Supply Chain Best Practice is, at best, a very vague term. Of course it sounds very positive and after all, who doesn’t want the best? However, it’s not a term we like. For us it alludes to a ‘one size fits all’ solution. In supply chain management, that is never true.
The first thing to remember when you hear the term Best Practice, is that it’s mainly a marketing term. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Best Practice regimes are derived purely by objective supply chain academics: they aren’t. Many of the Supply Chain Best Practice regimes commonly referenced are actually designed by large-scale international management consultancies.
We are not suggesting that all Supply Chain Best Practice regimes are wrong, just because they were designed by commercial organisations. This is not the case, and there are lots of sensible and useful methodologies that come from consultancy driven ‘Best Practice’ approaches. However, the question is, why is it Best Practice?
To answer this question, you have to understand the motives of those management consultancy organisations that adhere to their own, in house developed, Best Practice approaches to supply chain management.
Firstly, it can be argued that their primary driver is commercial – they need to package and sell a standardised service in order to sell those services in volume. Secondly, it can also be argued that to sell those services in volume, they often need to train fresh-faced consultants that may not have the relevant experience. These two factors combined mean that they need a prescriptive framework that can be easily trained and packaged into a standard approach.
It’s difficult to put a marketing spin on ‘we need a generic platform that can be sold by the inexperienced to the unknowing as many times as possible’. So, the marketing teams scratch their heads and come up with the idea of selling it as ‘Best Practice’. A few publications and conferences later, and the consultancy will have major corporations convinced that their method of doing things is the only valid way – it is industry standard: it is ‘Best Practice’.
However, here’s the reality: Best Practice is a sweeping generalisation that assumes a form of commonality that very few businesses have. It is a bit like a footwear retailer deciding to only sell size 8 shoes. Sure, they’ll fit wonderfully for some, but then everyone else will have squished toes or be tripping over.
At the forefront of all supply chain consultancy thinking should be that every business is different, regardless of whether they operate in the same sector, sell to the same market, and produce the same products. Businesses are as individual as people; from where they are located, how they are funded, how they are managed, their strategic direction, their asset base, their culture, the list goes on.
There really isn’t any such thing as a blueprint for best practice within supply chain management – there is no ‘one size fits all’. All supply chain development must be carefully analysed within the context of the business in question and that business’s real world constraints.
So, beware if you are being sold THE Best Practice. The reality is that there are many best practices, and any approach to supply chain development should be very much bespoke to your business. There will only ever be your best practice, not ‘the Best Practice’.
To discuss your supply chain or logistics requirements with our expert team please contact us.