Supply chain management is largely concerned with global outsourcing and networks of related companies. This has been the natural outgrowth of the world economy and companies have found ways to thrive within the system. Sometimes, however, managers can find success with cannily deployed in-house functions.
Supply Chain Brain contributor Robert Bowman explained some of the the challenges and opportunities afforded to companies that take care of their own manufacturing. He cited Zara, a fashion retailer, as an example.
Bowman described Zara as a company using its in-house processes as a means to boost agility, a vital trait in the world of clothing design and retail. Bowman explained that the chain does not work within the conventional "seasons" scheme of the fashion world. He stated that supply experts have widely praised the way that Zara switches gears based on feedback directly from the public.
According to Bowman, part of Zara's strength comes from its decision to retain both partners and their own in-house units to manufacture new items. He explained that the firm excels in appropriating the styles of top high-fashion collections, getting consumer equivalents on the market mere weeks after a collection's high-profile debut. The location of production units near Zara's Spanish shipping hub is meant to move clothes quickly into the marketplace in small batches. Avoiding large shipments can also mean less overstock, which is extremely desirable in fashion.
Connecting within a firm can be a job for new technology deployments. Automation in the simple processes of storage and shipping takes the focus off of employees, allowing them to enhance speed in new and different ways. A strong, modern warehouse management system could be one way to ensure that any productivity and speed gains reaped from new manufacturing methods are not lost to warehousing confusion.
Finding new schedules to ship products has been an area of focus for retailers, especially in fields such as fashion. Chain Store Age contributors David Kudas and Russell Parker explained some of the new efforts sellers are taking to place items on shelves out of the rigid structure of seasons. They stated that the ideal season structure is flexible, with the periods when new items are available elastic and taking between four and 13 weeks to run their course. They also mentioned that fashion sellers can gain by splitting up types of items and cycling them independently, some as little as twice a year and others every eight weeks.