In Aesop’s Fables there is a very famous story about a tortoise and a hare. For those of you unfamiliar with this children’s classic, the moral of it is this—slow and steady wins the race. Except of course, if you work in supply chain. While turtles and tortoises have many wonderful qualities that should be celebrated as part of World Turtle Day, their characteristically slow pace and unhurried nature can prove detrimental to any business trying to keep up in this digital age, and the rapidly changing consumer demands that go along with it. Now that’s not to say I’m advocating rushing headlong into anything without some thought. Your supply chain does need to be at least part tortoise in that aspect. There’s value and protection in stability. But if you spend all your time planning, are you really going to be prepared when the course unexpectedly changes direction? If your first thought is to go back to the planning stage to factor in this new variable, you may soon find yourself left in the dust of a much faster paced and agile competitor. My colleague CJ Wehlage has described speed as the true innovation in supply chain. He talks about the ability to act on change in minutes, bringing your suppliers, distributors, shippers, etc. together and getting everyone on the same page as quickly as possible. Digital technology has enabled your customers to make decisions more rapidly and confidently, making the process that much more efficient and effective. Shouldn’t your supply chain be able to do the same? Dominic Thomas, Kinaxis, vice president of business consulting, uses a great analogy to explain it. He says to think of your supply chain like Google. You type in your question and expect to get an immediate list of possible answers. You don’t expect to have to wait hours, days, or weeks for the results to be returned. And you shouldn’t have to—not even when it comes to understanding the repercussions and impact of decisions across your supply chain network. Advanced analytics, real-time data visibility, and rapid scenario simulation capabilities are all current realities thanks to the evolution of supply chain management technology. If you’re struggling to transform your supply chain from a tortoise into a hare, well-known research firm Gartner has some advice that may help. They’ve outlined seven steps to improving supply chain process velocity. Chief among them is the ability to advance through the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, moving your organization in the desired direction using their concept of SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound) objectives. Essentially, you need to concurrently and continuously plan, monitor, and respond to changing variables in a single environment and across business functions. That allows the ability to shrink supply chain planning cycles and response times, while improving the accuracy of analysis and profitability of actions. Getting there means turning your supply chain into a hybrid. One part tortoise to allow for planning and forecasting, and two parts hare to enable the ability to know sooner and act faster.
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