Monday, June 7, 2010

Top 5 Benefits of Business Process Outsourcing to your Supply Chain

What supply chain functions are currently outsourced within your organization?
Today, the current economy has presented a variety of opportunities for businesses to outsource many supply chain functions and responsibilities traditionally done in-house.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is a method of outsourcing that involves the contracting of operations and responsibilities of a specific business functions or processes to a specialized service provider. An example would be an ecommerce company outsourcing its startup order fulfillment operation.

Within the context of a company’s supply chain, these business functions could include carrier contract negotiation, freight audit and payment, fulfillment, and many others. A Logistics Service Integrator (LSI), sometimes call a 4PL (4th Party Logistics Provider) takes the role of independently managing a company’s outsourced functions, utilizing their expertise to bring the most value to the organization.
Below is a list of 5 benefits companies are able to realize through outsourcing.

TOP 5 Benefits of Business Process Outsourcing

1. Best in Class Capabilities

Best in class service providers make significant investments in technology, methodologies, and people – because what you outsource to them is their business. Their expertise lies in the experience gained by working with many clients in similar industries and having faced similar challenges. The combination of specialization and expertise gives businesses the benefits of both while avoiding the cost of investing in technology and infrastructure to support the function. With the right partnership in place, businesses can quickly realize the benefits of a new or reengineered process through dramatic improvements in critical performance measures such as cost, quality, service, and speed. The areas best suited for outsourcing are often those that are not core to the company’s business as these will be the areas not prioritized for needed attention and improvements from a company’s already limited available resources. By outsourcing the non core function to a Best in Class provider, the company can begin to see the benefits much sooner and at a lower cost.

2. Better Use of Company Resources

Outsourcing enables an organization to redirect its resources, most often in the form of people and IT resources, toward activities which are closer related their core business. Outsourcing lets a company focus on its core business by having operational functions assumed by an outside expert. Freed from devoting energy to areas that are not its area of expertise, the company can focus its resources on what it does best and as a result better meet its customers' expectations.

3. Reduce Operating Costs

Organizations that try to do everything themselves may incur significantly higher research, development, marketing, training, and deployment expenses, all of which hurt profitability or are passed on to the customer. An outside provider's lower cost structure, which may be the result of a greater economy of scale or other advantage based on specialization, reduces a company's operating costs and increases its competitive advantage. Costs are reduced through smoothing out demand variability since the outsource company bears the majority of fixed costs. Outsourcing reduces the need to invest capital in non core business functions. Instead of acquiring the resources through capital expenditures, they are contracted for on an "as used" operational expense basis. Taking advantage of new on-demand system such as a Transportation Management System is better than creating an in-house TMS.

4. Reduce Business Risk

Significant risks are associated with any capital investments a business organization makes. Dynamic markets, aggressive competition, complicated government regulations, changing financial conditions and technologies all change extremely quickly. Keeping up with these changes, especially those in which the next generation requires a serious investment, is a very risky proposition. Outsourcing providers make investments on behalf of many clients, not just one, so the shared investment spreads risk, and reduces the risk a single company has to bear.

5. Company Lacks Necessary Resources

Businesses outsource because they do not have access to the required resources within the company. This can be in the form of a lack of intellectual capabilities or more tangible assets such as sufficient systems or staffing. Outsourcing is often the most viable option for building or improving a needed capability. It is critical to remember that outsourcing doesn't mean abdication of management responsibility nor does it work well as a knee jerk reaction by a company in trouble. When a function is viewed as difficult to manage or out of control, the organization needs to examine the underlying causes. If the requirements expectations or needed resources are not clearly understood, then outsourcing won't improve the situation; it may in fact exacerbate it. If the organization doesn't understand its own requirements, it won't be able to communicate them to an outside provider.

Ken is a 15 year veteran of logistics and supply chain operations. He has founded companies in the ecommerce order fulfillment and transportation management system markets.