Drilling Down on Collaboration

Collaboration, and the need to get serious about it at all levels of the supply chain, was a key word heard frequently in the meeting rooms and hallways at last week’s CSCMP conference in San Diego.

For the second straight year I joined Dan Gilmore, the editor of Supply Chain Digest, as a “guest contributor” on one of his increasingly popular Video Reviews. These wrap-up and comment upon the three days of sessions and I was Dan’s sidekick for the Day 2 review.

In that review Dan and I discussed a fabulous presentation by Whirlpool and Lowes at the conference.  The session highlighted how Lowes and Whirlpool have taken collaboration to a new stage, doing what is in effect a joint Sales and Operations Planning  (S&OP) process. Gilmore said they are calling this alignment a “Merchandising and Operations Planning” exercise to get sales and marketing support. It starts with a collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment (CPFR) process that is used as the baseline for the subsequent planning processes, he continued, and it involves a series of cross-company meetings each month and one integrated plan across both companies.

Of course this kind of joint integration doesn’t surprise me because more and more I see companies driving collaboration down to the supply base.  And it definitely does not surprise me coming from a company such as Whirlpool that has such a great reputation for pushing the envelop with adopting progressive business and supply chain concepts.

In essence Lowes and Whirlpool have created a collaboration where they realize they both have a vested interest in each other’s success. That’s called growing the pie and using the strategic relationship to bake a bigger pie by working together and working holistically from end-to-end, rather than micromanaging the chain. You can watch the Day 2 review with Dan Gilmore’s comments about their fabulous session.

This is the kind of collaborative thinking between manufacturers and retailers that makes ultimate sense, avoids unnecessary duplication of efforts and puts the people involved with the whole process in the same room and on the same page.

Of course, it’s right in the Vested Outsourcing wheelhouse and in particular, Rule 3 which instructs us to agree together on clearly defined and measurable outcomes. Without a high degree of collaboration, trust and flexibility that kind of agreement is just about impossible to achieve.

The Lowes and Whirlpool alignment also gets to a level of supply chain integration that’s frequently talked about but now is actually happening.

On a personal and highly pleasant note, I’m pleased to report that Palgrave Macmillan, the publisher of my book, Vested Outsourcing: Five Rules That Will Transform Outsourcing, has nominated it for a 2010 American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence. This is known as The PROSE Awards, and I’m deeply honored and gratified. Thanks to everyone!

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