Home' MHD Supply Chain Solutions : MHD Spt-Oct 2014 Contents 78 LAA NEWS
hen do you pull the trigger on imple-
menting an IT solution to improve
your supply chain?
The prospect of an integrated warehouse
management system, transport optimisation
or a full ERP implementation often sparks
initial excitement when you think about the
possibilities, and then is balanced with despair
when the realisation of your current capability
If our processes were more robust, our
metrics more aligned and our people more
skilled, then we could entertain implementing
a shiny new piece of functionality. But until
then, it would be a waste of time and resources,
because we are not ready.
I agree that spending time to build a solid
foundation makes sense before you bolt on new
technology. Doing it the other way around is
fraught with danger. But I wonder if the two are
mutually exclusive, as some businesses make
them out to be? What if we took a different view
and saw the new technology as a blueprint for
how our processes should, or could be?
Supply chain technology is so advanced now,
and road tested by so many companies across
a multitude of industries, that the design DNA is
multi-faceted, scalable and adaptable.
Selecting who or what IT solution is best for
your business is still an exercise in itself.
Before you make that decision, it would be
wise to spend the time investigating the options
that exist. This will help prioritise where you
need to focus your process improvement efforts
Some benefits of performing supply chain IT
market research, well before you are ready to
plug it in, are:
1. Advanced knowledge of the
IT functionality may drive a
discipline in the business.
No business expects to be able to “plug & play”
any software package, particularly when you are
dealing with complex material handling require-
ments. It is reasonable to suggest that a decent
amount of customisation would be required.
However, customisation is often constrained
within some process disciplines. Have you ever
heard someone say: “In our old systemm it was
really good because we could do whatever we
wanted....” That might seem like a good experi-
ence for the user, however, the collateral damage
somewhere else in the business is often costly.
Customising new technology comes with
constraints for a reason. There is often a trans-
actional framework that is inherent in the vanilla
design. For example, there is a reason you can’t
go from A directly to C if you use this program.
B is a necessary step. It could potentially be
engineered out of your solution in order to match
your current way of doing things, however, let’s
understand why it is important first.
This could be an opportunity to enforce some
transactional, or process, discipline now, long
before you make the decision to implement.
2. Opportunity to leverage
from other industries.
The world of supply chain innovation is moving
at a rapid pace. The word ‘optimisation’ is used
frequently to describe getting the most effective
and efficient solution for a particular function,
such as transportation. ‘Big data and analyt-
ics’ has emerged more recently, emphasising
the power of environmental data capture and
decision making. Conversations about how
“unique our business is” are starting to wear
thin from a supply chain perspective, as syner-
gies are increasingly identified.
No other area of supply chain has its finger
on the pulse in this field than the systems pro-
viders themselves. They must provide a solution
that finds a balance between discipline, best
practice, adaptability, and fit for purpose. Those
providers who can prove expertise in your area of
interest, whilst at the same time display a design
approach that has taken the learning from a mul-
titude of industries, are worth their weight in gold.
They have done the homework for you.
But don’t stop there, do your own research.
How do other industries move their products
from A to B? How do they store them? How do
they forecast the demand? And how do they
manage their master data?
No doubt businesses and industries have
unique requirements, but they also have
some very transferable innovations that would
be worth exploring. Knowing this will help
turn your supply chain into a value-adding
function. When you begin the conversation
with the software provider, you will know what
to ask for because you’ve already seen it
The credible software providers need
to be ahead of the game. They need to
research best practice, they need to be
adaptable and they need powerful advocates.
Knowing what functionality they offer, who
they have worked with, and their approach
to continuous improvement and innovation
is market intelligence I would recommend
seeking. Industry bodies, networking events
and targeted conferences would be a good
start. Connecting with strong advocates across
industries and exploring the possibility of
sharing stories is another.
Understanding how best-of-breed IT solutions
operate, before you need them, could be the
market intelligence you need to solidify your
supply chain foundations now, and allow for
scalability in the future.
Simon Vincent is the national president of the
Logistics Association of Australia and executive
coach at Supply Change Coaching & Consulting.
SYSTEMS VS. PROCESS
MHD SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS — SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2014
MHD Sep-Oct 2014 70-84.indd 78
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