How Many Supply Chains Do You Need? Matching Supply Chain Strategies to Products and Customers Products and Customers

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In the field of supply chains, there are many different strategies, fads and cures for a variety of problems. There is an abundance of information that outlines every new concept and idea on how to improve supply chain performance. But what works for one company or industry will not necessarily work for another. Given the diverse needs of different industries and businesses, one-size-fits-all or try-everything-until-something-sticks strategies simply do not work. Companies that indiscriminately adopt new supply chain strategies may find their efforts thwarted or, worse, they might be left with a cadre of look-alike supply chains that don’t offer true advantages.

Unless supply chains are aligned properly, companies risk squandering cost-saving opportunities, revenues, competitive advantage and asset productivity. Today, executives are challenged to think and reflect on a new set of concepts. Among the most important is the choice of supply chain. Choosing the right chain for the right business requires thinking strategically about how your business operates and what your company needs, which includes how many supply chains it takes to serve your customers.

This paper describes a framework for identifying distinct supply chains within a business and offers a how-to approach for developing strategies that appropriately align with each supply chain. We discuss the issues, complications and benefits of determining just how many supply chains you really need.

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