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Do you buy software or transform your operations?

By Steve Simmerman | 12/22/2011 | 9:09 AM

It's been a very interesting 2011 and I've been fortunate to engage in some really good conversations with clients and prospects about technology and supply chain operations.  These conversations covered a range of topics that you would typically expect:  facility layout, material handling equipment/systems, software, etc.  However, the most thought provoking discussions occurred with senior management teams that really centered on how they wanted to use technology to 'transform' their operations in support of the business.  I did a quick look-up of the word transform and found the following definitions:

1. transitive verb - change something dramatically: to change somebody or something completely, especially improving their appearance or usefulness
2. intransitive verb - undergo total change: to change completely for the better
In particular many of these conversations focused on software and how these supply chain leaders wanted to acquire and implement software to really help "transform" the operation supported by improved processes, training for associates and continuous improvement programs that will help reduce supply chain costs as a percent of sales.  These conversations very clearly did NOT focus on "the cloud" or mobile computing or other elements of technology - the focus was how to leverage the technology to drive costs out of the equation. Sure we talked about the cloud, etc. but the real discussions centered on how their teams would actually use the technology to truly improve their operations - i.e. reduce process cycle time, improve productivity & utilization, reduce errors, waste and more. 
Many, many of the customers I spoke with were experiencing signficant growth in their business and are forced to continue 'to do more with less' in order to minimize costs.  Scott Trainor from Dell was recently quoted in an article where he discussed how Dell is transforming it's supply chain. Trainor spoke about how Dell is segmenting its supply chain:
  • for optimization and for executing lean approaches to reduce waste
  • to reduce operational complexity and increase Dell's cost leadership

Powerfull stuff!  This mirrors many of the discussions I was involved in with customers this year.  As 2011 winds down and we all catch our breath for a while, it looks like 2012 could well be the year of even more transformation for supply chain operations as it relates to technology.  We see signs of the economy recovering in many sectors and the resulting growth and impact on supply chain operations is clearly being felt.  Many of these customers have already implemented tremendously successful transformational solutions that leverage technology, but are now looking for the next 'big win' in 2012.

So here's to a roller-coaster 2011 and cheers and best wishes to all of you in 2012.  Continued success to you and your teams as you look to transform your operations in support of your 2012 business goals!

If you experienced a particularly significant transformation in your supply chain operations this year, let us know by leaving a few comments here. I'm sure the DC Velocity readers would love to hear about your success and lessons learned.











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About Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman is a Senior Director with JDA. Simmerman has more than 25 years of experience in the supply chain industry including software, consulting and material handling. He has focused his efforts on working with clients to achieve high performance supply chain results through partnerships and creative solutions. He is a member of CSCMP, WERC, and MHIA and is a regular contributor to several industry publications and events. Simmerman holds his undergraduate and MBA degrees from The University of Notre Dame.


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