A Change of Plans: Reevaluating A Company Supply Chain

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Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP)

Both are critical to running a successful business, however trying to favor one over the other can prove to be disastrous. More often than not, companies are losing out on considerable profits, or paying out tremendous expenses such as last minute shipping charges due to a lack of cohesion between sales and operations planning.

A number of manufacturing companies are operating off a general set of rules for supply and demand, leaving both sales and production teams frustrated when they aren’t reaching their target goals.

While these generalizations might have cut it in the past, companies are going to have to change their operations if they want to succeed and thrive in the future.

The Creation of Internal Conflict

Supply Chain Management Review, an online industry news source recently reviewed this issue as it’s occurring in a number of companies, not only manufacturing, but service firms as well. With decision makers from both sides of the companies calling shots without conferring with the other side, there are a number of mistakes being made.

“A different type of demand–supply mismatch plagued a computer hardware maker. It relied on ocean shipping for units made in China because that was $15–$20 per unit cheaper than air freight. But while the units sailed across the ocean, the commercial team frequently changed their forecast for the mix of units that would sell over the next few weeks. The company routinely had to scramble at the last minute to ship via air (at great expense) in order to match the right supply to changes in demand forecasts.”

The article goes on to list a number of different causes for these problems, the core of which, comes down to poor information. Often times different cells within the operation are operating with different sets of data, both of which are skewed, leading to complications down the line.

Learning the Best Practice

Perhaps the biggest facilitator for change is the growing expectations from clients. With higher demand for more products with shorter delivery times, manufacturers will need to get their act together. Failure to do so could mean losing out on profits or even losing clients altogether.

“Running merely good S&OP may no longer be acceptable, because customers have higher expectations for product availability and fast delivery. The spread of new digital channels, on top of existing physical channels, has made it more complicated to know where inventory sits and what it will cost to deliver to customers. Also, the supply chain has grown more complex as suppliers operate a more far-flung network of suppliers, third-party logistics providers and inventory partners. Coordinating all that activity can be a stiff challenge.”

Changing the Game

In addition to finding better ways to communicate within the business, other business are branching out in different ways and are successful in doing so.

Apple is a perfect example of this. Originally, all Apple products were made and manufactured in the U.S. which was all well and good when they started. However, it didn’t take long for Apple to realize that manufacturing could be done cheaper out of house.

Not only could parts be procured at a lower cost but everything from assembling to warehousing could be done at a better rate. Some would simply cite lower labor costs as the main reasoning for this strategy, and to that end, gives Apple some flak for not bringing jobs back stateside. However, there’s more than one side to that issue.

“It’s also about, you don’t have as many mid-level manufacturing engineers available in the U.S. anymore, just because as an economy we don’t have as many of those types of jobs. That’s not the type of education that we focus on anymore, and there’s a ton of that over there,” said Evan Niu in an interview with the Motley Fool.

“Including the lower-cost labor, they have more people that are within the specific skill sets that they need to ramp up the manufacturing. I think a long time ago they said you could fit every single manufacturing engineer within, they would need a baseball stadium; in the country, that’s just how many there are now. Over in China, Foxconn can get hundreds of thousands of engineers within a couple hours if they need them to make some change, or tweak some processor. There’s a lot of sides to the story why they do it like that,” he added.

The manufacturing industry is accelerating and evolving rapidly, creating a challenge as businesses will need to be able to adapt and overcome, altering their business structure to meet the ever changing demand. — The real question is, will companies be able to adapt to quickly enough to meet these new expectations?

 

 

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