Supply Chain Consulting – Part 2

Read Part I
Supply Chain Consulting – Part 1

Asking the right questions to drive results

Anyone who has undertaken a major home remodeling project knows the importance of clear, straightforward, two-way communication with contractors.
It would be ludicrous to give a contractor the keys and a budget without further information—a very risky move.

Instead, active engagement in project planning and execution is required. The customer and contractor must discuss the current use of space, clarify existing problems, articulate a common vision for the finished product, and establish a budget that matches the vision. This is the only way to ensure the remodel achieves the customer’s goals.

The same situation applies to the use of a supply chain consultant. For all their expertise, confidence, and promise, consultants are not psychics. They cannot take a quick walk around a fresh produce facility and create a master plan for supply chain success. If they do make such a promise, then you’ve probably chosen the wrong consultant!

A productive start to any supply chain consulting project requires advance preparation by the produce company. Many of these requirements were discussed in the first of this two-part series, in the January 2018 Supply Chain Solutions article. The consultant will also need factual information about your organization and operations to properly initiate the project.

Most importantly, you need to share insights regarding the ‘as-is’ condition of the supply chain processes to be investigated. This includes giving the consultant a broad understanding of product, information, and money flows; current performance versus goals; and problems that impede success. You could ask the consultant to do this work, but it would be time intensive and add cost to the project.

Project outcomes and future capabilities must be articulated as well; the goal is to clarify the scope of desired changes and measures for success. Of course, a budget and timeline for the project must be established, and the consultant will let you know if expectations are reasonable in light of these factors.

With well-defined starting and ending points and reasonable expectations established, the consultant can focus on the what and how elements of the project. This transformation initiative requires the consultant to analyze the targeted operation, seek feasible solutions, and identify a recommended path. It is up to you to accept or reject the strategic recommendations and to decide if the consultant’s expertise is needed for the implementation phase of the project.

While a consulting project can focus on any number of activities or the entire end-to-end network, it is logical to focus on the primary elements of a successful supply chain—procurement, distribution, transportation, and technology. Each section identifies a typical problem addressed by consulting projects, questions the consultant and client must address, and outcomes that can be achieved.

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