Age-old Strategy Boosts Agility, Resilience, Performance

I was around when supply chain segmentation first developed, back in the 1990s. Some first attempts resembled thrash metal – loud, harsh and not pleasant to my ears.

Still, supply chain leaders plowed ahead. The music sounded better, and segmentation paid off. Years later, we live in a world of AI-powered digital supply chain networks and powerful transportation management systems. And the strategic process of segmentation holds even more value.

With proper supply chain segmentation, our overall supply chain functions like a well-orchestrated symphony – with important caveats. Among other benefits, segmentation allows for agility in a world of perpetual disruption. Segments can respond in a manner akin to jazz improvisation, hitting just the right notes, even if they’re not on the musical score.

Let’s examine supply chain segmentation, its benefits, implementation steps and best practices.

What is supply chain segmentation?

Supply chain segmentation is a strategic process that involves dividing the supply chain into distinct, manageable segments. Supply chain leaders can base these segments on various factors, including markets, channels and customer groups.

The goal is to align supply with demand, enhance efficiency and reduce costs. The path toward supply chain resilience and competitive advantage in a world of supply chain disruptions.

Your organizations should first conduct a process overview to identify, analyze and segment your supply chain. Then your supply chain pros can customize strategies for each segment to meet specific needs. That sets up your teams to optimize resource allocation and improve overall performance.

That should be music to the ears of anyone in supply chain leadership.

Benefits of Supply Chain Segmentation

Categorizing customers and products into distinct segments can help your organization fine-tune its approach to achieve better outcomes. Benefits include:

  • Customization: Imagine a master tailor, stitching strategies for each segment. The result? A harmonious ensemble that leaves customers applauding.
  • Efficiency: Picture a precision watch – each gear turning with purpose. By fine-tuning processes to segment-specific needs, we orchestrate a symphony of streamlined operations.
  • Cost Reduction: Our resource allocation maestros wield their batons. With laser focus, they trim excess, eliminate waste and compose a cost-saving concerto.
  • Risk Management: Meet our supply chain fortune tellers. They peer into the crystal ball, spotting potential storms. Umbrellas of foresight give them the insights to dance ahead of problems, ensuring a smooth performance.

Segmentation Types – Music for Every Audience

In the intricate dance of supply chains, one size does not fit all. People want to listen to different musical styles. Successful supply chain segmentation allows for such agility. Your team can unlock tailored solutions that resonate with the unique needs of different stakeholders.

Let’s explore these segments and their impact:

  • Product Segmentation: Imagine a symphony where each instrument plays a different tune. Similarly, product segmentation orchestrates supply chain strategies based on attributes like demand patterns, value and criticality. From high-value luxury goods to everyday essentials, this segmentation ensures harmonious operations.
  • Manufacturing Segmentation: In the manufacturing realm, complexity, volume and lead time dictate rhythm. By dividing processes into segments, we fine-tune the melody. High-complexity items may warrant specialized attention, while high-volume production benefits from streamlined processes.
  • Risk Segmentation: Like a seasoned tightrope walker, supply chains balance risk. Risk segmentation assesses threats associated with suppliers, regions or materials. It’s akin to mapping out safety nets – prioritizing mitigation efforts where the stakes are highest.
  • Market Segmentation: Markets are like online streaming services that offer endless musical options. You must understand customer needs and preferences across these various markets. Market segmentation allows you to customize supply chain operations according to each different musical genre.
  • Customer Demand Segmentation: Customers, like constellations, follow distinct patterns. Grouping them based on demand patterns, service requirements and order frequency illuminates your organization’s path. Navigate the celestial supply chain from shooting stars (high-demand customers) to steady satellites (regular orders).
  • Channel Segmentation: Picture a bustling marketplace. Some customers prefer the digital aisles, while others savor the touch and feel of shopping in stores. Channel segmentation acknowledges these preferences. Online channels hum a digital tune, while brick-and-mortar stores resonate with tactile melodies.
  • Geographical Segmentation: Each region on your supply chain globe is a unique continent. Geographical segmentation tailors logistics, regulations and cultural nuances. From Tokyo to Timbuktu, we adapt, ensuring seamless operations across borders.

Implementation – or Harmonizing Supply Chain Agility

Implementing this grand symphony is not easy. But I have used the outline below to orchestrate many a supply chain over the years.

  • Define Objectives: Virtuoso composers set solid intentions. Your goals may include improving customer service, trimming costs and weaving innovation into the fabric of your supply chain.
  • Analyze Data: These days, supply chains hum to tunes played by data. You must delve deep into the numbers, tracing notes of demand and inventory to identify patterns and trends. Today’s supply chain technology makes this easier.
  • Collaborate with Stakeholders: Procurement maestros, logistics troubadours and demand-planning minstrels must work together. Unless you involve all relevant parties, reaching that high note of effective implementation is impossible.
  • Segmentation Strategy Development: Create customized strategies for each segment. The high-pitched agility of perishables, the steady rhythm of bulk goods – all find their notes in your symphony.
  • Execution and Monitoring: Tempo shifts with demand as your team implements strategies and continuously monitors performance. Ideally, your vigilant conductor is a control tower, AI-powered digital supply network. Monitoring ensures harmonies ring true; you respond quickly when disruption strikes a discordant note.

Best Practices – Hit the Right Segmentation Notes

Orchestra conductors must use precise gestures, master rehearsal, adapt to change during performances and inspire trust.

Likewise, implementing supply chain segmentation requires a set of best practices:

  • The 80/20 Crescendo: Embrace the Pareto Principle like a virtuoso violinist embraces mastery of technique. 20% of suppliers wield 80% of the supply chain magic. Turn your spotlight on strategic partners and high-impact areas.
  • Techno-Symphony: Technology can help tools hum in harmony, simplifying segmentation’s dance and improving your bottom line.
  • The Power of Data: Consider both subjective and objective input when considering suppliers. Hear all notes – from rich cellos to nimble flutes. Factors like quality, responsiveness and delivery performance matter.
  • Knowledge Sharing: Gather the stakeholders – your symphonic council – for an ensemble exchange. Share segmentation models, like sheet music, with internal stakeholders. Ensure alignment across touchpoints with suppliers, harmonizing your score.
  • Ongoing Overture: Regular reviews are like tempo markers, punctuating the score. Adapt to changing conditions like a dancer adjusts to the beat, refining segmentation strategies.

The Right Chord – Harmonizing Agility, Resilience, Performance

As the curtain rises on your new strategies, each segment plays its part, harmonizing agility, resilience and overall performance. Segmentation is the secret melody that helps tailor your approach to align with your organization’s goals and context.

Interested in learning more about how to conduct the baton for supply chain segmentation? I would love to chat. Let’s orchestrate a beautiful symphony – one with the ability to rapidly adapt to perpetual disruption.

Related Reading