Category Archives: Trending

Pillars of Supply Chain Management

People, Process, and Technology – I’ve heard those stated over and over from a ‘framework’ point of view as the essentials of good supply chain management. I think it’s very incomplete. I’ve worked with companies with great people – dedicated 10- 20- and 30- year professionals in their supply chain roles. Processes, while not meticulously documented and automated, were well-understood, repeatable, and performed to expectation. A company may have great ERP, MRP, and other systems to have high fairly automated environments. Yet, customers are defecting. Inventory is out of control perhaps – both too much and too little, a wonderful paradox. Costs are escalating faster than inflation.

When I talk to these organizations, what is strikingly evident is that they are very internally focused – I did my process at the right time, our ERP has great capabilities, my team is very experienced in our product, we have a six-sigma team that’s constantly looking for improvements. The gotcha is when I ask about end-to-end supply chain performance, and market expectation – the blank look. Let me give you Joe’s five pillars of supply chain management – Markets, Metrics, People, Process, and Technology. Continue reading

Customer Or Product?

I reviewed with a client recently the overall historic progression of supply chain thinking, and it had a somewhat jarring effect. I think we’re all familiar with the early ideas of what I call “General Ledger” driven supply chain – there’s a line item for Procurement, there’s a line item for Manufacturing, a line item for Logistics… And you optimize those organizations to be very efficient.

The problem of course is that efficiency in any one focus area may drive inefficiencies in the other – great purchasing may drive inefficient manufacturing; great manufacturing efficiency may drive terrible logistics to the customer. The highlight of this kind of thinking is essentially that you’re not just inwardly focused; you’re even blind to the issues in your own company. The next stage was focus on the supply chain, the great discovery: how you focus on orchestrating activities cross-functionally to efficiently move a product to the customer. Unfortunately, there you can also evolve the “General Ledger” supply chain to the “Product P&L” supply chain – the vital link to the customer is still hidden, and while you may be very optimal for a product, you’re not optimal in a market. Continue reading

Planning or Scheduling?

On a recent customer engagement the project team experienced issues getting acceptance from manufacturing teams for the proposed new planning processes. The reason: “The plan should be done in the factory”; “we have full visibility of current inventories, orders, production output” and so on. This however was primarily a language issue: Are we talking planning or scheduling? Once we explained the difference both teams calmed and agreement was reached. So, what’s the difference, you ask?

One way to differentiate is looking at an example. The daughter of a friend in Europe and her friend graduated from high school and were planning a multi-month USA road trip. She did her planning extensively: Continue reading

Financials Benchmarking

Supply Chain Benchmarking – an endlessly debatable topic. I wanted to share with you one way I like to use benchmarking, which is to frame a conversation with Supply Chain executive leadership around direction and distance of performance change required. My first pass at benchmarking years ago was for the CIO of HP, around IT cost as a percentage of revenue, to gauge whether IT budgets were in line with industry peers. We used one of the big-five consultancies, and 3 months and $400K later, we had the numbers, and had a great view of, by each tech market we were in, what level of tech spend was appropriate, and where budget changes may be mandated. I found the process very subjective, which it was, but valuable in the sense that it provided “bracketing” or bounding for what we should expect to set strategically. Continue reading