Small Teams to Drive Innovation

We talk about supply chains being stuck a lot… they have done things the same way for a long time… they move too fast focusing on day to day work to be able to take a step back & look at their processes.

When I was attending the Supply Chain Insights Bootcamp training course, we had evaluated the metrics that matter, decided that it required strong leadership to be able to create goals for the company that do not focus on functional areas, but rather overall performance, aligning with the business strategy.

The initial reaction from those attending the training was that it seemed a bit overwhelming to tackle these changes. Lora reassured people that, yes, these changes are difficult and it takes years to really drive the improvement in the supply chain, but there are little things you can to do start.

One thing that she talked about that sounded very feasible to get the supply chain going in the right direction was to create “small, scrappy teams” that would focus on improvement in a particular area with the end-to-end supply chain and horizontal processes in mind. I love this idea, and I think this is a great, easy way to drive process innovation in the supply chains.

My first job out of college was at a GE water filtration manufacturing plant. This job gave me my first introduction to the term lean and lean practices. While I was there, a lean manager was hired and created a kaizen team that was made up of people from all over the plant – some managers, some floor manufacturing workers, some maintenance workers. The team was meant to work on projects throughout the plant that would improve productivity, safety, and cost in a short amount of time. The team was given resources to implement changes, and was very successful. One of the projects they implemented was a change in the staging of the carts to do filtration testing. This saved time on the shop floor and improved the cycle time of the plant.

As we have created these teams on the shop floor, so too should we create these teams on the corporate, process side. The teams would be focused on end-to-end and horizontal processes such as sales and operations planning, corporate social responsibility, revenue management, new product launches, and supplier development.

The teams would need to be given resources and would need to have appropriate team members with influence. The sponsor of the team in particular would need to have influence to drive change throughout the entire organization.

The important thing is that those that are focused on day-to-day execution are not getting in the way of the team. When I think about the planning team that I worked on, there was so much pressure on the team to address current service issues that it was very difficult to see the value of improvement projects, or take the time to step back and really evaluate if we were doing the right thing. We were asking Marketing to forecast at an item location level – which has been shown that this adds more error than not. But because this is how it was decided we would interact together, this is what was done and what we accepted as the right thing to do.

Would a team who was looking at the process think that there is something else that we could do?




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