Expert Insight: Why Leadership Is Vital To S&OP

Interview with Dwight Critchley, Director of Global Supply Chain Planning at BlackBerry


Dwight Critchley is the Director of Global Supply Chain Planning at BlackBerry. He has over 20 years experience in supply chain management and finance, managing complex business challenges across functions, disciplines, and geographies. We sat down with him ahead of the S&OP Innovation Summit, which takes place in Boston this September 22–23.

How did you get started in your career?

I fell completely backwards into supply chain. I started my working life in restaurants of all forms and factors. I started as a dishwasher when I was very young and over time progressed to restaurant management. At the end of my food service career, I was an Ops Manager for a large Multinational Corporation, and I loved it. Restaurants are never boring, always changing, they are full of people and they are fun. Unfortunately, the lifestyle is murder on your social life. You are always in your stores and your customers are most demanding at night and weekends… as I got older I didn’t see too many successful marriages in the restaurant world and realized I needed to make a change.

While I was pondering what to do next, a colleague got a line on a job at a local factory producing leather wrapped steering wheels. They were looking for an 'afternoon shift expeditor'. The money was horrid, the hours were awful, the overtime was relentless and the environment was completely foreign… I felt like a fish out of water. It was a tough slog for the first 3 months and I really questioned daily what I was doing. The work was a new definition of misery and wildly interesting at the same time.

The parallels between a restaurant (esp. Fast Food) and supply chain are remarkable. Raw materials in one door, processed through your kitchen (manufacturing) that require repeatable processes, sometimes make to stock – sometimes engineer to order, delivered through distribution (wait staff) direct to your customer. Your customers demand impossible levels of quality, expecting for low cost, finicky and unreasonable… and the most important part of your business if your customer so you had better figure out how to make them happy.

Marrying Raw Materials, Process, Equipment and People to make a finished product – after a short time, the factory felt familiar. The root of all success is a good plan, the ability to forecast, the ability to execute and the willingness to be flexible.

From my position as expeditor, I expanded from role to role to where I am now. I didn’t plan to land here – but I wouldn’t change a thing.

S&OP has undergone something of a resurgence in recent years, what do you think has been behind it?

I think the world is just faster. And when we think we have caught up we realize we are behind… sometimes so far behind it feels like first place. Data is big now, decisions are buried in millions of ones and zeroes and someone is developing nanotechnology so we can compress data even faster.

I think the decision-making process is more confusing, we expect instant results, and we have replaced patience with technology. For a short time, we abandon what is working for something that we think is working better. But, in the end, we return to what we know.

The resurgence of S&OP is based on using what is and what was working. It draws out the right data, slices through the geopolitical garbage every organization has, and creates a platform for decision making and clear direction.

Is IBP a progression of S&OP, or is it just an issue of semantics?

It can be both but I believe IBP is about marketing and branding. Somewhere, someone is saying we have 'mastered' S&OP and we need to take it to the 'next' level. IBP seems to fill that thirst for progression especially for those that are more advanced in S&OP than others. IBP isn’t a bad thing – it is to me 'advanced S+OP' and it shifts the focus beyond supply chain. It is more than nomenclature but I don’t think this is a wholesale planning revolution either.

What do you think are the main benefits of S&OP? Where do think some companies fall down?

The biggest benefit is communication. It makes everyone look at the business long term and forces all the pillars to put their cards on the table. It should eliminate the hidden agendas and drive the organization to data-driven decisions. Plans are strategic, results are planned and expected… the business becomes more stable, repeatable, and predictable.

What do you consider the most important aspects of an effective S&OP strategy?

Leadership… the leadership needs to be willing to see and hear the unpopular. If your S&OP session feels like an Executive 'yes' session, then just stop and use the time for something else.

S&OP sessions need to be well structured and well planned. They can be confrontational and that’s ok. But real decisions need to be made and sometimes there will be discussions around things that are not terribly popular.

Which technologies do you see as having a major impact on S&OP in the future?

IoT… the internet of things and splitting of the information atom will have a profound effect on the world of S&OP. The planning 'bucket' is getting smaller. Once upon a time we talked about the 'quarter' , then 'month ends'... now we talk about days and weeks – some are into 'in-line' sequencing. IoT will drive the conversation towards minutes and hours as real-time data become more and more connected.

What will you be discussing in your presentation?

The Basics – the foundation for running S&OP successfully… Come watch – it will be fun.

You can hear more from Dwight, along with other industry-leading executives, at the S&OP Innovation Summit in Boston. To register your interest, click here.

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