If you thought that consultants could only provide value for large supply chain improvement projects, it might be time to think again. While it’s true that some larger consulting firms will only get involved in major strategic projects, there are plenty that will be pleased to help smaller businesses solve tactical supply chain problems.


Do you ever find your business in the situation where improvement opportunities lie unrealised, for want of available people and resources to put them into effect?


It’s not an uncommon scenario for smaller enterprises, as concerns about spending and manpower conspire to keep projects from making it off an ever-growing to-do list. Oftentimes though, it’s a mistake to keep small projects on hold, especially when returns on investment are clearly attainable within a relatively short period of time.


Benefits of Hiring Consultants for Small Supply Chain Improvement Projects

If you find yourself wishing you had the internal resources to get a small supply chain improvement project under way and off the to-do list, you could do a lot worse than engaging the help of a few consultants.


In this post, you can find out how and why hiring consultants for small projects can actually be very beneficial for your business.


To illustrate two of the most important benefits, we’ll look at them by comparing the use of internal resources and/or temporary staff with the alternative option of bringing in consultants to complete a small supply chain improvement project.


Maintain Business as Usual: No Consultants

So you decide to launch a small supply chain improvement project in your organisation. Perhaps it’s a fact-finding project to uncover optimisation opportunities, or maybe the implementation of a warehouse management system (WMS). Whatever the purpose, you choose to go ahead and make do with internal resources to complete the project.


Right from the outset, you have little choice but to take some of your best and brightest away from their normal duties, or burn overtime hours to complete the project and keep the business running.


Neither of these solutions is ideal. If overtime is not an option, you either have to accept that some of the normal work will fall by the wayside (which is rarely an acceptable state of affairs), or that temporary labour must be used to cover the employees serving on your project team.

Temporary labour will generate training needs, and even then, there’s no guarantee that quality won’t suffer. Don’t forget either, that you will probably need to train people to carry out their project roles, especially if many of the team members are unused to working on projects.


If you do use overtime to complete your project, fatigue is a risk, potentially impacting the quality of project and operational work. Plus there are labour costs to consider for all those extra hours.


Can you even be sure that you’ll be able to complete your project on schedule and within budget, when your entire project team is dividing attention between day-to-day activities and those demanded by the project? There’s nothing worse than having a project lose momentum as energy erodes and unforeseen business issues distract the team.


Maintain Business as Usual: With External Consultants

With a team of external consultants managing and executing your project, all the aforementioned risks are reduced. Supply chain consultants will have worked on similar projects many times over, and will already be skilled in the associated tasks, so not training is necessary.


If you select a good consulting company, there will be very little need to draw on your internal resources, except perhaps to assign an internal project manager to work with the consulting team.


While you will of course, incur consulting fees to benefit from external help with your supply chain improvement project, you won’t have overtime costs to deal with, or training costs, or charges for temporary labour. Best of all, your project will be completed with minimal (if any) impact to your business or its customers.


Applying the Expertise: No Consultants

Even if you figure out a way to run your project and maintain business continuity with your existing headcount, can you be sure of sourcing the right expertise from within your internal management team and workforce?

The following questions may help you think about possible resource challenges:

  • Do you have an experienced project manager to keep your supply chain improvement initiative on schedule and within budget?
  • If your project is an IT implementation, do you have the right types of IT specialists in your company—or any IT specialists at all?
  • If you’re trying to improve your warehouse design and layout, can you access the sophisticated modeling tools necessary to really optimise your storage space and process efficiency? If so, do you have people trained to use those tools?
  • Are any of your people experienced in change management, with the communication and leadership skills to ensure solutions stick once they are put in place?

Most SMEs would find it difficult to yield up people with all the expertise necessary for even a small tactical project. That’s one of the reasons why supply chain improvement projects sometimes run off the rails, fizzle out before completion, or result in solutions that fail to deliver desired results.


Applying the Expertise: With External Consultants

The thing is, projects often require specialised skills and expertise which aren’t necessary for operational roles, which is why those skills can be hard to find among an operational workforce and management team. Consultants, on the other hand, depend upon those specialised skills every day of their working lives.


Those once-in-a-blue-moon projects are the bread and butter of the consulting profession, so when you trust your project to a consulting team, you know the right specialists will be on hand throughout.


Furthermore, the consulting company will, in most cases, be contractually bound to provide the right expertise. Therefore, if the assigned team is missing some particular skill or resource, the consulting company will source it from within its own network of partners and/or service-providers.


A Few More Benefits of Consultants for Small Projects

Business continuity and securing the right expertise are perhaps the two most compelling reasons to hire consultants to complete small tactical supply chain improvement projects. However, they are not the only ones. Other advantages include:

  • The possibility to share project risks between the business and the consulting partner.
  • An objective, unbiased approach to solving problems and identifying solutions.
  • Faster project completion. Consultants manage and execute business projects as a matter of course and are not subject to the distractions of day-to-day business issues.
  • The ability of consultants to train and educate internal staff to work with new tools and processes.
  • Reduced internal management overheads, especially when the consulting company manages and executes the project.
  • Consultants’ expansive knowledge of best practices and how to adapt them to suit different business operations.

These advantages combine to make the use of consultants perhaps the fastest and surest way to get tactical supply chain improvement projects off the ground and concluded without fuss or negative effects to the business.


No Need to Leave Valuable Projects on the Shelf

Small supply chain improvement projects can often yield sound returns on investment. When resources are scarce however, they can easily become delayed perpetually while the business waits for the right time that never seems to come.


Supply chain consultants can help you break through the impasse, by managing and staffing smaller projects through to implementation.


Before dismissing the idea of paying a consulting company to assist with tactical initiatives, consider the benefits described in this post, and weigh-up the value of getting your small supply chain projects moving without leaving your business (or your project) short of internal resources.