Thursday, December 16, 2010

Supply Chain and Data Visibility

As Supply Chain Managers we are always working to improve our data visibility - the ease with which those within our organization can quickly obtain the information they need to support good decision making.  That data visibility may have a downside.  Two supply chain managers are in the news today giving supply chain management the type of publicity the profession doesn't want (in spite of what P.T. Barnum said).  This is a good reminder that, as Supply Chain Managers, we often have access to the type of data that must be closely guarded (and could even land us in jail if we fail to do so).

I find that I learn a great deal from sharing my business challenges with others (whether in a formal setting such as a classroom or presentation hall) or informal, such as a round table or lunch.  I believe The APICS Member Code of Ethics provides a good framework for how to share that information (and how to hold in confidence information that others share with me).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Midnight Shopping and Supply Chain Management

I heard a very interesting story on NPR several weeks ago.  Wal-Mart noticed a spike in sales on the first day (perhaps even the first hour) of the month and this story attributes at least some of that demand to government aid funds not being available until just after midnight on the first of the month.  Wal-Mart even changed their stocking patterns to accommodate the demand for larger packs of items earlier in the month.

Leaving aside the politics of this issue and viewing it as strictly a supply chain issue I thought about the bullwhip effect this has on the supply chain.

It's also interesting to note that Wal-Mart has taken strong actions to level demand (through their "every day low prices" for one) to capture the resulting supply chain savings that this yields.  Here the timing of the government aid distribution is counteracting their efforts and even making Wal-Mart change their stocking patterns.

Perhaps distributing these funds weekly rather than monthly would aid everyone involved - recipients would be able to hold less inventory (anyone with kids would understand the advantage of this - kids frequently 'burn out" on certain foods), Wal-Mart would have a more level demand pattern and resulting lower inventory, etc.

Let me know of other examples where government action (or inaction) is negatively impacting the effectiveness of an organization's supply chain.  

Supply Chain and Nonprofit Effectiveness

Several months ago I read this editorial regarding the work of a Chicago-based nonprofit called World Bicycle Relief (WBR).  As an avid bicyclist I found this interesting and as a supply chain manager I was fascinated - whether they were specifically thinking "supply chain design" when developing this program or just good business sense it is clear that they used good supply chain principles - local sourcing, availability of spare parts, design for manufacture (and repair!).

I was not surprised when this week I heard that Barrons ranked them #12 on their list of 25 Best Givers, a ranking of donor impact.  It is clear that good supply chain principles can improve the bottom line for the organization whether they are a for-profit business or a nonprofit organization.  (I should add that my bicycle racing team,, is a supporter of WBR and I have indirectly donated to WBR through my team; I plan to assist them further in 2011).

Please let me know of other examples of good supply chain principles deployed by nonprofit organizations and their positive impact on the triple bottom line.