Supply Network Design

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Supply Network Design

The Supply Network Perspective:
A supply network perspective means setting an operation in the context of all the operations with which it interacts, some of which are its suppliers and its customers. Materials, parts, other information, ideas and sometimes people all flow through the network of customer-supplier relationships formed by all these operations. On its supply side an operation has its suppliers of parts, or information, or services. These suppliers themselves : have their own suppliers who in turn could also have suppliers, and so on. On the demand side the operation has customers. These customers might not be the final consumers of the operation's products or services; they might have their own set of customers.

On the supply side is a group of operations that directly supply the operation; these are often called first-tier suppliers. They are supplied by second-tier suppliers. However, some second-tier suppliers may also supply an operation directly, thus missing out a link in the network. Similarly, on the demand side of the network, 'first-tier' customers are the main customer group for the operation. These in turn supply 'second-tier' customers, although again the operation may at times supply second-tier customers directly. The suppliers and customers who have direct contact with an operation are called its immediate supply network, whereas all the operations which form the network of suppliers' suppliers and customers‘ customers, etc., are called the total supply network.

Homeware manufacturer supplies some of its basic products to wholesalers which supply retail outlets. However, it also supplies some retailers directly with 'made-to-order' products. Along with the flow of goods in the network from suppliers to customers, each link in the network will feed back orders and information to its suppliers. When stocks run low, the retailers will place orders with the wholesaler or directly with the manufacturer. The wholesaler will likewise place orders with the manufacturer, which will in turn place orders with its suppliers, which will replenish their own stocks from their suppliers. It is a two-way process with goods flowing one way and information flowing the other. It is not only manufacturers that are part of a supply network. The second (service) operation, an operation which manages an enclosed shopping mall, also has suppliers and customers that themselves have their own suppliers and customers. Figure 6.2 shows the supply network for an operation which manages an enclosed shopping mall.

Why consider the whole supply network?

There are three important reasons for taking a supply network perspective: •It helps an understanding of competitiveness. Immediate customers and immediate suppliers, quite understandably, are the main concern to competitively minded companies. Yet sometimes they need to look beyond these immediate contacts to understand why customers and suppliers act as they do. Any operation has only two options if it wants to understand its ultimate customers' needs at the end of the network. It can rely on all the intermediate customers and customers' customers, etc., which form the links in the network between the company and its end-customers. Alternatively, it can look beyond its immediate customer and suppliers. Relying on one's immediate network is seen as putting too much faith in someone else's judgment of things which are central to an organization's own competitive health.

It helps identify significant links in the network. The key to understanding supply networks lies in identifying the parts of the network which contribute to those performance objectives valued by end-customers. Any analysis of networks must start, therefore, by understanding the downstream end of the network. After this, the upstream parts of the network which contribute most to end-customer service will need to be...
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