The main elements of a supply chain include purchasing, operations, distribution, and integration. The supply chain begins with purchasing. Purchasing managers or buyers are typically responsible for determining which products their company will sell, sourcing product suppliers and vendors, and procuring products from vendors at prices and terms that meets profitability goals.
Supply chain operations focus on demand planning, forecasting, and inventory management. Forecasts estimate customer demand for a particular product during a specific period of time based on historical data, external drivers such as upcoming sales and promotions, and any changes in trends or competition. Using demand planning to develop accurate forecasts is critical to effective inventory management. Forecasts are compared to inventory levels to ensure that distribution centers have enough, but not too much, inventory to supply stores with a sufficient amount of product to meet demand. This allows companies to reduce inventory carrying costs while still meeting customer needs.
Moving the product from warehouses or manufacturing plants to stores and ultimately to customers is the distribution function of the supply chain.
Supply chain integration refers to the practice of developing a collaborative workflow among all departments and components involved in the supply chain to maximize efficiencies and build a lean supply chain.
2 Walmart’s Method of Managing the Supply Chain
Walmart has been able to assume market leadership position primarily due to its efficient integration of suppliers, manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution to stores. Its supply chain strategy has four key components: vendor partnerships, cross docking and distribution management, technology, and integration. Walmart’s supply chain begins with strategic sourcing to find products at the best price from suppliers who are in a position to ensure they can...