We all secretly love a buzz word or phrase and here’s a new one, ‘Process Defragging’.
There is a myth in the business world that all business processes should be robust, flexible, and, dare I say it, ‘future proof’. In my experience this is rarely the case.
Processes are designed, not evolved. Supply chain processes especially are often people driven, and people and their priorities change. This is then compounded by business change, for example, divestments, restructuring, expansion and management changes. A process is not intelligent or responsive, only the people that deliver it are. And guess what? If those people are no longer in the company, or their focus is forced elsewhere and their priorities are changed, your process is positioned to fail.
All supply chain processes should be periodically overhauled. They should be regularly reviewed from a fresh standpoint, redesigned where necessary and the stakeholders re-engaged. Don’t expect a natural evolution without effort applied. All business processes will gradually degrade, this is the law of entropy – if you do not make an effort to keep things in order then they will become chaotic, disorganised and stop functioning altogether.
OK, so when something like your inventory process is faced with new products or lead time changes it can of course cope. A few tweaks can be made here and there with no problems. However, what if it is faced with major divestments, corporate restructuring, redundancies, personnel changes, IT changes; what happens? Well, the theorist may say that a good process will adapt and change. Practitioners will recognise the reality that supply chain processes are the most susceptible to failure, because they are the most susceptible to change. Often key supply chain processes do not even sit with a single sponsor but responsibility for them is spread across a matrix organisation.
How many times have you heard, “We used to do that, but…”?
This is my point. In supply chain, and business in general, you cannot design a process and expect it to evolve, ad infinitum, without effort applied. If there is too much change your processes will eventually fragment. Just like the hard drive on your computer, they will fragment and become less and less functional until eventually you need to hit the defragment button.
So, as you move into the whirlwind of the next big business change, think about the impact on key supply chain processes. Set a date in the diary, redesign from zero where necessary, re-engage stakeholders and introduce current thinking. Make it better, before it gets worse. Do some ‘Process Defragging’!