Leo Lin first got involved in his company's sales and operations planning (S&OP) process five or six years ago. At the time, Monster Cable was facing big changes in technology that were affecting product lifecycles and demand forecasting. Lin's assignment was to discover ways to reduce inventory, increase turns and manage costs. "Through that process," he says, "I realized there are a lot of benefits [to S&OP]. You get to be involved in a lot of the battles way ahead of [your] financial results coming out."
It was an S&OP platform that allowed the various departments within the company to come together and share information on a weekly basis. At the beginning, says Lin, it was a "painful" process that took an entire day to enact. Now it has been reduced to just three or four hours a week. Each Thursday morning, all key company functions - including finance, sales, product development and supply chain - meet to exchange sell-through data and information on new-product launches. They consider such issues as the impact on cash flow of a boost in inventory.
It's essential that the data be accurate, Lin says. By sharing across traditional "silo" walls, Monster ensures that all employees are in agreement on the facts. And Lin gets an early look at critical supply-chain intelligence, rather than waiting until the end-of-month close.
Making it work was no easy task. "It's a mind change," says Lin. "Everybody has to be willing to drop the barrier of their territories and share information. It took us years to come together. We still consider ourselves [to be] taking baby steps, and we're working every week to make it better."
Visibility of information allows the company to manage its financial performance in a much more effective way. On the demand-planning side, managers embraced the Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment model, engaging in weekly calls and monthly meetings with retailers. Monster is also doing a better job of communicating with upstream suppliers.
Lin urges financial executives to get involved in S&OP. "You're going to see great benefits," he says.
To view this video interview in its entirety, click here.
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