Supply chain transformation - attend any supply chain industry conference these days, or scan the quarterly earnings releases from public enterprises, and you are likely to hear a good number of references to some type of transformation process underway or recently complete at various companies.
Examples in the last few years include Hershey's, ConAgra, Kimberly-Clark, Home Depot, Dell and many more (though there has seemed to be a especially prominent rash of it in the consumer packaged goods supply chain of late).
That's all well and good, but if a company or supply chain leader senses it's time for some transformation, where do you start? What does supply chain transformation really mean? And what are the guidelines and best practices for doing it right?
A new book from Rich Sherman, titled appropriately enough "Supply Chain Transformation: Practical Roadmap to Best Practice Results," at lasts provides that guideline and more on this subject, offering some thoughtful insight on the transformation process.
Sherman, a long time figure in the supply chain as an analyst, marketer, and more (including playing a leading role in the development of the SCOR model), is currently director of strategic development for the Council of Supply Chain Management (CSCMP), among other activities.
He makes it clear, it is important to note, that supply chain transformation in his view isn't just about a sort of one time process to shake up a laggard supply chain, which is often how the concept is thought of today. Rather, he says, supply chain transformation is really about building a high performance supply chain for the long haul that can continuously adapt, delivering at a leading level year after year. "Continuous transformation," if you will.
As a starting point, Sherman notes there really is a large performance gap between supply chain leaders and laggards, citing data from APQC, for example, showing significant differences in supply chain costs per dollar of revenue even within specific industry sectors.
"Why is it," Sherman writes, "that despite advances in performance improvement methodologies, tools, technologies, and education, lagging and even median performers haven't been able to close the gap on supply chain costs?"
Sherman in part spends the rest of the book trying to answer that question, showing the many different ways that supply chain value and results can be subject to leakage in a company.
Correctly, Sherman early on points out the critical role of culture, contrasting those that really have been built to support continuous transformation and those that are more content with the status quo. A key message here is that these less aggressive companies usually don't think they are more comfortable with the status quo, and in fact see themselves as continuously moving forward. But they are simply not doing it as fast as their competitors.
This is especially common when a company's supply chain had achieved a high level of success in the past. The operational paradigms established then can often be difficult to adapt over time, even as the external environment has started to make many of them dated.
"The major learning is that we cannot afford to wait for old paradigms to die," Sherman writes. "We have to constantly be monitoring and moving our company's culture forward towards market goals, not personal paradigms."
Collaboration is Key to a Permanent Transformation
Off and on throughout the book, the theme of collaboration as an essential component of supply chain excellence is emphasized. That includes a quote Sherman uses from the late and great Dr. Don Bowersox of Michigan State, who observed that "Why do so many people waste so much time and money trying to forecast something that somebody already knows?"
(Supply Chain Trends and Issues Article - Continued Below)