October 12, 2011

Work from the same page

Two companies detail how they are using data tools to develop a common basis for decision making.

By Peter Bradley

It seems clear enough that all parts of a business ought to work toward the same goals. But supply chain professionals have long struggled with cross-functional collaboration and making decisions that benefit the entire supply chain.

At one of the opening track sessions at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Annual Global Conference in Philadelphia, two companies shared their budding efforts to use a relatively new set of data tools to help their companies develop a common basis for decision making.

The companies, sporting goods manufacturer and distributor Easton-Bell Sports and pharmaceutical and medical device maker Hospira, discussed their efforts during a session titled "A New Supply Chain Paradigm." Both firms are using a set of software tools to gather and analyze company data that will offer what the tool's developer, Competitive Insights, calls "one version of the truth."

This "one version of the truth" can be especially helpful for companies such as Easton-Bell Sports, which consists of many different sports equipment brands such as Easton, Bell, Giro, and Riddell. To make decisions across these multiple businesses, the company needed to be able to manage substantial amounts of data—especially because the company has a high number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) and a wide range of customers, according to Hornsby. By persuading multiple functions to use the same sets of data, Easton-Bell has helped to get all parts of the company on the same page, says Hornsby. As a result, the amount of debate over such things as managing SKU obsolescence has been greatly reduced.

Similarly, Hospira had historically struggled with getting data out of its network, according to James Hardy, senior vice president of operations. "We had the data in many systems," he said. "Production management, sales, and warehouse management [data] were all in different systems." By pulling all that data into one version of the truth, Hospira gained insight into costs and profitability by product line and customer, according to Hardy. "We've learned a lot," he said. "We found some things we thought we were doing well where we were [actually] not doing as well as we should." In one instance, he said, the data analysis showed that if one channel fulfilled orders once a week instead of three times a week, the company could save $3 million a year.