It’s somewhat of a tradition to bake at any sign of a celebration or holiday festivity. Birthday cake, Christmas cake, Christening cake, Graduation cake, Pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving; the list is endless. And as an avid lover of baking, from studying Food Technology at school, and as the holiday baking season of mince pies, gingerbread houses, yule logs and Christmas puddings begins, it seems that baking and supply chains have some common interests. So what can baking teach supply chain managers?
Baking is an exciting way to get into the holiday spirit and can be considered as a fun, relaxing hobby to destress from everyday life; a form of expressive art, or in some cases a business venture. Generally speaking, each successfully baked good takes planning, precision and practice. But problems can arise with each process, for example, with timings, incorrect measurements and a lack of certain ingredients. To get the best results in both baking and supply chain management, every factor and process counts. This requires quality control, planning and technology.
Good things happen when the time is right
A key point to recognize about baking is that it is a science. It requires precise ingredient ratios and timings for important reactions to take place, and ultimately create perfectly edible baked goods. For example, if a cake is baked at the wrong temperature or for the wrong amount of time, it will appear to be ready, but when sliced, it will be underbaked. And there isn’t a simple fix; once the cake is cooled it cannot be re-baked as it will not rise again due to the raising agents expiring.
This concept can be directly related to supply chains as each process initiates the next, hence a chain reaction. Raw materials or components are needed to manufacture the product, and then when the product is ready, it is distributed to retailers. These are all interdependent on each other to create the best possible end result, such as delivering a product to the customer in a timely manner. Similar to baking, timings are of upmost importance in supply chains. Time has an influence on pretty much everything in the supply chain world; from customers and competition to company dynamics and reputation. Customers are satisfied by fast deliveries. Speed and efficiency are important, but they both can’t always be obtained without a compromise. Decreasing lead times can cause some underlying issues, such as cost and reliability. For example, last mile delivery is very expensive and somewhat inefficient with customized and complex routes.
Right product, right method
To bake a simple cake, let’s say for example a Victoria Sponge, all the basic ingredients needed for the cake are: eggs, butter, sugar, self-raising flour and vanilla extract or seasonal spices to add a touch of Christmas. So far, seems easy. However, baking is more complex than one would think. But the main point to understand is; a successful bake relies on the correct ingredients, quantity and method. Every ingredient and process has a specific purpose.
In terms of supply chain, each process and the method used have a specific role to play. But every company is different; they all have different structures and systems. Therefore there is no standard method for optimizing your supply chain. What works for your competitors, will not necessarily work for you. Your approach to supply chain management should be unique to the company, reflecting the values, and an extension of the existing supply chain strategy. It should be communicated to all parties involved so you’re all on the same page. Evaluating the company in terms of the type of product and supply chain helps to identify the strategy.
For example, Apple has an agile supply chain strategy, meaning their innovative products create high demand uncertainty. Therefore, they are flexible and respond quickly to customers’ unpredictable demands. Another example includes Zara; the company uses a responsive supply chain strategy. Their supply chain management method is the key to their competitive advantage. It literally represents ‘fast fashion’. The fashion retailer uses ‘just in time’ production to adapt designs, produce, distribute and retail the items around two weeks after they have appeared in catwalk shows. Therefore, they meet the needs of seasonal changes and high demand uncertainty.
Technology creates better results
These days, innovative technological advancements are in the forefront of our everyday lives, meaning traditional methods are on the back burner. There’s a gadget for just about everything. Electrical appliances, for example food processors or electric whisks, are widely used in households to speed up the preparation process and ensure a greater consistency for baking mixtures. This takes half the time it would take if done manually, and with less arm ache when completing the strenuous task of whisking, trying to achieve the right texture for those Christmas cookies.
With that being said, technology has many benefits for supply chain optimization. By having a more digitized supply chain, companies can be more innovative, operate more efficiently and increase productivity rates with quicker techniques, while helping to decrease operational costs – with so much competition out there, this is vital.
For instance, over the last few years, all things related to the Internet of Things (IoT) and automation have sparked a lot of interest in the supply chain industry. Some examples in the freight and logistics sector include asset and vehicle tracking systems through GPS and RFID tags, to track goods and transportation along every step of the journey to the final destination. This can then be analyzed to identify potential developments to ultimately increase customer satisfaction. Furthermore, a current topic in the supply chain industry has been the development of autonomous trucks. This trend would decrease lead times with the help of the platooning technology.
Developing an effective supply chain isn’t easy. But with the right strategy and the aid of technology it can be a piece of cake. In this article, it shows that in both the baking and supply chain industries, every detail matters to create the perfect delicious cake at any festive occasion, or in supply chain terms, to get the right product to the right customer at the right time.
What is the recipe for success for your supply chain?