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Change management in the supply chain

For as long as we have known, the business environment has seen change resulting in an increase in the need to make corresponding changes in the businesses system. Many businesses who are slow – or fail in their endeavour to implement change – often get left behind, which can in some cases be detrimental to their survival.

One of the larger challenges recognised as part of this process is noted as applying change management to supply chains, often due to fast product improvements, ever changing technologies, and the inclination to adopt a global perspective for future growth.

More than ever, the consumer is provided with a wider choice of where to purchase, due to a high degree of visibility of world markets. The introduction of new, innovative products brought into the market by global competitors highlights the need for your business to maintain or gain market share.

This is not all. There are many challenges that may call for the need for changes in supply chain management. This is why it is important to recognise that change management in the supply chain is of great importance, as a supply chain is the life of the business. It’s also good to understand that disruption to the supply chain has the ability to negatively impact the health and success of the business.

Change management in the supply change can be a difficult task. A change management program in this context often works in an uncertain and fluctuating situational environment and is vulnerable to external factors. It is usually stressed there is a need for a tailor made solution to suit every individual change. There is a real requirement for effective change management to transition from environmental changes into opportunity and development of the business.

Today’s supply chains can be very complex, and challenges can arise. Amendment and improvement can be a large task, often putting a strain on supply chain management. Internal management are going to have to plan for and implement these changes, hopefully with the assistance of a change management specialist. You might not think there is a need for someone like that, but research shows they are invaluable, especially where there is a risk to the supply chain. A change management specialist will know how best to implement change without impacting your profits.

The most common mistake people make when they are implementing change management is not to apply the basic change management principles to their work at all levels. You’ll need a change management specialist to do this. If you had a broken leg, you might try to patch it up if you had no other option, but you would prefer to speak to a doctor, to make sure you’re not messing it all up and causing long term pain and discomfort. That’s the same principle here. You can do your best without an expert, but the results are as likely to be as good, and the process not as smooth.

Survival and Growth

If your business is like most others, it’s likely too big of a change in your supply chain would send you under. There aren’t many businesses who can weather a long storm. Constant changes and fluctuations in the marketplace means someone needs not only to manage the change, but also respond to what is happening out there. We’ve seen drastic changes in the last year because of COVID-19 and Brexit, which all happened at once. If you were on top of your work, you planned for Brexit. But how do you plan for a global pandemic? You can’t, unless it’s your job to forecast for the worst-case scenario during a period of change management. That’s what specialists do.

What will I need to manage to make sure my supply chain is not impacted?

We know you’re asking for a tick-list here, and that’s good. It means you know there is more than one element you need to be aware of if you’re thinking of change management and your business has a supply chain. If you’re wanting to manage this yourself, you need to think about the following things:

  • Processes
    • Can your supply chain fulfil orders in a timely manner, in a proper, safe and secure way? Are processes compliant with regulations, and will they stay that way?
  • Technology
    • Change management is often spurred by a need for technological growth. Whilst you’re implementing your change management, you’re going to need to make sure staff are well-trained and confident, so that the switch over doesn’t have a negative impact.
  • People
    • Your staff must be onboard with the changes, or else their frustration and hesitation will hinder the process. This is the biggest element you’ll need to tackle, but you need key staff members to drive the initiative forward in a way that encourages your other staff. Identifying, encouraging and monitoring those staff is a huge task in itself, without analysing how they’re impacting other members of your team.

Change management isn’t as easy as swapping one thing out for another. You’re going to need to carefully manage all aspects of your business to make sure your income isn’t affected.

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