Ensure supply chain continuity creates more value for customers

In gear design, incorporating the best raw materials is critical for high performance. Removing potential barriers to access those materials can streamline production and save on overall costs.

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Encountering challenges throughout the production process for any type of gear is to be expected. The steps in the supply chain — from melting the steel to delivery and assembly of the finished components are complex and interdependent, and any quality, delivery, or supply interruption along the way could have a significant impact and require major adjustment downstream. You can help manage resources and costs for your end customers by focusing energy on developing robust planning processes and maintaining the continuity of your supply chain.

Efficient and cost-effective supply chains are comprised of a combination of factors: availability of quality materials, lean manufacturing processes, sound inventory management, efficient logistics and distribution networks, and excellence in service. Whether you’re overseeing your own supply network or working closely with a partner such as TimkenSteel to manage the supply chain for you, understanding how to effectively manage constraints across the system will help you to optimize working capital and provide unwavering supply continuity to your customer.

Manufacturers can help manage resources and costs for end customers by focusing energy on developing robust planning processes and maintaining the continuity of your supply chain. (Courtesy: TimkenSteel)

Points to remember when focusing on the continuity of your supply chain include:

  • Develop a flawless launch plan with each supplier and establish quality metrics to monitor progress and drive long-term performance.
  • Minimize the lag in demand signals from customers throughout the supply chain. This will help to ensure continuity of supply during peak customer demand periods.
  • Provide real-time feedback to suppliers about their performance. Focus on how they are helping meet customer needs. This will help to maintain consistent production schedules, ensure quality, and potentially reduce overall cost. 
  • Maintain a risk mitigation and recovery plan at each step of the supply chain. Having plans in place to anticipate problems is the most effective way to address them if they occur.
  • Work with your suppliers to monitor their financial stability and develop contingency operating plans when needed. Again, preparing for unplanned expenditures can help to resolve them quickly if needed.

Although it may seem like “doomsday preparation” to focus so intensely on risk mitigation, having plans to address what could go wrong is key to resolving small problems before they become big ones. In addition to the above points, you can also employ tools such as advanced product quality planning (APQP) to frame various processes. These types of checks and balances will result in continuous flow and smoother transition from supplier to supplier, ultimately adding value for end customers with product excellence at less cost. 

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Jim Albertson is Senior Manager of Supply Chain Strategy and Operations Advancement for TimkenSteel. He spearheads supply chain strategy and supplier development programs for a broad range of outsourced conversion services. He joined TimkenSteel in 2001 and has held various leadership positions. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from The University of Akron and is a member of the American Society for Quality. Contact him at 330-471-3134 or james.albertson@timkensteel.com.