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Growing a business

Unlocking success: Crafting an effective supply chain strategy for Canadian businesses

A supply chain strategy is an approach to managing the network that connects an organization to its suppliers. Typically crafted by a supply chain manager, the strategy aims to maximize value throughout the entire production cycle.

In the intricate dance of commerce, a supply chain strategy serves as the guiding force for small businesses seeking seamless operations and enhanced value delivery. This formalized approach ensures a well-coordinated journey from raw materials to the hands of satisfied customers. 

What is a supply chain strategy?

At its core, a supply chain strategy is akin to a carefully drawn road map that charts the course for products to reach customers with optimal efficiency. This strategic plan encompasses various stages of the supply chain, from sourcing materials to manufacturing, delivery, and logistics. For small businesses, the development of a robust supply chain strategy is paramount for sustained growth and competitiveness.

There are four factors that influence the strategy:

Industry dynamics: The unique characteristics of the industry in which a small business operates play a pivotal role in shaping its supply chain strategy.

Company value proposition: Whether it's a commitment to sustainability, speed of delivery, or unparalleled quality, the supply chain must be aligned with and enhance the business's value proposition to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Internal decision-making processes: Streamlined communication, agile decision-making, and effective collaboration are crucial elements that contribute to the success of the supply chain strategy, ensuring that it adapts swiftly to evolving market conditions.

Business goals and aspirations: Whether the aim is to expand market reach, enhance product offerings, or improve cost efficiency, the supply chain strategy must align with these business objectives to drive sustainable success.

In the dynamic Canadian business landscape, where small enterprises are the backbone of the economy, a well-crafted supply chain strategy can be a game-changer. It not only helps ensure operational efficiency, but also positions small businesses to navigate challenges effectively, whether they stem from global disruptions or local market dynamics.

6 effective supply chain strategies: What we've learned from COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic served as a seismic disruptor, reshaping the landscape of supply chain management for small businesses. The lasting impact of this led to the creation of the National Supply Chain Office in late 2023. And as the global crisis unfolded, businesses learned valuable lessons that have since become integral to crafting resilient and adaptive supply chain strategies.

Shift from efficiency to resilience

Traditionally, the focus in supply chain management has been on creating lean processes, such as just-in-time inventory replenishment, to minimize waste and maximize efficiency. However, the pandemic underscored the importance of resilience.

Suncor Energy focused on building strategic buffers in response to the volatile market conditions during the pandemic. This involved optimizing storage capacities for raw materials and finished products, ensuring the company could navigate fluctuations in demand and supply.

Prioritize diversification

The pandemic revealed the vulnerability of supply chains heavily reliant on a single source or region.

Magna International, an Aurora, Ontario-based global automotive supplier, diversified its manufacturing and sourcing network. In response to disruptions caused by the pandemic, the company explored alternative suppliers and manufacturing locations to reduce dependence on a single source, ensuring a more robust and flexible supply chain.

Emphasize demand forecasting

Many small businesses learned that accurate demand forecasting is a powerful tool in uncertain times.

Maple Leaf Foods invested in technology and data analytics to enhance demand forecasting. By leveraging advanced analytics, they aimed to better understand shifts in consumer behavior during the pandemic, enabling them to optimize production and distribution processes.

Build strategic buffers

To absorb the impact of unexpected delays and disruptions, small businesses started strategically placing buffers along their supply chains.

Recognizing the importance of inventory management, Canadian Tire increased safety stock levels for essential products, providing a buffer against unexpected demand surges and disruptions in the supply chain.

Integrate technology

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of technology in supply chain management for small businesses.

Loblaw Companies Limited launched PC Express, allowing customers to order groceries online and pick them up at a designated location. Later, the company also launched PC Health, a no-contact telemedicine service that provides health consultations in customers' homes.

Establish collaborative partnerships

In the face of challenges posed by the pandemic, small businesses recognized the value of collaborative partnerships.

Canada Goose adjusted its supply chain by forming collaborative partnerships. The company collaborated with local manufacturers and suppliers to repurpose production facilities for making personal protective equipment during the initial shortage, showcasing the value of collaborative efforts in times of crisis.

The top 3 benefits of adopting a resilient supply chain strategy

  1. Improved continuity and reliability: A resilient supply chain helps ensure business continuity even in the face of disruptions. This reliability enhances customer trust and satisfaction.
  2. Risk mitigation and adaptability: Resilient supply chains are better equipped to identify, assess, and mitigate risks effectively. This adaptability allows them to adjust sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution activities to navigate challenges and maintain operational efficiency.
  3. Competitive advantage and innovation: Organizations that prioritize resilience can not only weather disruptions more effectively, but also position themselves as industry leaders. This can lead to innovation, increased efficiency, reduced costs, and enhanced product development cycles.

Navigating the path to success

Companies like Loblaws, Magna, and Maple Leaf Foods have embraced the principles of resilience, diversification, and technology integration. These businesses strategically placed buffers, diversified sourcing networks, and leveraged technology to navigate disruptions successfully. 

As the journey continues, the resilience embedded in supply chain strategies not only ensures survival in the face of challenges, but also propels businesses toward sustained growth and competitiveness. By embracing these lessons and weaving resilience into the fabric of their supply chain strategies, Canadian small businesses can navigate uncertainties with confidence, emerging stronger and more adaptable in the dynamic Canadian marketplace.

QuickBooks is here to help you begin implementing these supply chain strategies.

QuickBooks offers online tools designed to simplify and manage inventory. With this system, you'll always know what you have, who it's coming from, and how optimized your supply chain is. Learn more about QuickBooks inventory management solutions and begin your free trial today.


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