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Centre for Operational Excellence (COPE)

Faculty of Economics and Business
Centre for Operational Excellence (COPE)ProjectsSupply chain quick scan

Supply chain quick scan

Your company's success does not depend on the strongest link in the chain, but the weakest. Only a mature supply chain offers you a guarantee for permanent success. The Centre for Operational Excellence (COPE) uses the successful Quick Scan Audit Methodology (QSAM) to objectively assess the maturity of your supply chain and put forward improvements. Worldwide, over a hundred companies have now improved their supply chain based on the outcomes of this Quick Scan.

An assessment of your supply chain using the quick scan audit methodology

Is the supply chain which you are part of completely lean? Are all links seamlessly integrated? Is everybody working together to achieve the jointly established goals? And are your customers served in the right way all the time? If so, a Quick Scan is not necessary.

If your supply chain has not achieved the highest degree of perfection, though, you will definitely benefit from a Quick Scan. At best, this approach will give you an objective confirmation of the progress you are making in creating a mature supply chain. Our experience has taught us, though, that we will always be able to point out to you so-called 'quick-wins' and more fundamental improvement options.

Systematic approach

The Quick Scan Audit Methodology constitutes a systematic approach for collecting and analysing both qualitative and quantitative supply chain data. It was developed by Cardiff University and first applied in the automotive industry. Over the years, more than a hundred businesses in various sectors and countries were scanned using the Quick Scan Audit Methodology. The Quick Scan comprises a fixed pattern of techniques which are used to collect and analyse data:

  1. analysing product and information flows
  2. interviewing managers in key positions
  3. analysing historical data
  4. helping to clarify the degree of integration within companies and the obstacles for a seamless production process using standard questionnaires.

How mature is your supply chain?

Based on the three following elements, the maturity of the supply chain is assessed:

  1. the uncertainty about customer demand, materials supply and process control within the chain. After all, reducing or eliminating uncertainties will generate increased testing and improved coordination within the supply chain and, consequently, bring about cost reduction and improvements in the quality of services.
  2. the mindset of managers when they make decisions within the supply chain, which is identified based on behavioural observation and completed questionnaires regarding their arguments at these decision moments.
  3. scores achieved in four classes (dynamic behaviour, operational characteristics, physical situation and organisational characteristics) of 24 variables in total.


The Quick Scan has a total lead time of one month, approximately. Scanning takes up about twelve working days, including a maximum of three or four days of data collection in the company premises. The process is completed by presenting the outcomes, handing over a report and running a round table. The round table discussion includes strengths and weaknesses, causes and consequences and the proposed quick wins and radical improvements. The aim of the round table discussion is to draw up a company-wide supported action plan which should bring about a ’seamless’ supply chain.

International database

Frans Bakker. In the past few years, this team has done a lot of research in companies in the food industry and is also involved in solving problems in the fields of supply chain integration and sustainable production. The Quick Scan helps the Center for Operational Excellence (COPE) to collect valuable data which constitute input for ongoing scientific research. Besides that, the anonymised data are added to the international database of companies which have undergone a Quick Scan and are used to extend and update the existing database. Therefore, thanks to Quick Scan, these companies not only gain insight into how the supply chain operates and what their role is, they will also be able to benchmark with the other companies in this database.

Substudy: how do you find the balance between flexibility and efficiency?

One company which underwent a Quick Scan struggled with the ‘flexibility/efficiency dilemma’, as it is referred to by Frans Bakker. 'This company operates on a project basis and is making products which are surrounded by long-term uncertainties during the project: uncertainties relating to exact customer requirements; the regulations to comply with; component specifications, etc. Dealing with these uncertainties requires a flexible organisation. Generally, though, a flexible organisation is not remarkable for efficiency, whereas cost saving was an absolute necessity for this particular company', Mr Bakker said. He was one of the five scientists who performed the Quick Scan.

To solve this problem, Mr Bakker and his colleagues suggested creating an additional decoupling point, cutting the process into two parts. In the first part, Sales and Product Development have to remove uncertainties by drawing up a complete list with product, component and document specifications. At the decoupling point, they hand the list over to their colleagues of the second part, who execute the project, which includes purchase and assembly, testing and shipment of the product. Mr Bakker said: 'Clever planning of the second part of the process can prevent large quantities of work-in-process and protracted lead times from developing. An additional advantage is that the company is encouraged to move forward the decoupling point, which helps to deliver the projects sooner.'

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