Supply Chain Excellence

By Kevin Cooper, CIS solutions consultant

I have thoroughly enjoyed my 30-plus year of working with manufacturing supply chains. Some days have been more enjoyable than others, but even these challenging days have been a gift because they originate from an ERP system that is screaming for attention, and I like doing that kind of stuff.

If you follow any supply chain publication, forum, Twitter account, blog or other information source, you will see a number of exciting transformational changes such as IoT, blockchain, digital supply chain, virtual manufacturing, 3D printing, AI, 4th industrial revolution, big data analytics and the list goes on. These innovations get most of the attention and can be a real boost for some companies. The interesting thing that I have noticed is that many of the companies I know don’t need or want to discuss this kind of technology.

Many of us would benefit most by pursuing excellence within our existing supply chain. This can take the form of enhanced integration through sales and operations management, better demand management, master scheduling, schedule simulation, master data and, of course, inventory control. Most companies would benefit from having more visibility beyond their four walls, so supplier relationship management and customer relationship management are useful, and in my opinion, highly underutilized tools. My mantra has always been to hear the bad news early because I like having as many options as possible when things go differently than planned.

One interesting thing about optimizing your supply chain is that improvements are needed everywhere, but not on everything. This is where some basic problem solving and prioritization tools are needed. Often the location of your firefighting is not the location of the problem. A recent example of this was a company having excessive expediting, overtime and missed deliveries. The problem wasn’t in production, rather they had an overstated master schedule that never had a chance to begin with. This overstated master schedule was a result of incorrect time fences which overpromised their ability to deliver and this error was repeated on each planning iteration. Finding the root cause wasn’t difficult, it just took some basic problem solving skills.

Please don’t get me wrong, I encourage you to pursue any relevant technologies if it will make you more competitive. If you haven’t already done that to some degree, you will. My message is simply that there is nothing worse than a bad process that has been automated, so you should always measure and pursue continuous improvement in your existing supply chain processes. If you want some ideas on how to do that, give me a call. Remember, I like doing that kind of stuff.