CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
October 17, 2018

Commentary: Should you create a supply chain center of excellence?

Here's why assembling a team of supply chain experts in a central location is a tactic worth considering.

As supply chain chiefs look for ways to make their supply chains more efficient, customer-driven, and resilient in today's volatile global economy, many are giving some thought to setting up supply chain "centers of excellence." Instead of having separate departments for procurement, logistics, and so forth at each plant or in each local market, a company can create a center of excellence by assembling under one roof a team of experts that can perform those functions for the entire supply chain.

Gathering experts in one location provides a way for staff members in a specific function to hone their skills and knowledge through the collegial exchange of ideas. They can learn from one another how to get the greatest benefit from the latest software tools and technology, and they can develop a collection of best practices that can then be spread throughout the company.

Once the best practices have been established, the center can then impose the necessary discipline across various units around the globe to ensure consistent processes and quality. It can use a common yardstick to measure customer service, sourcing, or shipping, no matter the locale. That helps a company develop its reputation as a global brand, because buyers in India, China, the United States, and elsewhere will all receive the same level of quality in products or services.

Establishing a center of excellence also means that a company will have its experts right in one room, ready to work together to fashion a response when a crisis occurs. That's a genuine advantage in a world where supply chains are constantly at risk of unexpected disruptions.

A number of companies, including IBM, have already begun developing such centers to help them deliver greater value to their customers. If you're not among them, the question is: Shouldn't you at least consider the idea of creating a supply chain center of excellence?

James A. Cooke is a supply chain software analyst. He was previously the editor of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly and a staff writer for DC Velocity.

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