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Supply Chain Management – Be Proactive and Agile

A few weeks back I went into my local warehouse store to get a few items. I headed back to the food section and immediately noticed empty pallets where water for sale normally was found. At the end of the row a forklift had just placed a pallet of water which was being picked clean. I took a case of water and then another, even though I had 2 cases at home. I thought about other “essentials” and headed over to get toilet paper, nothing but empty pallets. I had a case at home so I didn’t worry too much about the warehouse store being out. Other shoppers were being silly and panicking, not me. The next week, as news reports blasted the airwaves with news of vast supply chain disruptions, I lined up with a few hundred people to get more toilet paper. An hour and a half later we entered the same warehouse store. There at the entrance was a sign with a list of several items they were out of, cleaned out by panic. I got my case of toilet tissue that day and added it to another already in storage, just in case.


Supply Chain disruptions are not new. They have occurred regionally and on occasion globally. The most common type of disruption we in America have seen involved Mother Nature. Hurricanes such as Katrina, tornado’s blowing through the heartland, Nor’easter’s blasting the New England states, even Mount St. Helen’s in Washington. All caused regional but not national disruption.

Recent events surrounding Covid-19 have led to shortages on a global level. Making the public aware of the phrases Supply Chain and Supply Chain disruption. In an excellent article by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania entitled: “Coronavirus and Supply Chain Disruption: What Firms Can Learn” they explore the impacts of supply chain disruption. The author(s) point out the criticality of Medical Supplies, the need for Risk Mitigation, the difficulty of adding new suppliers and so on.

Let’s focus on one of the final areas they address, the need to “Be Proactive and Agile”. Over the past 25 years I have worked for a number of fine consulting firms. Some were very small, a handful of excited and driven individuals. Others; massive, multi-national conglomerates. In my area of expertise, we were always focused on Supply Chain Management or SCM. We used terms like: Just-in-Time, (JIT), Theory of Constraints and Flow Manufacturing as we worked with manufacturers and distribution companies. Each philosophy aimed at reducing inventory and costs while improving throughput.

For the company that wishes to be Proactive, they can model what changes in the marketplace might look like and lay out plans based on “what if” scenarios. If the company is Agile, it should be able to pivot at a moment’s notice and move in a new direction as dictated by the market. This might be done by pre-qualifying new sources of supply or vendors who could fill a void if a supplier has a disruption in their manufacturing or distribution process. All of this can be supported by Oracle’s excellent SCM Cloud applications and by partnering with an implementation partner with global reach.

Software implementers come in a number of flavour’s; similar to Goldilocks and the 3 bears. Some are too small, some are too big and some are just right. Most can do the job of implementing Oracle’s SCM Cloud applications but can they help the company’s they work with be Proactive and Agile? The small firms may be lacking abilities in key areas such as: global reach, business process re-engineering, training, change management, etc. The large firms while having all of desired capabilities bring: High Costs, massive overhead from layers of upper management, sluggish response, constant re-organization/turnover of resources, etc.

Let’s look at how Apps Associates fills the SCM partner role with that “just right” fit.

Today’s supply chains are often spread across the globe so global reach is an absolute must. But, what does global reach mean? Most implementation company’s today have offices in India so that they can provide a competitive price to their clients. These offshore offices often handle reporting or basic configuration needs. Does that mean the implementer has global reach? No. When an implementation partner is selected they should be able to provide onsite resources regardless of the country and location. It would be impractical for any implementer to have resources in all 195 countries in the world. However, it is practical for a company with global reach to have resources in the key industrial nations.

How about training? Simple question, all implementers will state that they have the ability to train the clients users. How though is this usually accomplished? The implementation consultant sits down with one or more users and goes through the configured software. Frequently this becomes an exercise in futility! The implementation consultant isn’t trained to teach and they often speak in a strange version of the local language called Techi-ese. Training should lead to the adoption of the software by the client, not the frustration of poorly trained users.

Each of the issues faced by a client trying to find the right partner listed above needs to be addressed during partner selection. As a way to simplify the process, let’s end with this simple summary. Apps Associates can provide to their SCM clients and partners ALL of the desired capabilities. Global Reach, Check! Advanced Training capabilities, Check! Change Management, Business process Re-Engineering, Check, Check! Quick response times, reasonable cost, consistency within the consultant team, Check, Check, Check!

Finally, if the goal is to be Proactive and Agile, pick a partner who already has those traits!