This author had the opportunity to attend the Kinaxis Kinexions customer conference last week. Among the customer presentations there was a rather insightful talk from a supply chain executive at Ford Motor Company. This presentation delivered by David Thomas, Director of Global Capacity Planning at Ford was titled, Creating Global Standards Across Regional Sites, provided important insights on building and adopting global-wide data and business process standards without the use of traditional waterfall based program and change management methodologies. This technology effort underway at Ford is so different and novel, and conference attendees were citing this presentation as noteworthy and insightful. Thus are we sharing the highlights with our broader multi-industry cross-functional supply chain readership community.
Since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, the Ford Motor Company has been focused on “One Ford”, a series of foundational initiatives directed at overhauling unaligned management and business processes. This umbrella initiative was designed to address Ford’s internal tendencies toward regionally-based independence in P&L, product development and product value-chain strategies. Rather than operating as a single global based company, the emphasis was more toward disparate, top-heavy independent operating divisions. As was the case with many other manufacturing companies, the “near-death” experiences of the financial crisis provided the wake-up call to the requirement that Ford had to change.
Indeed, Ford was able to quickly bounce back from the financial crisis but Thomas described hitting another wall by 2011. Unforeseen global capacity restrictions were hindering growth. The major supply disruptions brought on by the devastating tsunami that impacted Northern Japan, and the major floods that effected Thailand’s automotive sector were another reminder that the company’s overall sales and operations planning was not globally aligned for capacity and resource based decision-making. That prompted the need for a global capacity planning initiative that would be able to coordinate global response to capacity and supply alignment needs based on singular planning data.
This global capacity planning team soon concluded that there were no existing global standards related to product and capacity data across Ford. Spreadsheets were the dominant planning mechanism, with differing dimensions of data and information that hindered any global perspectives to dimension problems or to assess resolution actions. Thomas described the prior dominant atmosphere as being described internally as “dumpster diving for data.” The team quickly came to the conclusion that a global-wide set of data standards supported by a single global planning system had to be initiated as quickly as possible. However, the initial goal was to provide consequential evidence that global-wide data standards would result in far more effective capacity and resource planning.
Rather than traditional system program management, the steering team elected to focus on a faster innovation cadence, that of two-month development processes. A total of 14 cycles of fast innovation focused at building management credibility on the business value of a globally aligned data supporting a common S&OP framework. Thomas described the selection of a pilot development window as a purposeful effort to uncover needs and provide more positive evidence to the business value for global data and information standards to improve decision-making. These efforts included painful methods directed at mapping data tables and building simplified Excel based extraction tools. Eventually, a cobbled together single view of global and capacity that included all regions, markets and major components was developed, enough to convince senior management of the value of a singular, authored, S&OP framework. Thomas described this pilot phase as advocating that a lot of little adjustments with improved visibility can save hundreds of millions of dollars.
This initial pilot effort provided the impetus to secure formal approval to move forward in the development of a global-based S&OP systems support initiative that remains underway across Ford. It is being designed to move away from a current monthly planning process to more agile, better-informed and more predictive planning.
For the subsequent phase of off-the-shelf application selection and implementation, the steering team again avoided a big-bang, multi-year waterfall planning effort that would involve as-is and to-be state analysis, and instead elected to go with a tops-down approach. Thomas indicated that the steering team avoided waterfall global workshops to depict future state needs because: “nobody would ever agree.” Thomas’s described a viewpoint that people are often conditioned by the tools they currently utilize to perform their jobs. Instead the effort was directed at the expectation that Ford will have a global S&OP system framework that would launch on-time without major business disruption.
The agile development approach carried over, and development teams now work to what was described as continuous two-week development milestones. Rather than assemble and allocate on a full-time basis a dedicated global team of Ford employees to manage overall implementation, a decision was made to utilize dedicated externally based experts, those that were not anchored in Ford’s past practices. The people who will ultimately utilized the global system work alongside the external team during the review phases. The current effort is described as including 9 dedicated resources from Kinaxis along with resources from Deloitte, Prana Consulting and Ford’s internal IT staff. Efforts are now underway to build full data transparency across all product demand and supply, along with provisions for regionally-based S&OP efforts that are collectively based on a more timely, global based planning data.
Thomas indicated that Ford is about 6-9 months away from global launch of its singular S&OP process framework. It was described as a big-change for thousands of people who do not really want their existing jobs to change but do want their jobs to be easier in the needs for gathering common, more insightful and meaningful supply-chain wide data that can provide for more informed decision-making relative to line-of-business and functional supply chain goals. Then again, a continuous development cycle is already providing the evidence of the benefits of a singular planning data model along with the value of managed scope efforts that stream continuous economic benefits for the business. Gone are the days of big-bang implementations that risk business disruption and significant added costs of change management and implementation.
Supply Chain Matters extends praise to Ford’s ongoing transformational planning efforts and we look forward to learning more about the post implementation results.
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