A supply chain is never as straightforward as you think, particularly with the complexities of modern day products and the far reach of global routes. Essentially, a supply chain is a system of people and operations that complete their individual roles in a way that moves a product from the manufacturer to the consumer. Together these links form giant logistical pathways that are able to transport colossal amounts of the latest goods, and ultimately transform 21st Century living.
Typically a supply chain will begin with the acquiring of raw materials, for example stone, sand or slate from quarries. A chain could begin at a mine, where it collects essential technological and construction materials such as copper, titanium and other precious metals. Other large-scale supply chains may begin at farms or forests. Depending on the material being harvested or unearthed, they may need to be treated before the next stage, but normally raw materials are bought as they are.
Transportation in the supply chain
Transportation is the backbone of the industry, but with numerous factors to consider, depending on the goods and destination, its far from a straightforward job. What could be more essential than getting a product or component from A to B? The chain simply would not move without the efforts of countless drivers and transportation professionals. First off, there’s a range of vehicles and methods, from trucks and trains to shipping and air cargo, and evolving circumstances and technology may call for a change, for example a switch from road to rail in accordance to new environmental regulations. Vehicles will have to cater for various products, including frozen or chilled goods, and be able to perform efficiently in adverse conditions and to tight time scales. Crucially, this section of the supply chain is what keeps the whole system in motion and functions as a partner to the next link.
Warehousing and supply chain
Goods need somewhere to go, and so the next step in the supply chain is often the largest and most complex in scale: warehousing. Warehouses are the central hubs of logistics, and just one alone could be responsible for storing and distributing a huge range of products. Technological advancements in picking and packing have changed the inner-workings of these powerhouses, but the basics remain the same. They may sell products direct to the consumer or deal only in commercial niches. Components may go on to manufacturers, become products and return to another warehouse. Businesses or consumers might buy directly from the warehouse. Warehouse team members ensure they stock the right amount of products, and that their warehouses run safely and efficiently. Making their operations accurate means their role speeds up the entire process of order fulfilment.
Normally, the final stop on most supply chains, particularly more traditional ones, are retailers, which is where most customers will finally come into contact with the product. What they don’t know is the long complex supply chain that involved hundreds, maybe thousands, of people over numerous companies and probably countries. The logistical magic goes on behind the scenes, but the results are what build the world around us.
Take a look at this video explaining the supply chain process for Walmart