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Supply Chain Transformation: Watch Your Step

By Bernard Milian
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We were recently approached to tender by a company looking for a forecasting and procurement solution. The tender included all the buzzwords of the moment: AI, big data, and a system that could process millions of planning actions per day (sic).

When we talk to this company to understand their context, we quickly realize that they currently manage their flow with an ERP on AS 400 developed in-house, and that the forecasting process, which allegedly must imperatively deal with big data using AI, is currently carried out in Excel.

This company is in a competitive environment, and it wants to equip itself with the best to succeed in these markets – and rightly so. However, there’s a real risk that it hasn’t made a pragmatic assessment of its transformation capabilities and that in trying to climb too high a step, it will hit a brick wall…

This is a recurring phenomenon. We want supply chain automation in everything, right away. From the outset, we want real-time systems integration. Recently, one of our customers wanted the current workforce, recorded in the HR software and weighted by the competency matrix, to feed the capacity defined in the MES and be considered for scheduling. Preferably in real-time, of course. Guess how scheduling is done today on this site? Yes, the same Excel in forecasting for big data…

Eating an elephant is done one bite at a time… and it can take a long time.

As you embark on your supply chain transformation journey, be clear about your current maturity and your teams’ capacity to absorb it and define the stages that will be the steps you can take.

In concrete terms, this means seeking to simplify at every stage of the project – rather than trying to deal with all the complexity at once. Exceptions? Of course, there are, but don’t design your operating model and IT system to handle all the exceptions, the exotic and special cases. At worst, Excel is available for that purpose. For the core of your transformation program, keep it simple, and pragmatic, and make sure you focus your teams’ efforts on the top Pareto of opportunities.

This pragmatic approach doesn’t prevent you from developing an ambitious, innovative overall program, at a steady pace, that gets your teams on board.

By adding a layer of simple, mastered functionality at each step, which addresses the top Pareto of subjects, you’ll avoid stumbling too much, and your teams will digest this elephant much more easily! 

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