Supply chain tinkering takes good organisation

Building organisational support for a project to improve one of your supply chains can take as long as executing it.

Building organisational support for a project to improve one of your supply chains can take as long as executing it.

Typically a targeted supply chain project will take 12 to 18 weeks but gaining internal support and nailing down the necessary resources can take just as long, says supply chain specialist Peter Bolstorff (pictured). The words “intense” and “crisp” are used to describe these three-to-five-month stretches, which should be undertaken for the biggest-revenue, highest-return supply chains involving an organisation and its suppliers, partners and customers.

Bolstorff, who is based in Minnesota, was brought out by ERP integrator Mi Services to help local firms develop supply chain efficiency projects. He spoke to manufacturers such as Fletcher Building, retailers, packaging specialists and distributors.

Over the course of a day he helped a team of managers from each organisation work through a specific problem in one of their supply chains. The response was overwhelmingly positive, says Mi Services chief John Quirk.

Bolstorff, a consultant and 1990s employee of 3M, co-wrote a handbook (Supply Chain Excellence, AMACOM) for improving organisational supply chains using the SCOR model, which was developed by the Supply Chain Council, a global body of which Mi Services is a member. Other members include Crane Distribution NZ, Mainfreight, Fonterra and the University of Auckland.

Bolstorff says SCOR is basically a programme of metrics, processes and benchmarks. There are five supply chain processes and they’re similar for small or large organisations: planning and forecasting, sourcing, manufacturing, delivery and return logistics. Four steps must be taken. These are defining supply chain scope in terms of customers and products (divided into product groups and sales channels); defining the metrics of the supply chain; identifying efficiencies that can be gained in material flows; and improving work and information flows.

Typical problem areas include data management, planning and forecasting, and change management. The first refers to the ever-present need to get data accurate and establish processes to keep it up to date. Forecasting is made more difficult by the inevitable tension between manufacturers who like long, predictable production lines and consumers who want their preferred product right away. Managing the rollercoaster of change in people, processes and technology is the third hurdle to overcome.

The systems for managing supply chains have improved and become easier to use, says Bolstorff, but anything involving more than 10 people is inevitably complex.

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