Not long ago I wrote an article entitled “Who Has the Power—Your Planners or Your Expeditors?”
In that article, I said:
“The people doing the firefighting and expediting have the real support of top management. The C-suite recognizes that—despite what the fancy and costly planning systems told them—the real money is made by PROTECTING FLOW, and that’s precisely what an expeditor’s job entails.”
Actually, I thought it was a pretty keen insight myself.
Well, despite my own sense of keen insight, I am well aware that there are plenty of folks brighter than I, and with sometimes-deeper insights than my own.
Not long after the article was published, I was contacted by Simon Eagle. Simon is a partner at CAMELOT Management Consultants, and author of a recent great book entitled Demand Driven Supply Chain Management.
I still think I was right in the top part of my assertion: it is the people doing the firefighting and expediting that have the fullest support of top management under most circumstances. I have yet to be at a company where I’ve heard senior management, or even middle management, say:
“Look! I know what the expeditor thinks ought to be done in order to get these shipments out the door on-time and complete. But, I don’t care. A plan is a plan, and we’re gonna stick to what our highly-paid planners have already told us to do. That’s final!”
No, sir! I’ve never heard it, and I don’t believe I ever will hear it!
About the “protecting flow” part
I even believe that Simon Eagle agrees with me on that part of my statement.
However, here’s where he disagrees. Simon says this:
“I would argue… that expeditors are not supporting flow where it's about to break. [Instead], [t]hey are adjusting the speed of material movements to prevent backorders. [However], in doing so, they are actually disrupting flow and creating further variability generated buffers – [queue] time, inventory, and use of capacity. [P]perfect flow [is] when materials move non-stop through the supply chain to customers allowing 100% capacity utilisation and no static inventory.
“In forecast-push MRP, the destructive expediting is continuous because the wrong demand signal is being used. With DDMRP there is an absolute minimum of expediting because the [supply chain] has been configured to flow in-line with demand. [H]ence all the very significant performance benefits [resulting from DDMRP implementation].” [Emphases added.]
Here, I must confess, Simon is right and my statement was off-the-mark.
In fact, the expeditors’ constant disruptions to flow and increasing of variability in the supply chain help assure the continuing need for expeditors and firefighters!
The more expediting done today, the more likely it will be that expediting of other things and processes must be done tomorrow, or some other day in the not-too-distant future.
In terms of job security, then, expeditors and firefighters are their own best friend—along with the C-suite executives who are willing to pay their wages, plus the additional overtime, plus the excess freight charges, plus the surcharges for rush orders, and so forth, ad nauseum.
Simon Eagle wasn’t afraid to call me “wrong,” and make me think a little deeper. (For which I am grateful, by the way.)
Now, it’s your turn. If you think I’m all wet, let me know it. Leave your comments below, or feel free to contact us directly, if you’d prefer.