For the past few years, we have witnessed several technology predictions that have made headlines in the supply chain field and some examples include:
- “Robots may change the way we do business”
- “3D-Printing will change manufacturing”
- “Cloud technology: What’s in it for supply chain managers?”
- “Smart glasses coming to a warehouse near you”
The reality is that technology to a point, already dominates a certain space in the logistics and supply chain field. For example, manufacturers weigh the potential of producing certain parts “in-house” with the assistance of 3D-printers as opposed to acquiring them from overseas. Warehouse managers must also assess whether smart wearables will influence how efficient operations become and start planning for the pick-by-robot systems that are gaining popularity too. Additionally, managing inventory in the cloud has become a technological advancement some companies have taken on already.
With the above-mentioned, it’s pretty clear that we are in the implementation phase of this current wave of smart technology. Businesses need to start making plans to accommodate this change as it is inevitable. Here are five guiding principles that can help you lead a successful supply chain technology project:
Understand the impact of change
Change is not something that is normally welcomed. A lot of people are not fond of it and even go to the point of despising it. However, this is something that needs to be adjusted. Breaking habit is something that is not easy to do and here are a few pointers by business, leadership and change thought-leader Dr. John Kotter, to keep in mind before starting a tech project that will need accommodation of change:
- Create a sense of urgency – get people excited about change
- Build a guiding coalition – get the right people on board at an early stage
- Form a strategic vision and initiatives – the vision helps steer the change effort
- Enlist a volunteer army – ensure even more change agents join the movement
- Enable action by removing barriers – monitor threats e.g. development of small groups that oppose change
- Generate short-term wins – open line of communication regarding even small accomplishments
- Sustain Acceleration – build on the small wins and push further change
- Institute change – make change the new norm, associate new behaviors with company success
This 8-step process for leading change will help provide managers with a great starting point as they prepare for their project management preparation.
Identify and prioritize needs
A lot of supply chain managers are already aware of the areas improvement needs to be implemented in regarding operating processes. These areas usually include reduced inventory, more accurate demand planning, better service levels, better procurement processes, increased transparency and more efficient transportation. Considering these, a supply chain manager then seeks online an all-purpose cloud supply chain software solution. On the other hand, management also wants to see an increase in the picking process efficiency and considers smart glasses as an option. The biggest mistake would be to tackle all this at once and lose focus of what’s the most important. Such leads to stagnation and having employees that are overwhelmed as many major changes are taking place all at the same time. What will help maintain focus is prioritizing the different supply chain areas.
Like any other project, goals are needed in order to have a successful outcome. A long-term focus that includes several intermediary goals needs to be established. These goals should be set using input and analysis from all relevant departments within the supply chain spectrum. This is important as the best demand planning software will not do much if not all supply chain functions are involved. George T. Doran came up with the idea of SMART goals – an acronym that was established in the November 1981 issue of Management Review and maintained that goals should be
Time-related goals are crucial as creating a deadline for the achieving them ensures that there is progression regarding the project at hand.
Select the right partner
There are a lot of companies offering supply chain software solutions along with experts who offer their advice on what works and what doesn’t. So how do you know who to select as the right partner to help direct your vision? Well, make sure to choose a partner, service provider or consultant that will be on the same page as you regarding goals that need to be achieved. On both sides, there should be great chemistry that consists of a high level of openness and honesty during the selection process. Most important of it all, the tool or technology offered by your potential partner needs to be able to help the company meet the goals set out at the beginning of the process.
Evaluate and adjust
It is very crucial that progress is monitored on a regular basis. Are the goals being properly pursued? Does there need to be a shift in focus? Are deadlines being met? Can we attribute positive results to specific project initiatives and build momentum for the project? These are all questions to be asked during the evaluation process.
While we’re on the subject of Supply Chain Digital, don’t forget to see Social Media In Supply Chain – Good or Bad?