Demand and Fulfillment Blocking & Tackling: Part 3 – Keep it Simple

When it comes to designing a retail supply chain, it seems there are countless complexities. Does this mean that we also need to design complex solutions and processes to achieve the goals of product availability and reduced logistics costs? You might think that the design of the supply chain should match the diverse, volatile and unpredictable environment. Or maybe you should consider simplifying the design to better prepare for the future challenges.

The 49th NFL Super Bowl played on February 1, 2015 at the University of Phoenix stadium proved that even when the rules are set in advance and the boundaries are well known, predicting the outcome is almost impossible, even with 1 minute left in the game. Being a New England Patriots fan, I felt that surely there was zero chance of winning at that point. With 26 seconds left in the game and the ball just one yard away from the end zone, having Marshawn Lynch on the field, who could believe the mighty Seattle Seahawks would choose to pass the ball, and even so, that Malcolm Butler would intercept it?

Just like football, supply chains have rules and constraints, the goals are well known and most of the processes have been there even before the supply chain concept was created. So what benefits do supply chains provide? They make movement of inventory much more visible and controlled, driving logistics cost down and making inventory available to the end customer. The supply chain is all about order and visibility, connecting partners and delivering on time.

That being said, how should we build the infrastructure for future supply chain successes? There are two options: either try to prepare for every possible scenario or simplify the design so you can respond quickly and robustly to future challenges.

My personal view is: Keep It Simple. I’ve seen too many times when supply chain management has tried their best to align processes to the actual ways of doing business only to make things more complex while overlooking crucial details and wasting valuable IT resources. If you want to lead the way, you have to set some ground rules. Do not try to bypass or go around the issues that prevent your supply chain from performing desirably.

On the 8th of March, JDA and Mega Retail entered the first stage of the Demand & Fulfillment upgrade project, which will be led by Tony Drake , Steve Cassidy and Naj Josshi. The purpose of the this stage is to fine tune six named categories at Mega Retail and to allow JDA to get a better technical view of the gaps that exist in the current implementation as we look to upgrade in the near future. This team was put together by Vinay Audipudi , whose great skills and efforts move our joint project forward at the desired pace.

As I look back on the Super Bowl action, I find myself dwelling on a singular question: How did the Patriots do it? How are they better than the other teams? I think the answer is they simplify and adapt their game. You can never know how each game will develop, but you can work hard and practice your individual plays, and at the right moment of the game use your abilities to gain an advantage and deliver a championship.

That is the way for supply chains: simplify and adapt. It is impossible to know what challenges the future will bring, but you can make sure you will be ready if you build a simple and agile foundation by keeping close to your KPIs, make sure you have your products available to your clients, make sure you deliver on time, keep your inventory turnover in check and control your costs. Once you identify and measure those KPIs, you are on the way to building an excellent supply chain.


  11 Comments   Comment

  1. I agree, it important to keep things simple. They has return come in start scaling up to take on more complex areas.

  2. Ed Heinzelman

    Too many times I’ve seen software purchased because it was best of breed and then see it modified to build the current business workflow. The business loses the best of breed advantages, creates a support nightmare and often caused the application to slowdown.

    • Shai Garber

      Ed, I agree with you completely. It seems that the cost of being a “special” business, is too high down the road.

  3. Scott Ehlke

    Simple typically equates to better ability to plan and improved user experience! Love it.

  4. I completely agree with your point but the thing is, how we can keep the system simple? Would not supply chain software will gradually get complex when every time it is modified according to the new requirements ?

    • Shai Garber

      I agree that keeping things simple is quite a challenge. From my point of view, as your business grows and new requirements are introduced the supply chain management should meet them in the most simplistic way, rather than trying to fit the system to the maximum. In short, it’s on the supply chain management team.


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