Today’s companies continue to expand to reach global markets, but this has made control of supply chains more and more complex. Companies recognize that developing and executing successful supply chain strategies can be key to gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace. A key to managing a global supply chain is having strong visibility. This has in turn prompted companies to use technologies such as ERP/MRP systems, warehouse management systems and transportation management systems. Additionally, companies are utilizing hardware technologies, hand-held scanners, GPS, tracking devices, cameras, microphones, RFID readers, wireless networks and automated warehouse systems (AGVs, Robots). Adoption of these technological tools allows more visibility than ever before. But having the data, alone is not enough; managers now have millions and billions of bits of data to decipher and sort through. Having piles of data is not enough, supply chain managers are now faced with how to best use the data to obtain the right information to track performance, diagnose bottlenecks and uncover opportunities for continuous improvement.
It was early 2004 and I was catching up with a friend from my college days. He was the regional head for a Consumer Goods major in India, and told me about changes they were making to streamline operations. That included consolidating the number of stockists and wholesalers. I was puzzled because the company was known for its reach even in remote rural areas, enabled in large part by these very channel partners they wanted to terminate. Our conversation went something like this: