Supply chain savings

A supply chain is a system of organizations, people, technology, activities, information and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer. Supply chain activities transform natural resources, raw materials and components into a finished product that is delivered to the end customer. In sophisticated supply chain systems, used products may re-enter the supply chain at any point where residual value is recyclable.

A supply chain consists of all parties involved, directly or indirectly, in fulfilling a customer request. The supply chain not only includes the manufacturer and suppliers, but also transporters, warehouses, retailers, and customers themselves. Within each organization, such as manufacturer, the supply chain includes all functions involved in receiving and filling a customer request. These functions include, but are not limited to, new product development, marketing, operations, distribution, finance, and customer service.

The primary purpose from the existence of any supply chain is to satisfy customer needs, in the process generating profits for itself. Supply chain activities begin with a customer order and end when a satisfied customer has paid for his or her purchase. The term supply chain conjures up images of product or supply moving from suppliers to manufacturers to distributors to retailers to customers along a chain. It is important to visualize information, funds, and product flows along both directions of this chain. The term supply chain may also imply that only one player is involved at each stage. In reality, a manufacturer may receive material from several suppliers and then supply several distributors. Thus, most supply chains are actually networks. It may be more accurate to use the term supply network or supply web to describe the structure of most supply chains.

A typical supply chain may involve a variety of stages. These supply chain stages include:

  • Customers
  • Retailers
  • Wholesalers/Distributors
  • Manufacturers
  • Component/Raw material suppliers

Each stage need not be presented in a supply chain. The appropriate design of the supply chain will depend on both the customer’s needs and the roles of the stages involved.

Supply chain management (SCM) is the combination of art and science that goes into improving the way your company finds the raw components it needs to make a product or service and deliver it to customers.

A supply chain may be defined as an integrated process wherein a number of various business entities (i.e., suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers) work together in an effort to: (1) acquire raw materials, (2) convert these raw materials into specified final products, and (3) deliver these final products to retailers. This chain is traditionally characterized by a forward flow of materials and a backward flow of information. For years, researchers and practitioners have primarily investigated the various processes of the supply chain individually. Recently, however, there has been increasing attention placed on the performance, design, and analysis of the supply chain as a whole. From a practical standpoint, the supply chain concept arose from a number of changes in the manufacturing environment, including the rising costs of manufacturing, the shrinking resources of manufacturing bases, shortened product life cycles, the leveling of the playing field within manufacturing, and the globalization of market economies.