Daily Archives: April 19, 2011

Sustainability is a Long Term Goal

I enjoyed a recent post over on the HBR Blogs on Ford’s Impressive Sustainability Strategy that noted that a real sustainability effort requires both a short term and a long term sustainability challenge.

As the article notes, if we are running out of resources at less than 7 Billion people, imagine the situation when we get to 9 Billion people in less than 40 years. Sustainability can no longer be a fad, it must be a way of doing business. And it’s not going to be obtained with short-term quick fixes. And even if you eliminate 90% of waste from the production process, that still leaves one tenth the waste to be eliminated and, most importantly, the process is probably still using too much energy and water, which are becoming increasingly scarce resources.

Plus, market saturation is not always sustainable. Sometimes the right level of market penetration is less, not more, and sometimes users should pay a premium for the privilege of the product, or a penalty for overusing a product or service.

And, most importantly, sustainability is more than strategy. As the post points out, it’s execution.

The Voice of the Customer

As mentioned in yesterday’s post on What Can The Right Supply Chain Transformation Do For You, there are a number of best practices that should be followed when undertaking a supply chain transformation but by far the most important is to listen to the voice of the customer. Since the whole purpose of the supply chain is to serve the company and the whole purpose of the company is to serve the customer, the best supply chain is one that serves the needs of the customer from end to end and enables the company to excel in the products and services it provides.

Even when considering manufacturing, service, and raw material suppliers, the voice of the customer has a hand to play. The voice of the customer has a role to play at each stage of the supply chain mega process. Whether you are Planning, Buying, Making, Moving, Storing, Selling, or handling a Return — the customer’s needs must be considered. The following are just a few of the questions that can be asked at each stage:

Stage Question
Plan What needs does the customer have?
What products or services might meet these needs?
Which of these do we have the competence to offer?
Buy What materials or services do we need to offer the products or services we plan to offer?
What level of quality is the customer expecting?
How robust do the materials or services need to be?
Make What features are most important to the customer?
What level of quality is required?
What materials should be avoided because they might be hazardous?
Move How fast does the customer need the product?
How environmentally concerned is the customer?
Are there any special transportation requirements required to insure the product arrives to the customer as expected?
Store Where should we place the product to get it to the customer when they need it?
What are the storage requirements to maintain quality and integrity?
Sell What price point is the customer expecting?
Where does the customer expect to buy the product?
Return If something goes wrong, how does the customer expect to accomplish a return?
Where does the customer expect to make a return?
How efficient does the customer expect the return to be?

If you answer these questions correctly, then you just might have a customer who says:

  1. I need a solution.
  2. I know where I can get it.
  3. I buy from you.
  4. My order goes “in production”.
  5. My order is then put “in transit”.
  6. I get and use the product.
  7. I get support when I need it.

And that’s a successfully transformed supply chain.