While the worst of the supply chain fiasco of 2020-2022 is behind us, elements certainly continue to challenge us daily. What we should have done then and what we can do now is communicate the truth among our supply matrix.
We call it a supply chain, but the reality is all players in it service other customers and many of them serve other markets. The increasing number of variables due to that fact makes coordination even more critical to effective capacity management.
Supply chain personnel have been expediting since before it was called Materials Management. In early 2020 most of us fell into one of two camps: the first faced a precipitous decline in demand which mean de-expedite everything; the second saw skyrocketing demand, which we chose to address by expediting everything.
Strong supply chain competency is like beautiful choreography. It leverages what each participant does best, blending together variables to create something beautiful. Every choreographer knows it only detracts to have dancers enter the stage before they are needed.
Yet in most supply chain efforts, we continue to fall back on expediting — getting parts and materials before we need them — when the going gets tough. It is a perfect example of confusing motion with results.
Dancers must trust one another and the choreographer; the same is true of the best supply matrices. Honesty enables better decision-making by all of us.
Coordinated conversations with suppliers that are struggling to provide materials when you want them can determine what the group can actually do.
Which part/supplier is the key to getting this all moving? Knowing that is crucial to wisely leveraging capacity. Understanding what other parts can then be delayed — even though we wish we had everything right now — until that key part can be received from that supplier helps prioritization throughout. Demanding more or earlier hurts supplier prioritization with no offsetting benefit.
The hesitation in doing this is a lack of trust. We’re not sure we actually know what we need when and that our own production planning is that precise. We don’t trust all our suppliers to actually ship “our” material to someone else right now and replace it to us at the agreed-upon date.
When everyone is lying we’re all hurt. When everyone is telling the truth but we don’t trust them, we’re all hurt.
Supplier selection and development is an integral part of operations management. Done well, coordination and communication the last few years has been strong, even if not what any of us wanted to hear. We could jointly plan, and execute.
Not done well, expediting is your strategy. Your dance floor is cluttered with excess dancers who have no current role.