Vendor Lock-In; The Enemy of Supply Chain Agility

2020 is defined by disruptions.  Disruptions to daily life, social interactions and global supply chains.  

Disruptions require fast and accurate action, often with very opaque information. Conditions on the ground change constantly, sometimes in the manner of hours. Even companies far along in their supply chain digitization journey struggle to manage in this uncertain, constantly changing business environment.

In packaging, one of the biggest enemies of agile supply chains we see is vendor lock-in. While packaging is not something you can just move from supplier to supplier without any thought, often companies do not have the ability to move quickly when it is absolutely necessary. 

Lack of formal specifications, artwork files on team members computers (or sometimes multiple versions of the same file), and lack of standardized processes and workflows structurally creates situations that hold companies back from being truly agile in their packaging supply chain.

But, there are small steps that can be taken to make it easier to respond to future disruptions. Even small steps towards having this data on something like Google Drive can make a huge difference.

  1.   Supplier Capabilities. Often it’s like finding a needle in the haystack to find the right supplier. Make sure you know exactly which supplier can do what, so you know exactly who to call when s*&t hits the fans.
  2.   Artwork. Automate revisions control. Centralize all communication (there’s so much back and forth it’s hard to keep track!). And automate your workflows. If the process is the same every time, responding to supply chain disruptions becomes more normalized, less stressful, and ultimately more effective. 
  3.   Specifications, with full trial details. No specs, incorrect specs, partial specs. That’s the norm in packaging. Take ownership of your packaging specifications! And, not only that, standardize your approval processes. And centralize all data related to the trial. That way, if you need to move manufacturing, you can easily see what the issues were to get the package right, and can address them upfront. Memories fade – not every issue will be remembered and it will save you TONS of time down the road.

In the ideal world, the entire packaging supply chain would be digitized, making vendor lock-in a thing of the past. At SourceHUB we continue to work hard to help companies move closer to that ideal.  

But, with so many internal and external parties involved in development, production, and change management — this will be a long process. Taking even basic steps towards digitizing your packaging data will pay dividends moving forward in an increasingly uncertain business environment.

Craving more? Check out the next article: Sustainable Packaging — It’s all about that base… line

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