The American (Supply Chain) Revolution

by Todd McDonald on May 9, 2013

With the ability to instantly call a client in China or text message a business partner in India, it’s easy to forget that, in the past, it could take as long as three months to send a simple telegram from England to the United States. Imagine how difficult it must have been for the British command to direct the Revolutionary War from 3000 miles away. King George III couldn’t exactly log in to Gmail.

As the economy ramps back up, many companies are finding their supply chains as unwieldy as these eighteenth century lines of communication. With huge swings in supply and demand daily, supply chain flexibility and agility are becoming key concerns for businesses looking to grow in 2013.

So what factors are driving organizations to promote supply chain flexibility to the top of their agendas? Albert Sun and Glen Goldbach, directors at PricewaterhouseCoopers argue in their recent IndustryWeek article, How a Flexible Supply Chain Delivers Value, that:

  • Emerging economies are causing a global shift in demand which includes material flow as well as finished products with a faster order-to-delivery time
  • The complexity of supply chains is increasing related to cost, speed-to-delivery, and consumer experience
  • Disruption and fragility of international supply chains caused by natural disaster, political unrest, and port strikes
  • Companies are under increasing scrutiny from consumers and the media alike, which expect them to enforce fair labor conditions and sustainability practices

This focus on flexibility is precisely what we brought to the table when we took over Kaz’s production of Braun Ear Thermometers. After auditing the existing workflow, we saw that the supply chain was wrought with inefficiencies subject to the restraints, delays and additional costs of overseas shipments and communication as well as the inability to transport finished goods cartridges.

We revolutionized their process by creating a streamlined workflow, entirely in the United States (the country of greatest consumption), which reduced the project’s overall environmental impact, removed unnecessary delays and costs from the supply chain and allowed us to massively decrease the complexity of the supply chain.

Additionally, the clean room required for the project is modular and completely transportable. For now, it makes the most sense to base our operations in Huntley, IL, but if a shift in the market were to occur, TEQ has the experience and knowledge to quickly redesign and relocate our facilities, fundamentally transforming the supply chain on demand.

To conquer an increasingly complex world with a growing consumer focus, supply chain flexibility should be a priority for any business looking to grow as we drive out of our economic recession. King George III learned his lesson about unwieldy supply lines the hard way. Let’s learn from his mistakes.

Do you have a great case study or method that your company uses to increase supply chain flexibility? Tell us in the comments.

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