Production: In the Supply Chain, but not Of it

Make appears in the center of the supply chain - but is a very different world

“Make” appears in the center of the supply chain – but is separate. For the future visions of either production or supply chain to succeed, they will need to collaborate!

While I’ve always thought of production as in the middle of the supply chain – and apparently others do to, with Make at the center of the SCOR model – that does not mean many people have experience in both domains. In fact few do. And that contributes to some disconnects.

I was reminded of this in many ways this week. Some interesting news that LlamaSoft is buying the LogicTools supply chain design and inventory optimization software suite from IBM. This reminded me of how many interesting facets there are to Supply Chain software. It also reminded me of how separate that market has become from the manufacturing operations or execution systems (MES/MOM) market that I’ve also seen grow and add many interesting applications – and where there have been many acquisitions.

What is the issue? I believe it’s exactly that. Both supply chain operations and production operations are complex. There are so many different areas to track, plan, execute on, and optimize in each realm that it’s hard to envision anyone understanding EITHER manufacturing or supply chain completely in a major production company.

And yet, as new concepts such as Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0 technologies appear, manufacturing and the rest of the supply chain will become even more intricately intertwined. As public-private partnerships leverage new technologies such as the industrial internet of things (IIoT) to envision a more automated future, these domains cannot remain quite so separate. I recently posted about these projects; please read more here.

I don’t expect supply chain and manufacturing people to become interchangeable. The expertise is too deep and broad. However, it is time for deeper exchanges and something more like true collaboration between supply chain operations and manufacturing operations.

In my experience, there is often finger-pointing between these two operational groups, both focused on getting products through the process:

  • Manufacturing may blame supply chain for schedules that are unrealistic, materials that arrive late, and getting jerked around to satisfy specific customer or market needs. (Note: companies like Critical Manufacturing have added native scheduling to their MES suites, covered in a previous post.)
  • Supply chain may blame manufacturing for missing schedules, wasting, mis-processing or mis-laying materials, and being unresponsive to change.

Usually, both of these negative interpretations of reality has some element of truth – and many elements that cannot be controlled as precisely as we’d like. Consider that these are two sides of the same coin. Rather than pointing the finger, try to find the common ground on which you can improve each others’ lives and at the same time create success.

To have success, you need to learn how to team up. That requires that you frame up recurring problems not in us vs. them terms, but in “we” terms. Most of us don’t have much experience in doing that, so you may need an independent facilitator to help each side hear the other so you can craft a realistic view of your SHARED issues. Everyone wants to serve the market well so the company can succeed.

So while manufacturing will likely remain separate from supply chain operations, you are sleeping in the same bed. A rigorous review of how the other impacts your ability to improve and move into your future vision can only be achieved in a truly collaborative fashion. Are you ready to find ways for the ENTIRE operation to be more effective?

 

Graphic: Supply Chain Council SCOR Model, now part of APICS

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