Is Your Value Chain Operating at Peak Efficiency?



When was the last time you carried out a value chain analysis for your business?

A thorough analysis of your value chain can give you a competitive advantage by maximising your productivity, keeping things lean, and increasing profit margins.

The value chain is defined as a set of activities that a company performs in its industry, that allows it to deliver a valuable product or service to its target market. At its core, the value chain is a business management model. The term was first introduced in 1985 by Michael Porter in his best-selling book titled Competitive Advantage: Creating and sustaining superior performance.

In this article, we’ll look at the key elements of a value chain as well as a brief overview of how to carry out a value chain analysis for your business.


What key elements make up a value chain?

Manufacturing companies create value through purchasing raw materials and producing something of use for consumers. Below are the core elements that make up such an industrial value chain:

  • Research and Development: This involves development of new technologies and processes. A well-financed R&D department can have a significant return on investment.

  • Design & Engineering: This activity turns the results of the R&D activities into something that’s ready for manufacture. If your company outsources manufacturing such as CNC machining for example, consulting your CNC machinist and tapping into their knowledge at this stage can save future headaches.

  • Supply Management: All required materials needed for manufacture will need to be sourced in such a way that ensures non stop production. Reliable and consistent suppliers are extremely valuable, and should be a key focus for any procurement team.

  • Production Testing and Quality Control: Completed parts need to be tested and inspected to ensure that they meet the advertised material and quality specifications. Using CNC machinery, or a reliable CNC Machining Co. for example can result in consistent quality, thus reducing total inspection costs.

  • Distribution / Route to Market: The products need to be made available to the customers, and so shipping and inventory management systems are implemented at this stage in the process.

  • After Sales Service: Product support is required to ensure that customers remain happy with their purchase, which ultimately results in customer loyalty.

  • Product Disposal and Recycling: The end of product lifecycle needs to be considered and managed at this stage.

How can you carry out a Value Chain Analysis? When performing a value chain analysis, you need to determine what type of competitive advantage you want your company to pursue. This can either be a cost advantage approach, or a differentiation advantage approach.

A cost advantage approach is used if you want to be competitive on your pricing, and a differentiation advantage approach is best suited to a company that wants to provide better quality parts to their clients. Cost Advantage

This approach requires you to work through the following 5 steps:

  1. Identify primary and support activities – As previously listed, these are all the activities that need to be performed to deliver a product to your customer.

  2. Establish the relative importance of each activity with respect to the cost of the product – This is done so that all major cost heavy activities are handled first during the optimisation process, as they will have the biggest effect on you margin.

  3. Identify cost drivers of each activity – You will need to analyse each of the activities and determine what the specific drivers are for the costs of that activity. This is needed so that you can focus on improving those activities.

  4. Identify links between activities – The way in which activities affect each other needs to be fully understood. An optimisation on one activity can result in a knock-on effect that might reduce or even increase the costs of another activity.

  5. Identify opportunities for reducing costs – After all the analyses have been performed, an action plan needs to be established to address the inefficiencies in the system.

Differentiation Advantage

This approach requires 3 general steps:

  1. Identify value creating activities for customers – The previously listed value chain activities need to be analysed and all the activities that contribute the most to increasing customer value needs to be listed. These can be marketing, manufacturing, etc.

  2. Evaluate differentiation strategies for improving customer value – Some viable strategies include adding more features or improving customer service and interaction.

  3. Identify optimal sustainable differentiation – The interconnectivity of all the value chain activities and their effect on superior differentiation needs to be fully understood so that a strategy can be developed.

Final Thoughts Whether you choose to follow a cost based, or quality-based differentiation model, improvements in each of these areas will help your business increase its overall efficiency, and as a result, the profitability. A well-oiled value chain can dramatically improve the way in which your business functions.


At Challenge Engineering, in Sydney Australia, we machine custom metal and plastic components, and pride ourselves on great customer service. We can manufacture and deliver anywhere in Australia. Please contact us and find out how we can assist your business.Sign up to Challenge Engineering’s blog, send through a Request A Quote form, email us or phone (02) 9632 0010.

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