Today’s supply chain leaders, managers and stakeholders are inundated with any number of supply chain management challenges like escalating business complexity, rising cost pressures, pervasive skills shortages and increasing customer demands. It’s enough to make you run screaming in the opposite direction. At the same time, we’re in the midst of an exciting, digitally focused era that’s brimming with opportunities for innovation and creative problem-solving.
Modern Supply Chain Experience 2016 presented by Oracle couldn’t have picked a better theme to describe the industry-wide upheaval and the sort of response that’s required as a result. “Agents of Change” encompassed the customer ingenuity on display during keynotes and presentations, not to mention the exciting array of technology in action throughout the exhibit hall and solutions pavilion—and, of course, the conference attendees eager to steer their supply chains into the digital age. To help ensure your supply chain is prepared to adapt to—and thrive in—this significant period of change, we’ve highlighted three of the most critical conference themes that you can apply as you become your company’s agent of change.
Agility Matters: How Fast Can You Respond and React?
“Volatility is the new normal.” Oracle’s Rick Jewell shared this stark perspective during MSCE’s opening keynote, which helped establish the primary challenge that supply chain leaders face. When factors like market conditions, customer demand, logistics costs and changing regulations constantly threaten a company’s stability, it’s essential to become agile and shift as needed.
If you think that supply chains aren’t designed to change and evolve, especially with little notice, here’s a story to keep in mind. International Medical Corps (IMC) has served as an emergency first responder for 30 years, quickly deploying staff and resources to disaster-stricken areas that include the aftermath of the Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal earthquakes; Ebola response in West Africa; and the ongoing crisis in Syria. In each scenario, it’s crucial for IMC to change and adapt their supply chain and resources to any number of factors, including weather, accessibility, the threat of violence and local politics.
“We’re always looking at how to streamline our supply chain,” said Nancy Aossey, president and CEO, IMC, during her MSCE keynote.
Embracing new technology is an important part of that streamlining, but it also requires an awareness of what’s working and what’s not, coupled with the willingness and ability to adapt. Other supply chains likely won’t have to shift and refine with so much frequency, yet enabling agility is a key factor in a swift response. To start, look at incorporating software solutions like a rapid development platform to work with your existing Oracle or other enterprise systems, mobile-optimizing your business processes and integrating an innovation layer that allows you the flexibility to make task-, process- or transaction-based changes without disrupting your larger workflow.
Don’t Get Trapped in Silos
You’ve likely heard about the growing importance of enabling end-to-end supply chain visibility, which not only helps you and your trading partners be more efficient and cost-effective, it also answers customer demands for real-time product information, including origin. Yet establishing this visibility isn’t the only time you should be concerned about what’s happening from one end of your supply chain to another. If you’re plagued with a pervasive challenge related to inventory, distribution or the customer experience, among other factors, step back and take a look at the big picture.
Dell’s Jennifer Felch had a sizable task ahead of her: work with her team and other involved parties to help Dell achieve “the perfect order.” A big part of that goal included reducing late deliveries. The problem? Dell’s customer experience didn’t improve. It wasn’t until Felch and her team took a look at the end-to-end order process, including all involved departments, that they were able to spot areas for improvement, which resulted in some of the highest customer satisfaction scores in the company’s history.
Maintaining a grasp on what’s happening throughout your operations can also help ease the transition of a significant technology implementation, as Oracle CEO Safra Catz pointed out during her keynote with Cindy Reese, senior vice president, worldwide operations, Oracle.
“That’s where you see the value, which then gets the buy-in,” Catz said. Plus, by understanding what’s happening throughout the supply chain, you can spot opportunities for “quick wins”—helping a department complete a process in a way that’s faster and better or enabling them to do something that they hadn’t been able to do. Those people will then see the possibilities of a larger-scale transformation—cloud migration, for example—and will anticipate the change, rather than remain opposed to it.
Embrace Change—Don’t Fear It
The way you do business is changing—not exactly breaking news, right? Even though the imperative for supply chain transformation is clear, that doesn’t make this sort of operational change any less scary.
It’s fine to be wary of what’s ahead, but don’t let that fear hold you back. Instead, it’s time to take a close look at your business and find opportunities to not only improve what you do, but also how you do it, increasing your competitive advantage while also making your customers happier.
Bryan Brewer spoke at MSCE on behalf of DSI customer, Womble Co., about the company’s digital supply chain journey, which began with automating data collection and introducing inbound product serialization.
“We have no walls and no ceilings, so traditional brick and mortar processes didn’t apply to us,” Brewer said of the company, which manages more than 314,000 individually serialized pieces of pipe over six storage yards that cover 255 acres.
Agreeing to product serialization made sense in terms of saving significant costs in tracking missing pipe, but it still required what Brewer called, “a shift in business mindset.” Now that product serialization is in place, Womble employees know where any piece of pipe is, anytime, equipping them to fulfill customer requests for product information, no matter when they’re received. Plus, they’ve improved their inventory accuracy to 99.9995%, an outcome that helped justify that change in company-wide thinking.
“Resources are too valuable to waste on doing things the old way,” Catz said, and we couldn’t agree more. That doesn’t mean that you ditch legacy enterprise software, your workforce or existing processes, but it does mean that now’s the time to take a good, hard look at what you’re doing. Where can you make improvements? Where can you work smarter, better, faster? What can you change or refine that puts you ahead of your competition? You don’t need to completely change your supply chain operations overnight, but this isn’t the time to simply ignore what’s happening in the marketplace around you. You’re now an agent of change, and this is the time to have an exciting—and potentially historic—impact on your company. Are you up for the challenge?