There are a couple of areas to look into first: procurement and transportation. Why here? Because a reduction in the purchase price of a raw material, component, or OEM product is an immediate savings to the bottom line. Same goes for transportation - if you can negotiate a lower rate with a carrier on a product/lane combination, you save money the first time you ship this product/lane combination under the new rate.
As an example of potential savings in this downturn, I know of a company in the industrial products sector who has a significant opportunity to reduce costs in their transportation rates. We estimated that they could save between $10,000 and $30,000 per week with renegotiated rates. This company, like many companies is trying their best to be good employers to their personnel and keeping layoffs to a minimum and hopefully, zero. With some time (just a few weeks) and expense to get help in negotiating the new rates, this company can begin to realize the savings immediately.
Unfortunately, due to the constraints due to lower revenues, they chose to postpone the rate negotiation and froze the additional expenditures on outside help (even when offered to pay later). The additional unfortunate circumstance is that in five to six weeks, they could save at least one full headcount and others as time went on.
It is a common viewpoint that SMBs are the first ones to come out of a difficult economy. What is your small to medium-sized company doing right now to improve their supply chain operations? Are you reducing costs in your supply chain to save jobs? Are you preparing for the increase in business as the economy improves? Please give us your feedback!