Category Archives: Supply Chain Systems

Trust your systems

Companies spend huge sums on installing and maintaining complex supply chain systems. Despite these expenditures and the training provided, it surprises me how frequently the people who work for these companies either don’t trust or don’t properly use these systems. And it isn’t just the people at the lowest levels of these companies that don’t trust these systems. I’ve seen people in leadership positions instruct their teams to override the systems under certain circumstances. In some cases this makes sense, since no system can anticipate every situation and some human judgment will always be required in unique situations. But when bypassing these systems becomes the norm or habitual, the value that these systems provide is quickly undermined.

So if you buy and install a system, it makes sense to require people to use the system as much as possible. Allow for exceptions and track these so that the system can be improved and standard operating procedures can be updated. But don’t allow the practice of bypassing the system become part of your company culture. Allowing this will undermine the system and deny your company the benefits it would otherwise provide.

Getting the basics right – blocking and tackling

Over the last two decades I have watched as supply chain systems and practices have become more and more sophisticated. This has been a good development, as this has meant that supply chains have become more robust and flexible, and more responsive to customer and company needs. This has allowed companies to squeeze significant savings out of their supply chain practices.

But I have also seen a downside to these developments.

As the systems and processes have become more complex, there has been less need for people who truly understand the principles that make any supply chain effective. In addition, with less human interaction, there has been less opportunity for creativity and for exploiting the opportunities that are inherent in every supply chain. I’m afraid that we are heading for a supply chain world where the only role people will have is to push certain buttons. While this will certainly save companies money, since they won’t need to hire people who truly understand how a supply chain operates, it could lead to a decline in the overall knowledge level of the people who are working in supply chain positions.

In my opinion there will always be a need for people working in a supply chain to understand the basics – the blocking and tackling practices – that make every supply chain successful. No system can replace solid human judgement and experience, they can only mimic it. And companies that let this knowledge perish among their people will pay a price in missed opportunities and decreased commitment to supply chain excellence.

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