What ‘I Love Lucy’ Can Teach Supply Chain Professionals

I bet you are racking your brain trying to figure out what the heck Lucille Ball and friends would have to do with supply chain.  While it may not be readily apparent, consider the famous episode where Lucy and Ethel put their skills to the test in a chocolate manufacturing plant.  The job is relatively easy and straightforward:  wrap each piece of chocolate candy as it comes out of the manufacturing line.  Piece by piece, Lucy and Ethel easily wrap each piece of candy, at least, initially. But after about 15 pieces, a variable changes – the speed of the manufacturing.  As the speed ramps up, Lucy and Ethel find themselves in the middle of a game of Whack-a-Mole where you just can’t quite keep up.

As the speed of manufacturing output continues to accelerate, they forge through by stockpiling the extra candy that they can’t wrap in their mouths, their shirts and even under their hats.  Of course, in the end, their line manager is very happy with the false picture of success and promptly calls out “Speed it up!” much to the dismay of our line workers.

Now that I have you smiling and chuckling after remembering that classic clip, let’s put that into perspective in relation to supply chain.  Think about it.  Lucy and Ethel can’t keep up with the candy making process.  Translate that into supply chain talk:  planning and execution must be aligned and in sync to be successful.  We can come up with the best plans in the world, but if our downstream execution is not aligned, everything can fall apart.

This isn’t rocket science, but it is easier said than done for a variety of reasons, one of which centers on company and organizational readiness.  While systems have been evolving over time to support this critical need for planning and execution alignment, the corresponding user community, their tasks and day-in-the-life scenarios haven’t necessarily evolved in the same manner.  Does a receiving clerk in the warehouse have visibility to planned orders coming into the warehouse throughout the week?  Does a replenishment planner understand the space constraints in the warehouse?  Does a transportation planner take into consideration item specifications to help load a truck in the best manner to flow through a warehouse?  Or is your planning process creating scenarios that your Lucys and Ethels can’t execute?

We talk about systems beginning to blur the lines between planning and execution, but we must also take into account that the traditional roles of the users of these systems may also begin to blur as planning and execution processes become more integrated.  Are we, as supply chain professionals, ready for that?  Is your company ready for that?

While companies have been working to optimize the depth of the individual supply chain disciplines of planning (forecasting & replenishment), warehouse management and transportation management, the move to tie planning and execution together in more meaningful ways is still in its infancy.  JDA’s Intelligent Fulfillment suite provides the industry’s most sophisticated and optimized workflows to meld planning and execution into a real-time, iterative process that enables you to keep pace with today’s fast-changing supply chain world.

But is your organization ready to leverage this level of sophistication? Most companies will want to take a phased approach to readiness. That is why JDA also provides the industry’s most experienced team of supply chain consultants and services personnel to help you navigate the step by step process from organizational silos to integrated planning and execution operations. When supply chain systems and organizational processes are both aligned from planning through execution, costs are reduced, service improves and profits increase. It’s a sweet deal that would make Lucy proud.

To learn more about integrated planning and execution, visit jda.com.




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