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Top 4 Challenges in S&OP and How to Solve Them

Supply chain operators face more pressure than ever to build lean, efficient processes across every business function. It’s not enough to assume that lean S&OP strategies and best practices will be enough to drive competitive advantage—companies need to look ahead at the biggest challenges facing the industry and see how their own processes could be updated to support long-term growth. Here are four of the top challenges that your S&OP department could be facing, and how to solve them.

1. Omni-channel Experience Management

The days of single-channel marketing are over. In truth, they’ve been over for a while, but until recently, omnichannel advancements were primarily the domain of B2C. Today, a quality omnichannel experience is something that every company needs regardless of who they’re serving. This applies to your supply chain as much as anything else, and it’s by no means a quick fix. 

Omnichannel means immediacy; it means delivering the exact experience customers want across numerous channels. Generally, omnichannel efficiencies for S&OP involve adjusting logistic operations, fulfillment processes, inventory management, and general supply chain visibility. These functions must be coordinated across all channels—brick-and-mortar, eCommerce, and mobile—while maintaining consistency. This is no easy feat without some type of visibility solution to hold things together and connect inventory, shipping, and distribution channels across all assets. 

2. Sourcing the Right Talent

The sprawling, global nature of modern supply chains hasn’t quite carried over to talent acquisition. While the BLS forecasts a 7% job growth for supply chain logisticians through 2026, across the board we’re seeing organizations struggle to find supply chain operators who have the technical, analytic, and evaluative skills to support supply chain transformation. 

It’s becoming common for companies to outsource supply chain functions through consultants who have specific competencies. Long -term S&OP efficiency relies on consistency and familiarity with each supply chain’s specific flows. Companies should prioritize recruiting and partnering strategies that bring qualified talent into the pipeline early. Backed by this foundation, it’s easy to scale talent up or down through outsourced consultants as needed.

3. Coordinated Supply Chain Visibility

Remember when supply chains used to be (relatively) small, simple things managed by one or two providers? Things work a little differently these days. Even modestly-sized supply chains have numerous legs:

  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation
  • Sales
  • Warehousing
  • Order Management
  • Distribution

Just to name a few. Under the traditional supply chain model, all of these services are provided by separate vendors who live in silos, creating a disjointed and obscure supply chain.

This is a growing concern for companies of all sizes. In a supply chain visibility survey by Aberdeen Group, 91% of respondents agreed that better visibility was either a medium or high priority for improvement. Modern supply chain resource planning solutions include visibility platforms that aggregate data from every vendor system to create a 360° view of supply chain performance. 

4. Understanding System Scalability

Note that this isn’t poor scalability in general, but rather, supply chain operators having a poor understanding of what it means to “scale” their supply chains up. Some work under the assumption that bigger is better; that growing the supply chain is the same thing as improving it. Clearly, there’s a disconnect here.  

Of course, it’s certainly true that companies working with outdated legacy systems will struggle to upgrade their supply chain S&OP. However, in our experience, companies are more limited by knowledge and information gaps than hardware limitations. Their data is too disconnected across each vendor to be analyzed for meaningful insights, and without this visibility, they scale in the wrong places. In other words, they make their supply chains bigger, thinking that they’re improving their capabilities, but all they’re really doing is making their systems more vulnerable to disruption.

Learning how to integrate better visibility into the supply chain will be a key aspect of scalability strategy for supply chain operators moving forward. 

The Future of Supply Chain S&OP

S&OP for supply chain management is growing fast, and from what we’ve seen, plenty of companies are feeling the pressure. Addressing the needs of customers through modern supply chain solutions means being proactive with supply chain optimization and giving new S&OP resource planning tools their due. And chief among these tools, visibility solutions will offer companies the biggest advantage—both today and in the future. 

What are some challenges you’re facing? ketteQ can offer you a unique advantage over the competition while saving you money with automation and in-depth analysis. Request a free demo to learn more.