|The best supply chain is invisible, but an invisible supply chain gets no recognition in your average company.|
This is the one lesson they don’t teach you in Supply Chain 101, probably because they don’t want to discourage you given the upward battle we still face in our chosen discipline of Supply Management.
The sad reality is that, outside of Disney, as expertly explained in this recent post by Christopher Sciacca over on Supply Chains Rock, your average company, or at least your average employee in your average company, has no knowledge of this paradox. Just like your average person is unaware of Bernoulli’s Paradox or even the Birthday Paradox.
At a Disney theme park, the supply chain function is invisible from visitors, who never see a delivery truck or van on the premises, or shelves being restocked by employees. Visitors get the feeling that all of the food and merchandise somehow magically shows up exactly when it’s needed. Disney accomplished this by building a one-square-mile-wide labyrinth below the park’s main streets, called the “Utilidor” that feeds goods to the park attractions surreptitiously and that is stocked with a three day supply of inventory at all times to ensure merchandise is there when needed.
In a smoothly flowing supply chain, raw materials and components show up almost just-in-time (JIT) at the plant that is producing your goods. Then the boxes are waiting at the other end to package them, and as soon as the boxes are filled, the palletizer is there to pallet them. As soon as the pallets are full, the pallet jacks are waiting to load them unto the truck that just pulled up to take them to your distribution centers. Etc. Etc. Engineers don’t have to worry about raw materials or components being late or in insufficient supply. Loading dock personnel don’t have to worry about needing extra temporary storage as the trucks are there when the order is complete. Etc. Etc. Not only do they not have to worry about supply chain functions beyond their jobs, but your job looks like it’s the easiest job in the world because, like magic, everything (and everyone) is there when they need it. As a result, the better your supply chain runs, the less respect you get in an average company for doing a “hard” job because you make it look so easy.
That’s the supply chain paradox, and one of the reasons we still don’t get No Respect.