Karen Pretorius, Executive Consultant at KPI Cubed Supply Chain Consulting and Training (PTY) LTD wrote an article on essential tools your Supply Chain Slayers need Post Covid.
Today, in the PC world (Post Covid), experienced problem solvers are typically knowledge workers, and therefore prime candidates for WFH (work from home) opportunities. They are not around, on the floor, as much as they used to be in the BC (Before Covid) world. We need those Supply Chain Slayers to come closer, look at the problem, examine its victims, see the symptoms, to really tell the Werewolves from the Vampires.
When faced with a Supply Chain problem, we all like magical, quick fix solutions. We want it done, and done yesterday. This is why many of us go looking for the silver bullet, that quick fix that will make the problem disappear from a distance without really getting our hands dirty. We often think we can solve problems from afar, and that by just having that tool, we can make the problem go away.
But, you may have your myths and monsters tangled up – silver bullets are meant to kill one specific enemy, the werewolf, and is not effective against all kinds of monsters. If you don’t know exactly what your problem looks like it is easy to choose the wrong weapon, to underestimate the complexity of that weapon.
However, a silver bullet needs a gun, and a gun needs a skilled operator, one who can adjust for distance, height, environmental conditions, and is very accurate – the silver bullet needs to penetrate the heart. Silver bullets, it guns and operators come at a great cost, and may not even slay your problem.
What if your problem is a vampire? A vampire needs a wooden stake through the heart, to immobilise it before it is killed beheading, the most popular choice. The wooden stake is a rather cheap option compared to a silver bullet, but you still need an expert operator, a brave Van Helsing, who can get close enough to the problem to really identify it. A vampire can shape-shift, and many times in our operations, we are not exactly sure what the problem looks like, where it comes from, and how it manifests. What are the conditions that generate the problem, what feeds it, what makes it shift shape, and what will make it go away.
In classic Dracula (2), Professor Van Helsing is actually a polymath, and medical doctor. He has much experience and education. He is not afraid to stalk his prey, watch it, learn about it, and he is ready to get his hands dirty up close.
In our PC world, we WFH this and remote that, we Zoom and we Teams to solve a variety of problems in many different ways, often successfully. But nothing beats “being there” – that is why we turn on cameras, we TikTok and we Instagram- never has visuals been so popular. This is why online remote control sessions can still not beat the classic Gemba(3) – going to see the problem first hand.
Elon Musk(1) solves problems from First Principles(4), not by looking at what other solutions already exist. Up close, we can observe the problem and all its behaviours first-hand, then break the problem down to its most basic elements, to find solutions. What has worked for one company, their silver bullet, may do nothing to slay your problems.
In our businesses, we need to know what education and training makes a good Supply Chain Van Helsing. We need to give our slayers the opportunity to gain experience, examining problems up close and personal, to give them the right tools for the right situation, to enable them to be brave, determined, and hands-on, to identify the shapeshifters for who they are, and to gid rid of the problem in the most effective manner.
Revisit with your team of slayers the classic problem-solving tools, let then Gemba and Kaizen, let them 5S. These simple wooden stakes can be just the tools needed to pin down a shape shifting supply chain problem for good.
Disclaimer: Problem solving remotely using drones, GoPro’s, simulation and virtual reality or 3-D Composite simulations of course have a place as well, it is just that wooden stakes cannot be applied remotely 😊
- Dracula by Bram Stoker, first published 1897, by Archibald Constable and Company, UK available from Amazon
By Karen Pretorius