The Tyranny Of (Not Enough) Time

For students of Greek mythology you would know that Zeus condemned Sisyphus to continually push a boulder up a hill only to have it roll all the way down again when nearing the top and to repeat this process for eternity...

The Tyranny Of (Not Enough) Time

For students of Greek mythology you would know that Zeus condemned Sisyphus to continually push a boulder up a hill only to have it roll all the way down again when nearing the top and to repeat this process for eternity.

Sometimes it can seem that the daily, weekly and monthly grind is always getting on top of you.  It can be stressful and you know there has to be a better way that does not waste so much time but you just don't have the hours in the day to even think about it.

It can get you down

If you have a moment, develop a list of what gets you down.  I know, it may be hard to find the time to even do that.  What might be on your list?  Handling emergency stock orders?  Getting on top of a supply interruption. Reviewing every line of the stock re-order report?  Sourcing extra supply because a competitor is out of stock and if you are quick you can capture some extra sales, maybe even some new customers?  Reviewing dead stock? Explaining why there is so much excess? Digging into why the stocktake turned up such big variances?

It is all too easy to become depressed.  Mentally it can get on top of you.  When might you find the time to address some of the problems?  Next month?  In six?  It is all too easy to postpone improvement.  Just surviving could appear as the only option.

It can be much better

One of our clients achieved a five-fold improvement in purchasing productivity.  That was however after months wondering if they should change.  Another doubled their volumes while holding inventory and purchasing staff headcount flat.  It can be done.  It is most certainly worth investigating. You do not have to inject more staff into the processing.  You do not need to implement a workflow system to tie together broken decision making and order flows.  It is possible to do much, much better and it can be relatively quick and easy once you commit to changing.

Break the cycle

There are two principal strategies to help you break out of the eternal grind.  They are automation and the all-important adjustment to the new ways of doing things.

Automation can be easy providing you have the right planning tools and you have reasonably tidy master data.  We have one client who regularly places half million dollar orders with just a few minutes of reviewing.  Having the confidence in your system to do this can give you back a whole lot of your day(s).  However there are many traps for the unwary.  If you try to get this sort of performance out of the inventory planning engine of many ERP systems, you may find that it misfires far too often.  Sure if you have reasonably flat demand and a fairly reliable supplier getting it pretty right is not that hard.  But what happens, for example, with a seasonal product.  Does the planning adjust the safety stock to allow for seasonal variation and build the safety stock towards the front end of the season?  Does it increase order frequency at the height of the season to lower your cycle stock, and lengthen the replenishment interval in the troughs?  And if the bane of your life are MOQs, does it optimise cross docking to help you spread the MOQ driven purchase order stock across your network, to maximise service levels and keep stock turning fast?  The more 'exceptions' you can handle automatically and drive decisions based on rules and policies, the more time you can free up to do things that are more important, like making sure you have enough supply chain diversification to handle major supply interruptions.

The other thing however you can, indeed must do, is adjust your processes and people to new ways of doing things.  Most importantly that means having people trust the system to make decisions for them, where it has the data and 'confidence' to do so.  It will take time to achieve this level of trust but when you achieve it, the benefits can be big. You will know you have succeeded when people stop asking "Why did it do that?" and ask, "Why do I need to look at that?" and "If we could consider this more fully in the system, with these kinds of rules, then I would not need to do this."

To gain the most however it is important to be flexible and change people's roles and processes to extract the most value.  For example, you may find a lot of items are fast movers.  Whereas before you might have split responsibilities across your team based on supplier types (overseas, local for example), or based on product group (panels, lighting, motors), maybe you can look at fast versus slow movers, products that require product knowledge or simpler ones that can be handled by your newest recruit, who can rely on the system to make the right recommendations.

So you do not need to continue to push it uphill!  You can make a big and sustainable change.  It takes a little time at first but it will give you back a lot of time in return.  It just requires a commitment to look at changing, setting a series of goals of where and how much you and your people wish to improve, and then getting on with it.  You might just find in a few months, you will start looking back on the experience and wonder why it took you so long to make the change.  The ride can be easier on the other side.

The Tyranny Of (Not Enough) Time

Currently Reading

The Tyranny Of (Not Enough) Time