A lot of hype is being made about Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning, but is it really ready for use in a business?
After 25 years of working at The Dow Chemical Company, I have decided that now is the time to start a new chapter. It’s been in incredible experience and throughout the years I have had the pleasure of working on so many challenging projects with a ton of amazing people, a lot of them that I will sorely miss.
When my daughter recently asked if I would do it all the same, I had to think about it. The roles that I’ve most recently held at Dow are closer to I/T than anything else, a far cry from the production engineering where I got my humble start back in 1993. It’s my backgrounds in manufacturing principles, S&OP, and supply chain combined with solid I/T skills that have provided me with a unique skillset. If I’d studied I/T in college, I never would have had those experiences and certainly wouldn’t be doing anything remotely similar to what I am doing today. So, would I do it all the same? Absolutely! I just may have been a bit less patient about matters.
From the very beginning of my career, I was involved in S&OP. In my first position as a plant engineer, I took on the horribly named role of “Business Needs Resource Engineer.” Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? This role, however, was transformative for me. The role was to engage with the S&OP team; understand what assets would bring the greatest benefit to the business in the near term; identify de-bottlenecking opportunities in these assets; and ultimately work to resolve those bottlenecks. The expectation was to have quick wins in the plant aligned with the immediate needs of the business. It was a wonderful role and opportunity that taught me how S&OP is only a meaningful process if it is connected to actual work.
I reflect on this role now and realize how many organizations have it wrong. For many organizations S&OP is just a series of meetings and reviews to be prepared and navigated. If you’re lucky, nothing bad will come about. It can and should be so much more.
A little later in my career I worked in a toll manufacturing business. Going in, I did not have an appreciation for what these folks do on a day-to-day basis, but “chaotic” doesn’t even come close to describing it. Every day the plant was processing and handling different chemicals in different ways. Imagine if your cars controls changed every day. For example, your right-turn blinker moves from the handle that you’re familiar to a button on the radio. That is the sort of change the folks in this industry face every day. To manage it, you would have to get out the instruction manual and read what lever controlled what each day before heading off to work. What I learned, and was amazed by, was the operators and technicians had no problem dealing with this amount of change. They were used to it. Change was an integral part of the job, and they accepted it. As much as we want to keep things the same for consistency and comfort, change is inevitable and a very good thing.
More recently in my career, I’ve led huge global I/T implementations and learned one core principle: the importance of a balanced approach. I’ve seen teams focus all of their efforts on the technical I/T solution only to find the data maintenance strategy not sustainable. I’ve seen teams push massive process changes upon end users with no change management strategy only to find that nobody changed their behavior. And I’ve seen technologies that just did not work. Through these observations and my own personal failures and wins I’ve learned only a balanced approach works when implementing new I/T solutions.
As I approach this next chapter in my professional life, it’s only appropriate that I take these experiences along with me and leverage these valuable lessons learned as I launch Bullwhip Solutions.
I look forward to putting these three principles into practice for my clients, which include:
- Integrated Business Planning must be connected to how work gets done
- Change is possible and inevitable but must be managed carefully.
- People, Process, Tools and Data are all required to successfully operate Integrated Business Planning
I’m incredibly excited to leverage my 25 years of experience to help other companies improve by optimizing what they already have and adopting the tools that will take them to the next level. This is truly where my passion and talents collide.