Supply Chains

What is a supply chain?

A supply chain refers to all the ingredients, processing, manufacturing and distribution  that goes into producing what we buy. It refers to the entire process of how a product gets made and delivered to you. It involves a sequence of steps and multiple companies and people working together.

Most supply chains can be simplified into 3 stages:

Stage One
Raw Materials – such as the raw ingredients grown that go into food, the fibres for material or metals for electronics

Stage Two
Inputs or components: this is processing of the raw materials to a point where it can be used such as processing raw food, spinning and weaving fibres and making components such as chips in our electronic devices.

Stage Three:
Product: this means putting together the ingredients to make a cake or a chocolate bar, cutting fabric, sewing it into a garment and adding embellishments or putting together the various electronic components to make a phone of computer.

Stage Four:
Then it is delivered to the consumer.

Each of these steps can be broken down into a multitude of additional steps where different workers, contractors and businesses undertake different aspects of the production.

Example: The Chocolate Supply Chain ‘From Bean to Bar’

Source: World Cocoa Foundation describes the supply chain of chocolate here  and the issues to consider at each of these stages.

Step 1: Growing Cocoa Trees

Step 2: Harvesting and Pod Breaking

Step 3: Fermentation and Drying

Cacao tree fruit. Photo by Tope A. Asokere, Pexels

Step 4: Sourcing and Marketing

Step 5: Packing and Shipment

Step 6: Processing: Roasting and grinding

Step 7: Manufacturing and Distribution

Step 8: Retail

And that’s just for one product!

Photo by Vie Studio, Pexels