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It’s Time to Hang up Our Supply Chain Superhero Capes

By Kristie Bane November 12, 2019 by Kristie Bane
Superhero Business Cape

Like many, I rose through various roles in Supply Chain due to my skills in crisis management.  I had a cape and I wore it both proudly and regularly.  As my responsibilities grew and I had a scope that covered planning all the way through manufacturing and distribution, it became clear. Organizationally, we needed to figure out how to trade in our Super Hero capes for conductor batons and ensure we were all playing from the same sheet of music.

When donning our capes became a daily practice and it became a task that we rely on to execute our daily business, we must recognize we have a problem. Daily crisis management in supply chain is expensive, frustrating, and chaotic.  In our best intentions to put out one fire, in some cases we start several others. In this article, we’ll be discussing Supply Chain Planning through Execution.

To execute well and smoothly, we must have plans that are feasible and transparent.  Supply chain is a series of integrated functions, events, and activities.  To be successful, we rely on other folks in other functions to plan, react or respond to the work we’re doing as individuals.  It’s a cadence of activities, but the steadier the better, while maintaining the flexibility required to meet ever-changing customer needs.

Allow SAP to Help Meet Your Supply Chain Goals

Our Superheroes aren’t “magic”- but they are the people who excel at mobilizing the right folks to get things done. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to build the teams we need to meet our supply chain goals.  In fact, by relying on a few folks skilled at crisis management, we are missing out on crisis prevention and building the knowledge and expertise of our broader team.

In my organization, what we really needed was three things: well defined business rules that we then embedded into SAP so that SAP could help us plan and evaluate whether the plans were well-tuned for execution; well-aligned teams that exhibited the behaviors compatible with the rules that we asked SAP to follow so that we didn’t turn around and invalidate the plan with a whole bunch of “yeah buts”; and a daily way of working where our folks could see where we were doing well…and where we needed to focus.

Supply chain- when things are humming is not an activity where things happen with one person doing a thing.  It’s a whole bunch of people doing a whole bunch of things that come together in the right sequence of activities to deliver the right product, at the right time, to the right place, at the right quality, and within the target cost.  Each of these folks has their expertise, their thoughts, and their own opinion. Silos do not work. Disparate excel sheets do not work.

A plan printed in the office that’s out of synch with the plan in the system or on the floor does not work. We must work together to get things done, and we must inform our system- our single source of truth to help us conduct our activities with real-time updates.  We must capitalize on our collective expertise!

Make the Unexpected the Exception, Not the Rule

We work hard.  We’re trying our best as individuals to force the magic to happen, but the “magic” is in the quiet, normalized rhythm of daily activities that are running smoothly.  It’s in the cadence that keeps the crazy away and gives us room to manage the exceptions when they happen rather than creating complete chaos with HOT lists and boards with plans that supersede the plans.  I love walking in facilities and seeing that lines are up and the product is moving.  I enjoy the quiet intensity of flow when activities are running in harmony.  Our teams can see where they are winning.

Abnormal vs normal conditions are clear.  We all know what’s happening and what’s expected of us.  We all know whether we’re having a good day or not so much, and this is critical to building a positive, rewarding work environment where people are ready and willing to help.  Even better?  When folks aren’t focused on crisis management or offline chasing, they have the mental capacity to think of ways to make things better, more stable, more efficient. The best way to build process capacity for the unexpected is to make the unexpected the exception, not the rule.

To be competitive, to have happy team members, to succeed in our daily operations, we must be less reliant on our Superhero capes.  We know there may be days when we really, truly need them.  However, it cannot be our daily operating procedure. Instead, let’s empower our people by aligning planning and execution enabled by timely and consistent transparency in SAP that is informed by all functions.

Can you reduce your reliance on the crisis management skills of a few and instead empower your broader teams?  If you’re interested in how to model your business rules in SAP for improved planning and execution, supported by exception monitoring contact us here.

To continue reading more on this topic follow our series on supply chain planning & execution to learn why silos must be broken in order to execute within the supply chain.

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