Show us your talent!

The atmosphere is tense.  Tears are flowing.  Heart rates are racing.  Weeks of adrenaline-pumping moments are coming to a head.  This is it.  The excitement of the judges and contestants can barely be contained.  And the winner of the 2011 “I’m a celebrity and I have lost my X Factor so come dance with me” contest is…

Whichever talent show grabbed your attention this season, we are all led to believe that a new superstar is born or that an ex-celebrity’s career has been given a fresh boost.  Someone’s life has been changed forever.  Or has it?  Was this period of television frenzy really the ultimate competition or is the real test still to come?  The powerful showbiz whirlwind might well transform the winner into all sorts of delicious money-making dishes.  Or it might just mince it into tiny pieces of meat served on a sheet of tabloid newspaper.

Which leads me to this month’s subject.  Is the recession really the ultimate test for your supply chain or is the real challenge still to come?  Your finance director might think that the situation is as tough as ever, but what about your customers?  For months, you have all focussed on reducing inventories – and quite rightly so.  Without the continued actions to control the input into your supply chain, rationalise the product portfolio and revise the dynamic safety buffers, the sales slow-down could translate into dangerously high levels of stock across the business, tying up the cash you are going to need.  Everyone has been working hard to minimise the impact and manage the circumstances.  Yet the real test for your skills, processes and decisions is yet to come.  At the other end of the tunnel, the increase in demand could take you by surprise. 

Yes, boom will follow bust as surely as day follows night.  Except no one can predict whether it will happen at 06:34 tomorrow morning or in 18 months time.  So when the tills start ringing again, how will your availability and service level cope or will your customers spend their money elsewhere?  We all caught a glimpse of this struggle during the false start in 2010 when supply chains were empty and lead-times were measured in light years.  For now, keep focussed on whatever the market trend is doing.  Make sure that, when the time comes, the ramp up of supply demonstrates that your processes are truly responsive.  And smile for the camera…

Alain Vix is Account Director at Supply Chain Planning specialist Hughenden Consulting
www.HughendenConsulting.com