by   |    |  Estimated reading time: 4 minutes  |  in Aerospace & Defense, Business Agility, Manufacturing, Process Manufacturing, Strategy, Supply Chain   |  tagged , , , , , , , , ,

In the enterprise resource planning (ERP) environment, a supply chain faces a number of operational challenges. With the right strategy, an organization can overcome these challenges and gain a great amount of competitive advantage.

When Supply & Demand Chain Executive awarded Bill Leedale, a senior advisor at IFS North America for manufacturing and engineering, as one of the 2016 Pros to Know, none of his colleagues were surprised. The Pros to Know Awards recognize supply chain thought leaders who lead initiatives to help prepare companies’ supply chains to navigate through the challenges of today’s business climate.

Having over 30 years of experience in operations and project management, Bill has helped customers in many industries, including defense, industrial manufacturing, high-tech manufacturing and electronics as well as food and beverage. He believes an efficient and effective supply chain is key to a sustainable competitive advantage. As a result, I have compiled a list of the top 5 challenges Bill coaches his customer on, complete with advice on how to overcome each challenge.


  1. Supply Chain Personnel Development and Retention: It is critical to provide resources with the training they need to be successful in designing and maintaining supply chains. Since it is predicted that there will soon be a large shortage of skilled, qualified candidates, retain new resources through a program that grows their skills. APICS certification is a good start.
  2. Supply Chain Risk Management: Many companies are still reactive to supply chain disruptions and don’t have a plan for mitigating risks. Businesses should do a cost-benefit analysis of risk mitigation and review as risks change over time. Companies should also make sure they are equipped with effective tactics to manage sourcing risks.
  3. Supply Chain Responsiveness: Lack of visibility is one of the primary causes of supply chain rigidness. Companies need to develop a plan of action to be able to recover from disruptions and meet the needs of customers. To do this in an effective manner, companies should look for robust tools for forecasting and demand management. These can be used to identify trends and biases that can help determine where the leverage points would be.
  4. Supply Chain Sustainability: With increasingly stringent regulations surrounding environmental impact, companies are under pressure to document their supply chain and report on sustainability initiatives. Businesses should work with their ERP vendor to develop reporting strategies and to develop an infrastructure that enables them to report on environmental and supplier compliance that involves sustainability initiatives.
  5. Supply Chain and the Internet of Things (IoT): This is going to become critical in certain industries, where quick feedback will enable route planning for repair technicians and help in forecasting spare part demand. Sensor devices will provide information as to where they are and what is going on in their environment. Companies need to be prepared to use this information for their goods and to provide the information to their customers.

There will also be some risk assessment as to how secure the devices are and how to protect data. There will be a need to collect the data sent to the ERP system and trigger actions to prevent damage or loss. This will help make the supply chain more agile, tying it in with supply chain responsiveness.


The supply chain is getting greater focus in many organizations. Businesses are aligning supply chains with their corporate strategies and have much to gain if they can make decisions better and faster.

As a result, a single, integrated enterprise application suite that offers seamless integration to an adaptive enterprise operational intelligence platform is a great route for any company to take that is looking to operate with the business agility and the competitive edge that is required to grow their business and retain a happy customer base.

Download the white paper, 10 Ways to Use ERP to Lean the Manufacturing Supply Chain, for more concepts and examples of things executives can do to optimize the supply chain.

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