The consumer is just the last stop on the whole supply chain. Most of us don’t even realize how much effort goes into producing items in wholesale quantities. We see items on shelves everyday, but a single bottle of water can undergo a lengthy journey from its original location to that shelf. Hundreds—if not thousands—of people working in various places and industries contribute toward the ease of access and affordable pricing that makes it all possible.
That bottle of water needed to be shipped to a retail store from a distribution centre, where it was then assembled with other bottles of water in a bundle that could provide enough stock for one store. Distribution centres serve as hubs between manufacturers and assembly lines. They exist in strategic locations throughout the world so that they can receive and deliver products to the stores that you frequent.
The previously mentioned bottle of water needed to be ‘assembled’ elsewhere as well. Have you ever thought of the coordination and precision that it takes to ensure millions of bottles get an airtight cap? They also need to receive the appropriate labels, fit into the right box, and then get wrapped in packaging to hold everything together. One building full of people can’t handle everything involved in the process.
Where does one company get the materials needed to put together a single bottle of water? It usually doesn’t do that on its own. The manufacturing location turns raw materials into a bare-bones product, but where do these components originate? Where do they get the water, the plastic bottles, the plastic caps, and the paper labels? A supply chain is the glue that binds everything together.
The finished product that we see on the shelf consists of several pools of resources that make up the final product. A company extracts the water while another provides the plastic bottles and caps. A third company then needs to produce the paper labels for the finished products! The company producing plastic bottles probably has its own chain of suppliers in place to produce bottles at competitive prices.
Who ties all of these companies together? That’s where you enter the picture. Supply chains have undergone huge changes in the last several decades that require up-to-date knowledge of the industry and fresh minds that can produce new solutions. Those with supply chain expertise learn how to form strategic alliances with other companies and industries to bring supply chains into a new era of success.