The following is an excerpt from European Business Review. To read Karin's entire article, please visit http://www.europeanbusinessreview.com/?p=6903
What do you want to achieve? Where does your company want to be in 12, 18, 24 months? Do you know? If you don’t know where you are headed, any road will take you there. How will you know what success looks like?
In today’s uncertain times, a clear vision and strategy of where you need to be is the key to rally the company and propel your business forward; forward into new markets, new geographies and ahead of your competition. Success lies in the ability for your company’s stakeholders to tie your goals, strategy and execution into a single, measurable plan.
Cost reduction, expansion in to new geographies and visibility across the company are common goals I hear many global companies discuss. As I work with leading companies to develop sustainable sales and operations planning (S&OP) processes we see industry research supports these benefits. According to Gartner a “demand-driven S&OP processes can improve revenue from 2% to 5%, reduce inventories by 7% to 15% and improve the success of new product launch commercialization by 20%.” *
A majority of companies focus their S&OP efforts at the local or regional level which creates multiple, independent S&OP processes across the company. A research survey from Supply Chain Insights revealed the average company has five S&OP processes and 63% of companies have more than one.** This leaves a lot of opportunity to clean up inconsistencies across the system. However, many companies struggle with how to get there, how to cross the cultural and regional differences to ensure everyone speaks the same language—the language of success.
Let’s discuss some of the challenges companies face as they roll out a global S&OP process and take a look at how one company is successfully navigating through the process.
One of the key challenges to a successful global S&OP process is the language barrier. This is not a reference to the differences between Chinese, Dutch, English, and Spanish. This refers to how each of your regions defines success, what an accurate forecast looks like, how service level is calculated, etc. Chances are inconsistencies exist in your business from region to region in how these basic principles are discussed, executed and measured. It is important to develop a consistent framework that brings a common set of terms and definitions to the organization. Software can help you provide a consistent framework.
If you ask each department in your business how much inventory you need, the answers will be vastly different. Accounting will provide a financial valuation with no appreciation of mix or location. Sales will say it needs “a lot” of inventory to ship every product, every day with no view of obsolescence, capital or investment required. The manufacturing team will talk about how much they can produce efficiently which will likely translates into holding more finished goods inventory than you need. Each department is concerned with its area and metrics, not necessarily the corporate goals until they are translated to the language of each area of the business.
In addition, many companies have grown through acquisition which has brought on a myriad of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems each presenting data slightly different than the other. Global companies today can have upwards of 12 different ERPs measuring and calculating in its own way. Moving toward a single ERP system takes times (years in fact) and the expense doesn’t typically justify the endeavor.
When working with multiple systems, definitions and local customs, you need to find the right balance between rigidity and flexibility. Be standard enough to provide a consistent framework for all divisions in the company and yet flexible enough that local business drivers can be reflected.
On one side you have a rigid system that dictates exactly how business should be conducted across the entire company. This can be beneficial for the headquarters while at the same time detrimental to operations in Southeast Asia where the business environment is not conducive to the set process. On the other hand, an overly loose system will allow each region to operate independently creating headaches and subjective interpretation for the team charged with culling the data and the executives who have to make decisions based on delayed and stale information.
Timing is another challenge. As you will see in the example below, the right cadence can help ensure success. When a goal or target is set, the first inclination is to get there quickly. Considering the challenges above, you will need to determine how and when it is best to roll out the initiative.
Technology Enabling People and Process
In addition to people and process, technology plays a large role in a company’s ability to manage its global S&OP process. First and foremost is the ability to create a feasible plan, one aligned with corporate capabilities, not a lofty, theoretical plan for the business. Tied to the plan is the ability to visualize progress, measure success and be alerted to potential issues before they become a problem. Developing a closed-loop business process is paramount to long-term success.
Sales and operations planning breaks down organizational silos to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands why margin, availability, service level, forecast accuracy, etc. are important and what they mean to the organization. The data presented to each department needs to be consistent and presented in a way that is meaningful to their role in the business. You can give accounting a plan in terms of volumetric numbers but that is not meaningful to them. They need the plan see it in terms of financial numbers. How much investment in inventory do we have/need? What is the carrying cost of that inventory? Work towards one plan that is viewable and understandable by all parties involved and that is analyzed from multiple perspectives.
The benefits of S&OP are well documented and have helped many companies dramatically improve operations and gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly more difficult global economy. Don’t ignore the potential reward of a global S&OP process because the task seems daunting or a region doesn’t want to follow suit. Make sure everyone understands the importance of the change and how it will directly benefit them and the business.