Supply chain resilience

Following The Manufacturer’s latest virtual networking session Professor Sam Turner, from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and Rob Heys, from Salesforce, offer their insights into the key challenges currently facing our industry supply chains. Henry Anson reports.

The Manufacturer has been running online private networking sessions since the start of the pandemic, following a virtual form of The Manufacturer Directors Forum Dinners. In many ways these sessions have been working better than the physical versions, allowing senior manufacturers from as far apart as Cornwall and Glasgow to listen, learn and share stories as we all try to navigate through these unprecedented times.

The last two that we have run, entitled, ‘Building a More Agile and Connected Supply Chain’, were both sponsored by Salesforce and featured input and wisdom from the inspirational Professor Sam Turner, Chief Technology Officer at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and Rob Heys from Salesforce.

Interestingly one of these sessions occurred before the announcement of the second lockdown, the other just after. However, the consensus from the second group was that the second lockdown would not have a further impact on the supply chain than had already occurred. We will wait to see…

Manufacturing Planning - Man using tablet pc warehouse tracking asset supply chain -image courtesy of Depositphotos.
image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The conversations were fascinating as all 20 manufacturers present at both sessions are wrestling with supply chain issues at this incredibly difficult time. There were some key ‘takeaways’, namely that agility is as important as resilience, trust is key and that cost might not, and possibly should not, be the biggest determining factor going forward when dealing with supply chains. In order to foster greater trust there needs to be greater collaboration and partnerships built across the supply chain, with greater two-way sharing of data in order that organisations can be more agile.

Visibility up and down the supply chain is important because it gives smaller businesses (or those with less access to funds) the confidence and encouragement to invest.

Businesses are being faced with the green agenda and it should be a collective goal to reduce emissions and achieve net zero; outsourcing production of a component doesn’t result in eradicating that carbon emission, it simply makes it someone else’s problem.

Companies have always competed on cost, quality, service and innovation, and now they must also compete on emissions. Here again, in order to achieve greater transparency there needs to be increased collaboration and data flows across the supply chain.

Rob Heys from Salesforce also referenced culture, and there being ‘tribes’ with diferent (sometimes competing) KPIs; a pan-business consideration should result in collective goals to build a collaborative culture AND provide the tools necessary to achieve those goals.

Supply Chain Supply Chains Warehouse Logistics Road Highway - Shutterstock
image supplied by Shutterstock

Common goals

There were two statements, one each from Sam and Rob, that really got the groups thinking. Sam proposed that the key issue when dealing with supply chains should be to establish a clear common purpose within that supply chain; I suppose a ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality and how can we navigate through to our mutual benefit. I also welcomed Rob’s statement that, as leading manufacturers, you should ‘lean in’ on companies and organisations like Salesforce. They have a huge amount of insight to share and a willingness to support and be flexible, now more than ever. Both Salesforce and HVMC are able to see activity and trends on an aggregated level and are therefore able to offer real insight into developments and opportunities.

Both Sam and Rob also talked about building resilience and concluded there needs to be a weighting to and appetite for local sourcing (Brexit is looming!) – this will require working with local, regional and national Government to drive capabilities.

Sam and Rob summarised:

  • the importance of collaboration;
  • at the heart of it, industry needs to rebuild capability with new skills; and
  • the need for ‘balanced scorecard’ with, amongst others, the green agenda, service, and genuine partnership for mutual benefit playing their parts – it’s not all about price.

A huge thank you to Rob from Salesforce, Sam from HVMC and all those who took part. These sessions are invaluable for us at The Manufacturer to keep abreast of what you, the manufacturing leaders, are thinking and doing. If you would like to find out more about future sessions please contact ( h.anson@hennikgroup.com