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Ironically, one of the biggest challenges faced by many startups is the inability to accommodate their own success. When the orders start pouring in torrentially, the phones are ringing off the hook, and email inboxes are becoming inundated with inquiries, there’s often mixed feelings of both excitement and concern.

shutterstock_128886401On one hand you’re happy that things are doing better than expected, while on the other hand you’re panicking about how you’re going to keep up with the demand. When you’re dealing with physical products, the key to accommodating orders in a timely manner is to optimise and streamline your supply chain – the process of getting the product from your suppliers to your distribution centre and finally out to the end customer.

With that said, let’s look at five steps every startup can take to start streamlining their supply chain:

1. Establish efficient inventory management

Before you can know what needs to be ordered and delivered to your distribution centre, you first need to have an accurate record of current inventory. Many companies make the mistakes of either accidentally ordering a surplus, or failing to restock a popular or task-critical item. Thus, the first step in ensuring an adequate and timely supply is to develop and maintain a detailed method of inventory tracking and checking.

2. Ensure real-time communication

Another major issue that causes mistakes in the supply chain is a lack of accurate or instant communication between different employees and departments. Lapses or delays in communication can cause oversights that lead to unnecessary orders, failed shipments or deliveries, loss of product, or an excess of a specific item. Of course, correcting such mistakes can cost the business time and money, which is why all staff involved in the supply chain should have a centralised organisational structure for communication and record checking.

3. Improve ordering and unloading processes

When sales volumes start to increase, the process of ordering products can become time consuming and tedious. Likewise, unloading all of that product can require a lot of manpower, especially without the right unloading and docking equipment. Discussing ordering needs with your suppliers is one way to look for collaborative methods of streamlining the restocking of products. Likewise, training employees and equipping them with the right tools can speed up and secure the unloading process.

4. Centralise and simplify data access

In years’ past, the processes of ordering, receiving, packaging, and distributing products were all conducted via analogue means (on paper). Back then, just checking the status of a particular piece of inventory required sifting through filing cabinets. Nowadays, some companies are still doing an advanced version of this, keeping everything on separate spreadsheets that need to be manually searched. The larger a company gets, the more it needs to invest in and expand its business software. Larger corporations may choose to run SAP, one of the world’s leading ERP solutions. They may then consider enlisting an SAP-certified software provider (for example. – www.Weaveability.com) to help them centralise and simplify data access for all employees involved in the supply chain.

5. Schedule restocking appropriately

Finally, one of the easiest and most commonly overlooked ways to avoid unnecessary hassles in the supply chain is to start scheduling your restocking needs according to your current projected sales volumes, which can be calculated based on recent sales figures. If you already have a stocking schedule in place, all that will be left to do is double check item availability and amend the order before sending it out to the supplier(s).