Why is the Perfect Order So Difficult?

Reading the latest research, you’d think that finding the Holy Grail would be easier than filling a perfect order. According to Benchmarking the Perfect Order, a recent study by Kate Vitasek of Supply Chain Visions and Karl Manrodt of Georgia Southern University that was commissioned by the Vendor Compliance Federation, the Perfect Order Index for 2007 was a measly 27.2%, assuming that every order was damage free (due to data unavailability for a proper estimate). Let me say it again — 27.2% at best! That means that three out of every four orders was flawed. That’s performance so bad, that it’s three times worse than the US aviation industry, the poster child for poor performance, where, on average, only one out of four flights was delayed.

After all, how hard should it be to deliver an order:

  • on-time,
  • complete,
  • damage free, and with
  • correct documentation

Think about it:

  • you know the delivery date when you agree to the order,
    and you shouldn’t be agreeing to anything you can’t deliver on
  • you know, line item by line item, what you have to deliver,
    as well as how many units are required
  • you know the fragility of your products,
    and should be packaging and handling them accordingly, and
  • you have to know the documentary requirements, especially if you’re exporting
    as failure to know can result in seized and destroyed shipments at your expense

So what’s the problem?

Well, obviously, you are!

But Why?

That’s the Billion, if not Trillion, dollar question, isn’t it? And the answer is, ultimately, that you’re not prepared for it. Why not? Although it’s hard to say in any individual case, it’s most likely because you haven’t shifted your focus from internal performance to customer delivery. In essence, you haven’t prepared for it. Instead of abondoning outdated software, processes, and metrics that focus on you for newer software, processes, and methods that focus on the customer, and allow you to get everything that really matters right, you’re still using the software, processes, and metrics that you were using 20 years ago during the quality revolution.

Let me explain.

With regards to on-time, most of you are probably still tracking “on-time” as shipped on-time with respect to whatever internal production and distribution schedule you devised. When you ship is irrelevant if the stores need it by Monday for a promotion on Tuesday that’s expected to generate tens of thousands of sales. If on-time to your system is “shipped four days before due date”, but you’re shipping by truck from Texas to Alaska, you’ve got a problem! With limitations on how many hours a driver can drive in a day and border delays, you ain’t gonna make it. You need logistics management software that understands minimum, average, and worst case delivery time requirements (by season) and you need to schedule each shipment to a different location in a large order separately.

With regards to complete, you can’t tackle it on a line-item by line-item basis, split across half a dozen shipments on two different carriers and wash your hands of it when the system says everything’s shipped. It’s only complete if it arrives complete. This means that you have to have an extensive shipment and delivery tracking system in place to insure that everything in a disaggregated order hits the checkpoints that need to be hit when they need to be hit so that part of an order doesn’t get lost. Again, just shipping it “complete” doesn’t make it “complete” if you’re breaking the order up across shipments – because then all shipments have to arrive by the designated date and time for the order to be complete. You need a web-based supply chain visibility solution that can be utilized by your partners to update progress as it happens.

With regards to damage-free, you can’t just package it in accordance with minimally acceptable padding, check a box, dust your hands, and call it a day. You have to ensure that all third parties in your distribution network that handle the product do so with the necessary care and that it passes through each checkpoint undamaged. If one of your distributors screws up and breaks something, you need to get a replacement shipment out, and maybe even expedited, before it arrives broken and useless at the customer site. Again, you need a web-based supply chain visibility solution that can record the order status as it clears each checkpoint.

With regards to correct documentation, you need to make sure that all of the documentation required by each check-point is included before it leaves your facility. These days, if you’re importing or exporting, this requires a Global Trade Management Solution, because it’s almost impossible to manage the dizzying array of requirements otherwise.

In short, unless your key metrics have been defined to be 100% customer-focussed, and you have the proper logistics management, supply chain visibility, and / or global trade solutions in place, you’re not going to be able to achieve the perfect order the majority of the time, and the perfect order will continue to be a “holy grail” when, in actuality, it should be a common occurence. The solution, like the problem, rests with you.