Control Tower Concepts: got supply chain in my project management!

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Recently I was reminded of an old TV commercial for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Now, some of the readers of this blog may not be old enough to remember this commercial, so I'll give you the "Cliffs Notes" version. One person is walking down the street enjoying their peanut butter (what...doesn't everyone eat peanut butter from a jar while walking down the street?). Another person is walking the other way eating a chocolate bar. The inevitable happens; and they collide causing the chocolate bar to get into the peanut butter. One of them declares "Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter!" the other replies "You got your peanut butter on my chocolate!" Then to everyone's surprise, they find that the combination works! So, what does this have to do with supply chain you ask? 

Many companies have major installation projects required to recognize revenue for their products; solar farms, cell phone towers, major equipment installation, etc. They don't receive full payment until the project is complete and running. Typically, these companies will have a system that manages their supply chain and another system for project management. What is surprising is that these systems will often run independently of one another. If information flows between these systems, it is a manual update performed by the project manager or master scheduler depending of which way the information is flowing. But isn't there a relationship between the supply chain and the project that drives the requirements? 

If a project moves out by six months, doesn't that impact the supply chain? If a major component on the critical path for the project is going to be late, doesn't that impact the project? Project managers and supply chain managers are like those people in the commercial; walking along, doing their thing, eating their chocolate and peanut not realizing that there is a better way.

Let's imagine the following scenario; you are a project manager managing the installation of a large piece of medical equipment at a hospital. The contract has been signed, and the project plan has been approved. But all is not rosy. The schedule is aggressive and there are significant penalties if the project comes in late. So, a few weeks have gone by, and things are progressing well; the supply chain has gone to work building the equipment and work has started at the hospital to prepare the site. Then, one of the suppliers several levels down in the supply chain has pushed out their delivery date on a key component that goes into a critical piece of equipment needed for the project. This lateness is propagated up through the supply chain and is now reflected in the delivery date of this assembly. 

Traditionally, the project manager might never be made aware of this critical shortage, because traditionally, the project manager doesn’t have visibility into the supply chain. In this new world, however, supply chain and project management are both part of the same system and are linked together. So, when the project manager comes in, he immediately gets an alert that the project is going to miss its date including the impact on revenues and additional penalty costs. A few clicks later, the project manager sees that the lateness is due to a late assembly coming from the supply chain. With this information, he project manager can collaborate with the supply chain to resolve the issue. Integrating supply chain with project management is like sticking chocolate in peanut butter. Once you put it together, you realize that they are better together than on their own.

If you’ve been following posts in this blog about Control Tower, you may have realized that this is just one of the ways that Kinaxis is bringing various aspects of the company together into an integrated new way to solve problems across the enterprise. However, you might not have thought about some of the practical applications of what we are proposing. Do you manage projects as a regular part of your business? How do you tie the project plan back to the realities of the supply chain? Comment back and let us know!

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PM Hut
- January 06, 2012 at 10:45am
Hi John,

First I haven't seen that commercial, thanks for mentioning it.

As for the merge of supply chain and project management, I have published an article that mentioned the advantage of doing this, the article is titled Why Embedded Projects Are Far More Challenging Than Software Projects. The article states that China has an advantage over other countries by embedding supply chain and project management.

PS: I think your post is great, and I would like to republish it on PM Hut where many project managers will benefit from it. Please either email me or contact me through the contact us form on the PM Hut website in case you're OK with this.
Control Tower Concepts: Hey…you got supply chain in my project management! | Black Swan Marketing
- January 08, 2012 at 11:57pm
[...] Control Tower Concepts: Hey…you got supply chain in my project management! Now, some of the readers of this blog may not be old enough to remember this commercial, so I’ll give you the “Cliffs Notes” version. One person is walking down the street enjoying their peanut butter (what…doesn’t everyone eat peanut butter from a … Read more on The 21st Century Supply Chain – Perspectives on Innovative (blog) [...]
Devin Ransom
- January 10, 2012 at 10:09am

I am a project manager with the federal government. the government brought me in because of my experience and education in supply chain management. You are correct when you say that project management and supply chain management work so very well together. Combining the two sure has helped the projects I have taken over. We have finally come under budget and on time. My customer and management are both very happy. This only happened because of combinign supply chain management and project management.

Good article.
Bok Jensrud
- November 05, 2016 at 9:18am
Great article

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