Skip to main content

Establishing a Foundation for Supply Chain Success in the Field

Management of supply chains is a key element for enterprise success by ensuring that your company achieves a sustainable competitive advantage. A framework has been developed which represents the building blocks required to achieve this success. (See the 4 key elements described below). This framework shows us the roadmap to operational excellence, and the key elements that an individual working for any company needs to be effective in their work and create value for the organization.

A useful metaphor to consider when applying this framework is that of a soldier going into battle in World War II. An enabler is foundational. A soldier stepping off a gunship onto the beaches of Normandy did so, knowing that behind him he had an established infrastructure of solid support. Hehad prepared for the battle, and had good training. There were established plans in place, and controls to monitor the soldier’s troop activity and provide guidance. Most important of all, the soldier knew that there was a solid group of leaders behind him. The soldier was confident that their generals had a clear concept of what they were trying to achieve – and a clear vision for how they were going to achieve it. For every soldier that is achieving success on the battlefield, there is a lot going on behind him – good generals, good command and control systems, excellent supply & logistics networks, solid technology platforms, and a groundwork of detailed elements that enables success in the field.

At your company, associates, customers, suppliers & our own employees, go to work every day facing a new set of challenges, issues, decisions, and situations – much like a soldier getting off a gunship onto the beaches of Normandy. So when one of your SCM associates goes into work ready to face the situations that lie ahead, what are the enablers they need to know about that will support them as they confront these challenges. The associate who is at the apex of the triangle knows there are four key enabling elements supporting him or her within the context of their organizational structure:

1. Leadership – operational excellence is built upon a foundation of solid leadership. Leadership represents the foundation of the enabler framework. Every action in the field or with the supply community takes place with the knowledge that there are strong leaders and a leadership structure committed to their people’s as well as the enterprise’s success, and a set of leaders who will support them when the going gets rough. Our leaders set clear expectations, ensure we have the capability and capacity to achieve them and that we are collectively working collaboratively for the bottom line.

2. Process Control – If we do not have control over our processes, there is no way to establish consistency or improve our performance. Control provides us with the ability to clearly demonstrate the value Supply Chain Management brings to our company. Without a effective leadership structure process control is at best ineffective.

3. Continuous Improvement – We need to continuously improve our processes. When a new process or modified process is designed, it is about 70% right – so it is critical to never be satisfied with our current level of performance. Associates are expected to continually question the status quo, in order to get all processes to an optimal level. Note here that continuous improvement without control is futile- without defined mechanisms to measure and control a process, improving it becomes impossible. It is only through continuous improvement that an enterprise can deliver functional and operational excellence.

4. Operational Excellence – Once soldiers know they have leadership support, that they can count on the performance of well controlled processes, and that when found wanting are aggressively improved – then they obtain esprit de corps. Esprit de corps is a well known indicator of organizational health and a predicator of superior performance. It manifests itself as a strong desire to achieve common goals. Esprit de corps is a precursor to Operational Excellence which is the flawless and consistent execution of integrated processes to provide superb customer service and optimal business performance.

Just as the soldier in Normandy is given orders to take an objective, your company’s associates are being told “Here are the processes you need to complete, and the method for completing them.” As you execute them, you need to identify and report on methods to improve them – knowing that there is a system in place to measure the improvements, and that you will have the full support of a committed leadership team. It is not acceptable to do things randomly. You are part of an integrated team, working together to achieve success, and you need to act as a leader in turn to others you work with on these processes, when that time comes.