I was recently catching up with a colleague - I’ve known him since early in our supply chain careers. He was describing the challenge his local supply chain teams have when trying to measure against one another, and that executives couldn’t plan strategy effectively because they couldn’t truly assess the state of things on the ground.
Of course, I had to prod him a bit – “Okay, so why isn’t everyone in your supply chain organisation on the same page? Finance teams all look at the same finance data – everyone knows what they mean when they talk about operating expenses or gross profit. Why isn’t the supply chain doing the same?”
I got a pretty standard answer: “Supply Chains are complex beasts! It makes sense for us to have sites around the world. But they’ve got their own individual data systems and their ways to measure. Plus, we still have other legacy systems acquired through various business changes, such as mergers & acquisitions we’ve gone through.”
I’m not talking about any of that, though. I wasn’t going to argue with him – or you! – about the operations of your supply chain or how it got to look like what it looks like. However you’ve arrived at this global, complex supply chain beast is beside the point.
What do you do about it? Again, why isn’t your supply chain organisation on the same page?
SO WHAT DOES “BEING ON THE SAME PAGE” MEAN, THEN?
Getting your supply chain organisation on the same page does not mean what my colleague started to suggest – having a single data system, or doing a complete master data management overhaul, in order for everyone up and down the chain to be working from a single source of truth. Instead, complexity will persist. New sites, distributors, sales channels or products will be introduced and the data will always change and evolve with your business (as it should).
Sure, it would be nice to have master data perfectly aligned! Practically speaking, though, it’s impossible without MASSIVE ONGOING INVESTMENT!
And this is why people give up right at this point. They say that they’re still making product – maybe they can eek out efficiencies to speed things up, but it’s too costly and time consuming to do a complete data overhaul.
Being on the same page, however, simply means having a tool that replicates this end state, bridging the gaps in data and providing visibility via a simple platform that executives and workers alike can use to drive positive supply chain outcomes – a “top floor to shop floor tool.”
IS IT THAT SIMPLE? WELL… YES AND NO!
Stepping back, it really is that simple to say that if you are not going to do a global ERP consolidation & master data management programme, then you just need a tool that replicates this. This is the more complicated part. How do you do that?!
First, start with the metrics that you truly need defined for your supply chain. I’ll tell you right now, it’s not 1,000, or 500, or even 100. It’s more like 20-30 – max! – that really affect supply chain outcomes. Things like your cycle time measurements, global stock views, forecasting, production vs plan, quality performance, on-time in-full, cost and supplier performance.
Another reason you don’t want to define too many? The next step is to agree on a global definition for each one!! This will require very tight management and stakeholder engagement with each local team and executives.
Once you have those metrics defined, instead of having to standardise your entire data set across each instance/source system, you can focus your efforts on extracting just the critical data that drives each metric, and standardise those specific data tables. The tool you use to do this needs to be powerful enough to aggregate and disaggregate up and down the supply chain, from local sites to global views, so that executives and local teams can work from the same single source of truth. It needs to link the data together as well, since metrics are inherently linked. This is not simple either (sometimes there aren’t simple links) between data objects, but your data architects will be super critical here!
Finally, any innovative data solution to a complex problem requires a highly robust digital architecture to achieve sub-second response times and an innovative app to visualise the information! The metric definitions you started with should define the specific measurement views, and they need to be intuitive enough for everyone to use. Even better if they’re available on every device and with collaboration features and alerts and alarms built in, prompting you to key Supply Chain issues.
WHAT DOES GETTING ONTO THE SAME PAGE ACHIEVE?
Is all of that effort worth it? I certainly didn’t give you a silver bullet for your problems, but the methodology is a definite improvement on trying to achieve harmonious master data and clear visibility across your supply chains.
What I described is how we’ve built Blinx. We’re seeing the benefits that customers gain by finally being on the same page and it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.
First, Blinx is unlocking insight at amazing speed (due to our finely tuned in-memory digital cloud platform). Once the initial setup and implementation is complete, the heavy lifting of something like tracing a batch through the entire supply chain takes seconds, not months. Comparisons are instant between SKUs, products, sites, manufacturing teams, planners – however you want to cut the data up. Corrective actions can be taken immediately.
Second, lurking behind “everyone on the same page” is the fact that organisations now have a “single source of truth.” Despite the multiple ERPs and data warehouses, with Blinx consuming and making sense of all your data, localisation is eliminated, and time is saved knowing that things like lead time calculations, stock levels and production rates are all calculated in the same way. It’s apples to apples, finally. Blinx becomes egalitarian, because data is standard and visual, so everyone can quickly line up behind what the data is showing. Accountability is driven, teamwork is encouraged, and innovation is fostered.
Finally, metrics are defined in limited quantities and against one another. For example, impacts on stock levels due to sales forecasts or lead time delays are instantly visible. Now, not only are teams working from the same data, but they see the heartbeat of the supply chain, in real time.
GET EVERYONE ON THE SAME PAGE!
Getting everyone on the same page is more possible than ever with Blinx. If you are serious about improving supply chain outcomes to meet your customers’ demands, or about gaining the competitive edge in your market, you cannot be flying blind, hoping to eek out efficiencies by luck, or via heavy-lifting manual Excel exercises. You need everyone on the same page, working from the same data, so that teams can collaborate to improve and so that strategies can be driven with accurate, standard local-to-global information.
It doesn’t require a complete master data management overhaul. It requires smart innovation.
Interested in getting your supply chain on the same page? Drop me a line here on LinkedIn or at email@example.com to see how Blinx is smartly innovating solutions for supply chain teams!