Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 21 seconds

weak-linkHow do supply chain technology vendors/VARs go about seeking and finding the weakest link in their clients' supply chain? Some depend on their Ouija board. Others have combed lots of research documents and can tell you to the letter what other companies found to be their weakest links. Others show up at the client's site with heavy-duty partners, meet with top management, view lots of slide shows and go away agreeing with the client where the weakest link is. Some 'radicals' actually take their time and interview with the company employees doing the work. Do you HAVE to use one of these vendors? What's wrong with self-assessment?

 

Let's concentrate on the last two options (although the Ouija board does sound like fun). The most fruitful approach is a combination of the last two approaches; involve the employees actually immersed in the supply chain day-to-day and bring proven tools and approaches for stimulating the discussion and a planned approach for pulling the end results together.

Not a lot of vendors are touting what I call the VAR-Employee approach. The first one I found readily admits that no vendor or VAR—and that includes his firm—knows as much about how the client’s enterprise works—or fails to work—in the process of turning products and services into throughput. Equally as important, most executives and managers do not know how their organization works—or fails to work—in their customer-to-cash streams either. They think they know; but, in the final analysis, they generally do not.

Toyota has always said, “no one knows more about running the machine than the man who runs the machine.” So shouldn't our answer to finding the supply chain's weakest link be to unlock “tribal knowledge” and get the corporate politics out of the way of real and ongoing improvement?

Yes, the executive and management team needs to kick off the project by asking “What are the top half dozen things that you think are keeping your company from making more money?” But don't have them give you their spin on why.

Now is the time to get the supply chain STAFF involved. The moderator will guide the group through steps so that they can begin to see their contribution to the customer-to-cash process and how THEY are involved. Remember, they usually work in isolation from other departments.

Surprise! Now the group can start to see what is actually keeping the company from making the money it should be making. Everyone begins to see. In short, they are beginning to see roadblocks and constraints.

The moderator is not asking them “What needs to be made more efficient?”, or “Where do you see the greatest opportunity for savings?” Instead asking what’s keeping them from making more money. It is the “costs” world versus the “throughput” world. Last modified on Tuesday, 11 November 2014
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