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Getting help from supply chain standards

Being a supply chain manager in current times is not an easy job. It wasn’t before Covid-19 and it definitely isn’t now. For an industry that has traditionally struggled to innovate on a large scale it is challenging to navigate through the rate of change taking place at this time and age. This is why professionals in this field should take advantage of all the help they can get.

International standards and guidelines can help a great deal in this regard, as they can provide the necessary guidance to get your head above the clouds and understand what to do in difficult moments. The strength of international standards lies in the fact that they rely on a community of experienced professionals who share their knowledge for the good of the community.

Specifically, the International Standards Organizations (ISO) has a range of technical committees that are open for every expert in the subject to join in and participate. As ISO put it, the guidelines must respond to a need in the market, have global scope and rely on consensus. For further information on how to join the committees, it is possible to have a look here.

Among the standards that can support supply chain managers in their daily job, there is ISO/TS 24533:2012, Intelligent transport systems – Electronic information exchange to facilitate the movement of freight and its intermodal transfer – Road transport information exchange methodology. This document addresses the issue of data protection in the supply chain, especially regarding critical knowledge in the delivery process, in the interest of maximizing efficiency.

On a different note, ISO 28000:2007 Specification for security management systems for the supply chain focuses on the establishment of a security management system, with clear policies and compliance towards certification bodies. This is a pivotal effort for modern supply chains that undergo a wide array of challenges, even more so in recent times.

Another interesting standard is ISO 22005:2007 (revised in 2016) Traceability in the feed and food chain — General principles and basic requirements for system design and implementation, as it provides guidance on how to keep track of the supply process in the food chain. This is a key topic in modern trade, since companies are under increasing pressure from the public to develop sensible, sustainable, and ethical practices, a responsibility that extends to suppliers.

Tracing the product, however, might not be enough to guarantee its quality. Thus, supply chain managers might also want to check out ISO 22059, Guidelines on consumer warranties/guarantees, which is a guideline on how to make sure products meet certain conditions to satisfy customer requirements. It includes understanding expectations and building mitigation measures should there be faulty products.

In addition to this ISO have made a series of standards on Covid-19 response measures publicly available at this link. The list includes documents on technical medical equipment such as protective gloves as well as methods to maximize efficiency and resilience in the supply chain process, such as standards on risk management and health and safety.

It is worth noting that standards are not infallible and there is no one-size-fits-all for organizations. As always in the standardisation process, the peculiarities of each company might not emerge in a list of recommendations. Thus, professionals should adopt the necessary flexibility in their approach to improving supply chain processes, considering first the requirements of their own organization.

It is important, however, that different industries start working collectively towards improving supply chain management, especially in light of the criticalities that the current pandemic has exposed. In this regard there are a few questions that might be helpful as a checklist when reviewing internal best practices:

  • What is our level of communication with our suppliers?

  • Is it possible to review those supplier processes that affect our business?

  • What type of service level agreement have we got in place with them?

  • What would happen if they bailed on us? Are we among their main customers?

  • Do we have clear internal policies or a dedicated team for supply chain management?

  • How has our supply chain changed in the last 5-10 years?

All of these questions can be a good starting point to understand the healthiness of your

supply chain, with regards to issues such as customer experience and retention, resilience, sustainability, and reputation.

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