A client who recently read a very powerful white paper written by Greg Collins and Cal Popken asked me to explain the term 'Tributary Supply Chain.'
So, I shall paint a picture.
Imagine, if you will, a canoe on the shoulders of a mighty river. Picture this boat as it gently travels atop the fast running and bountiful waterway. It can't help but trust its provider as it bounces playfully along on its journey. The river and the canoe are a great analogy for how we should picture our customers, our businesses and how the success of the latter relies heavily on a very long list of tributary products and services. As it applies to a restaurant, the customer enters your door and is counting on a safe and pleasant journey. They want to trust that the river that is to carry them through the experience is equipped to do so. Certainly, any disruption can and will disturb the balance that we work so hard to maintain.
For example, if a river has a poor supply of water, the canoe will bump around violently because the water cannot protect it from pronounced boulders or other dangers. A river's tributary supply is critical to ensuring that the canoe comes out unscathed by hazards.
Your customers don't begin their experience by travelling from your small wares provider through a warehouse, loading docks, delivery trucks but rather they start their journey at the widest part of the river. Their ride is wholly dependent on the waters from upstream. If tributary items such as small wares, uniforms, paper goods, pop materials, POS supplies, etc., are not flowing efficiently into your river, then the canoe will experience bumps from your teams inability to deliver the promise of a safe journey.
Too many businesses rely on themselves to keep the river flowing. For many small businesses this is possible, but as we grow and add more locations, it becomes very difficult to keep that river running smoothly by ourselves. Recognizing that the management of your tributary supply system is an essential part of your growth is critical. It's is an important step towards a bold and healthy waterway.
Topics: Operations Management