Important, But Not Urgent
Supply Chain Management Improvements Often Get Overlooked or Forgotten
By Nico Groenewald, Principal SCMO2
We have all been there. Everyday we find ourselves so busy “executing” and fighting fires that we do not take the time to address the issues that are causing the problems in the first place. Stephen Covey famously defined this as Quadrant II in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. These are the items that are important, but not urgent. And since we tend to manage with urgency, these items often get overlooked and forgotten.
In our personal lives, this costs us money too. Do we have enough insurance to cover our appreciating assets? Is the furnace or AC unit so out of date that we’re wasting money on utilities? Do we subscribe to three-dozen $20-per-month services that we never actually use? We are so busy with work, our children’s activities and trying to relax that procrastination becomes perpetual.
This pattern is equally prevalent in the corporate world as well, and it costs businesses many billions of dollars in wasted productivity or overpaid expenses. Having been involved with SAP projects since 1995, I have unfortunately seen too many circumstances where well-designed business processes never make it to fruition or are not properly implemented. The result forces users to compromise (re: use Excel offline) and those compromises cost those companies enormously in productivity and lost data.
These two costs are not equal. Lost productivity is fairly straightforward to analyze, but the devil is mostly in the data. Data drives planning outcomes. Period. But so many R/3 and ECC systems have not been properly tuned to fully support business processes because master data settings like safety stock settings, planning time fences, accurate run times and panning horizons have not been populated with accurate figures. Incomplete or inaccurate data has a significant impact on planning results, and that has a significant impact on operations and profitability.
So maybe it’s time to move your supply chain process optimization from Quadrant II to Quadrant I: urgent and important. Make a point to set aside the time to review your data and measurements to make sure they align with those well-designed business processes. Train (or retrain) the user group. Revise or refine as necessary to ensure your operations are functioning at peak.
Finally, don’t underestimate the value of expert help in drastically reducing the time required to achieve these initiatives. The investment is minimal compared to the resulting benefits. Benefits like higher service levels, reduced inventories, shorter cycle times and last but not least, planners spending time planning rather than putting out fires.