Building a Better Supply Chain in Three Not-So-Easy Steps

July 11, 2008
Silos are fine for farms, but they wreak havoc on supply chains.

How can you build a healthy, collaborative and profitable supply chain culture at your business? It all comes down to communication, explains Ron Cain, president and CEO of TMSI Logistics, a provider of third-party logistics services. And a key component to good communication involves the breaking down of the silos that historically isolate the various areas of a company into unconnected islands with no apparent link to any of the other islands. To establish a silo-free supply chain, Cain recommends manufacturers follow this three-step process:

1: Start by asking, "What kind of culture drives our organization?" This step requires a clear-eyed look at how your people view themselves, how they view each other and how they view the organization.

Some good questions to ask during this process are:

  • Could investing in an improved workplace culture drive more effective communication? A culture that encourages communication means a business that effectively shares information. If you're eager to break the silo effect mentality, you'll need to change the culture.
  • Do you have the right team? Unfortunately, not everyone can be expected to buy into changing their communication habits to improve your workplace culture.
  • Are you personally willing to change -- and maybe fail? You can't expect everyone to change their way of working, communicating and collaborating while you keep your own habits. This means trying new approaches, stretching your abilities and risking failure. Creating an improved culture starts with you.

2: Identify the tools for your plan. To realize a communicative, performance-based workforce, you need both a plan and the tools to complete it. Before you start sawing floor planks, you should probably have a blueprint for your house, so let's start with the plan.

Your blueprint is a statement of your strategy and should provide a birds-eye view from 50,000 feet. It should derive from the mission statement and tell the story about how you want to create a performance-based culture.

Your tools, on the other hand, are the tactics and methods that you use to build, day-to-day, a culture that drives effective communication. A good tactical start is making sure your efforts are visible. Use technological tools to your advantage by sending e-mail updates, putting messages on pay stubs and setting up information centers to keep everyone in the culture loop.

3: Implement your plan for a culture that encourages communication -- and demolishes silos -- by creating incentives for it. These incentives will emphasize the importance of improved communications by putting your money where your mouth is. As you see improvements in communications, you should also begin to see improvements in your bottom line. And using financial incentives allows you to reward people for having an impact, both on the company's culture and its bottom line.

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