Rushing kids out the door, walking the dog, navigating traffic—life is complicated enough without having to deal with overly complex supply chain management processes. Unfortunately, increasing consumer demands, growing globalization and mounting pressure to stay profitable in an ever-changing world is the new reality, and for many it means working harder than ever. Just because supply chains are getting more complex, doesn’t mean the job of managing them has to as well. Isn’t it time you simplified your day-to-day responsibilities, made room for a little more ‘me’ time and moved away from bracing for chaos every single day at work?
The first step in re-gaining your work-life balance and getting your sanity back is ditching the plethora of Excel files littering your desktop. To do it, you have to take a deep breath and say goodbye to running your supply chain from Excel. Instead, bring a little peace back into your life by harmonizing all that disparate data from multiple sources and legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and bringing it together in one solution. Having access to all supply chain data in a single system means you’ll gain the ability to run what-if scenario simulations faster and more effectively. They’ll be no need to import and verify data from multiple sources, which will cut down on the potential for data errors or integrity issues, and speed up the decision-making process. No more fretting about whether your data’s up-to-date and accurate. Just think of all the time you’ll save not having to do multiple data pulls and merging Excel files. You might actually make it home on time for dinner! But connecting your data into a single, up-to-date version of the truth isn’t enough on its own to make your work life easier and get you less overtime and more personal time.
The second step in simplifying your day job is a biggie. You have to break down those corporate silos. You know the ones where every team works towards its own goals and objectives independently. Overcoming this obstacle means connecting planning processes across all business functions—supply chain related or not. Bridging together sales and operations planning (S&OP) with demand, supply and capacity planning is critical, but you also have to look at the interconnectivity between outside departments like sales, marketing, finance and even in some cases IT. All these groups need to be working toward a unified set of corporate metrics—putting the health of the company as a whole above the health of their own teams. Compromise becomes key. Thinking beyond the confines of your own supply chain can help simplify your life even further. By shifting from regionally driven processes to globally standardized ones, you’ll have clarity across the company. Looping in partners, suppliers and even customers, as well, drives even more worktime bliss. You’ll actually have full visibility into what’s happening across your end-to-end supply chain network. No more getting caught off guard when a supplier’s shipment is late or a customer suddenly makes an order change. With an interconnected supply chain and aligned processes, when an unexpected change does happen, and let’s face it, that’s a lot more frequent of an activity than we’d like, you’ll see the impact across the entire value network. If you make a change, everyone will be able to see it, and perhaps more importantly, if someone else makes a change anywhere along the chain, you’ll see the effects before you feel them, giving you enough time to course correct if needed. Imagine not having to put in all those late nights playing firefighter in your own functional area just because of a decision someone outside of it made.
The final step in reaching work-life nirvana relies on the kindness of others. Or at the very least their attention. By connecting data and processes, you get greater, faster visibility into your supply chain so you can know sooner and act faster when issues arise. But you know what would make reaching a bliss-like state even easier? Actually being able to reach people when you need them. How many times has something changed along the supply chain, and you’ve been left waiting for someone to respond to an email or answer your call before you can move ahead with the appropriate action (pre-determined by all those quick, easy scenarios you’re running with your fully connected data)? The answer is probably too many to count, and a whole lot more than what’s good for the company’s bottom line. The faster you make critical decisions, the better chance you have of minimizing any negative impacts. Just like cross-functional processes are important factors in simplifying your day-to-day activities, so too is cross-functional collaboration. Find a supply chain management software tool that lets you share scenarios and jointly make decisions from right within the platform. You’ll cut down the time it takes for stakeholders to get up to speed since they’ll get your communication and the context of the problem all in one go. No matter where in the world your colleagues may be, everyone is connected and on the same page. And since you’ve already broken down those silos, you’ll all know which tradeoffs to make to best achieve those corporate key performance indicators (KPIs). You’ll finally be able to say goodbye to phone tag and cluttered up inboxes.
Embrace the simple life
Simplifying your day-to-day supply chain management workload isn’t rocket science (not even if you work in aerospace). It’s all about managing by exception, not the rule. That means spending time on high-value, proactive activities (like managing changes) and less time on low-value tasks that can easily be automated and streamlined (like data collection). Connecting data, processes and people in your supply chain will help you embrace the simple life and take back your day. How hectic is your day? We’d love to hear how you’re coping with the day-to-day challenges of managing a supply chain. Let us know in the comments section below.