In September 2013, I accepted a new challenge as Forecasting and Demand Specialist at Wolf Oil Corporation, an independent lubricants company. Wolf Oil shows fantastic growth figures, which focuses on their private labels and the introduction/ re-launch of the two company trademarks.
The company has grown to such a level, a step change in the business process is required to support the growth and customer service.
Together with hiring a Forecasting and Demand Specialist, Wolf Oil is also looking at different options to support their current operational system. It’s certainly time for change at Wolf Oil and Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) will be a driver to support our objectives. But, how does one get started with all these changes in a sales driven environment and get to a make-to-stock process?
In order to move our process from make-to-order to make-to-stock, I had to identify the sources of frustration in each department. The people involved in sales (key account management, internal sales support team and our local distributors) mainly complained about long lead times and orders not being ready on time. The operational team faced pressure from sales resulting in a constant flow of firefighting and “chasing their tale.” The Purchasing team had to make forecasts on raw materials and components based on history resulting in shortages due to the increasing growth figures at our company. It soon became clear that these frustrations could be tackled by getting each department’s attention to understand the common objective of the company. We all want to serve a customer.
The 3 Pillars that supported our S&OP introduction included:
• Cross-functional collaboration
• Open and clear communication
• Alignment on data
During the introduction phase, all stakeholders (sales, operations and purchasing) were introduced in the different steps of an S&OP process. The big challenge in changing the Wolf Oil process was found in the Indirect Channel Sales structure. The S&OP mindset needs to be drilled down from the corporate organization (operations, sales, marketing,…) to the local distributors and their customers. One of the most important aspects in this implementation is identifying the readiness level of people for change. Creating momentum and a win-win situation is the objective.
Sounds simple? Indeed, but never forget you’re dealing with people. Although, the journey continues, I will be sharing further details on our lessons learned at the upcoming IBF & APICS Best of the Best Sales & Operations Planning Conference Europe. I would enjoy hearing about your journey either as comments on the blog or at the event.
Sven Smets, CPF
Demand & Forecasting Specialist
Wolf Oil Corporation