Whilst watching the Rugby World Cup over the last few weeks, it was impossible not to notice the referees. Almost every match seemed to feature a controversial decision and, with the benefit of hindsight, the referees sometimes got things wrong. Of course, hindsight is perfect. It’s much harder to make the correct decision in the heat of the moment with play unfolding around you at speed.
What does all this have to do with the supply chain? As the title of this post suggests, it struck me that the Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) at many companies is in a similar situation to a rugby referee. All businesses operate according to policies and procedures, just like a rugby match, and the CSCO is often tasked with managing any conflicts between the teams from supply and demand.

Poor games and results are always blamed on the referee

The CSCO is responsible to make sure that a business delivers within the rules and produces a fair result. Like those World Cup referees, the CSCOs can find themselves in a no-win situation. They are under pressure to keep the game – or the business – flowing, and not hold things up too often by crying ‘foul’. Yet at the same time, they will be criticised if they miss an incident.
Once the game is over, the criticism really begins. The analysts study every incident from multiple angles and review decisions. Those decisions are looked at again and again with the luxury of time. A luxury that was not available when those decisions were being made. It is often a thankless task.

Help is at hand

At least the referee now has some help – the Television Match Official (TMO), who can use replays to analyse an incident and provide close to real-time support for the referee. That may not be true for CSCOs, who often lack even basic support (touch judges) and rarely have access to the equivalent of a TMO.
This lack of support can result in cancelled orders (under-supply) or a build-up of inventory (over-supply). The consequences of both are very negative, and companies can lurch between the two, or even worse, to both, and this can spiral out of control.
A tool like Capgemini’s Digital Supply Chain aims to get the company out of this trap. It is a comprehensive solution that brings highly qualified resources (touch judges and TMOs) and supports them with access to real-time data. We use multiple sources of data (lots of different camera angles) to create a well-informed view of the situation. The CSCO can interrogate this information to get a true picture of what is happening in the business and the market.
Hence, it enables our referee ‒ the CSCO ‒ to make better decisions, more quickly. The game flows faster. There is less post-match criticism. And unlike a rugby match, everybody wins.