Article: Why technology is not the answer

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Why technology is not the answer

AUGUST 21, 2018
Author: Rob Garrison
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‘If you automate a bad process you make bad things happen faster.’ Rob Garrison
Many consider technology to be a magic bullet of sorts. A lot of press is being devoted to the great new technologies coming out such as IOT, AI, BlockChain, and Machine Learning. It’s hard to argue with the promise of many of those technologies however unless they are applied to sound business practices they may have the opposite effect of their promise.
By understanding the existing process, you can first eliminate unnecessary steps, then refine those that remain so that you get the intended results. One of my first assignments at a retailer was to find a technology to automate visibility for our inbound shipments. The existing method involved a team of people who tracked the shipments via phone calls, websites, email, and spreadsheets. Before we searched for a technology, we spent some time interviewing the people who did the work and uncovered several steps and processes that were either no longer relevant, else were necessary but weren't currently achieving the intended result because they were poorly constructed. Many of these processes had developed over time and were often the result of something going astray and the panic that ensued.

For example, we had a step in the process to create a report for the VP of Merchandising on every item that was more than two days late from scheduled in DC. When we asked the VP what she used it for, she said it was because they had missed an ad date. Turns out the missed ad date incident had occurred nearly two years earlier and the cause of the miss was a situation that this report wouldn’t have solved. Worse, the VP acknowledged that she was no longer looking at the report because there hadn’t been another occurrence of an ad miss.

This type of scenario happens all the time, and if we hadn’t taken the time to understand the work, and how the work was utilized, we would have simply automated a useless report that produced no results. Instead, we dug into what had caused the ad miss (vendor quality issues) and how we could better manage that issue – which we discovered was an ongoing and costly issue overall. The result was including a vendor quality feature in our new tracking tool that saved us thousands.

Another issue related to ship windows. The buyers were complaining that shipments ‘were never on time’. As it turned out, the buyers were writing very ‘generous’ ship windows (up to 10 days), which meant the vendors could be considered on time, however the shipments would almost be guaranteed to be early or late. Had we automated the generous window process we would have embedded a nearly 75% failure rate. Instead, we examined and re-wrote the ship window process and on time performance immediately improved. Next, we layered technology onto the new ship window process so we could see results in real time, and improve them even faster.

If you have a good process, and you add technology, you make good things happen faster!

The Mercado Import Management System (IMS) begins with process, so you can make good things happen faster and eliminate bad things from occurring.

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