Our ability to service our customers at the highest level is dependent on the responsiveness, flexibility and reliability of our supply chain management process. Every step from sourcing to finished product is focused on providing our customers a seamless experience.
Even with the most proactive approach and processes, problems will always arise throughout the supply chain management process. It is easy for a company to use words like, “pro-active, process oriented and responsive.” Whenever I hear these words from our supplier and distribution partners my first question is “how”? What experience or processes do you have in place to stay ahead of the problems? How do these processes contribute to cost savings and the overall customer experience?
These are the questions we love to answer, because we live it every day.
When a problem arises, we implore different processes for different levels of problems. For example, level one problem’s are day to day to issues that we are able to resolve quickly, usually instantly requiring little process.
One process we have adapted for level 2,3 or 4 problems is based off of the Yale model for problem solving and process improvement.
Define the supply chain management process
A broad review of the current situation. This allows all stakeholders to take a step back, look at all the angles and collect all necessary information to make informed decisions. For our Supply Chain this allows for increased dialogue and communication within our team and instills ownership within the team to work collectively to find and implement a solution.
Determine the Root Cause(s) of the Problem
Once all potential problems have been identified, determining the root and underlying causes will allow for direct and pro-active solutions. Both the Fishbone Diagram and Pareto analysis (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/pareto-analysis.asp) are great tools for analyzing complex problems from many angles, and by redefining the problem your definition will reflect the causes.
Select a Solution
As a team we begin this process by a brainstorming exercise for all potential solutions. Solutions are narrowed down to determine if a) it is technically feasible and b) if it can be implemented in the necessary time frame.
Feasibility is determined by asking the following questions:
Can it be implemented in a reasonable time?
Can it be done within cost limits? Will it work reliably?
Will it use staff and equipment efficiently?
Is it flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions?
Ask these questions when evaluating a solution’s acceptability:
Are the risks manageable?
Will the solution benefit the persons affected by the problem?
Will it benefit the organization?
Selecting a solution requires you to choose the one that will be most effective, has the technical quality to resolve the problem, and is acceptable to those who will implement it.
Implement the Solution
The key to the implementation stage is taking action with organized roles and a methodical approach. This requires action planning:
What must be done?
Who will do it?
When will it be started?
When will key milestones be completed?
How will the necessary actions be carried out?
Why are these actions a solution?
Evaluate the Outcome
Evaluating the overall process and solution allow for increased dialogue and awareness of the importance of consistent supply chain management process’ improvement. This allows dialogue for feedback and further brainstorming to improve the process and enhance the customer experience.