Clients are struggling to keep up with customer’s changing requests. Order backlogs remain relatively high (depending on the industry), but customers are pushing orders out at the last minute, pulling orders in without notice, adding future potential orders, and changing requirements on the fly. Production is scrambling to keep up.

80%+ of manufacturers simply do not have enough skilled production and support resources to keep up with the volumes, let alone with the volatility of the order backlog and changing forecasts. Not surprisingly, executives do not want to hire more resources than absolutely necessary as they are concerned about rising input costs and the uncertainty of their order backlog. To add fuel to the fire, the supply chain has been volatile as well with global unrest, strikes, and other disruptions as well as supply chains on the move. Read our recent article on how supply chains are changing. The production resources cannot keep up with changing conditions, and triage must occur.

Our best consulting clients are engaging in proactive business processes to get ahead of changing customer conditions and sales forecasts and the impact on capacity, production and replenishment plans as well as the reallocation of critical resources. SIOP (Sales Inventory Operations Planning) is a key process and toolset for successfully navigating this volatility while maximizing output and production capacity to support revenue growth.

An Industrial Manufacturer Case Study

An industrial manufacturer struggled to meet customer requirements. Order deliveries were lagging, capacity wasn’t allocated evenly across its ten production facilities and production at a critical site had almost 1000 hours of change overs per month for nine months in a row to try to keep up with urgent customer requirements. Several large customer jobs pushed out and others pulled in, keeping Operations scrambling.

We rolled out a SIOP process, starting by getting a handle on the sales orders and potential sales orders. A weekly meeting with Sales and Project Management helped to solidify the priorities of the demand plan (sales forecast). Although customers continued to request push outs and pull-in’s, when the requests were proactively worked with the team and the ERP system was maintained, better clarity emerged.

The demand was run through a capacity model, showing available capacity vs. operational requirements by production facility. The operational requirements were bucketed in categories of firmed sales orders, sales orders waiting on Engineering release, sales quotes that were better defined, and sales quotes. By evaluating near-term capacity, priorities could be established with Engineering, short-term capacity actions could be taken (overtime, supplementing production at additional sites, etc.), and proactive customer communications could take place.

More importantly, by evaluating medium and long-term capacity, the appropriate strategic decisions came to light. For example, the critical site showed as overloaded months in advance so that Operations could reallocate customer orders among production facilities within the same region to mitigate impacts on freight cost. The model could be evaluated with multiple what if scenarios so that Sales and Operations could address the bottlenecks proactively. Guidelines were set to reprioritize and set pricing for key customers, capacity could be reallocated, additional capacity could be planned, and capacity offload options explored.

The key is the connection between Sales, Project Management, and Operations and Engineering. As customer requirements change, capacity scenarios need to be reevaluated and impacts reviewed. Proactive communication and collaboration is a critical piece of SIOP to keep demand and supply aligned and optimized.

SIOP Maximized Production Output & Capacity

By seeing the demand and capacity picture in advance with SIOP, the executive team could maximize production output and capacity. They could do this by proactively addressing bottlenecks to level load the plants so that the scheduling teams could optimize the production schedules to increase efficiencies and reduce waste. By running like items, sizes, and material types together, changeovers are minimized. And by seeing the final assembly schedule requirements, labor and resource plans could be optimized.

Also by reviewing the full capacity requirements across all North America sites, capacity could be reallocated to maximize output, thereby minimizing the need for offload capacity. Each plant’s strength could be maximized and planned in advance while minimizing transfers between plants, freight to customers, and material price differences.

By addressing these supply plans proactively, materials contracts could be addressed in advance ensuring material availability which positively impacts manufacturing planning and output. It also typically provides opportunities for more favorable contracts and pricing. In addition to maximizing production and capacity output, SIOP improved the customer delivery performance, resulting in happier customers and additional revenue possibilities.

SIOP: A Look Forward

In our book, “SIOP (Sales Inventory Operations Planning): Creating Predictable Revenue and EBITDA Growth“, we discuss how SIOP can support these types of improved results. As companies navigate the exaggerated volatility of the global environment and try to keep up with changing customer needs, SIOP becomes an essential tool in the toolkit to survive, let alone thrive. Our best clients are utilizing SIOP as a way to take control of their future and manage their options instead of letting their situation manage them. In fact, they are taking SIOP to the next level with advanced technologies and by connecting SIOP to their customers and suppliers to gain an end-to-end supply chain view.

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Optimizing Business Decision Tradeoffs with SIOP