We are a medium sized privately held business that has a large ERP, but probably hasn’t invested into its processes and user reporting as much as we should. In my 6 years with the company, I started as the Controller, and then moved to Director of our retail stores/internet operation, and now I fill a void within Supply Chain. My emphasis has been with procurement, negotiation, and sourcing, however considering that my background is mainly in Finance, I was not as well versed as I should be in the more detailed aspects Supply Chain and the S&OP process. I found an advertisement for the IBF & APICS Best of the Best Conference while conducting internet searches related to bringing more value to the supply chain and purchasing process. Upon first glance it seemed too narrow for my goals, upon closer review it looked like a good opportunity to learn about the overall process of inventory supply/demand, and a good way to bring some badly needed efficiency and harmony to what felt like a less-than-optimal process. I promised my boss a favorable ROI for the trip and off I went to Chicago.
My day started with a review of survey results and challenges. One revelation that I found interesting was how Sales (Supply) driven the S&OP process is. As a person looking at this from the Ops side, it was scary to think about bringing our Sales group, whose direction is to “just sell,” into such a complex process. Also, I had never thought of an S&OP “implementation” as much as taking these learning’s and applying them as it seemed right. This was clearly incorrect, as the Best of the Best Conference presented the S&OP process as a multifaceted, challenging change on how to do business. It became obvious that the way our company manages this process is outdated from somewhere in the past decade, so the call-outs from this discussion became very valuable. This included understanding the challenges (strategic coordination, executive buy in, technology, etc.) and recommended steps for a successful implementation. This was going to take a lot of learning to take back to the team at home. So I became especially devoted to assure that I absorbed all the knowledge I could. Plus, I networked so I could bounce thoughts and ideas from others in similar (or advanced) circumstances.
As a newbie in this field, it made the most sense for me to go through the level 1 discussions. The track started with a presentation titled, “Resolving Conflict & Building Consensus in the Monthly S&OP Process” by Alan Milliken. He was a very no-nonsense speaker and delivered many important lessons such as:
- The executive team has to provide the goal and define the way
- Collaboration and consensus decision making are keys to success
- Goal is to resolve problems, not avoid problems
- Never give up trying to prioritize to reach goals, as management bias plays in, and you can’t lose sight of the big picture.
- Watch for “spectators” who have a detailed agenda – take them to the woodshed
Mr. Milliken’s presentation outlined a demand-supply planning model, and documented linkages between the two that will be very applicable during our roll-out. In addition, he provided some very good ideas regarding agenda development and prioritization for the Executive S&OP.
Next was the presentation called “How to Effectively Utilize Forecasting and Demand Planning in the S&OP Process, by Mr. Bill Oakley of TE Connectivity. Mr. Oakley laid the foundation of his presentation by posing the key question: “How do we evolve?” This was key for me, as our processes are somewhere in the stone-age, and that’s not acceptable. Some key lessons from his presentation included:
- S&OP processes need to be concurrent to assure timeliness
- Don’t ambush people with the process – describe, explain, get them excited!
- Every move must have a benefit.
- Metrics must be fully understood
- People, Process, and Technology must all work together to facilitate a functional and well run Demand Consensus
Again, in retrospect some of this is obvious, however while dealing in the day-to-day, these things are easy to overlook. Next was a lunch presentation by Sheetal Shah of Motorola, where he addressed key points regarding the incorporation of customers and vendors into the S&OP process. His comments were well noted and will certainly be included in a phase of our S&OP roll-out.
The next presentation of information was by my favorite presenter of the conference, Mr. Craig Faulkner of W.L. Gore. He is a person who isn’t faking the love of the S&OP process, and who I hope to emulate during our roll-out. I actually attended two of his presentations: “Supply Planning for Both In-House and Outsource Manufacturing” on Thursday, and “How S&OP Can Support and Enhance New Product Launches” on Friday. I absorbed many applicable lessons from this presentation, including:
- Inventory exists to account for uncertainty, otherwise we wouldn’t need it. The inventory dilemma is how to balance it – not that it’s just “bad” or “good”
- An effective S&OP process is a decision making process. Communicate and execute one plan.
- S&OP should be dynamic, move with market needs, applies realistic goals, and is flexible to respond to market opportunities.
- There are many evolving benefits of S&OP, including better customer service, reduced obsolescence, enhanced teamwork, and better decisions.
The last presentation on Thursday was “Lean Forecasting” by Mr. Mike Gilliland of the SAS Institute, and Mark Hahn from Amway. Admittedly this is an area that I was least comfortable with, however I felt it was important to get exposed to some of these demand-side concepts that I could hopefully articulate to our Sales group properly. These gentlemen were sharp and straightforward, and the following lessons stuck with me:
- The primary forecast objective is to forecast as accurately, efficiently, and unbiased as possible
- Perfect forecasting is not realistic
- Focus on forecast efficiency
- Use FVA analysis to identify and mercilessly eliminate non‐value adding activities; streamline the forecasting process & re‐direct wasted effort
- FVA is measured by comparing the results of a process activity to the results you would have achieved without doing the activity
FVA was certainly a new concept, and I feel well armed to have an intelligent discussion with our Sales team about forecast methods and the benefits of applying statistical elements.
The following morning started with a session titled “Successful Implementation and Revitalization of S&OP,” presented by Mr. Bradley McCollum of Jarden Leisure and Entertainment. Mr. McCollum really went into the details of S&OP, talking through responsibilities of the demand and supply sides in a really understandable manner. Takeaways that I could appreciate included:
- An S&OP Champion profile should include being well respected and dedicated to the process
- Forecasts need to be challenged – contradictions need to be addressed. But disagree without being disagreeable.
- Successful S&OP implementations start with executive commitment and ownership
- Build the right team. You want the “A” Team
- Take the time to have an effective kick-off; educate and plan
- Pro-actively communicate and manage risks; off the bat, agree to what you know and what you don’t know
Mr. McCollum’s presentation will certainly be an important part of the road map to developing our process. Not only did he present the details of demand and supply, but he documented how to make it all work together.
Unfortunately I had to leave before Mr. Todd Gallant’s “Pre and Executive S&OP Session” presentation. However, his presentation had very good, points that leant well to the entire family of sessions, and he has been very kind in answering my follow up questions via email.
All in all, my participation in this event has opened my eyes to many great opportunities for my company, as well as for my professional development. Unfortunately, this also really highlighted our shortcomings, where I didn’t think we were so bad. However, I am now inspired to move my company forward procedurally and technically so that our processes can reach world-class status and our profitability is maximized. Admittedly there was some overlap between the presentations; however for my purposes this really drove some key S&OP principles home. You will find me at the crossroads where demand and supply meet. Thanks IBF and APICS!
Director, Supply Chain Management
International E-Z UP