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Six Ways to Build Competitive Advantage in the Supply Chain

Considerations for transformational leaders

Manipulating your supply chain to achieve savings is not a new phenomenon. There are decades worth of transformations, case studies, and horror stories about what has been done well and perhaps not so well.

So, how does a company know they have built a competitive advantage?

1. Understand the space you occupy
External benchmarking and competitive research is often overlooked because it's expensive and difficult to collect in a useable format. It's hard work to determine the state of competition in any industry as a whole and among the individual players in that space. However, the best way to establish a competitive advantage is to understand what others are doing and identify what it will take to do it better, faster, with higher quality or with more features that buyers want.

2. Invest in learning what customers and suppliers want from the relationship with your company
If asked, a customer may share additional needs with you. Listening well and closing the loop on these opportunities builds upon the relationship with the customer and provides an opportunity to innovate, leading to new revenue streams or services. Executives that conduct formal quarterly business reviews with their vendors often experience lower costs, higher service levels and expanded books of business through information and process integration, sharing forecast data and providing an update on any significant changes on the horizon at industry, market or company level.

3. Resist the urge to go it alone
Companies today do not exist in a vacuum; they're part of an ecosystem. Think of it as a spectrum, from supplier's supplier to customer's customer consisting of hundreds, or even thousands, of participants. In the modern business world, competitive advantage may mean that, instead of developing a capability internally, a company partners with a firm that already has that competency. Together, they create a stronger solution than either of them is capable of individually. For example, we have pulled together an ecosystem of best-of-breed providers to form a global reverse logistics network. None of the companies in the solution could have delivered a competitive solution individually, but together they had a formidable capability that leveraged the core competency of each. We created new space -- saving 12 or more months of development and implementation time while avoiding significant cost in developing infrastructure. The ecosystem delivered velocity and agility in a period of high global growth. Pivotal to our success was breaking down barriers between trading partners and forcing cross-functional alignment and collaboration across the supply chain. Working across functional boundaries, both internally and on a cross-entity basis, forms a seamless value chain -- creating powerful solutions and opening up avenues to new revenue opportunities.

4. Invest in people and process and connect them directly to the outcomes you are trying to achieve
People create competitive advantage. They may leverage technology to help, but aligning vision, mission and values of your organization, enrolling people into your initiatives, and providing focus on outcomes is a human leadership endeavor. Place the right people in the right place to produce the right outcome. Leader and Organization Improvement experts help executives achieve this by guiding the entire team through assessments, alignment exercises and training then taking them through application, evaluation and follow-up to identify problem areas and drive specific improvements.

5. Create and maintain focus and execute with velocity
We have worked with companies that have a high degree of focus and with companies that have none at all. The days of the five-year strategy may be long gone, but companies still need to invest time and effort in building and refining their roadmap. Once this is in place, leaders must drive collaboration and alignment across their entire business, creating a culture where the focus is firmly on initiatives that will move them to the next waypoint.

6. Calculate the value potential for your business
To change the game in an organization, you first need to understand where the cross-functional value opportunities lie based on Maine Pointe's unique Total Value Optimization™ approach.

  • If you would like to talk through the opportunities discussed in this article and find out how Maine Pointe's TVO™ approach can help transform your supply chain into a competitive weapon, contact us for a no-obligation chat.

About Us

Maine Pointe is a global implementation-focused consulting firm trusted by many chief executives and private equity firms to drive compelling economic returns for their companies. We achieve this by delivering accelerated, sustainable improvements in both EBITDA and cash across their supply chain and operations. Our hands-on implementation experts work with executives and their teams to rapidly break through functional silos and transform the buy-make-move-fulfill supply chain to deliver the greatest value to customers and investors at the lowest cost to business. We call this Total Value Optimization (TVO)™.

Maine Pointe's engagements are results-driven and deliver between 3.5:1-12:1 ROI. We are so confident in our work and our processes that we provide a unique 100% guarantee of engagement fees based on annualized savings.

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