5 Tips for Managing a Global Supply Chain

Shipping and selling abroad is not the most monumental task in the world, but shipping and selling abroad with the same level of efficiency seen at home is another matter. Nicole Carter at Inc.com points to Edible Arrangements, which manages to offer nearly all the same options to customers in Italy and Turkey that it does to customers in New York City, as a company that has mastered the management of international supply chain. Reaching such heights with your company if you are not already there can be accomplished by following Carter’s tips:

  1. Get the whole team on board.
  2. Go to the experts first.
  3. Timing affects everything.
  4. Good sales forecasting is paramount.
  5. Don’t assume too much.

Managing the global supply chain requires the input of the whole company, so transparency between departments is key. The CFO should not be rolling on the floor crying at costs on a project that should have been spelled out to upper management months ago. And when managing resources internationally, experts with knowledge of conditions in the chosen area must be sought to ensure the right deals are being made. Finding reliable partners who have contact with the right people and have practical insights into things like tax code can have a dramatic effect on the bottom line of costs. Understanding and minimizing time tables is another way to shrink costs. Sourcing and manufacturing domestically means being able to satisfy large orders at home in short order, whereas sourcing to China could mean quadruple the amount of time spent to satisfy an order domestically. Understand the pros and cons beforehand, because it will be required to adequately forecast sales. Since it takes much more time and effort to move products internationally, it must be known in advance how much product to ship. Too little product is a missed opportunity; too much product could spell disaster. But in spite of all the elements that must be ascertained in advance, just try not to assume too much: [Thomas Phelps of Alloquor Supply Chain Consulting] says that one of the biggest mistakes he sees small businesses considering international expansion make is, well, too much guessing. “We assume that the culture and operations of another culture are similar to ours here in the U.S. and that is not always the case,” he adds. Things like electrical power or internet access, which American businesses have easy access to, might not be so easily accessed in another country. Managing a global supply chain requires transparency, number crunching, and most of all, eternal vigilance. Consider all the options, find partners to help you navigate the landscape, and remember that phrases like “bite your tongue” will not translate so well into Burmese.

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