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How to create a simple supply chain map

A simple supply chain map can give insight into various areas, such as critical business challenges. Learn why manufacturing companies should use this essential tool.

Any manufacturing company can benefit from increased efficiency, and a simple supply chain map can be a good starting point for improving operations.

Supply chain mapping can help supply chain leaders analyze their sourcing, manufacturing and process for sending products to end customers and make better business decisions. The mapping process can help improve resilience, meet compliance needs and optimize logistics.

Here's more about how supply chain mapping can help and the steps to follow.

What is supply chain mapping?

Supply chain mapping identifies and connects all the companies, stakeholders and supply chain partners that are involved in creating a product and sending that product to consumers. A supply chain map isn't always complicated, and supply chain leaders can start with a simple model.

Depending on the level of complexity, a supply chain map might include the following:

  • The entities that source raw materials and ship the materials to factories for manufacturing into parts or products.
  • The process through which manufactured inputs are used for the creation of other parts or products.
  • The ongoing manufacturing process to create consumer-ready products.
  • Key transport nodes, such as ports, warehouses or transportation hubs, for the domestic and international movement of goods.
  • The logistics networks for collecting, storing and distributing parts or products to wholesalers and retailers.
  • The delivery process for sending products to the end consumer.

6 benefits of supply chain mapping

Supply chain mapping provides several major benefits, such as improved resilience and compliance. Learn more.

1. Increased insight into stakeholders

A supply chain map shows all the stakeholders involved in sourcing, manufacturing and distributing a company's products. This enables supply chain leaders to understand the complexity of the supply chain and how to improve the supply chain further.

2. Increased insight into each part of the supply chain

Leaders can also use a supply chain map to explore the details of each part of their supply chain. They can look at the information for each vendor, node or route to better understand how to make improvements.

3. Improves supply chain resilience

Supply chains can be vulnerable to disruptions and bottlenecks. A supply chain map helps supply chain leaders identify single points of dependence and vulnerabilities in the company's national and international networks, then take steps to mitigate risks by putting contingencies in place.

4. Helps identify unneeded redundancies

Although eliminating single points of dependency is key, leaders might also over-engineer supply chain risk management. Supply chain leaders can ensure the right level of disaster recovery and continuity planning is in place and remove any unneeded backups.

5. Helps improve regulatory compliance

Understanding all the company's providers will help supply chain leaders meet compliance requirements, including laws regulating workforce protections and other important considerations.

6. Helps reduce environmental effects

Supply chain leaders can use their supply chain map to identify the suppliers, manufacturers and nodes contributing the most greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental effects. Supply chain leaders can then revise the company's supply chain to meet potential corporate social responsibility commitments.

7 steps to map a supply chain

Here are the steps to follow when mapping a supply chain.

1. Determine the "why"

Supply chain leaders should have a clear goal for mapping the supply chain. That goal will guide the selection of tools and the insights gained.

Leaders can review the benefits listed above and decide what areas to focus on.

2. Find the right tool

Supply chain leaders can use various tools for mapping, from pen and paper to software.

Leaders should seek out an easy-to-use tool that can capture and update information as well as quickly analyze any part of the supply chain. For some organizations, that tool might be image-creation software with a way to add notes. Others might need software that provides more features and versatility.

3. Identify key stakeholders

Supply chain leaders will then identify all the nodes across the company's supply chain and add them to the map, with the nodes including the following:

  • Suppliers of raw materials and parts.
  • Manufacturers of supply chain inputs into parts and products.
  • Companies that store, transport and manage products.
  • Ports and transport nodes that are involved in transporting products.
  • Wholesalers and retailers that receive and sell the company's products.

4. Map the flow of goods

After identifying all critical stakeholders in the supply chain, supply chain leaders can then map the movement of goods between the stakeholders.

The different parts of the supply chain will include information on the quantities, processing and other aspects of moving materials and products.

5. Add information as needed

Supply chain leaders can then add further data to the map. Information to consider adding includes the following:

  • Points of contact.
  • Risks related to a particular part of the supply chain.
  • Dependencies, duplications and vulnerabilities.
  • Costs associated with the supply chain.
  • Service-level agreements with each stakeholder.
  • Applicable regulatory or compliance requirements.
  • Likely emissions and other environmental, social and governance concerns.
  • Upstream and downstream information for each stakeholder.

6. Reference the map when making decisions

The map can now help inform business decisions.

Supply chain leaders should incorporate any findings from the map into the company's long-term corporate strategy, which can help optimize operations and provide guidance on where to invest to improve the supply chain.

7. Treat the map as a living document

The map might never be complete.

Supply chain leaders should continue to update the supply chain map as their company goes through changes, such as adding vendors.

Paul Maplesden creates comprehensive guides on business, finance and technology topics, with expertise in supply chain and SaaS platforms.

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