Supply Chain in Need of an Upgrade? Think Like a Mechanic

Imagine the following conversation between you and your auto mechanic:

You: "Hi, could you take a look my car? It sounds like there’s something wrong and I have a big trip planned."

Mechanic: "Let’s take a look. Wow!  When was the last time you had it serviced?"

You: "Oh, never. I just got in it, turned the key and started driving. Haven’t had it looked over since. I figured, if it wasn’t broken, why fix it?"

Mechanic: "Well, there are now so many things wrong, that I don’t even know where to begin. Hope you have an alternate mode of transportation!"

This hypothetical conversation came to mind recently when I was contacted by one of our long-time customers about upgrading their supply chain system. It is great to hear from old contacts and to know they are thinking about upgrades. However, much like you wouldn’t trade one car part for another without making sure it was designed for your particular make and model, I recommended a re-assessment of your supply chain solution in order to determine what new features and functions would help improve your operations.

One of the best places to start is with a complimentary self assessment. JDA offers two solutions to help you analyze your supply chain operations against best-in-class standards. The JDA Supply Chain Self Assessment measures performance in demand and inventory management as well as order fulfillment and sales and operations planning. The JDA Transportation Self Assessment measures logistics performance in six key areas, including logistics network design, LSP sourcing and management, and transportation planning.

The underlying idea behind the Self Assessment is that instead of tossing away your investments, you will gain insight into the current strengths and weaknesses of your supply chain in order to adjust and make improvements in areas such as supply chain collaboration, which has proven to be beneficial for the entire supply chain network even during harsh economic times. You can  improve efficiencies in order to meet customer demands, grow markets, and increase market share.

The idea is that rather than allowing your operation to depreciate (like a clunker would), you will fix what is broken while leveraging your strengths to achieve benefits that will improve your supply chain management and operations. This includes:

  • Improved supply chain network due to greater visibility and effective tracking of processes
  • Minimized delays for better coordination and execution of activities across the supply chain
  • Minimized errors as a result of more effective, automated data processes
  • Enhanced collaboration due to seamless integration of systems, information and partners
  • Reduced costs as a result of better demand planning  and lower management overhead costs
  • Improved customer service thanks to all of the above

It’s also important to note that there’s no such thing as a permanent fix. An effective supply chain must constantly evolve to respond to the ever-changing operating environment. You should schedule systematic diagnostic tests and benchmark yourself against your competitors. By monitoring the internal and external environment for change, you will be able to understand the root causes of your inefficiencies and subsequently fix them. If you don’t invest in the preventative maintenance and enhancement of your supply chain, you run the risk of having to re-install/re-implement your supply chain solution, which is a costly alternative.

Efficiencies are good – but companies want to stretch the life of an IT investment as it is expensive to implement, roll out, and build processes to support this integral backbone of an organization. Given the fact that critical business objectives and operations depend on a functioning supply chain, I would hope you treat yours with even more care than your car! Health checks and regular maintenance are important to identify inefficiencies, outdated practices and room for improvement.

  1 Comment   Comment

  1. Ralph Williams

    Solid analogy! I paticularly like the image of preventive maintenance. Get the engine tuned before it stops working altogether.


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