Merging the Art and Science of Supply Chain Management

Merging the Art and Science of Supply Chain ManagementAt the 2016 CSCMP Annual Conference a member of the audience posed the question, “is forecasting a science or an art?” As a 40+ year amateur musician and a supply chain professional for the past 25 years I couldn’t help thinking about the similarities between music and supply chain management and how each of these is a combination of both art and science.

In its most basic state, music is a mathematics-based language. An accomplished musician can turn a formula of notes, rests, and rhythms into an artful expression that connects to an audience.

Similarly, a forecaster creates plans through the application of sophisticated mathematics using solutions based on science combined with years of practical experience to fine tune the forecast and turn it into content that is useful to the business. Advanced forecasting is as much of an art based on experience in analyzing data and knowledge of the products, customers, and markets being forecasted as it is a science based on the application of algorithms and mathematics (see white paper 7 Methods that Improve Forecasting Accuracy).

Experts say it takes at least 10,000 hours of focused practice to master a musical instrument. Becoming a master forecaster also requires many hours (years in fact) of experience working with data, products and markets being forecasted. Before experience is built up, forecasting is a pure science-reliant on technology to drive the process. The goal; however, should be to gain the practical experience to Some forecasters have not accumulated the expertise and experience to go beyond the application mathematics of forecasting. So in some cases forecasting is pure science, but the goal should be to gain the experience required to skillfully add value to mathematical derived forecasts. Think of the demand planning system the instrument the forecaster uses to create forecasts.

The closing session of the CSCMP Annual Conference featured Mark Schulman, a renowned drummer and motivational speaker. Mark who has toured with PINK, Billy Idol, Foreigner, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks, Beyonce, and others had some insightful learnings from the music profession that are very relevant to supply chain management. Amongst performing on his drum set, Mark discussed how individual and team performance can be broken down into three simple steps; Clarity, Capability, and Confidence. Mark used these three steps to overcome barriers in his life and to reach the highest levels of becoming a professional percussionist.

During his session Mark passed along some very relevant advice.

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