Show You The Money, Part I (Supply Chain Cost Avoidance Basics)

Last week, in Show Me The Money! I asked you to apply various technologies, methodologies, and strategies to stop your supply chain from hemorrhaging cash and Show Me The Money! And if you did everything I asked you to do, it would be a great start, as it would provide you a big, fat, increase on your balance sheet, but it’s not the whole solution. Even though I only addressed every aspect of your physical supply chain from raw material mining through final delivery to the end customer, I only addressed the physical supply chain. Furthermore, I only talked about cost reduction technologies, strategies, and methodologies – and the fact of the matter is the best way to save money is to avoid spending it in the first place!

So today, we’re going to talk about the other half of the supply chain, and for those of you who want a very simple classification, the cost avoidance half of the supply chain. Just like there are four areas where the right technologies, methodologies, and strategies will save you a lot of money, there are four areas where the right technologies, methodologies, and strategies will help you avoid spending money in the first place. They are the 4 Business F’s of Cost Avoidance (as opposed to the 4 F’s of Product Design, as brilliantly laid out by Eric Hiller in his The Fourth F post on Spend Matters).

The Four F’s

  • Failure
  • Facility
  • Focus
  • Finance

According to Aberdeen’s Global Supply, Visibility, and Performance Benchmark Report, the average company has had an average of two major supply chain disruptions per year and industry average and laggard companies are only able to meet customer-requested ship dates 40% of the time. Every time something goes wrong, it not only costs you revenue (lost sales, etc.), but it costs you had cash as you usually have to take expensive action to fix it. Thus, if you could prevent failure, you could prevent costly expenditures and revenue loss that, when combined, can easily break six, seven, and even eight digits.

So how do you prevent failure? You manage your suppliers and you manage your risk. How do you do this? Through visibility, enablement, and risk-mitigation strategies. Invest in a supply chain visibility system to always know where your parts are, where your parts’ components are, and where the raw material is coming from. If your supplier has a temporary shutdown, you need to know. If their supplier runs into a problem, you need to know. And if the mining company had a shortfall, you need to know. With enough lead time, you can relay an order to another preferred supplier, inform your supplier that they may need to follow up with their supplier to make sure they have the components when they need it, or lock up additional raw materials in a different part of the world – preventing a supply chain disruption long before it happens. With a supplier enablement system, you can not only help them inform you of potential problems before they happen, making sure that such problems are resolved before they occur, but you can help them improve their efficiency, which will ultimately lower your costs even more. Risk mitigation doesn’t require a system, just good planning. Make sure you have at least two suppliers for key purchases – or if they are custom made, and dual-sourcing is difficult, make sure your chosen sole-source supplier has multiple plants where the components could be produced – preventing against disruption by natural disaster or political unrest in a specific region.

Facility can be defined as readiness or ease due to skill, aptitude, or practice, in other words, facility relates to your level of productivity. Just because you can’t do much about your labor costs, as wages are more-or-less set by the market, that doesn’t mean that you can’t maximize your return. Maximizing your productivity will allow each of your resources to do more, effectively lowering your overall cost for each unit or service you offer. In addition to the strategic sourcing, spend analysis, and award optimization systems I highly recommended you provide to each of your buyers (as such systems have been proven to reduce cycle times by an average of 66% or more), I also recommend providing them with good collaboration, e-Procurement, and Procure-To-Pay systems. Collaboration systems allow remote groups to work together more effectively and e-Procurement and PtP systems greatly simplify the actual ordering and payment processes, allowing your users to spend less time on tactics and execution and more time on strategies to reduce and avoid costs.

Come back tomorrow for a discussion of focus, finance, what-to-do, and where-to-go!