Supply Chain Management transformation is a strategic imperative for any manufacturer. This new perspective, one that will continue to gain importance, sees all suppliers and customers as part of one complex supply chain network and understands that transforming that supply chain into a synchronized chain is the primary goal.
Supply chain management transformation provides fast access to relevant and accurate information. This timely supply chain information can pay off handsomely in lower costs, less inventory, improved throughput, shorter cycle times, and the highest levels of customer service. The very essence of supply chain management is effective information and material flow throughout a network of customers and suppliers. By using the Internet, companies simply have better and more far-reaching ways to speed up the information flow process and make it more effective.
For many companies, it is now clear that the supply chain that best manages the flows of both information and material can significantly differentiate itself from its competitors. As customers and suppliers band together in mutually beneficial partnerships, the need for better and better supply chain management processes and systems becomes more critical. Within the boardroom, improving supply chain management is getting lots of attention because forward-thinking management teams know it is the best strategy to increase and maintain market share while at the same time increasing profits. Experts now agree that in many industries, market share will be won and lost based on supply chain performance.
Good supply chain practitioners know that information should be passed on only to those who need to know it, when they need to know it, and in the form they need to have it in. Changes in demand information, inventory positions, order fulfillment, supply management, and a whole host of other information exchange activities will transform how we sell products, supply products, and make and receive payments for goods and services. Tomorrow’s supply chain will link customers and suppliers together seamlessly throughout the world. The higher speed of information flow itself will in turn mandate faster flows of material, which only lean manufacturing operations can generate.
Executive management is taking a good hard look at supply chains and finding a dysfunctional mix of processes, policies, systems, communications, performance measures, and organizational accountability (see Figure SC-1). Some of these processes are clearly functionally divided silos; those barricaded “power pockets” of the internally focused corporate hierarchical maze that was the standard for decades. Other processes are hybrid and include everything from manual order entry to faxes and phone communications and e-mail. Still other processes reveal the current trend toward full electronic communication and collaboration throughout the supply chain, including automated order entry, delivery tracking, and inventory planning systems. Whatever the exact mix, it is clear that most companies have a long way to go before they will have fully transformed their supply chain for the twenty-first century.
Figure SC-1 The standard manufacturing supply chain shows the traditional flow of information and materials to and from the customers and the suppliers through the company. The processes within the supply chain typically have a strong correlation to the traditional silo organizational functions within a manufacturing company, including sales, engineering, manufacturing, distribution, and accounting. The business process flows across an organization, but communication, accountability, and reward systems flow vertically. This organizational and process contradiction often impedes supply chain effectiveness.
Where’s the Payoff?
Two very compelling reasons justify pursuing e-supply chain management. First, suppliers are now integrating, rather than just interfacing, with their customers.
There’s no small difference between interfacing and integrating. Whereas interfacing indicates communication through some means or other, integrating indicates a more far-reaching connection through electronic business processes. Before, a company might send a monthly report to suppliers about what orders they expect to come in that month, now it is feasible to let suppliers check your order status at any and every point during the month, including in real time. In an integrated supply chain, customers and suppliers become mutually dependent by collaborating through the shared goal of the streamlined, efficient demand and supply process. The objective is for everyone in the supply chain to increase market share through quick responses to customer needs. This can only happen when information, materials, and products flow smoothly and freely, in sync with demand. It’s a formidable task but the effort can pay big dividends, including making (or breaking) marketplace leadership.
The second reason to pursue the e-supply chain is related but different in emphasis. While the first reason emphasizes filling customers’ product needs, the second emphasizes improving the performance of manufacturing material flow and all the benefits those improvements can bring. Many companies now recognize that flow through the entire supply chain is the critical factor for success. In fact, in the future, customers will want to work only with suppliers who are consistently flexible and responsive in meeting their supply needs. The objectives for improved supply chain management are twofold, affecting both the cost and revenue sides of the business equation. The goals are:
- Gain a competitive advantage and increase market share by being more flexible, quicker, more dependable, and less costly.
- Achieve better cost efficiency through high-speed information and material flows with lower inventories and decreased overhead activity costs.
Essential Components of SCM
Like manufacturing processes, supply chain processes involve the flow of information and materials. The information flow precedes and causes material to continue (or stop) flowing through the supply chain. Thus, your supply chain material flow will, by and large, only be as good as the information that drives it. The supply chain management overview diagram (Figure SC-2) depicts the flows of information and material and their relative timing. Manufacturers need to develop supply chain management processes and systems to support this model’s components. It is important to understand the distinctions between these components and what position each holds in the supply chain.
Figure SC-2 This model shows the flows of information and material to and from suppliers and customers through the manufacturing company that uses supply chain management well. Although some of the activities go on continuously, others are positioned from top to bottom to indicate their approximate timing in the supply chain cycle.
Collaborative Product Life Cycle Management
Objective is to share relevant information with appropriate partners and enlist their expertise in design activities at the earliest possible time in Product Life Cycle Management (PLM).
Emphasis is to acquire and apply the skills, knowledge, and experience of your extended enterprise to develop the products that best serve customer needs at low cost in a short cycle time.
Objective is to provide the entire extended supply chain network with the demand planning information needed for optimum planning and schedule execution.
Emphasis is on accurate and real time, collaborative demand planning to support production and supply chain execution.
Supply Source Planning
Objective is to optimize projected customer demand with supply source planning through Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment (CPFR) and subsequent schedule execution by supplier partners.
Emphasis is on compatibility of collaborative business process and precise and timely communications to minimize nonperformance risk.
Objective is to make reliable, short-cycle, capable-to-promise schedules and achieve100% schedule performance.
Emphasis is on schedule reliability and responsiveness to planned demand and unforeseen changes in demand.
Objective is to optimally deliver product to customers as promised while minimizing logistics costs.
Emphasis is on warehouse and transportation management systems that efficiently plan and control the movement of goods while continually seeking to lower logistics costs.
Objective is to proactively monitor and trigger signals about undesirable events requiring action somewhere in the supply chain. In addition, logic may exist that will identify opportunities to minimize costs and increase customer service.
Emphasis is on preventing internal and external problems that are likely to interrupt material flow by sending alert messages to the first level and escalating the alert signal up the organization until the alert is shut down.
Throughout the supply chain, there are some absolutely critical and predictive event questions your system should accurately and quickly answer:
- When will specific orders really ship?
- Which orders will be late?
- Why will these orders be late?
- What are the specific problems that are delaying the schedule?
- What are the future schedule problems and when will they occur?
- What is the best schedule that can be executed now?
If management can accurately answer predictive questions, decision quality will greatly improve. Preventive actions can offset what were once unforeseen events. The supply chain will be managed more effectively and improve your chances of gaining a competitive advantage.