Today's supply chain is complicated, driven by the need for speed at low-cost, across multiple layers, involving many parties and partners. Add to this, thousands of products, dozens of outlets, hundreds of suppliers and a plethora of both internal and external manufacturing capabilities. Season this, with a fine sprinkling of increasing market volatility, more frequent promotions, faster new product introduction and it is not surprising that this heady brew sometimes drives the supply chain and manufacturing leadership reaching for the ‘morning after’ cure.
Indeed, over the last ten years you've probably invested millions in your supply chain. Your logistics and supply chain controllers have attended just about every supply chain conference and seminar. You've talked to every consultant around and know all the buzzwords, having implemented at least half of them.
BUT STILL THIS IS NOT ENOUGH.
Sadly, there is no magic bullet, no single leap you can make to get you to the ‘promised land’ of decreased inventory with improved availability. Supply chains are not the neat linear processes that a pipeline implies. They are more like overlapping and tangled, strands of rope. With customers pulling on one end and suppliers the other. Meanwhile, distributors and manufacturers are trying to create enough slack to untangle the knots that cause the difficulties of one supply chain to impact on another.
Thankfully, the new realism caused by the collapse of the dot.com bubble has created an environment where sceptical customers are demanding practical, simple and fast solutions. Vendors have responded with simplified offers using pre-configured software and templates. Consultants are delivering services that simplify processes and untangle the knots. Modern solutions use technology only as a means to deal with unavoidable complexity and to facilitate rapid transfer of information and assist decision-making.
So, what does the future hold?
In the increasingly networked supply chain that needs to be flexible and adaptable in volatile markets, which can't afford to discard legacy systems every five minutes, a rigorously thought out battle plan is essential. This includes the ability to plug and play new functionality, systems and processes as well as a strategy for continually improving the flexibility and responsiveness of the whole organisation.
Finally, having the right planning process at the heart of this adaptive supply chain is the key to ensuring success. The planning function acts like a conductor keeping the constituents of the supply chain orchestra in harmony. This can only be done with modern technology, good visibility and a deep commitment to managing (and rewarding) end to end performance, rather than functional excellence.