There’s a famous saying that “golf is a good walk spoiled.” You can hit the perfect drive off the tee, and launch the perfect approach shot, then watch that “easy” putt roll right past the hole and into a sand trap. With no clear view of the pin, what once looked like a sure birdie is now a double bogey.
Every single swing requires precise synchronization of your wrists, arms, shoulders, upper torso, hips, legs, head. If you’ve ever taken a lesson or had a friend or family member provide “helpful” advice like “keep your head down!” you’ll know how difficult it is to maintain that coordination of moving parts every time. If just one part is out of sync, you’re fishing your ball out of the water. However, when they all come together, it’s a thing of beauty and efficiency.
You can say the same for supply chains.
The Perfect Swing
What does supply chain synchronization look like? It’s a world where everyone collects, analyzes and uses information in real time. Buyers manage their critical path order lifecycle with pinpoint accuracy in real time. Suppliers organize raw materials and plan production around realistic and quantified lead times. Logistics providers determine shipping requirements with certainty. All participants in the supply chain working together off the same hymn sheet, each knowing that their contribution interconnects with others.
This is a world where perfect order fulfillment is the norm, and it occurs when all participants in the supply chain operate together in unison. The key is synchronization.
Every Golf Shot Is Different
This world may have perfect order fulfillment, but it’s not a perfect world. As any golfer knows, there’s a big difference between hitting shots off the same flat surface at a driving range, and the variables that come into play on the course. The ball could be resting on a downhill lie, an uphill lie, or even a sidehill lie. You don’t only have to remember everything you’ve been practicing at the range, now you need to change your stance, select the right club, adjust your grip, and perhaps take a half-swing instead of a full one.
Fortunately, there’s no mystery - you see the balls lie, you see sand and water traps, and your scorecard and range markers help you determine how far away you are from the pin. You have all the information you need in real time to be proactive in deciding which club to use and how to adjust your swing.
That ability to be proactive is precisely what supply chain partners need to mitigate risks and minimize potential damages when something unexpected arises. As I explained in my last post, “Supply Chain Synchronization - No Magic Pills Needed,” the best way to maintain synchronization is to establish a supply chain visibility system that gives you an end-to-end, real time view.
For instance, you and your partners should know where and when a typhoon will hit, and how it will affect ports, airports, highways and other infrastructure. You can be proactive in adjusting shipping schedules and routes, and resetting expectations for delivery timetables.
Five Steps To Synchronizing Your Supply Chain
There are five key steps to achieving this level of synchronization:
1. Facilitate collaboration and engagement - Enlist the supply chain participants as key stakeholders and make sure everyone is engaged in their role in making this work, both internally and externally. Segment your suppliers, identifying the relationships that yield the most profits and start the process with them first.
2. Establish full and complete visibility - Map the end-to-end processes in the shared community. Ensure you identify and road test every process to provide exact lead times with all considerations and any known buffers. Share that data with the community, so everyone knows what to expect.
3. Collect and analyze real time and trusted data - Define who provides the data, how to capture it, and where it needs to go so that all parties are working off one version of the truth.
4. Monitor, manage, execute - Ensure the system informs everyone in real time on any deviation to the plan or where disruption may loom, so allowing all participants to collaborate and take action as appropriate.
5. Measure, remodel, re-engineer - Don’t wait for end-of-year reviews to examine whether your supply chain synchronization efforts are working. Regularly measure performance and let the system analyze and predict to help plan for future ordering.
One more note - don’t try to do everything at once. Proceed in incremental stages by rolling out the synchronization process in phases commencing with the least resistance parts of the supply chain. Once you have traction, momentum will be the wind in your sails to expand across the whole supply chain.