In this article, James Ducker examines how process audits can streamline communication between the factory and the warehouse.
Small businesses in their early stages of development need to get their supply chain processes in good order from the start. If businesses are to expand and bring in profit, they obviously need to be selling as much stock as possible whilst matching customer demand. However, organisations can often struggle when communication becomes an issue at each stage of the supply chain. Speed of production is stalled when warehouse managers are constantly needing to speak to factories and other suppliers, or await critical data on stock numbers and production timelines. Large enterprises often implement quick patches to keep the business operating whilst ignoring this wider, underlying problem. As time goes on, the basic infrastructure of the supply chain, and the core of the business, becomes a temperamental operation that gets more and more strained as the short-term fixes replace any long-term operational efficiency. Small businesses, however, can avoid getting their supply chains into this problem.
Time to audit your business processes
These communication speed-bumps can even occur internally, within the office, as staff struggle to gain an overview of where any specific item of stock is at any particular moment. To generate this overview, organisations must audit their process flows to understand which members of staff are doing what, with whom and why. Often, organisations avoid process audits for fear it will take up time and resources which could be spent on other critical tasks. However, the amount of time that will be saved in the long-term, following such an audit, makes such a process hugely beneficial to any small business.
A process audit can occur in many industries, but is essentially an evaluation of the sequential steps and interactions of a particular process within a system. For a small business selling a product, this ‘system’ is the supply chain, running from factory to shop floor. Undergoing such an audit allows a business to identify where communication problems lie; this allows it to remove processes that are inefficient, cumbersome or add no value.
Cutting out the middleman with automation
It could be that just one specific item of stock is not entering the system quickly enough, slowing down everyone from pickers to logistical staff. Identifying where one such backlog is occurring can drastically cut time wasted within the supply chain, once rectified. As the old saying goes, “time is money”, so even removing just one inefficient process will often have a positive impact on the bottom line.
Small businesses that have undergone, or are currently in the middle of a process audit, should make the most of modern technologies to handle all this data that is brought under scrutiny. Digital technologies, such as the FileMaker Platform, allow entire workflows to be automated so that communication between supply chain touchpoints happens seamlessly. Rather than having warehouse staff identify where they are short of stock, ring the appropriate party and wait for the next batch, simply automate stock tracking. Process audits will highlight where stock runs thin – why not use this data by automating the warehouse with the help of a custom app, so its staff are receiving live updates on short stock in real-time? This way, stock will arrive in advance of any shortfall, allowing a business to operate far more efficiently.
Taking stock of your small business
The benefits of a custom app for stock management extend beyond the warehouse too. A process audit allows managers to get vast oversight on what is actually going on within all aspects of their business. Internal audits show where and when staff are at capacity, where there is room for administrative improvement and even highlight which managers have introduced their own measures which are reaping benefits. So whilst the warehouse is operating efficiently, the front office or store is doing the same.
Even identifying a single area of your business which is not working as efficiently as it could be, and rectifying the problem, can benefit your organisation immensely in the long run. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to take stock – both inside and outside the warehouse.
James is a FileMaker-certified developer and has been working with FileMaker since 1994. He runs Decent Group, a small team of FileMaker developers based in Swindon – and one of only a few companies to be awarded ‘Platinum’ status by FileMaker Inc.