There are certain stock images associated with Valentine’s Day: flowers, hand holding, heart-shaped everything, especially candies. Every sweet manufacturer seems to have its own Valentine twist on its product.
Candy: it’s such an unassuming piece of sugary happiness, and one thing we’ve added to our headquarters office front desk is a whole dish full of it. There’s a pretty big selection of candies in the dish, from mini chocolate bars to hard fruit-flavored candies, soft chews, mints, et al. The office has consumers in the form of employees and visitors to the office who enjoy all the different types of candy available, with the chocolate being, perhaps not surprisingly, the favorite among them.
It occurs to me that there’s a mini S&OP process arising that keeps the candy dish bringing joy to the office. First there’s the tracking of which candies and candy types disappear the fastest, how much of which type to order so as not to take up too much valuable stocking space or to hold onto any type of candy too long. There’s the process of changing out the candy types every few days to keep the dish interesting to our consumers while ensuring the new and untried types are going to actually be eaten and not lie ignored in the bowl. What suppliers are going to deliver the types of candy we want with the best balance of availability, speed of delivery, and cost to us? Where do we get a candy we want in event that one of our suppliers runs out?
For our suppliers, where did they get their candy? How many wholesalers did they work with to bring us variety, and how many manufacturers did the wholesalers work with? How many other manufacturers did each of those manufacturers deal with to get each ingredient for their candies, and how many raw material suppliers did they work with to get things like corn for making corn syrup, cacao and milk for making chocolate, seeds for making dyes, or sugar cane for refining sugar?
How much S&OP did each of these companies use for their own products? What happens if just one link in the chain is broken at any given time—how would the chain persist on its course with the least disruption, and how much would they have to inflate final costs to keep production going?
Talk about big data.
How many hands did all this go through, how much planning was involved, and how many hours of work were put in just so we have our bowl of sugary happiness at work?
S&OP and supply chain management touch our everyday lives, every day, often with not too much thought on the consumers’ end except that they’re enjoying their favorite types of candy. It’s a gentle reminder that good S&OP is like good manners: when done right, its presence goes largely unrecognized, but its absence is certainly noticed.