The Death Industry’s Supply Chain

Dying is a complicated business.  No one really plans for it in advance.  For those who are charged with the affairs of the ones who pass away, there is always so much to do and limited time to do so.

Funeral service providers have become more than just parlours where proprietors prepare the deceased for burial.  They have evolved into invaluable assistants in helping bereaved families retrieve the remains of loved ones from the hospitals, prepare legal documents, and make available facilities for relatives and friends to get together. 

Many funeral providers also offer cremation services, which instead of burial, the deceased’s remains are burned and the ashes placed into urns or vessels.  Families would then inter the urns in niches at a columbarium, the final resting place for cremated remains often located at the grounds of religious churches. 

Cremation has become a popular option due mainly to economic reasons if not for the expediency it provides.  Many families do still opt for the traditional interment of late loved ones at cemeteries and funeral providers do help in the paperwork and burial assistance.

Cemeteries and columbaries are typically separate entities that funeral providers and the bereaved of the deceased deal with.  On top of needs such as urns and coffins, funeral providers also procure materials (e.g. chemicals) for the preparation of the remains either for cremation or burial.  They also supply paraphernalia, such as flowers, guest books, cards, and placeholders.  In some Asian countries, these paraphernalia include banners, streamers, incense, ceremonial clothing, and paper money.

The business of sending off the dead is a complicated one that requires a supportive supply chain. 

Demand first of all is not certain.  The dying do not arrive in steady predictable numbers one day to the next.  Funeral service workers may be idle one week with few arrivals only to find themselves working overtime the next due to a surge. 

A friend of mine who works in the funeral business says that arrivals are few in number usually before Christmas but many towards the end of a calendar year.  “It’s as if those close to death are scheduling when they will go,” she said. 

Funeral providers by experience keep stock of coffins and urns in anticipation of those surges but they sometimes still run out.  Coffin makers would always be busy even if their market share has dwindled due to the growing preference for cremation and urns.  Churches and private groups have invested increasingly in constructing columbaries to make available more niches.  And funeral supply shops always make sure they have enough paraphernalia for the traditional rituals families would hold for their departed loved ones. 

During the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 to 2021, funeral providers were challenged.  Health protocols forced the temporary closure of chapels but caused a spike in demand for cremation. 

Funeral providers who already had cremation facilities didn’t feel fortunate; they had limited capacity on how many can be served in any one day.  Service crews were also not allowed to report to work every day to avoid risk of infection. 

The queues for cremation grew as a result and so did the demand for coffins to temporarily safe-keep remains while they waited their turn.  This surprised the coffin makers who believed their businesses were becoming a sunset industry.  They found themselves busy when they thought they would no longer be needed. 

Funeral providers lengthened operating times to accommodate the continuous arrivals.  They did so carefully.  Cremation furnaces needed to cool off and rest for at least a few hours a day.  And one cannot speed up the burning.  The process had standards to follow to ensure completion and thoroughness. 

What funeral providers gained in cremation revenue, they lost in the drop in the demand for venues and paraphernalia.   But for my friends in the funeral business, that didn’t matter.  As the pandemic raged on, they found no time to reflect. 

The dead just kept coming.  They had to keep on working. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Supply Chains Must Have These Five (5) Traits

What’s all the fuss about supply chains?

An Evergreen container ship, the Ever Given, got stuck at the Suez Canal in late March 2021.  The solution was simple:  dig out the sand it’s grounded on and tow the ship to a nearby lake.  Unfortunately, because it’s a big heavy ship and the Suez Canal is a narrow shipping lane between Asia and Europe, a traffic jam of vessels ensued at both ends of the canal. 

The media jumped on the Ever Given’s predicament and soon enough, it became a global talk-of-the-town.  Supply chains became a hot topic as media analysts speculated on shortages of merchandise as container cargo ship arrivals were delayed due to the logjam. 

The Ever Given’s saga at the Suez Canal riveted the world.  It created so much buzz that weeks after the ship finally was freed, people were still talking about it and more so about supply chains. 

One stuck ship had created so much fuss.

Supply chains have been the focus of media attention since countries started locking down their cities and territories at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. 

At first, media reported shortages in food, personal protective equipment (PPE), and supplies.  Then there were the reports about transportation bottlenecks in air and sea freight due to restrictions at borders and ports. 

More than a year later, by March 2021, the news shifted toward cargo congestions at North American ports, spiking consumer demand, shortfalls in semiconductor chips leading to automotive factory shutdowns, and the lack of available shipping containers as international trade picked up

And as vaccines became available, just about every so-called expert raised the spectre of not enough injections for everyone due to weaknesses in global supply chains.

But is all the fuss pointing to real problems in supply chains?  Or are they just exaggerations exacerbated by media and analysts seeking attention?

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted just about every enterprise on Earth.

  • Many saw the emptied grocery shelves and many more waited in long lines to buy medicines and toiletries. 
  • Farmers threw away vegetables and poultry business owners cut production as inventories grew and demand fell.  There was plenty of food available in 2020 and then there were the shortages, particularly meat, in 2021; 
  • It wasn’t easy for some of us to find spare parts for fixing our cars, trucks, or motorcycles.  This was especially true as some car dealers and shops closed due to lockdown restrictions. 

We realised how fragile product supply chains can be in the era of the pandemic.  And as a result, we have seen the supply chain landscape changing before our very eyes.

So, yes, there are real problems in supply chains and no, the media weren’t exaggerating about those problems. 

The Ever Given wasn’t a wake-up call but the media attention is.  Supply chains need to be managed in a different light after all the disruptions enterprises have experienced. 

Where do we start? 

I recommend identifying what traits a supply chain should have:

  • They need to be proactive especially when it comes to demand.  Demand is a primary driver of supply chain flow and if it was already hard to predict what customers will buy, it was even more so during the pandemic and likely stay that way in the post-pandemic eras.  Supply chain professionals need to be at least one step ahead in anticipating, capturing, and cultivating demand in the planning and execution of customer fulfilment services. 
  • Many executives believe supply chains need to build in resilience.  Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulties—to spring back into shape after a shock.  I don’t fully agree.  Resilience implies that enterprises roll with the punches of disruptions, taking in hits and then healing afterward.  In my opinion, enterprise supply chains should learn to parry; they should build in resistance to whatever a bad disruption may bring.   Supply chains therefore should be versatile.  Enterprises shouldn’t just be ready to adapt or resist disruption; they should also be ready to initiate disruption.  And what does an enterprise need to manifest that?  Versatility
  • Supply chains must be productive.  Productive not as in efficient but as in performing effectively towards meeting and exceeding enterprise goals and strategies.  Supply chains are not generic.  Though they may share common standards such as service, cost, and quality, the extent of how each individual supply chain performs depends on the mission of the enterprise each works with. 
  • Supply chains need to be organised.  This is not just about having a structure that puts functions like purchasing, manufacturing, and logistics under one roof.  It’s also about having unified systems that connect and encourage vendors, enterprises, and customers to collaborate to a common cause.  
  • And last but not least, supply chains must be sustainable.  No, not the environment-friendly kind of sustainable but the type in which an enterprise can count on its supply chain for a perpetually reliable supply of resources, such as products, materials, components, energy, human resources, and/or working capital. 

Note that I didn’t mention digital as a needed trait.  As of now, I don’t see it is a needed trait despite what many may say.  Yes, it’s a whole new world and a whole new normal with e-commerce more dominant than ever and with technologies trending towards artificial intelligence, blockchains, and cryptocurrencies.  But as much as they will be hard to ignore in the near future, supply chains don’t need to be digital as a trait.  Supply chains would need to go digital as a means—a means towards being proactive with demand, versatile, productive, organised, and sustainable

About Overtimers Anonymous

Why Shifting from the Month-End Surge to Delivery by Demand is Common Sense

“We just have to live with it,” the General Manager replied. 

The GM was responding to my comment that month-end surges in sales orders were causing inefficiencies in the company’s logistics operations. 

I was presenting an operations assessment report to a company that distributed name-brand computer printers and accessories.  One of the key observations from my report was that the majority of sales orders (more than 50% of monthly sales) came at the end of every month.  Staff from sales, accounting, to logistics rushed deliveries to fulfil the orders and meet revenue targets.  Sales personnel counted on the deliveries to achieve if not beat their quotas and benefit from incentives. Not attaining the targets and quotas was simply not acceptable.  

The company is an exclusive distributor for a large name-brand supplier of printers.  The supplier dictated the monthly sales targets.  The supplier expected the company to meet those targets from month to month, no questions asked.  Hence, the company’s General Manager said that month-end surges were something they could do nothing about.  It was something they had to live with. 

Many executives do not want to shift from the practice of month-end selling and delivery.  “It’s not for discussion,” a consumer goods wholesale executive once told me when I said the monthly surge in deliveries was causing her firm’s transportation expenses to rise.  The executive did not want to change a practice which has become so ingrained in the company’s culture.

Executives don’t dispute that month-end surges bring about inefficiencies and high costs throughout the supply chain.  Surges cause stock run-outs as inventories deplete quicker than suppliers or manufacturing lines can replenish.  The surges also drive up inventories of customers which result in increased product returns especially for products with limited shelf lives.    

Logistics expenses increase as month-end surges strain storage and transport capacities.  Some firms rent additional storage to stockpile products in anticipation of sales surges.  Transport providers tend to sub-contract additional trucks to ensure there are enough vehicles to meet the demand.  Both the additional storage and transport capacities result in higher delivered costs for products.    

Month-end surges are sometimes coupled with periodic sales promotions and price changes which fuel more spikes in orders and delivery volumes.  Surges thus cause a “bullwhip” effect in which the up-and-down delivery volumes and resulting peaks and valleys in inventories amplify speculations throughout the supply chain. 

Executives are reluctant to move away from month-end surges because they fear lower sales will result.  They are afraid shifting from month-end sales would cause a decrease in revenue which they can ill afford in organizations that especially measure performance by monthly targets.

Moving from month-end sales to just deliveries driven by demand is common-sense logical.  It’s just not accepted given the anxiety it would cause among executives. In a demand-driven supply chain, one delivers only what and when it is needed.  The fear is the demand and the subsequent sales might not be up to par with immediate targets.

A downturn in sales would indeed be expected as customers would exhaust overstocked inventories from any previous surge.  In succeeding months, demand would pick up and sales would average closer to what would have been with month-end surges.  But executives would have to have faith that that will happen and executives don’t like to count on faith. 

Stakeholders in many companies measure executives via short-term targets.  Stakeholders want to see continuous growth in their company’s finances especially if they expect dividends and bonuses every year.  Creditors, such as banks who provide loans, also want to see continuous short-term gains to assure themselves that they will be paid the interest and principal of what they lent. 

The month-end surge is a manifestation of short-term thinking.  Shifting from the month-end surge requires changing one’s mindset from short-term to long-term management.    

When delivering only what is needed and when it is needed, all functions of the organization have to work closely together.  Sales needs to forecast future demand from the grass-roots level or from the end-user, whether that be the customer or the customer’s customers.  Marketing would support sales where it sees demand is lacking or where there is potential.  The supply chain from logistics, manufacturing, and procurement would have to build in a capable system and structure to anticipate the demand.  Sales, Marketing, and the Supply Chain, most of all, would need to communicate and come out with a consensus of action every time they review actual and forecasted demand. 

Attaining higher sales is not a product of individual sales persons or a result of incentives for just one group.  It is the product of teamwork.  Any challenge in fulfilling demand and achieving targets can be met if the organization works as a team. 

And isn’t that what organizations are supposed to be doing in the first place?

About Overtimers Anonymous

Originally published in LinkedIn May 06, 2019

Balancing Unstoppable Production and Benefiting from It

I used to work in a flat glass factory. 

The flat glass factory I worked at used float technology.  It starts with a furnace that melts raw materials such as silica (sand), soda ash, dolomite, and limestone.  Molten glass flows from the furnace to a tin bath, a chamber of molten tin, in which the liquid glass from the furnace floats on the molten tin to produce an almost flawless sheet of flat glass. 

Float glass factories run continuously.  Shutting down is out of the question because it risks damaging the furnace and tin bath which would result in lengthy cleaning and expensive rebuilding. 

Re-starting a float glass facility is likewise very expensive.  Restoring the flow of float glass requires tedious re-calibration operations and the difficult pulling of the liquid glass from furnace to tin bath.  

I know because I participated in one such operational re-start.  It was hot, time-consuming, and it cost the company I worked for a lot of money. 

The economics of keeping a float glass hot and running outweighs any temporary shutdown regardless of whatever the demand for glass is.  Unless it’s a permanent shutdown, flat glass companies will keep their float glass plants running no matter what. 

Float glass plants typically produce a minimum of 450 tons of sheet glass a day.  Glass companies, however, believe there is enough demand to absorb the daily unstoppable production.  Never mind that glass demand fluctuates with the highs and lows of the construction and automotive industries.

Unstoppable production is a reality in several industries.  Steel manufacturers have blast furnaces that cannot be shut down.  Petroleum corporations cannot outright stop the output of oil wells.  Farmers cannot reschedule harvests. 

We are taught that the purpose of supply chain management is to fulfil demand.  How does one then balance the management of unstoppable production with the swings of customer demand? 

Unstoppable manufacturing dictates the need for efficiency.  Ongoing production operations means ongoing supply of materials, supplies, and labour.  There has to be enough storage space, materials handling, and transport to handle the continuous manufacture of products.  At the same time, enterprise executives need to ensure that there is demand for what is continually produced.  Sales and marketing managers would strive to find buyers or markets to sell whatever is made.

Continuous production, however, should not be the centre of attention.  Selling products to keep manufacturing operations efficiently running should not be the sole purpose of supply chain professionals.

Customers and what they want should always be the focus.  There should be a balance between supply and demand in which the supply chain operations aim to meet customer expectations at the same time reap the benefits of such for the enterprise’s stakeholders.   

Flat glass companies market a variety of products.  They sell custom-cut window glass for buildings.  They produce coated glass window panes that insulate homes from the heat of the sun and thick glass sheets for furniture tables.  They sell glass for car and truck windshields.  They also sell glass that are used for solar panels and photoelectric cells.  The variety of products sums up to a high demand which justifies the continuous production of flat glass. 

Agricultural enterprises also allocate harvests in a variety of ways.  Fruit companies sell outright to wholesalers and supermarkets and at the same time export to other countries.  They also sell to fruit processing enterprises which manufacture canned and preserved items. 

Supply chain engineers (SCE’s) can help unstoppable producing enterprises by focusing attention on distribution and inventories.  They can help managers determine how much of what product to make, how and where to spread the items, and how much raw and packaging materials to buy and store. 

Oil companies, for instance, invest in storage tanks and lease super-tanker vessels to temporarily store production when demand is low.  The companies would dispatch the super-tankers to position their stock near to buyers who would be ready to purchase them when demand recovers. 

SCE’s can also help find out what kind of product to make and keep.  For example, SCE’s can determine how much work-in-process inventories to make instead of finished items.  Steel and metals manufacturers produce heavy rolled-up coils and ingots which they later convert to items such as bars, parts, sheets, plates, and pipes.  With the help of SCE’s, manufacturers can set inventory policies for work-in-process products and devise customised make-only-when-needed systems for finished items. 

Manufacturing is not a quick on-and-off kind of operation.  There is a cost when production facilities halt and re-start.  As much as possible, production lines should operate continuously, for efficiency’s sake. 

Efficient production, however, is not the end-goal of supply chain professionals.  Fulfilling customer demand is.  An unstoppable production process exists because of the confidence an enterprise has in selling all of what it would make.  Balancing the flow of product from vendors to manufacturing to logistics to customers should always focus on delivering to customer expectations and in terms of what enterprise stakeholders seek in terms of their organisation’s strategic mission and goals. 

An enterprise can make plenty, deliver plenty, and profit from plenty, with the help of supply chain engineering expertise. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Four (4) Supply Chain Scenarios and What to Do When They Change

We don’t know when it’s going to rain.  So, we build dams.  Dams are reservoirs, inventories of fresh water.  Having a reservoir assures an adequate supply of water to meet the continuous demand of communities. 

Magat Dam, Luzon Island, Philippines http://bagong.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/flood

A large printer company does not how many books its customers will buy tomorrow.  Paper prices and supply are also not predictable.  The company therefore stocks up on paper and negotiates contracts with potential customers.  Company executives have to take care to not have too much paper on storage or not too have too many customer orders coming at one time.  It’s a balancing act of supply and demand but that’s just the way it is in the printing business. 

Supply chain managers face a myriad of challenges in their operations.  But one can categorise some of these challenges when it comes to inbound materials and outbound finished goods.  The following are four (4) such categories or scenarios:

  1. Unsure Supply, Sure Demand

Demand is known but supply is not.  As in the example of the dam as water reservoir, demand (i.e. water consumption) is certain but supply (rainfall) is not.  Supply chain professionals would put much time and resources in predicting supply or finding alternative means to maximise it (e.g. cloud seeding, drilling wells).  They would also be investing in enough capacities for inventories (in this case, the reservoir) to assure demand is always met. 

2. Sure Supply, Unsure Demand

Supply is assured but demand is unknown.  People who have new products talk about this scenario a lot.  But this also applies to products with not-so-long life-cycles such as attire and accessories from the fashion industry.  In such cases, supply chain managers tend to stock up on finished products to ensure availability.  But because finished products are the most expensive type of inventory, supply chain managers spend a great deal of time and money in policies and systems to make sure they only have enough—not too much and definitely not too few. 

3. Sure Supply, Sure Demand

Supply and demand are certain and predictable.  This can sound like an enterprise’s idea of a business dream come true but there would still be work to do for the supply chain manager.  In such a scenario, the focus would be on reliability, that is, making sure that the enterprise’s processes are operating efficiently and delivering to the satisfaction of customers.  This can be easier said than done especially for enterprises that have complicated manufacturing operations (e.g. chemical refineries). 

4. Unsure Supply, Unsure Demand

The nightmare opposite of number 3?  It’s a reality for many enterprises who market products such as consumer goods, machinery & parts, and household appliances.   Enterprise sales managers would constantly be guessing demand (what they would call forecasting), while supply chain executives would be unendingly negotiating long-term contracts with vendors, at the same time managing inventories of materials and merchandise. There would be pressure not only to minimise working capital but also to ensure availability of items to customers.   One key take-away strategy for this scenario is collaboration—working with vendors and customers.  

These four (4) scenarios may sound over-simplified given the reality of issues that surround supply chains (how expensive materials are, where they originate, the shelf lives of materials and products, number of products the enterprise sells, etc.).    

But they provide a starting point for Supply Chain Engineers (SCE’s) to devise systems that synchronise the flow of merchandise through supply chains to generate productivity and competitive advantage. 

SCE’s can help managers calculate capacities and set inventory policies for unsure supply and/or unsure demand scenarios.  SCE’s can also work out manufacturing reliability improvements, labour work-place settings, and equipment maintenance methodologies that would cover sure-supply / sure-demand scenarios. 

As 21st century business becomes more dynamic, SCE’s can help enterprises anticipate changing scenarios.  SCE’s, for instance, can study the feasibilities of outsourcing production versus building in-house capacity given any of the different supply and demand scenarios.  SCE’s can also plan contingencies for logistics such as determining how many trucks an enterprise should buy for itself versus how many should be outsourced to 3rd party providers.  SCE’s can also offer ideas for flexible production systems such as cellular manufacturing and fast-changeover assembly lines. 

Enterprises face different scenarios depending on their business environment.  Supply and demand of what they buy and sell may be certain or they may not.  Whereas enterprise managers resort to inventories and capacities to make up for any uncertainty, supply chain engineers offer help not only in optimising for whatever scenario but also in anticipating to whatever changes that may come.

Supply chains can be complicated; supply chain engineers make it less so. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

What is the Right Way to Serve Customers?

A manufacturer of metal parts hires a management consultant to help stimulate sales.  The consultant at once suggests the manufacturer prioritise production of its top twenty (20) best-selling items. 

The manufacturer thus makes one month’s worth of stock of each of the twenty (20) top-selling items.  Three (3) months later, the stock is hardly selling.  Meanwhile, customers complain that they haven’t received their shipments of items that are not on the top twenty (20) best-seller list.  Pending orders is equivalent to one (1) month’s average sales and the manufacturer simply has no stock to serve the orders. 

What happened? 

The management consultant had analysed the manufacturer’s sales history and listed the manufacturer’s top selling items based on their average sales value over the previous year.  The top twenty (20) items constituted 80% of the manufacturer’s sales that year.  It therefore seemed logical to have on stock those twenty (20) items.  It was easy to see that the top twenty (20) items have a high demand history. 

The manufacturer hired a supply chain engineer (SCE) to do something about the pending orders and out-of-stock problems.  The SCE analysed the manufacturer’s operations and observed that the manufacturer produced 1,800 individual items or stock-keeping units (SKU’s) in that same period of twelve (12) months.  Most of the customer orders the manufacturer received, however, were delivered late and many others were cancelled due to out-of-stock. 

The SCE noticed that the management consultant based his recommendation to produce the top twenty (20) selling items on the following analysis:

The SCE broke down the daily histories of the top selling 20 items and saw that each item had an erratic demand behaviour, in which for one (1) item, it looked like this:

Not one of the top twenty (20) items was selling at close to the overall average quantity at any day or even any week throughout the twelve (12) months surveyed.  Each item would experience very high demand in one or few orders but hardly would any item be selling close to average every day or every week.  The variance between average demand and each day’s demand over a year was very large. 

The manufacturer sold more than 1,800 unique items over a one (1) year period and most of each item’s sales were limited to one or two orders sometime during that same period.  Some items did have frequent daily sales but they were in small quantities.  The management consultant’s list of top twenty (20) did sell up to 80% of annual revenue but the manufacturer was losing potential sales from unserved orders of other items.   

The management consultant thought that producing and having stock of the top twenty (20) best-selling items would bring higher sales as based on historical numbers.  The consultant, however, didn’t see that customers didn’t need the said items every day.  A few customers with big projects bought large quantities of the top twenty (20) items in one or few orders. Other smaller scale customers ordered much fewer pieces of metal products at any one time and for certain items, more frequently.  The consultant didn’t realize that the manufacturer’s items were not needed every day, or even every year. Customers only bought for projects or for maintenance needs; items were only needed periodically.

Further studies by the SCE showed that some customers ordered each of the top twenty (20) items only once.  It would be a different customer ordering for a large quantity.  There was no uniform demand pattern.   Customers buying plenty of an item were probably buying for one-time projects.  Customers buying smaller quantities were buying for fewer requirements. 

And because they were for projects, customers would have unique specifications for the items they needed.  A customer’s order of an item was often different from that of another.  Some customers would want better finish on an item; other customers would deem the item’s finish as is as all right.  Even if basic specifications were consistent, it was commonplace for the manufacturer to do additional work on an item as per a customer’s request. 

The manufacturer therefore was really customising items more than making the same items over and over.  Sales orders very often had instructions for how products would be finished, cut, and packed.  Some customers required very tight specs, others did not.  Some customers wanted their items cut to certain sizes.  Some customers wanted more stringent packaging; some were satisfied without any packaging at all. 

The manufacturer’s order fulfilment system did not take into account these frequent instructions.  The information system had on file more than 10,000 items and it was found that many of the items were similar to each other.  In other words, every time a customer order was received, it asked for an item that was made before but with slightly different specifications.  The accounting and IT groups were constantly entering “new” items into the information system. 

The SCE therefore suggested that the manufacturer re-develop its customer service strategy.  The SCE suggested the manufacturer refocus the order fulfilment system from one that sells based on a fixed inventory of items to one that is based on customisation.  Instead of having a system like a grocery store, the system should be like a machine shop—i.e., only make an item when there’s an order.  The SCE also recommended that the manufacturer only keep stock of needed raw materials, not finished items. 

A large metal manufacturer a few kilometres away was actually doing that kind of thing.  His inventories of finished goods were limited to stocks that are about to be shipped.  He only kept at most a month’s worth of raw materials (he thought that already was too much) and he had no backlog of pending orders.  Every item that was made had its own unique identity unless it was a repeat order to the same customer. 

The SCE proposed a system in which the manufacturer’s sales representative would prepare quotations for customer inquiries.  When a customer is interested in an item, the sales representative would quote not only price and quantity but also confirm specifications and schedule of deliveries.  The sales representative would coordinate with a joint sales and supply chain support team that would translate customer inquiries into a quoted proposal for the customer.  The quoted proposal becomes a sales order upon negotiation and agreement between customer and sales rep. 

The supply chain team would keep stock of raw materials which happen to only number to less than twenty-five (25) items or stock-keeping units (SKU’s).  The stocking strategy would be independent of actual demand but would take into account large spikes as in when a customer conveys interest for a very large order.  Again, the sales and supply chain support team would ask the sales representative to negotiate delivery schedules to take into account the manufacturer’s capabilities to buy raw materials and produce the needed item. 

How demand is fulfilled varies from industry to industry, enterprise to enterprise.  One should study demand based on customer behaviour, not on overall totals or averages. 

One should also tailor the supply and fulfilment of demand to the needs of customers.  At the same time, one should always be aware of the system’s capabilities.  Customers may be always right but the enterprise is not one with unlimited power.  There has to be communication and collaboration via negotiation and mutually beneficial agreements that would address price, terms, and supply. 

There has to be a right way to serve an order.  Not for management, not for consultants.  But for customers. 

About Overtimers Anonymous