Have you ever “hunkered down”? I remember being asked to hunker down during a supply chain training course many years ago and I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Eventually I had to ask as failing to follow the hunker downwards request appeared to be causing a bit of a problem for the presenter.
This hunkering failure occurred during one of the many versions of the Beer Game in which I have taken part or run over the years. Anyone who has been involved with supply chain activities will probably have taken part in the Beer Game, or the Moussy Game as it is sometimes known in dry countries of the Middle East.
What does the beer game do? The rules are relatively simple and in summary the overall objective is to meet consumer demand for cases of beer in a complex, extended supply chain while controlling unplanned expense on back orders and inventory. The game involves four overlapping and inter-dependent supply chains, i.e. manufacturing, distribution, procurement and a retail outlet. There is a cost penalty for holding excess stock and any backlog unfulfilled orders.
Players rely on colleagues in the other departments to do the right things for the business but frustration soon surfaces. Usually, things do not go well and players feel frustrated because they are not getting the results they expect. Assumptions are made about consumer demand and erratic patterns emerge as backlogs mount and/or massive unnecessary stocks accumulate. It was at this stage in the game I was told to “hunker down……….”.
Does that sound like your own supply chain – not the hunkering bit? Frustration is common between departments who all aim to do the right thing but only have the necessary data and information to do the right thing for their specific area of responsibility at that specific time. Even after careful consideration and informed debate, the real effect of an adjustment can only be seen in the future.
IF - a big if - nothing else changes and all assumptions are correct and accurate then there is a chance the desired effect will develop. However, life is not like that and certainly not supply chain life. What can happen?
New launches kick-in and are successful, or not.
Competition by definition is designed to disrupt your plans.
The weather turns out rather different to the forecast.
The economy takes a turn up or down.
Factories, 3PLPs and distributors all suffer performance variability.
Customers and consumers change their needs and habits.
Etc., etc., etc., this list really is endless. Absolutely anything can happen to turn apparently sensible decisions into foolish, forecast failure.
Hey, what about all that IT we have? Doesn’t that help us understand what is going on? This should tell us what is really going to happen in supply chains? No, not necessarily. Common supply chain IT tells us what has happened, what is happening, where and when but not precisely why an event happened or what will happen.
Subtle differences perhaps but to up your game you need to hunker down with Supply Chain Analytics to gain a full unexpurgated understanding of how changes you make today will impact the future and more importantly, how you can change that future.
Yes, you can.
Image courtesy of Enchange at Enchange.com