Category Archives: Supply Chain Projects

Benefits Not Tools

One of the most challenging problems I encounter with Supply Chain teams, and executives, is the lack of credibility when they try to get support, sponsorship, approvals for major supply chain transformations. It was the #1 problem when I interviewed executives over the last 10 years in supply chain events. It manifests itselves in transformation programs when I hear “How do we know this is going to work?” or “We spend so much money on IT but we never see anything improve, how is this different?” in discussions with VP-level, or even C-level executives, and the teams begin to flounder. They’ve had this discussion before, and embark on one of three paths – discussion of features, discussion tools, or discussion of problems – hoping they can get buy in for a transformation project. Continue reading

Zero, One, Many.

Call CenterI reviewed order management flow with a client some time ago, as part of a process capture exercise within a re-engineering program; it was within a business to consumer context. As orders flowed during the day, the local teams would review inventory manually, and then when it reached an appropriate reorder point, they would manually enter an order in their ERP environment. That order would then be printed out, and Faxed to a central warehouse. The central warehouse would re-enter the order in their ERP environment (which, by the way, was the same one), and an interface file would be generated with shipment parameters.

To make a very long story short, the order continued to be ‘touched’ several more times by humans until it was actually received in the destination warehouse to replenish stock. If something went bump, it was a manual process to adjust all the numbers in all the interfaces along the way. Keep in mind, this was essentially an intercompany inventory replenishment signal. It reminded me of a memoir of a child of a dysfunctional family – what seems strange to the reader, to the child of course was completely normal. I was wracking my brain to figure out why – why there were 12 steps or so, why the same process was performed over and over. Continue reading

Recipe for a Merger

I recently finished reading Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, a quick walk through the history of the last 13,000 years of human society, and I was intrigued by the parallels between his section on the development of written language, and how Supply Chain seems to be progressing with frameworks. The section of his book that deals with language stresses the importance of having written language to administer large human organizations –empires, kingdoms, nations, etc.

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Falsehood

When I build supply chain analysis teams, and review the types of people I like to hire on or bring into process work, the background which interests me the most is a ‘scientific’ background. These people have been trained to look at problems and identify ways to explain them using a wonderful method which is so difficult to refute: the scientific method. Continue reading

Making a List, Checking it Twice

I am frequently asked, “What is the most important thing…” in performing a particular Supply Chain Transformation program, or in different case studies. My answers vary: to wrestle with Tolstoy, “all good programs are the same; all bad programs are bad in different ways.” Over several years, my team adapted a checklist that identifies which Supply Chain Transformation programs will be successful—which corresponded to major modes of management of change: Continue reading

A Word For Your Sponsor

I had a long conversation with an Asian business team not long ago that were developing Supply Chain functions in their company, and we had a long discussion about critical success factors for enterprise-scale Supply Chain. The one I always bring up is “good sponsorship”. But they wanted to know more, and we discussed it much further, and it led me to several insights to share. Continue reading

Demanding

To paraphrase Tolstoy “All successful Supply Chain teams look the same. All struggling Supply Chain Center of Excellence (COE) teams suffer in their own unique way.” One problem I’ve seen many times is a successful Supply Chain COE team, one which is successful in strategy, process optimization, streamlining – “transformation” – tends to have demand which very quickly outstrips their ability to perform work. Our team at HP grew in demand from 4 to 10 to 20 to 200 (sound of a faint explosion in the distance). Even with a well-performing team of 10-20 people, before there was a huge demand, we struggled with one critical thing: planning. Continue reading

Growing Up

Many years ago (September, 1994) I read an Scientific American article “Software’s Chronic Crisis” with interest – my job at the time being precisely “Software Development”. The article introduced me to “CMM” (Capability Maturity Model) in software development, as an aid to improving software to avoid the inevitable ‘crisis’. “Maturity” here didn’t connote age (there are certainly very old IT organizations I’ve worked in I would hardly call ‘mature’) but rather ‘well developed’. Continue reading