UT Study Identifies Best Practices to Synchronize Your Supply Chain

June 15, 2020

Benchmark supply chains are early adopters of end-to-end strategies (E2E) that create competitive advantages (lean, TPM, six sigma, etc.). To maintain these gains, leading companies are now working to synchronize their three Ps – physical assets, business processes and people systems – with their core business drivers. The goal? Achieving total value in the supply chain. In today’s climate, synchronization is even more important, as the global pandemic continues to disrupt business, bringing out hidden vulnerabilities and exposing new risks.

Through extensive interviews with managers from 13 top organizations across seven industries, researchers from the Global Supply Chain Institute in the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have identified eight best practices to attain this synchronization.

These methods are detailed in the new white paper, “End-to-End Supply Chain Synchronization: Orchestrating a Winning Strategy.” Following these steps can enable companies to determine which core business drivers affect total value the most. They can then synchronize all aspects of business around those drivers.

Strategy for pandemic response is stabilize, recover, rebalance

The paper is especially relevant for companies looking for a strategy to stabilize, recover and rebalance as a response to pandemic-driven disruptions. It draws from benchmark supply chains from dozens of leading companies to create the Global Supply Chain Institute’s Supply Chain improvement model based on best practices and impactful end-to-end strategies.

According to the paper, many supply chain leaders are still out of sync with the goals of the business, and supply chain leaders are sometimes relegated to a supporting role. Leading organizations however, are achieving sustained levels of success by synchronizing supply chain operations and their core business drivers, unlocking the full potential of the supply chain as a competitive advantage.

“End-to-end integration, collaboration, platform management, digitization – all are tools to achieve an end – increasing total value across the supply chain,” Haslam professor and co-author Michael Burnette says. “Synchronization is the next step. Going through the synchronization process allows companies to create a value chain for long-term organizational success.”

From their survey of leading supply chain organizations, Burnette and his team winnowed down more than 100 synchronization practices to the eight best:

  • Multifunctional strategy leadership/ownership
  • Aligned core business drivers
  • Solid supply chain foundation (E2E, dependable)
  • Skills and capabilities to enable synchronization
  • Value stream mapping and flow charting
  • Segmentation to create focus
  • Supply chain agility to enable synchronization
  • E2E supply chain visibility and optimization (digital)

In the white paper, each of these practices is discussed in significant detail. The authors explain, for instance, what core business drivers are, how benchmark companies maintain a solid supply chain foundation by encouraging personnel buy-in to common values – among other strategies – and which department should take the lead in analyzing the core business drivers to reach alignment.

Additionally, the paper includes a major case study that provides important insights into the challenge of synchronizing business processes to the core business driver. A list of benchmark culture characteristics, a synchronization tool kit and checklist provide additional assistance to help you get started on supply chain synchronization.

“Gaining an advantage during the biggest business disruption in decades calls for a renewed look at the supply chain,” said Steven Bowen, CEO of Maine Pointe. “We’re seeing new issues come to light that must be addressed. The first step in responding is stabilization, followed by recovery and a new rebalancing of the supply chain. A fully integrated and synchronized supply chain can be one of the greatest value drivers in the organization.”

Sponsored by Maine Pointe, “End-to-End Supply Chain Synchronization: Orchestrating a Winning Strategy” is the Global Supply Chain Institute’s fifth white paper in its “Supply Chain Strategy” series. The authors are Burnette, Dan Pellathy, assistant professor of management at Grand Valley State University, and Scott Meline of Meline Consulting, LLC. Ted Stank, Haslam professor, served as contributing editor on the paper.

About the Global Supply Chain Institute

The Global Supply Chain Institute shapes and influences the practice of supply chain management by serving as the preeminent global hub for leading practitioners, academics, and students to learn, network and connect.

About Maine Pointe

Maine Pointe, a member of the SGS Group, is a global supply chain and operations consulting firm trusted by many chief executives and private equity firms to drive compelling economic returns for their companies.

About SGS

SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 97,000 employees, SGS operates a network of more than 2,600 offices and laboratories around the world.


Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, rmcnutt4@utk.edu

Michelle Painter, marketing director, Global Supply Chain Institute (865-974-8925, painter@utk.edu)