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Who is a Supply Chain Consultant? Supply Chain Consultants act as competent business partners to both top management and heads of suppl... thumbnail 1 summary
Who is a Supply Chain Consultant?

Supply Chain Consultants act as competent business partners to both top management and heads of supply chain. They can contribute an external viewpoint to organisational development. Just like other members of this discipline, the supply chain consultant considers, approves or rejects structures, free from hierarchical and historically evolved restrictions. He develops new structures, puts them forward to the company and supports companies in their move to introduce new systems alongside their daily business. What is the difference between this person and a management consultant? Merely the word “supply chain”. Yet this in itself is important, because, for the supply chain consultant, technique, investment, and realisation are vital; that is to say areas in which the management consultant is not at home. This is the time for engineers, technological institutes and software developers to perform. Togehter they cultivate their vast field of technical realisation. And what of the supply chain consultants? They also work on the same task and combine their experience of both organisational development and technique with their special knowledge of the industry and their practical competence.

To put it in a different way: with the service that they offer, supply chain consultants stand between the big management consultants and the organisational consultants, and between institutes affiliated to universities and manufacturers and general managers.

• Their niche lies between organisational strategy and supply chain strategy.

• They are not research oriented, yet they are innovative.

• They are able to realise ideas but are independent of both manufacturers and product.

In short, supply chain consultants are placed beside and behind their customer in the function of temporary supply chain managers. They are trustees of the company’s interests, yet they are at the same time more independent than company members are. Their relationship to their client is one of absolute loyalty. One can find supply chain consultants in a wide variety of functions. Some of them are illustrated below.

A) Consultants arc competitors, sparing partners and spare capacity for company management

Competition stimulates business and the quality of a solution. Large organisations are allowing us more and more opportunities to compete against their own company management. This type of planned competition with their own people is often an important instrument in testing and improving the capabilities of their staff. In case of large investments of strategic decisions, planned competition with the outsider, i.e. the consultant, brings new ideas to the situation, gained through his broad experience of other industries. Finally, consultants act as a pool to assist at times of peak demand. They can be used as a free reserve that does not cause any\ fixed costs.

B) The consultant supports the positioning of supply chain in the organisation

Is supply chain one of the central areas of competence of a company? Would one contract out supply chain management? What does supply chain contributes to the company’s profit? Many companies relieve themselves of burden of supply chain management by simply contracting out. With regard to central areas of competence, this is often very sensible. Yet this decision should only be taken if it is workable in the long-term. Supply chain consultants can help, acting here as independent external business partners to answer the question of central competence of supply chain management. For example, they can calculate exactly the contribution of supply chain towards the profit and the cost of supply chain itself, i.e. calculate carefully, make or buy alternatives.

C) Consultants integrate supply chain as a business management system

Material flow in the warehouse cannot be regarded as an isolated process. Both the systems theorist and also the supply chain practitioner know how much one process depends on the other. For example, the warehouse dimensions depend on the structure of procurement and on stock; the distribution routes depend upon stock location; delivery service and commissioning depend on Last-Order times and agreed delivery dates. Often, the wishes of the sales strategist and the customer coincide, yet these are not always cost effective.
The level of service that is regarded by supply chain personnel as possible is often oriented towards daily business and is dominated by considerations of cost. Supply chain consultants can help sales and logistics personnel to reach a compromise.

D) Supply chain consultants help to formulate strategic goals in logistics and to draw up investment and rationalisation programmes.

Those organisations seeking orientation, which want to invest in the future of their supply chain, must clarify first of all their strategic goals. Ordering methods, distribution point, and delivery service requirements must be defined in accord with the aims of the company.

Supply chain consultants are in this instance helpful business partners because they know both the strategic and also the technical side of a distribution system, that is the technical aspect involving knowledge of investment. They can calculate exactly at what cost and with how many employees an imaginary warehouse “X” can be operated at location “Y”. Hypothetical examples that are unrealistic are virtually impossible with an experienced consultant. As soon as an investment programme is strategically fixed, the next step is to work out the technical details. Whoever desires now well-established standards will work in the main directly together with a manufacturer or general manager. On the other hand, whoever is seeking competitive advantage within a strongly contested market, for example by means of exceptional commitment to schedule and to low rate of failure, whoever finally, is aiming at exceptional growth, then let tailor-made supply chains be recommended to him over and above standards.

E) Supply chain consultants are independent and unbiased towards product and manufacturer

Manufacturers, too frequently offer planning and development resources. It is advisable to use them when optimising sub-systems for which the manufacturer is a specialist. An investor, who is certian that, for example, only a new shelf system is required, or the connection of two warehouse areas by conveyors, will be in safe hands with the producer of material flow components. If he wants to know, however, whether he needs a warehouse or rather a service provider or if a new system, conveyor belt or shelf system is at all necessary, then firstly, he should think and plan independently of both the product and manufacturer. One makes a better choice of system.