I had the opportunity to provide the consultant input for the latest Manufacturing Business Challenge eNewsletter series featured by IndustryWeek magazine.

The challenge is one that may be very typical of your current organization which may be experiencing some initial positive signs of new customer demand, but may not be adequately prepared to respond.  As some early signs of recovery in business begin to appear, companies sometimes feel reluctant to augment existing supply chain capabilities in fear of an over reaction.

CortConnect  (a hypothetical company) is facing a number of simultaneous business challenges brought about by the effects of current business conditions.  These challenges include past downsizing in inventory and production operations affecting any ability to rapidly respond to new business, a downsized sales force, uncertain suppliers, and an overall workforce that is too heads-down to even consider improving work processes. 

Do these symptoms sound similar to your organization?

My recommended approach advises companies in this similar situation to focus on three broad and important capabilities:

– Strong demand-sensing to be able to pick-up on the early signs of upswing in customer demand, as well as the flexibility in sales and supply chain processes to be able to respond to whatever variations of demand that your customers require.

– Existence of robust supply chain business intelligence and analytics capability that can uncover potential bottlenecks before they become major problems.

– Investing in existing staff with broader training and business process capabilities.

You can view the full challenge as well as my recommended response at the following IndustryWeek link I also encourage you to participate in the interactive poll which can provide immediate feedback as to how other organizations are viewing these same challenges.  There is also a link available for you to provide commentary on my proposed approach, or you cam also share them in the Comments section noted below this posting.

One final note.  Many supply chain organizations have had little choice but to cut staffing to the bone because of the effects of this severe global recession. I made the observation that in some situations, when overloaded existing staff has no choice but to be “heads-down” in trying to manage day-to-day needs, it may be a wise investment to bring-in a consultant who can lay the groundwork for responding to a recovery in business. An unfortunate byproduct of current conditions is that businesses summarily cut budget for external consultants.  Now may be the time to consider engaging an experienced supply chain process consultant as an objective set of eyes that can assist your organization in being prepared for business recovery.

I can certainly assist your organization in overcoming similar challenges, in either an overall processes check, or assistance in validating supply chain best practice or transformation strategies. For more information on consulting capabilities, you can review The Ferrari Consulting Group web site.

Bob Ferrari