Next-Gen Supply Chain Management: Making the Goal a Reality

Posted - April 22, 2015

Next-Gen Supply Chain Management: Making the Goal a Reality

By Brooks Bentz, President, Supply Chain Consulting, Transplace

Conceptually, a next-gen solution that creates a more reliable, predictable supply chain is easy to envision, and the technology now exists to make it a reality. However, that’s where the simplicity in the process ends. The art and the science of getting a next-gen supply chain right is in the extensive groundwork laid for implementing a new or refreshed strategic roadmap.  Taking this on is unglamorous and gritty work that involves examining current operating and business practices and then utilizing that knowledge as a springboard to build new capabilities – using tools and technologies that simply weren’t available before.

Just like when building a house, if the blueprint is haphazard or the foundation is poorly executed, the balance of the structure will fail to meet expectations. It’s common knowledge that better construction, insulation and window manufacturing make for more energy-efficient homes that are more economical to operate. Similarly, boosting your supply chain capabilities with the best-of-breed solutions on the market, coupled with skilled implementation and execution, leads to better supply chain performance.

Unfortunately, all too often the vital upfront blueprinting and design is done without proper due-diligence. As one seasoned executive quipped: “We answer vast problems with ‘half-vast’ solutions!” There are no real short-cuts in this process, and the results of substandard efforts are predictable and undesirable.

To create a true end-to-end (e-2-e) supply chain, it’s important to plan well and expend the effort, resources and money necessary to do a comprehensive process-mapping and blueprint design exercise. This should be an outcome-based approach, not a memorialization of past practices using new software.

Here are some key tips to help you along your way:

  • Find out how many solution architects you have. If the answer is none, then make it a priority to get some or retain consultants who have those skills and the necessary experience.
  • You may consider outsourcing to help de-risk the effort and also to tap the skills and expertise of those who have blazed the trail before you.
    • This can be done through an RFI/RFP process, but it really only works if you have done the upfront design work so you can explicitly and accurately enumerate what you want potential partners to respond to.
    • Failure to be complete and accurate will lead to incomplete and inaccurate responses based on incorrect assumptions, which will inevitably cause pain further down the path.
  • Conducting rigorous evaluations of potential partners and their responses is vital. Even better, doing so in a work-shop format rather trying to replicate the Spanish Inquisition will make the exercise beneficial for all parties. Together, you can work toward a more powerful solution that can be operationalized with the least amount of disruption.

Those who jump out in front of the pack with true e-2-e capabilities for managing their supply chain in a unified, holistic way will trump the competition in terms of supply chain reliability and efficiency, cost take-out, inventory reduction and ultimately by improving the customer experience – which is really what counts most!

Are you ready to take the leap to next-gen supply chain management? What will be a key part of your process?