Berra-isms and Supply Chain Planning
Being a huge baseball fan, I was sad to hear about the passing of baseball great, Yogi Berra. Yogi Berra was an 18-time All-Star and appeared in 14 World Series as a member of the Yankees, winning 10 of them. Berra’s contributions to MLB history are legendary, but he might be even more famous for his numerous expressions and turns of phrase that often didnt make logical sense but still rang true. Berra-isms, or colloquial expressions that lack logic, are countless. Yogi claimed he never came up with many of them, but that hasn’t stopped the press and public from attributing them to him. I tend to relate most anything to supply chain management and I find many of Yogi’s Berra-isms are quite applicable to supply chain planning.
For instance, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” The use of product demand profiles for new product introduction is a perfect example how this Berra-ism is applicable to supply chain planning. A “best-practice” in the area of forecasting for new products is to determine existing products with similar demand characteristics and apply the demand history or profile from these products to create a forecast for the new product. In reality most new products are really not all that new. In most cases new products have similar characteristics to, are a substitute for, or a complement to existing products. In fact it is really rare for a company to come up with a “net new” product that is completely different than anything they have produced. Many new products have a déjà vu factor.
Another favorite Berra-ism of mine, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” The old adage, you can’t improve what you don’t measure (or watch) is very true in the area of supply chain planning. A “best-practice” in the area of demand planning is to measure forecast accuracy (or error) using Mean Absolute Percent Error (MAPE) to prioritize where demand planners should focus their efforts for further improvements. By observing and watching forecast accuracy, planners can manage by exception and make the most impact on demand accuracy.
How about, “The future ain’t what it used to be?” Again even though I am sure Yogi Berra had little knowledge of the supply chain profession, his expression is quite applicable to supply chain planning. A best-practice in demand management is augmenting a statistical forecast with forward looking information obtained through collaboration with market-facing sales and marketing team members or with customers who have unique insight on future plans. The future is hard to predict when you only rely on the past and it really “ain’t what it used to be.”
And finally, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” How many times have you heard, “that’s not the way we do things around here?” Supply chain professionals need to embrace change and variability more often than peers in other functional areas. Supply chain managers need to be change agents and problem solvers that evaluate multiple scenarios and look for an alternate fork for in the road. Many years ago, I read the book, “If it ain’t broke, Break It!” by Robert J. Kriegel and believe it should be a mandatory read for all supply chain leaders to help them get in the right frame of mind when approaching their job.
Those who work in supply chain planning are challenged daily to improve efficiencies and effectiveness of existing processes and to come up with new and innovative ways to reduce costs while simultaneously improving customer service. Sometimes getting inspiration from legends like Yogi Berra can help.