Waking up to the news that the local mill is not accepting wood for the next three weeks can throw an operations manager’s morning into chaos. Suddenly, the manager must redirect the wood that was being collected on the dozens of active harvest units in the area to alternative mills. Can the transport contractors cope with the new requirements? Will harvesters be sitting idle? Do the alternate mills have the capacity to handle additional loads? Do we need to adjust the harvest plan? How will this disruption impact delivery timelines?
In the short term, numerous field crews, drivers, contractors and suppliers are waiting for an answer on how to react to this news. In the longer term, this single disruption might negatively impact deliveries to valuable clients and production targets. An ill-informed decision today could add new bottlenecks elsewhere in the supply chain and lead to lost productivity, missed opportunities, and increased costs in the future.
“It becomes very complex, very quickly,’ says Doug Jones, Senior Vice President, Solutions & Innovation at Remsoft, “These are decisions that cannot be made on the back of an envelope.”
The data challenge
To make the best decision, an operations manager will ideally have all the up-to-date information at their fingertips. In a complex forest supply chain, this includes operational variables such as current harvest and delivery schedules and actuals, information on harvest units, product volume, type and quality, machine availability and harvest rates, mill deliveries and targets, and financial variables, such as transport costs, harvesting costs and mill prices.
Of course, this data exists, but in many cases, the information is fragmented, stored in individual spreadsheets and any number of business systems. Rarely is the data combined and available in real-time as it comes together from different locations and different internal and external stakeholders in the process.
Fractured systems can prevent managers from seeing the whole picture. According to Ventana Research, four out of five companies (79%) use spreadsheets for their supply chain planning and fewer than half (47%) of companies say their supply chain plans are accurate. While supply chain planning is inherently a dynamic and collaborative process, spreadsheets reinforce silos and less than one fourth of companies say their supply chain plans are integrated.
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