A day doesn’t go by when I don’t get an email, see a pop up ad, group discussion thread or even a blog post that is pushing some software system or another that implies it will save the day in terms of transforming a supply chain.   Information management and timely communication are both foundation pillars for managing the flow and production of materials.  The faster demand signals can be sent back upstream, the sooner they can be reacted to.   Material expediting becomes so much easier if material status is available on a real-time basis.  A lot of phone calls and emails can be saved.   A few thoughts for those contemplating supplementing their current supply chain/operations management systems.

Do I need to mention that your “A” players need to lead this from the pre-selection phase through installation and post mortem?   The “A Team”  must delegate or offload enough work to others in order to devote the time needed to get this done.  You can’t develop an “A” process with your “B” team.    This team does not and should not be all upper management.   This needs to be driven as much from the people ‘on the lines’ as from management.  It also needs  a diversity in perspective.  Great ideas come from less experienced but high potential newer people.

Don’t  forget  to ‘Keep it Simple’.  Who buys a Ferrari when a Taurus would do?  The answer is people who have either won the lottery or have otherwise become financially independent.   If you are running a business like that, please give me a call.  The fancy ‘bells and whistles’ aren’t free.  The most obvious price is up front and or monthly service fees.   The more insidious component and what is often not realized until late in the project are the ongoing maintenance required to keep it operating in peak operating condition – just like the Ferrari.   It’s very important to balance the value of the fancy ‘bells and whistles’ against the realities what is needed to do the job and the capabilities throughout the chain.   Avoid creating additional systems with additional maintenance requirements when integrating the data into current systems will do just fine.

Block diagramming or mapping your process from a current and future state perspective is an important exercise BEFORE engaging software vendors.  That way you are defining what software can do for you instead of fitting your process to the software.  You’d be surprised how many companies put this off until afterward and pay the price of a delayed on failed implementation, a swoon in performance and customer service.    Mapping needs to happen to prior to develop the training plan and materials and should be largely independent of the system you choose.  I don’t remember who said “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, but if you throw software at a bad process you just get to a bad place faster.   If this system is really going to transform your business you need a new blueprint and plan to go along with it.  Don’t miss the chance to lay the right foundation for the future.

Real –time data is critical in tracking material, inventory levels in the chain, ready to build and in performing ‘what if’ scenarios.   Inventory data needs to be very accurate and if you’ve picked the right partners it very well should be.  Lead-time data can be a different issue.   Data can be sent back and forth very efficiently over the internet, but if it’s been weeks since the data was updated, be careful about  the assumptions you make from it.   Do you really need that screen at your fingertips with a real-time update on every part or will a daily or weekly report that is nightly batched and stored on a local server do just fine?

Before you sign the final documents, Test drive the system with data from your own business.   Most of solution providers will gladly accommodate this step.   The limiting issue here is translation and mapping of your data to the target system.   It’s not trivial, but it’s not rocket science either and it’s something better understood before you jump in anyway.  If your IT staff is more comfortable with infrastructure (networks, servers and wires) than application work (the systems and resulting data carried in and around the network) then find a good contractor that will stick with you through the selection and implementation.

 

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