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Book Review: Supply Chain Excellence

Supply Chain Excellence – A Handbook for Dramatic Improvement Using the SCOR Model is a worthy effort by Peter Bolstorff and Robert Rosenbaum published by American Management Association (AMACOM).

At the end of this book review, I want to drive towards clear answers for the following questions and/or headings. As I review more books, hopefully, I will expand the following questions into some sort of template against which future books would be reviewed.

1. What this book is about – what are its aims?

If I were to ably classify this book, I would slot it in the category of a Map. I have classified it as a map because it is written to help you navigate the challenge of structuring supply chain management inside and outside your firm. The two authors, Mr. Bolstorff who is a SCM consultant and Mr. Rosenbaum who is a journalist, have laid out a path using the SCOR (Supply Chain Operations Reference) Model as the framework within which your supply chain can be evaluated, planned and executed. It would be a truism to say that various firms are situated somewhere along that path to excellence, the achievement and realization of the said state is unknowable, ephemeral if achieved and the mine upon which careers are built or wasted – such is the life of business.

Rather than deal with such matters of philosophy or digging deeper into what excellence really means or the like, the task at hand is to begin that project – to make a stab at Supply Chain Excellence. And the authors have a 17 week plan to get you started. While I have my sweet suspicions of the 10 step program or for that matter the 17 week project (that’s still over 4 months of work), the plan is a tight one with meetings, homework, templates, samples of charts, tables and tasks and more. In order to give users of this book/guide a context for the required changes and a backdrop for the challenge itself, an imaginary Fowler’s Inc. has been conceived and employed which is a useful device as well.

So the aims as spelt out by the authors themselves:

a. The book is meant to be a manual for anybody (specifically for someone who wants to make sure supply chain improvement is done right) who seeks a rigorous and proven methodology for systematic supply chain improvements.

b. As a working guide for using SCOR as a tool to help senior managers at every step of undertaking supply chain initiatives.

2. Who this book is for?

My take on this topic is – If you’re not in the Steering Team (which not only comprises the power players but also members of the design and project team), chances are that this book will only be good review of how the SCOR model meets the road of implementation and execution. Which is a shame, all said and done from multiple points of view. A steering team typically consists of the few – no doubts about this. Say you are a marketer – would you prefer to market a commodity such as a book to the few or the many? Sure, it is the few (in the steering team and above) who have to take decisions at the end of the day and that is what a lot of this book is about i.e. how to create that sort of a methodology based (SCOR) supply chain improvement plan and execute it. The authors have done an excellent job of writing effectively to and for this group. But what about the many – those who will actually participate and implement this new plan, who will form the links for feedback on how well the plan is working – why and why not?

3. Does the book succeed in its aims?

I believe that in one of its principal aims – that of being a working guide for using SCOR by senior managers, this book succeeds a great deal. Laying out a four month plan is a very short time to get down the path of supply chain improvement and I do wonder if this is a realistic goal as well. However, what I would think about doing is to take a look at the cycle of activities that forms the normal quarter to quarter cycle within a firm and adjust the timelines accordingly. So, while they hit one of their aims above (b) nice and square, they do miss out on a good chunk of (a) and thus also a significant market for this book. Can anyone say companion book to this one?

4. A summary of my thoughts about the book

There is a host of valuable insights about how to make this sort of change happen within an organization and the fact that one of the authors is a consultant who has considerable related experience under his belt contributes to this mine of insights. But as I have said above, this is a map and there are several maps out there not only in the area of supply chain excellence but also in the area of change management and the like. The benefit that is readily observable to me is that over the project period, a structure and ordering of activities is presented which should be mined for insights. Moreover, a set of templates associated with the structure and activities is also available for modification and adaptation.

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About me

I am Chris Jacob Abraham and I live, work and blog from Newburgh, New York. I work for IBM as a Senior consultant in the Fab PowerOps group that works around the issue of detailed Fab (semiconductor fab) level scheduling on a continual basis. My erstwhile company ILOG was recently acquired by IBM and I've joined the Industry Solutions Group there.

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