Supply chain hangover: how to avoid software deployment mishaps

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Some Canadians aren’t cheering this patio season – because their cups are empty. Ontario residents, brewers and unions complained on social media after a June update to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s (LCBO) warehouse management software left alcohol in warehouses instead of on store shelves. The LCBO won't be hurt by the interruption since it's the only liquor retailer in Ontario. But few companies have such an advantage in the market. Here are three lessons to keep in mind before updating your supply chain planning software:

Lesson one: Don’t make major changes to your supply chain software during your peak season

Customers seeking alcohol for long weekend trips to the cottages, barbeques, and patio and pool parties encountered empty shelves and “out of stock” signs just two weeks after the summer solstice and one week after Canada Day. They expressed their disbelief on social media, where others read and amplified their complaints. The president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents LCBO workers, questioned why major software updates were made during one of the busiest sales seasons of the year. LCBO leaders haven’t addressed this question directly although they say software updates were necessary. One local brewer says he could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if his product remains stuck in warehouses this summer.

Lesson two: Educate stakeholders before making changes

Stakeholders will be skeptical of any software deployment if they aren’t educated about the advantages of the new system – or the disadvantages of the old. OPSEU’s president told the Canadian Press that he understands software changes don’t always go smoothly. However, he also says he wasn’t aware of issues with the previous software. [Read now: 5 steps to supply change management success] Effective change management includes not only educating stakeholders on the reasons for change, but also including them in any decision-making and pre-implementation processes. Leaders can build support for change by including teams in evaluating solutions, creating risk and impact assessments, and building fallback systems should something go wrong.

Lesson three: Keep your customers and suppliers informed

Communicating with stakeholders when plans change is also an important piece of effective change management. On July 13, the LCBO said all stores would be fully restocked in a few weeks. It should have been welcome news, but the LCBO’s earlier lack of communication means the board now has to overcome skepticism and distrust. Some organizations and customers are keeping the pressure on with continued posts on social media.

End-to-end visibility for better planning, collaboration and simulation

Unexpected delays and unhappy customers can completely disrupt a supply chain, but they can be managed or ameliorated with the right planning software. Take for example Keysight Technologies who turned to Kinaxis® RapidResponse® to provide end-to-end visibility into suppliers, distributors, and manufacturers. The foundation they put in place was put to the test in 2017 when wildfires destroyed parts of the company’s headquarters. The company used RapidResponse to locate inventory across the supply chain, reroute deliveries, and continue fulfilling customer orders. Keysight Technologies did not have to cancel a single order as a result of the wildfire and even hit its highest ever levels of revenue growth in 2018 thanks in part to the capabilities in RapidResponse. Don’t leave your product outside of customers’ reach. Learn more about Kinaxis RapidResponse in our Keysight Technologies case study or learn about our other features, from inventory management to order fulfillment, on our Solutions page.

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