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To PAT or Not to PAT: How Successful Supply Chains Use Cross-Functional Teams

By Patrice Matthias November 9, 2016 by Kelly Kuhlman

by Patrice Matthias

If you are familiar with Reveal, you probably have heard of a PAT. PAT™ is not short for my name, Patrice; rather, it stands for process-aligned team™. What’s so important about process-aligned teams™? Well, let me start with what a PAT™ is.

What Is a Process-Aligned Team™?

Business Team Looking At LaptopPAT™ is a cross-functional group of people that come together to solve supply chain challenges. The team may physically meet each morning or communicate across many miles and multiple time zones. Though meeting face-to-face adds benefits, success depends on common goals and dedicated teams working together at all levels within the organization.

For example, say a manufacturing company buys raw materials, builds sub-assemblies that flow to final assemblies. Each morning, a PAT™ consisting of a buyer, a sub-assembly planner, a final assembly planner and a customer service representative meet to review MRP results from the previous night. They follow an established agenda and are empowered to make decisions. Each member arrives on time, prepared for the session. Also, readily available are additional “as needed” team members from warehouse, demand planning, etc., to support, investigate and act. Process-aligned teams™ quickly work through issues, make agreed to changes in the meeting and move on. In the event consensus is not attainable, the issue is logged, and the team continues. By the end of the session, materials have been expedited, schedules have been tweaked and firmed, customers have been notified, and issues escalated.

How PATs Succeed

So, what happens to those unresolved issues? Great question!

Behind every successful process-aligned team™, leadership, including executives, support the team. Reveal calls this first level of support the PAT™ go-to team (PGT). This team consists of cross-functional experts, maybe managers, maybe top-performers; it varies company to company. The key to success requires the PGT to measure, monitor and support the process-aligned teams™ that meet each morning.

This group addresses root cause and the challenges from the morning PAT™ session. The PGT needs direct access to company leaders, which often takes the form of regular Steering Committees. The Steering Committees must be action-oriented and prepared to guide the organization through any issues that escalate to that level.

Multi-Disciplinary, Cross-Functional Team

The PGT can therefore help deliver an optimal supply chain that:

  1. Drives and ensures integration
  2. Enhances performance and process improvement
  3. Establishes ownership and accountability
  4. Drives immediate resolution of exceptions
  5. Ensures a process of ongoing change and improvement
  6. Drives true automation using system capabilities

What happens when the working team sit miles or continents apart? It becomes more challenging, but with today’s technologies, virtual meetings are the new way to get business done. Be creative, and remember common goals and rewards motivate teams to work together at all levels. Often early-morning or late-night calls bring global teams together.

If you ask me to PAT™ or not to PAT™, I go with PAT™ every time. Organizations that establish a process-aligned team™ and get this process working at executive through the execution levels tend to see results and sustain those wins.

In summary:

  • Process-aligned teams™ (PATs) are cross-functional groups of empowered team members.
  • PAT™ go-to (PGT) teams support and clear obstacles for PATs to succeed.
  • A Steering Committee sets goals and empowers the PAT™.
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