Transform your supply chain process – don’t just improve it

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Did you ever hear the joke about the old lumberjack? The old lumberjack came out of the forest and went for supplies. He needed a new saw – his old two-man saw had been sharpened so many times there wasn’t much left. At the store, the salesman showed him the newest tool for cutting trees called a chain saw. The salesman said that he can cut trees 10 times faster than with the two person hand saw. The lumberjack was impressed! He bought one. Several days later he came back and said to the salesman “This saw is no good! No matter how fast I push and pull it doesn’t cut! What’s worse - my partner keeps cutting his hand because there is no handle at the other end. Okay… admittedly that was a silly joke. But if you consider how many people think about supply chain software it’s like the old lumberjack and the chain saw. The chain saw was a revolutionary tool and if used right, could make a single man more effective than a team of two.

Advanced supply chain planning software like RapidResponse can do the same thing for supply chain. In my role, helping the sales team, I’m often asked to reproduce a report that the prospect currently uses to run the business. I totally understand why this is important – the prospect wants to feel assured that their current business process can be maintained. Creating even the most complex report in RapidResponse is a breeze so it’s not a big deal for us. The prospect gets value because the report that I’ve just built in RapidResponse replaces an Excel report that takes hours every day to update. In RapidResponse, the update is instantaneous and can show changes with every data update and with every change to the scenario.

The problem when you buy new software like RapidResponse and use it to speed up the old way of doing business, you are missing out on the true revolution that RapidResponse can bring to your supply chain. One company we were selling to a few years ago wanted us to reproduce a report that alerted the buyer whenever a purchase order was changed by the supplier through the on-line portal. So, we did that. We also added a few additional bits of information that they could never get before. One was how many customers were impacted by that delay. The other was how much revenue was impacted. With this new information, the buyer can instantly see the priority in which they need to tackle these late purchase orders; some changes had no impact at all – the orders were just replacing safety stock. Others drove millions in potential revenue. This simple addition significantly reduced the time the buyer spent on chasing down late orders that really didn’t matter and allowed them to focus on the ones that did matter!

If I were to offer any advice to those looking at new supply chain software it’s this; your supply chain planning can be (and should be) a competitive advantage for your company. You are looking for better planning because you recognize the flaws in your current system. By all means, ensure that the candidate software can address your current processes, but then work with the vendor to think outside of the box. You don’t want to do your current processes faster – you want to revolutionize your processes altogether. Only then can you achieve the supply chain transformation you seek.

Are you considering transforming your supply chain? Have you just gone through the process? What were the results? Comment back and let us know!

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