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Route to Market & Supply Chain Blog

Beyond the Buttons: FMCG Supply Chain IT Contingency Planning

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, May 08, 2024

Despite several attempts and how hard I tried; I was never able to program the VHS tape recorder. I ended up with the end of Match of the Day or whatever was on BBC2 when I wanted the show on BBC1. Many times I recorded absolutely nothing; just hissing, white noise static. Times have changed and now I simply have to press ‘record’ or even just speak out the command ‘record anything NOT containing Ant and Dec’ into a Firestick handset.

DJ_sc_it_failures-in-post2I hope the technology does not fail.

Like most people of a certain age, I learned to tell the time from a manually operated analogue clock-face. Once you worked out what the 2 differently sized hands indicated, it was a fairly straightforward exercise to catch on to the basics. Relative complexities like ‘half past’ or ‘twenty to’ did not present much of a challenge. However, I know many younger people who do not own or understand an analogue clock. The current time is shown on all of their modern gadgets and technology in digital format. They know the time because that is what their tech tells them so it must be right.

I hope the technology does not fail.

I assume children still learn the basics of mathematics at primary school level but how many of those born into this hi-tech world actually use any maths on a regular basis? Every telephone and many other electronic pieces of equipment have a calculator app so I am guessing that stand-alone calculator sales have plummeted in recent times. Again, even voice activated calculation apps are prevalent and not only to help those with sight loss challenges. Does anyone actually do any mathematic calculations the long way on paper? Would they know how to do that?

I hope the technology does not fail.

People lucky enough to be born in a year starting with a ‘2’ appear destined to live their entire lives online with a telephone, tablet or even a watch. Communication is always on, immediate and convenient and many lack the ability or even the discipline to NOT take a call or check the latest notification update. However, one day they might find themselves in a rare area without connectivity (I know, you cannot even escape the tippy-tappy warriors on aeroplanes now). If the only available device was an ‘antique’ analogue telephone with a rotating dial with which to phone mum or summon emergency services, could they do it?

I hope the technology does not fail.

Now, within the wonderful world of Supply Chain. ERPs have been around for years and have gradually become more sophisticated, responsive and sensitive to the decisions around supply and demand. Constantly seeking to balance and re-balance raw material availability with manufacturing capacity, finished product demand and distribution network stock deployment. Not an easy task at the best of times and with a half decent sales forecast.

What? The technology failed!!!

Multiple tickets have been raised, escalated, reviewed and escalated once more. Even with more tickets that you can shake a stick at, the system will be down for at least 8 hours. Suddenly, we are all alone. A dead-air space, planning void where even analogue clocks tick on relentlessly. With an hour downtime no problem, sit back and watch IT support do what they do before the joyous reboot. However, a full 8-hour shift of not ordering, receiving, making and distributing is not something many companies could tolerate or afford.

Planning to manual and cross check.

Do modern-day planners and schedulers actually know what and how to plan manually? Have they and some major FMCG companies become over-reliant on the IT kit? Are employees who push buttons and upload spreadsheets but do not understand the implications of their actions actually planners?

Sensible companies will have some sort of short-term firefighting and longer-term crisis management in place for IT failures. Such a contingency could involve continuing to plan on a shadow system operating in ‘safe mode’ or even on good old spreadsheets. There is nothing inherently wrong with shared spreadsheets when used properly but they are prone to error replication.

While IT and AI development will continue at pace, you should not ignore the need for real, belt and braces planning and scheduling skills and competencies in your existing workforce and in your recruitment policy. Then and only then can you really claim Supply Chain resilience and not be IT reliant.

Help! I need somebody.

If you have any planning and scheduling problems you would like to discuss then please reach out to Enchange.com via telephone, email, or live chat.

Tags: FMCG, ERP, Planning, Scheduling

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