An ever-changing world needs more-responsive supply chains
In the past, “pretty good” was good enough for supply chain. Logan says, “It was once acceptable to be able to say, ‘Oh, well, things are going okay.’” If service levels and shelf availability were fine, the world was right. “But,” he adds, “the world’s changing.”
Retailers now expect more from their suppliers, Logan says.
Especially the last six, nine months, there’s been a lot more urgency around real digital transformation of the supply chain. Retailers are providing way more data, and they do that with an expectation that you’re going to use it. With all this data and transparency, brands have a lot of pressure to execute and compete.
The bottom line is that supply chains are having a hard time keeping pace with changing consumer preferences, many of which were accelerated by the pandemic. As Scott says in the podcast, a lot of companies are accelerating technology deployments to try to keep up, such that things they were thinking about implementing in 2025 are rolling out now.
It’s important, however, that those technology investments are made in the right areas. One problem Logan sees is that companies spend considerable resources on forecasting, but under-invest in preparing for when reality inevitably doesn’t match plan. Until organizations focus more on prepping for always-changing conditions, supply chains will always be playing catch-up.
Logan recalls a conversation his team had with a demand planner at a food brand. When they asked how often he changed the plan after it was made, the planner replied, “every single day.” Logan then asked why the planner’s organization continued to spend so much time on forecasting, instead of (knowing reality will never match predictions) building responsiveness into the system. He responded, “I’ve been asking that my whole career.”
Data drives alignment and helps organizations solve issues together
It’s hard to be more responsive when Sales and Supply Chain aren’t aligned on the problems. Part of the challenge is these teams look at different data. “We’re looking at different numbers, different sources of truth, and only part of the picture,” says Logan.
“Supply chain teams are looking at ERPs, planning tools, forecasting tools. The retail and sales teams are looking at their spreadsheets and portals.” Splintered information and perspectives hurt cooperation. Arguments about data cause serious delays with real-world consequences.
Without a shared understanding, teams waste weeks assembling and collating data and then debating methodology for calculating metrics, like Weeks of Supply. In the meantime, panic reigns, says Logan. The organization is under pressure to determine how they adjust production or whether they expedite freight. Factoring in the time for discussion and follow-on queries, necessary insights finally arrive days or weeks too late – which could mean disaster.
A week or two, says Scott, “can be deadly, could mean empty shelves in hundreds of locations, perhaps.” Greg agrees, focusing on product launches.