Understanding the supply chain operations reference model: applying the Supply Chain Operations Reference model to military logistics can be a powerful tool to improve the Department of Defense’s supply chain
Michael B. Siegl
The Department of Defense (DOD) supply chain is a multibillion-dollar business. However, like supply chains in the commercial sector, new developments in technology, organization, and processes have not been incorporated into the DOD supply chain uniformly because the DOD supply chain is a conglomeration of different supply chains, both commercial and military. In many cases, these different supply chains are linked only by the fact that they provide supplies to DOD personnel. Because the DOD supply chain is enormous, making it even slightly more efficient could result in tremendous cost savings.
The Supply Chain Operations Reference Model
In the commercial sector, many Fortune 500 corporations have used a tool called the Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model to decrease costs, increase revenues and profits, and improve their strategic competitiveness. To achieve some unity of effort, improve performance, and reduce costs with the goal of meeting customer demand satisfaction, DOD 4140.1R, DOD Supply Chain Material Management Regulation, directed that “DOD Components shall use the supply chain operational reference processes of Plan, Source, Maintain/Make, Deliver, and Return as a framework for developing, improving, and conducting material management activities.” Therefore, logisticians should have a general understanding of the SCOR model.
Some in the military may decry the use of business best practices and solutions for military logistics problems because of the unique challenges placed on the military supply chain, especially during wartime. But, at the strategic level, military and private organizations are driven by similar opportunities and constraints. They must address the logistics issues of acquisition, distribution, sustainment, and disposition and disposal. No doubt, adopting blanket business solutions and practices and applying them with little thought to the DOD supply chain would be problematic. However, many of the problems faced in today’s DOD supply chain are the same ones that the commercial sector has dealt with or is currently facing.
Adopting business best practices that fit the military’s circumstances and using a tool such as the SCOR model can help improve the effectiveness of the DOD supply chain. The SCOR model is not an overarching strategy for supply chain operations; it is a tool that can help DOD achieve its strategic goals. Ultimately, this helps the warfighter at the tactical level.
Managing the Supply Chain
Effective supply chain management originates from understanding the needs of the customer at the end of the supply chain (the warfighter). It requires developing and establishing metrics across the entire supply chain based on those needs. The SCOR model provides a medium for looking at the entire supply chain to determine how to best meet the warfighter’s requirements. On a daily basis, logisticians gather critical data, such as order backlog, order fill time, and days of inventory stock, that, when measured against metrics, can provide the means to improve performance. Understanding the metrics used by organizations across the chain allows for better synchronization. This understanding, coupled with better management of supply and demand planning, can lead to reduced costs and better performance.
Supply chain management integrates the key business processes outlined by the SCOR model. One cannot overestimate the amount of work it will take to create unity of effort across the DOD supply chain with its numerous organizations, such as the Defense Logistics Agency, the U.S. Transportation Command, all of the military services, and the commercial industries that support DOD. However, using the SCOR model and business best practices may make it a little easier.
The Supply Chain Council’s SCOR Model
Two firms, the global management consulting firm Pittiglio, Rabin, Tood, and McGrath and the market research firm Advanced Manufacturing Research, organized the Supply Chain Council (SCC)–an independent, not-for-profit corporation–in 1996. The SCC’s goal was to develop a standard SCOR model that facilitated effective communication and a common understanding through standard terminology and metrics among the supply chain partners. It began with 69 voluntary companies and now has close to 1,000 members. These members include such diverse transnational corporations as Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Heineken, and Siemens.
The SCOR model allows companies to examine the supply chain configuration and processes. It helps identify, define, and measure metrics across the entire chain. It also helps to identify poorly performing links in the chain by comparing them to business best practices. Industry studies have shown that corporations using the SCOR model have been able to reduce total supply chain costs through reduced inventories, increased accuracy in forecasting requirements, and improved order fulfillment time.
A Process Reference Model
The SCOR model is a type of process reference model (PRM). The PRM provides a common framework for looking at various dimensions, such as business process reengineering (BPR) and benchmarking, and integrates them into a holistic analysis. A PRM analysis begins with BPR, which focuses on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the processes within an organization. The organization can look at four categories for possible improvements to its operations: resources, strategy, capacity, and technology. Under resources, people are the most significant factor, and capacity includes infrastructure and organization.
PRM also looks at benchmarking. Benchmarking quantifies the performances of similar organizations and establishes standards and objectives based on the “best” organizations. Essentially, benchmarking is the process of determining who is the very best in a particular process or service, who sets the standard, and what that standard is. PRM gives the organization a road map leading from its current performance to what the organization wants to accomplish in the future. However, just like any road map, the PRM is just a guide. It may not always meet the realities of the roads, but, like a driver traveling over unknown territory, an organization would have a difficult time achieving its strategy without such a road map.
The SCOR model contains standard process definitions, terminology, and metrics that allow an organization to describe, measure, and evaluate its supply chain processes and performance in relation to the “best-in-class” performances of similar companies. The model was designed to help organizations learn from others within and outside their industry. As a PRM, the SCOR model is able to analyze processes that cut across functional activities such as manufacturing, sales, finance, and marketing. Instead of focusing on specific functions within “stovepiped” departments, it can identify gaps or problems in the way process elements interact. This can be used to refine operations for greater efficiencies across the entire chain.
According to the SSC, the SCOR model does not attempt to describe certain business processes or activities “including sales and marketing (demand generation), research and technology development, product development, and some elements of post-delivery customer support.” These interactions and activities affect supply chain performance and, therefore, are some of the limits of the SCOR model. But the SCOR model is evolving (it is currently on version 8.0), and newer versions will hopefully account for such activities in the future. While the model does not cover every aspect of supply chain operations, it is still comprehensive. The SCOR model covers customer interactions, product transactions, and market interactions. The model’s span has been defined to reach from manufacturers to suppliers and customers, or from “the supplier’s supplier to the customer’s customer.” In other words, it is an end-to-end framework that goes from “cradle to foxhole” with some gaps in the periphery.
The SCOR Hierarchy
The SCOR model is divided into a four-level hierarchical pyramid structure that represents a plan for improving supply chain performance. The SCOR model deals with three levels of processes, and the levels progressively increase in process detail and specificity. Level 4 deals with functional and organizational tasks instead of processes. At level 4, the organization implements the supply chain changes based on the design that the SCOR model helped create.
Level 1 is the top level and defines the scope and contents of the SCOR model. This level defines the five management processes, which are plan, source, make, deliver, and return. These set the scope and parameters of all the other subprocesses within the supply chain.
Plan. Supply and demand planning is the fundamental process that runs the length of the supply chain. Essentially, an organization establishes and communicates plans for the whole supply chain, based on the SCOR model analysis. The key is balancing resources with requirements. An organization assesses aggregate supply resources and demand requirements to develop a plan that synchronizes and optimizes production, inventory, distribution, and initial capacity planning. This helps in developing a plan that can address all requirements.
Source. When sourcing stocked, make-to-order, and engineer-to-order products, an organization manages its sourcing activities and procures raw materials and services to meet its planned and anticipated demands. Vendor and supplier certification, negotiated vendor contracts, quality control, and materials receipt are included in this process.
Make. Producing make-to-stock, make-to-order, and engineer-to-order products deals with executing and managing the manufacturing, testing, packaging, holding, and releasing of products. It also deals with engineering changes and making finished products to meet the planned and anticipated demands. Under this process, an organization is concerned with infrastructure management, production status and quality, and short-term capacity.
Deliver. Ordering, warehousing, and transporting for stocked, make-to-order, and engineer-to-order products encompass order and credit management, warehouse and transportation management, distribution management, and inventory and quality control. It includes developing and maintaining databases for customers, products, and prices. This process is focused on delivering end products and services to meet planned and anticipated demands.
Return. Returning raw materials and receiving returns of finished goods include identifying the product condition and disposition and returning the product to the source. Return also deals with maintenance, repair, and overhaul.
The SCOR model also identifies five performance attributes for the supply chain at level 1. The first three attributes, which are reliability, responsiveness, and flexibility, are geared toward the customer. The next two, cost and assets, are internally focused. Linked to these attributes are 10 level 1 metrics. Organizations can use these level 1 metrics to measure if they are achieving their desired goals within their industries and how successful they are. The key is to understand that an organization is not likely to meet best practice norms in all metrics. Therefore, the ones an organization chooses to focus on should reflect its customers’ needs.
Level 2 is the configuration level. At this level, organizations analyze the material flow across the supply chain from end to end. They refine and align their processes with their organizational infrastructure based on the organization’s strategy. For example, what types of products an organization produces and how it delivers them have an effect on how that supply chain is configured.
The SCOR model identifies core process categories that an organization can configure for its own operations. As the organization separates and breaks down its processes, it can further identify areas for improvement. At this level, the organization can conduct a “wargame” analysis to evaluate the impact of various courses of action that could improve performance. Some metrics at this level are linked to processes lower than level 1, and many of these level 2 metrics feed into the level 1 metrics.
Level 3 is the process element level. This level drills deeper into the organization to detail how work and information flow throughout the organization’s supply chain. It focuses on key transactions, including inputs and outputs, and looks at objectives, performance metrics, best practices, and the systems infrastructures and capabilities that support them. At this level, the organization can validate the impact of improvements along its supply chain. Level 3 is aligned with level 2 for corresponding performance standards and organizational systems and interactions.
Level 4 is the level at which supply management practices are implemented. Activities at this level are specific to an organization and are focused on implementing tasks. These activities include focusing on organizational design, processes, systems, and individuals within the organization. These are outside the scope of the SCOR model since implementation is unique to each organization.
The Universal Joint Task List
A military analogy to the SCOR model could be the Universal Joint Task List (UJTL), which is published by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While it is not a perfect analogy, the UJTL’s intent is similar to that of the SCOR model. The UJTL serves as a common language and reference system for the military to ensure understanding across the forces. It provides the basis for the development of a joint mission essential task list that military organizations can use to identify capabilities essential to mission accomplishment.
The UJTL provides an extensive integrated list of functional tasks, definitions, conditions, standards, and metrics. Units can use the UJTL to look holistically at capabilities and training to ensure mission success. While the SCOR model is concerned with processes and not functions, it does provide a common language and reference for organizations, enabling them to communicate clearly and manage, measure, and evaluate process elements to ensure customer satisfaction.
As with most tools, the SCOR model is only a guide. The success of any tool or process depends on organizations having a clear understanding of the capabilities and limits of that particular tool or process. It also requires organizations implementing and using the tool properly to maximize its potential. Employing the SCOR model and business best practices, when adapted to meet military circumstances, can be powerful methods to improve the DOD supply chain, which is inextricably linked to commercial industry.
MAJOR MIKE SIEGL IS THE BATTALION EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THE 204TH BRIGADE SUPPORT BATTALION (ROUGH RIDERS), 20 BRIGADE, 4TH INFANTRY DIVISION. HE RECEIVED A B.A. DEGREE FROM STANFORD UNIVERSITY AND AN M.A. DEGREE FROM GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY. HE IS A GRADUATE OF THE QUARTERMASTER OFFICER BASIC COURSE, THE COMBINED LOGISTICS CAPTAINS CAREER COURSE, AND THE ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE.
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