Solving the Demand Supply Maze

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Supply Chain Leaders

Solving the Demand Supply Maze

“My book, ‘The Search for Value in Supply Chains’ is a journey across different parts of the supply chain, of competing objective functions and KPIs, but at the end, an integration of several things that allows value to be created under different constraints. The current woes of supply chains and the new dimensions of disruptive change actually hold in fine balance as the world grapples with the demand side of the puzzle,” shares Procyon Mukherjee, Author, Supply Chain Leader, CXO-Advisor, Founder Prep-Gen, through this Q&A around his book…

Your book, “The Search for Value in Supply Chains” was released recently. How is this book different from the many books on Supply Chain Management?

Procyon Mukherjee

I have always thought about this question that readers of my book will ruminate and it is a very valid question that there is no dearth of books on Supply Chain Management. In fact, the subject itself is being frequently referred to when management puzzles are being taught or are solved in the business domain, so the world is replete with articles, journal references and books that deal with several aspects of the supply chains. My book is different because it is partially about my journey in the field of supply chain management and the puzzles I have taken in the book are drawn from my own personal examples and that of my teams. The experiences are real and the solutions are therefore coming from real life cases. The book itself therefore took thirteen years to write as these experiences had to mature into meaningful conclusions and I had to wait for an all round exposure to and end to end supply chain journey. So it is truly an experiential treatment of the subject in my book.

My experiences in India and in Europe, both in the upstream and downstream part of the supply chain in several of the industries where I have worked, have come out in the chapters of the book. The chapters have been sequenced to start with the customer side of the puzzle and it ends with the supplier side. 

However, it does not mean I have not referred to the best success stories that the world has seen and the book is also replete with these examples either on the demand side or on the supply side. 

I have always believed that the subject needs a puzzle solving approach leading to the deeply embedded optimisers and mathematical algorithms fructifying into a modelling that will satisfy certain objective functions; the math part can be left to solvers, the real issue is find the right puzzles to solve. This is where my book is different from the normal text books on supply chains. So while there is no math in the book, it is about asking the questions that will lead us to the math.

What are some of the key lessons that practitioners and supply chain leaders can draw from this book?

Supply chains are filled with complexity and opacity, when some parts of the problems are known, some of the parts could be unknown and then we have known ones and unknown ones as well. This leads us to optimizing using certain rules. But even in a rule based system, we struggle to find the optima as KPIs clash with each other as different constituencies try to maximize their part of the objective function.

This is an interest puzzle to have but technologies are fast changing the organizational dimensions and more and more the boundaries that used to act as a barrier to flow of results to create value is fast receding and the integration of supply chain from end to end is becoming a reality. My book explores these parts of the puzzle how organizational interfaces and principles of leadership play a role in creating better solutions than algorithms can achieve.

Logistics and Procurement are two very important chapters of the book, in some ways, these two functions remain neglected to attract management attention in most organizations, but this is actually changing very fast. I have treated with respect these functions that will perhaps outlive many other functions that are being replaced with technology. The crucial construct here is that there is more to be discovered in these two, like the Tip of the Iceberg examples I have used in the book, to demonstrate that we actually see what we want to see and therefore 90% of logistics and procurement remains in the domain of discovery, such is the scope of these functions.

Sustainability is also a subject I have dealt with in great depth. This is again a subject that we have a partial view of, which does not stretch that easily to the functions like logistics and procurement. The demand side of the supply chain must align with the supply side and in most organizations, this is a job that is being steered by no other than the CEO himself. This shows the importance of the subject that actually all CEOs are in effect the Chief Supply Chain Officers of the company, trying to match demand with supply and simultaneously developing approaches for creating the next level of customer experience that will be self sustainable. If I have been able to evince more interest in asking questions, I think I have been partially successful. 

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