St. Onge Company Links Supply Chain BlogStrengthening your supply chain one link at a time. 

Keys to Successful Network Optimization

Through my personal experience of working on or managing well over 100 network optimization projects over the last 13 years, I have found several key factors vital to the success of supply chain strategy and network optimization projects.  Certainly, this list is not exhaustive, but these have risen to the top of my list.  Also, many of these can be considered critical for other types of projects within your organization.  I am not going to focus too much on data quality and availability as this may be a separate topic for another blog.

  • Well defined project scope and objective(s) – A well-defined project scope creates a clear direction for the project team. I have found it keeps everyone engaged, morale high, and the project momentum maintained.  Clear objectives help minimize scope creep and the team can focus on the true question(s) to be solved.  Aligning on this up front can help ensure that the project will complete on time and remain within budget.
  • Upper management support and sponsorship – Clear direction from the top leadership ensures that the team understands the project is a priority for the organization. Upper management can also remove roadblocks that arise such as resource availability and prioritization.  Also if management is supporting the project, it is more likely that the results of the project will get implemented.
  • Project Milestones – Milestones create clear project stages and check points for the team. Each milestone is a chance to have the project team, and often stakeholders, weigh in on key decisions.  Milestones ensure everyone understands that a certain piece of the project is complete and it is time to move onto the next phase of the project.
  • Proper Level of Detail in Analysis – In order to answer the questions at hand (see “Well defined scope and objective(s)”), it is important to go to a sufficient level of detail in the project to maintain credibility, but not too much detail as to create difficulty in managing complexity and risk losing the focus on the strategic task at hand. Network projects start with collecting data, a lot of data!  Some data is clean and others not so much.  Projects can stall if a team continues to stumble on collecting clean data.  Experienced network modelers understand when assumptions can be made in the absence of data and which assumptions will or will not affect the accuracy of the study.
  • Project team focus and prioritization – After data collection, the majority of the effort of the supply chain strategy or network optimization project falls on the consultant and less effort/time from the client project team. However, clarifications, assumptions, and key decisions will need to be made during the project.  It is important that the project team is accessible and responsive to answering questions in order for the project timeline to be maintained.

There are just some of the keys to a successful network optimization project from my experience.  Best of luck on all your supply chain projects with your organization!
—Brad Barry, St. Onge Company

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