Intelligent Design, Supply Chain Style

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If Thomas Huxley were alive today, he would be a supply chain manager in a retail

When you look inside a retail organization of any size that’s been around awhile, you’re
likely to find a myriad of different systems and business processes.

  • a “home grown” ordering system for the stores
  • replenishment software for distribution centres that has undergone so many modifications over the years that it bears no resemblance to its original state
  • special system that does ordering system for promotions

As the retail business environment has changed over the years, the systems being used to manage it all have continued to sprout more special bolt-on logic, flags and dip-switches. Direct store delivery, vendor managed inventory, cross-docking and internet order fulfillment were never within the original design of most retail replenishment systems.

And to manage it all? Printed reports of every variety – so thick that they’re measured in pounds, not pages.

Such is the retail organization that comes to be through the forces of evolution. Nobody ever intended it to be this way, it was just “a constant remodelling of the organism in adaptation to new conditions”. Something changes, apply a quick fix and move on. It’s like a “cork in the tempest” approach to managing business change.

One wonders what would be possible if retailers were given the chance to wipe the slate
clean and start all over again.

If they could start all over, they would build their entire supply chain around satisfying the consumer. Theirs is the only demand that would need to be forecasted and all of the
upstream supply decisions would be made in automatic response.

When dealing with suppliers, there would be far more than lip service behind the offers of partnership. There would be a concerted effort to make them as successful as possible by providing them with a full year of advance notice about product needs – updated every day.

And most important of all, the linkage from consumer to store to DCs to suppliers would be so natural and seamless that it could be logically explained to everyone – with no
interpretation or leaps of faith required between steps.

Now that sounds like the theory of intelligent design, supply chain style.



Demand Clarity
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