Improving the Supply Chain for Manufacturers

Improving the Supply Chain for Manufacturers

The future looks surprisingly bright for manufacturers, according to Deloitte’s 2022 manufacturing industry outlook. However, they assert that competing in the new market demands business agility. In this blog post, we look at the biggest supply chain trends and recommend tips for improving the supply chain from a manufacturer’s perspective so manufacturers can continue evolving, with a little help from their friend: rebate management software.

The Biggest Supply Chain Trends Facing Manufacturers

From smart factory initiatives to workforce shortages and cybersecurity threats, there is no question that supply chain instability is rife. How are manufacturers coping with these issues? We summarize key points from the Deloitte report below.

  • Workforce Shortages

In 2021, Deloitte estimated there would be a shortfall of 2.1 million skilled jobs by 2030. These record numbers of unfilled jobs are likely to limit higher productivity and growth. They predict that organizations that can manage through workforce shortages and a rapid pace of change today can come out ahead but warn that it’s essential to prepare for the future of work to resolve current talent shortages. One solution could be employing automation tools to reduce recurring tasks to mitigate the labor shortage’s impact and make work less routine and unnecessarily time-consuming.

  • Supply Chain Instability

Systemwide complications from high demand and the rising costs of raw materials and freight remain challenges for manufacturers facing near-continuous disruptions globally that test their ability to adapt. Deloitte reminds us, however, that digital supply networks and data analytics can be powerful enablers for more flexible, multitiered responses to disruptions.

  • Smart Factory Initiatives

Deloitte says that more organizations are making progress and seeing results from connected, reliable, efficient, and predictive processes. They advise that manufacturers looking to capture growth and protect long-term profitability should embrace digital capabilities: From corporate functions to the factory floor.  

  • Cybersecurity Threats

With cybersecurity risks increasingly affecting legacy systems and technology that weren’t purpose-fit for today’s sophisticated network challenges, Deloitte advises that manufacturers should look not only at their cyber defenses but also at the resiliency of their business in the event of a cyberattack. One way to mitigate the risk to organizational systems is by putting data safely in the hands of trusted, validated software providers.

  • ESG Investment

Globally, regulators require increased disclosure of non-financial and financial metrics. While many organizations are complying voluntarily within a complex network of reporting regulations, ratings, and disclosure frameworks, Deloitte advises that proactive approaches may help manufacturers stay ahead of the change. Systems that make reporting simpler may create a competitive advantage.

Why the Manufacturer is an Integral Part of the Supply Chain

Without the manufacturer, there is no supply chain. They turn raw materials into finished products and begin the product’s journey to customers’ hands (or, in the case of D2C, actually deliver directly to customers). Manufacturers are as essential to the supply chain as the mouth is to breathing.  

But when it comes to rebates in manufacturing, they aren’t always given the credit they deserve. Even though almost half (48%) of manufacturing businesses use rebate systems as part of their customer loyalty and promotions mix, according to the Aberdeen Group, research by Enable found that more than a third of companies still use manual tools like spreadsheets to approve, document, and share deals.

It’s time to improve the supply chain for manufacturers, and it starts with rethinking your rebate management strategy.  

Writing in Industrial Distribution, Andy James explains why. “Every year,” he says, “manufacturers and distributors miss out on growth and profit opportunities because they aren’t negotiating, managing, and measuring B2B rebates effectively. They frequently approach these deals in a zero-sum way – instead of recognizing that transparency, ongoing performance measurement, and operational improvements are lucrative for both parties.”

Tips for Improving the Supply Chain for the Manufacturer

Advisory firms have long since moved on from stock control management as the primary focus for supply chain improvement. While this is, and will always be, a critical component, the most commonly recommended tactics these days include investing in real-time visibility, improving collaboration, mitigating disruption, investing in automation, and selling directly to consumers.

  • Real-Time Visibility

Andy James says, “One of the surest ways for B2B partners to build stronger relationships, drive efficiency, and ultimately increase the bottom line is to focus on joint visibility.” But, while a KPMG survey reveals that supply chain visibility is the biggest investment focus for executives, a report by EY says that only 6% of companies are very confident in their systems and capabilities for end-to-end supply chain visibility. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that a survey by the digital manufacturing company, Fictiv, shared in PlasticsToday revealed that “fifty-nine percent said improving supply-chain visibility was their single most important business priority in 2022.”

  • Collaboration

The same report revealed that while “88% of companies want to reduce their number of suppliers, a majority said they are working toward better coordination with suppliers. In particular, they are looking for tighter integration with fewer suppliers in order to gain control and predictability over their supply chains, which they see as key to addressing increasing customer demand.”

Again, managing rebates effectively is key to ensuring the production, distribution, and purchasing of goods is operating smoothly. Fictiv said that more than 90% of companies are already using or implementing digital manufacturing technology. 94% of those are using or implementing supply-chain analytics and visualization. But analytics is just the tip of the iceberg. When manufacturers use advanced tools like rebate management software, they can calculate rebates more efficiently, track new deals more easily, satisfy legislative requirements safely and seamlessly, track performance, and maximize value from rebate deals.

  • Mitigating Disruption

“The remote workforce is here to stay,” according to the Fictiv survey. Half of the respondents said they have more remote employees due to COVID-19, so ensuring the smooth flow of digital information throughout organizations remains a priority. Automated tools, like online rebate management solutions, help mitigate supply chain risks by improving supplier collaboration, reducing (or even eliminating) human error, providing a single source of data, and ensuring deal performance is closely monitored – regardless of where employees are located.

  • Automation

The adoption of remote workforces and new digital manufacturing technologies has become more widespread. Fictiv reports that more than 90% of respondents are using or implementing digital manufacturing technologies. Do most manufacturers include rebate management software in their technological toolbox? The research doesn’t tell us, but manufacturers who have automated their rebate management process highly recommend it.

  • Selling Directly to Consumers

Strengthening supply chains is a priority for nearly two-thirds (64%) of manufacturing pros, according to research from Digital Catapult. But as the nature of purchasing changes, manufacturers must be prepared to change rapidly. One way in which manufacturers can take advantage of this trend is by selling directly to consumers (D2C). “D2C is no longer the exclusive domain of traditional B2C brands. Sherwen says that many wholesale B2B retailers are now utilizing eCommerce to sell directly to individual consumers. A Barclays corporate report on how COVID-19 has accelerated a consumer shift to direct-from-manufacturer orders in the UK says, “57% of consumers now order at least some items direct from the manufacturer, a trend that is set to continue beyond the pandemic.” They predict manufacturers could gain an extra value of over £23bn in just three years.


In short, opportunities abound for manufacturers who use technology to enhance their offerings. We’ll conclude with advice from Barclays’ report: explore the opportunity, connect with customers, stay one step ahead of demand, focus on customer needs, anticipate pain points and choose partners carefully. They recommend that manufacturers should “Invest in a platform that can accurately forecast supply, so you can keep producing the most popular products, respond to spikes in demand and keep customers satisfied.” One of the essential platforms to keeping trade flowing and customers happy is a solid rebate management tool.

If you’re ready to accelerate your rebate ROI, download our ROI kit. Or try Enable’s rebate management solution now, for free.

Elizabeth Lavelle

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