Supply Chain Engineers (SCE’s) are much like any other engineer. Just as engineers design, build, and install structures and systems, SCE’s do the same specifically for supply chains.
Supply chain engineers shape the networks, processes, and systems that underlie product and service streams. Their projects are either big and small. Project scopes can range from setting up a whole new distribution network to the simple improvement of inspecting inbound materials at a receiving dock.
Most supply chain managers try to solve their operations’ problems by themselves. If a customer order was undelivered because there was no room on a delivery truck, the manager would find another truck to load and ship the ordered items. But if the manager observed that pending orders were accumulating and it’s because demand is outstripping trucking capacity, he’d ask truckers to just get more trucks. He wouldn’t realize that an SCE can determine the best transport asset mix and routing system instead of having more trucks a freight provider will eventually charge to the enterprise. Without SCE’s, supply chain managers often patch problems with band-aid solutions.
SCE’s offer an engineering expertise that go beyond the scope of supply chain management. They synchronise the interconnecting links of supply chains by designing, building, and implementing systems, facilities, devices and processes that would sustain the productive flow of goods, services, and data. To put it another way, SCE’s bring about supply chains that run reliably at lowest cost and at best quality and service for enterprises and customers.
SCE’s do a number of tasks that help enterprises with their supply chains. The following are twelve (12) examples:
- Map Supply Chains. SCE’s can lay out the flows of supply chains and make visible the nitty-gritties of an enterprise’s operations, including the processes involving vendors and customers. Supply chain maps are instrumental in identifying weak points along product and service streams;
- Set Up Monitoring Systems. SCE’s can set up systems that would show what’s going on in supply chains as well as alert managers of impending disruptions. SCE’s can create dashboards that would show key data about supply chain operations, such as status of imports, inventories, pending orders, losses, and scheduled deliveries;
- Customise Order-to-Delivery. SCE’s can tailor order fulfilment systems for companies depending on their industries and customer service strategies;
- Propose Supply Chain Models for New Products. SCE’s can design supply chain models for new or relaunched products and services;
- Balance Operations to Synchronise Flow. SCE’s can devise systems that synchronise the flow of merchandise from vendors to enterprise to customers. It is an SCE’s aim to streamline flow to minimize waste in waiting times and work-in-process inventories;
- Implement Statistically Based Process Control Systems. SCE’s can implement systems that minimize variability, what some would call statistical control. At the same time, SCE’s can tweak operational capabilities to churn products and services consistently for quality assurance;
- Study Feasibility of Projects. SCE’s can study the feasibility of capital expenditure projects via their expertise in engineering economics and evaluate options to determine which would provide the best rates of returns;
- Introduce Ideas to Spread Inventories. SCE’s can develop inventory planning methods that would spread product stocks along various points of the supply chain which would lead to better customer service and minimal working capital;
- Design Operations That Adapt to Supply & Demand Variability. SCE’s can plan and lay out work-place operations that would be flexible to fluctuating merchandise volumes;
- Determine Supply Chain Capacities and Baseline Efficiencies. SCE’s have the technical prowess to compute supply chain operational capacities and efficiencies, whether they be machine, labour, or logistics-related.
- Find the Best Method to Maintain Fixed Assets. SCE’s can evaluate what would be the best maintenance program for the supply chain’s equipment, facilities, and logistical infrastructure.
- Develop Frameworks to Support Collaboration. SCE’s can help enterprises set up support structures to collaborate better with vendors and customers. These range from simple communication protocols such as mobile messaging of purchase order status to shared networks and methods for vendor-managed inventories and customer inventory replenishment;
These tasks may sound familiar to industrial engineers. That’s because they are from industrial engineering. Supply Chain Engineering is an offshoot of Industrial Engineering in that both share the same purpose: finding ways to continuously improve productivity.
Whereas IE’s traditionally work within the confines of an enterprise, SCE’s look at the entirety of supply chains. SCE’s judge their work in the context of supply chains. SCE’s seek beneficial value for all stakeholders along the supply chain from vendors to customers, from in-house departments to 3rd party providers. SCE’s strengthen the interdependencies that exist in supply chains.
Supply Chain Engineers build supply chains. They do what engineers do but more so for supply chains. SCE’s have the abilities to do a number of things that would benefit enterprises.
SCE’s are a new breed of industrial engineers and they have a lot to offer. It is hoped enterprises will welcome their opportunity to contribute.