailed and specific actions required to achieve end to end product delivery. So many actions take place in order for a product to reach the client or consumer – material management, product manufacturing, inventory management, order fulfillment, product delivery, etc. There are countless improvements that can be made to most organizations’ supply chain management operations, and workflows and flow charts can help to identify those improvements. Each activity in the supply chain management process should be examined individually in addition to how that activity affects the overall supply chain process and customer experience.

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Improving Supply Chain Management Ops Using Flow Charts and Workflows

Supply chain management goes hand in hand with process modeling and flow charts. Flow charts are designed to help organizations achieve a process as efficiently as possible with minimal errors, just like supply chain management’s goal is to deliver goods to their customers as quickly as possible without errors. Mapping out supply chain-specific activities into flow charts, or workflows, will give managers a different perspective of their operations and will allow them to design more efficient distribution channels, streamline warehouse management and reduce order errors. All of these factors will ultimately improve the customer experience and reduce supply chain costs. Here are some specific examples of how flow charts and workflows can improve supply chain management:

  • Use Flow Charts to Train Warehouse Employees: Developing flow charts for the picking, receiving and storing processes will help to mechanize or automate the labor required for warehouse and inventory management. Using these flow charts, or workflows, to train new employees leaves little room for confusion and will allow warehouse managers to detect pain points if/when recurring issues come to light.

  • Reference Flow Charts to Improve Data Quality in Order Fulfillment: Documenting the steps needed to fulfill a customer order will go a long way in improving the data quality on inbound orders (e.g., all fields filled out, data entries are valid, etc.). High data quality will, of course, mitigate the number of customer order errors and unfulfilled orders.

  • Offer Order Shipment Tracking to Customers at Key Points of Delivery Process: Using workflows and flowcharts to map the journey of a customer shipment allows the company to identify bottlenecks and other issues throughout the distribution process. Use customer interactions and Key Performance Indicators to measure performance of key activities involved in the delivery process.

Supply Chain Management Processes that Benefit from Flow Charts

As mentioned previously, there are many phases of the supply chain management process from beginning to end, each of which can greatly benefit from the use of flow charts and workflows. The number of issues that could arise from the beginning of the supply chain process (procurement) to the end (distribution or delivery) is essentially countless. These are the processes that apply to most supply chain management functions where flow chart creation and development can lead to ongoing improvement:!

  1. Procurement: The purchasing of raw materials or goods from suppliers is essential to supply chain efficiency. The use of flow charts or workflows can help mitigate instances of redundant vendor analysis/research and can also help to streamline purchase order creation.

  2. Material Management: Material management refers to the acquisition, inspection and storage of raw materials used in the manufacturing process. Adherence to company-defined workflows can reduce the number of inspection errors, which will subsequently reduce scrap rates and increase first pass yield.

  3. Manufacturing & Production: While some organizations may not include the manufacturing function as part of its supply chain management function, it is a key element that falls in the middle of the supply chain process (for manufacturers). Flow charts in the manufacturing facility can help to reduce lead times and increase machine uptime and utilization.

  4. Order Management: The order management function is responsible for the collection, validation and submitting of all the information required to fulfill customer orders. The documentation of key steps in the order management process through flow charts can help to reduce order errors and increase customer satisfaction.

  5. Distribution: The distribution function handles responsibilities ranging from inventory and warehouse management to the final delivery of goods/products to the customer. Using flow charts in the distribution process can help to improve inventory location accuracy, reduce shrinkage and mitigate order picking errors.

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