For the uninitiated, the world of Supply Chain Management (SCM) can seem a bit daunting at first. As a still-developing business science, SCM perhaps rivals the early days of information technology (IT) in its unabashed use of buzz words, acronyms, and value propositions that simultaneously seek to simplify, demystify, and glorify the systems, processes, and ideas that color the doctrine of SCM. To help greenhorns accustom themselves to SCM terms from the most basic to the extremely esoteric, the University of Wisconsin's Fluno Center for Executive Education Web site—among other online sources—offers definitions for some 150 supply chain management acronyms.
Forget EDI (electronic data interchange). While it is on the list, it is overshadowed by the more descriptive electronic data interchange for administration, commerce, and transport (EDIFACT). Other standouts include non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC), relational database management system (RDBMS), and automatic guided vehicle (AGV) as best of breed (BOB) SCM acronyms for the novice to become versed in. To be sure, computer-aided design (CAD), customer relationship management (CRM), and request for quote (RFQ) are all terms most pro dealers will already be acquainted with, and thankfully there's even an acronym for forklift truck (FLT) should you need to more seamlessly communicate with yard and delivery staff for a better overall return on investment (ROI).
Even without all the acronyms, supply chain management in and of itself can seem like a complex endeavor holding different meanings for different parties. Heading into this special issue of PROSALES dedicated to supply chain management, several editors and contributors (including yours truly) wrestled with an adequate SCM definition to guide our coverage of the technologies, people, companies, and ideas that exemplify SCM at its best within the construction supply channel and beyond. But in the end, there really is no one-size-fits-all summation of what SCM is or what it can ultimately do for your company.
As you'll read on the following pages, SCM benefits can be attained by leveraging global positioning satellite (GPS) technologies for streamlining delivery logistics or can involve a more complex collaboration with third-party logistics providers (3PLs) like UPS for outsourcing internal inventory distribution and external product delivery. Some dealers are tapping into vendor Web portals for conducting special orders that are shaving days off custom door and window lead times, while others are completely revamping their approaches to how they communicate and operate with employees and customers alike. Despite the multitude of strategies and the varying degrees of implementation, I think the ultimate conclusion is that, at its heart, supply chain management is an effort to collaborate with your customers and vendors to do business more quickly, efficiently, and profitably.
At first glance then, a special issue of PROSALES devoted entirely to supply chain management might seem redundant. Making business more efficient? Moving product and processes more quickly? Creating a greater profit for ourselves, our customers, and our suppliers? Surely these are endeavors that any pro supplier worth his salt has been doing for decades, and some for more than a century. Therein, I think, is just one key to unlocking SCM and transforming it from a static doctrine to a new business generator. Supply chain management need not be complex, and indeed may encompass efforts—from installed sales to inventory management—that already have your attention.
Demystified, SCM reveals itself as a philosophy of doing business that merely demands a rededication to focusing, somewhat intensely, on the possibilities for making industry practices and processes from the national to the local level better than they are today. It's a dismissal of the “same old, same old” in favor of a constant commitment for upstream and downstream business process improvement, which, of course, has an acronym, too (BPI). With technology evolving, consolidation accelerating, and cost containment taking center stage in a slowing construction economy, that spirit of progress within SCM is more applicable now than ever.
Our supply chain management issue—with thanks in full to Weyerhaeuser, which sponsors the issue but leaves 100 percent of the editorial decision-making to us—should serve to clear some of the clutter and assist you in your own journey of self-improvement. Good luck.