Matthew Prange

It was 80 degrees and the sun was directly overhead as I walked into the corporate office for my first meeting at my new employer.  My heart was beating through my chest, as it often does in new situations, but I was confident.  It was actually about 1PM the Wednesday before my official start date, but the opportunity to meet some key contacts in our China office and the promise of top-notch steak dinner was enough for me spend a beautiful summer afternoon talking Supply and Demand.

The topics for that afternoon’s marathon session were wide-ranging.   In attendance, I learned the following week, were a VP, 2 Directors, and 3 managers (soon to be my peers).  I gathered through loud, tense conversation that had been having MAJOR service issues in the business unit I was entering.  I learned that the forecast for the year had grown 50% since the beginning of the year.  I also gathered that we had recently changed system stock parameters to try to fix the service problems.  The result of all of this was the China team receiving data signals that were inconsistent at best, and in the coming months, service level got WORSE.

You might think I would have preferred spending that beautiful summer day outside, but you can’t be in supply and demand planning if you don’t relish these moments (“Don’t waste a good crisis”).  The next 8 months, the microcosm that was that dark conference room was my reality.  Not only were we NOT “Leveraging Upstream / Downstream Relationships and Data,” but the data had become a liability, and the relationships were on the rocks.

In the first 4 months, my team and I flew to China 3 times.  We listened.  We looked at things from their perspective.  We were [brutally] honest with each other.  We increased the amount and the quality of the data that was being passed back and forth.  We took a long-term approach, and we shared.

One of the most critical services we, in Supply Chain provide to our internal and external customers is that connection between sales (customer) and supply (critical-tier supplier).  The connection is increasingly digital; it facilitates the agility and speed it takes to win in today’s marketplace.  Moving data streams from “bucket brigade” to pipeline is one of the major challenges facing today’s organizations.

Our connections between customer and supplier are also relational.  This is aided by focus on interpersonal relations.  Looking people in the eye, and creating collaborative business relationships create win/win scenarios.  We also need to have an understanding of the B2B relationships at play.  Simply stated this means, “Who are you to me, and who am I to you?”

Beginning in April, the following year, we hit 99.0% fill rate.  In May, we hit 99.7%.  In June and August, we hit 99.2%.  After the third 99%, the BU President sent banners to the four corners of the Supply Chain praising our accomplishment.  We for the year hit 98.3%.  At year-end, we achieved our overall inventory target.  Through a focus on relationships, data integrity and visibility we turned what had been a liability into a strength.  I’ll be speaking more about this fulfilling journey at the APICS & IBF Best of the S&OP Conference taking place in Chicago, June 18-19, 2015.

Matthew Prange
Sales & Operations Planning Manager
Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation