On the Road to S&OP Perfection

Bram Desmet
Jun 15, 2023 9:32:58 AM

The Solventure Customer Life Cycle

For more than 15 years, we’ve been implementing S&OP (Sales & Operations Planning) processes and tooling, and I can tell you honestly: not all of it went smoothly. I’ve had difficult discussions with clients who told me: you are the expert, you have done this before, you should have told me what we were in for. For those same 15 years, we’ve been preaching that you need to combine people, processes, tooling and analytics, but more often than not, we get pushed into a technical systems corner and miss a broader supply chain impact. 

So, with all that experience under our belts, it’s time to actively challenge our customers and prospects that a holistic S&OP perspective (people-process-tools-analytics) is the only way to get long-term results. To convince them of this, we have created a 7-step approach (see image below) that automatically blends the right combination of people, process, tooling and analytics for your specific situation. 


Let’s dive into this journey and give you three clear examples of companies that are on different steps of our Solventure customer life cycle.

At the starting point with What's Cooking

It all starts with creating awareness. Don’t start from S&OP, start from the problem! And for our first example customer, What’s Cooking, this first stage contains many elements. As an innovative food group that makes savoury snacks, slices, and ready meals, What’s Cooking’s products have a very limited shelf life. This leads to the company’s customers demanding high service levels (98.5%), which have to be met with very low inventories and with a limited time-span to react to promotions. 

What we often see is that the supply chain planning of these kinds of companies get stuck in firefighting mode, reacting to problems instead of proactively preventing them. If your planning department has a hard time making forecasting decisions based on data that is spread over vast amounts of Excel sheets and if there is no clear alignment with commercial and operational teams, in the end, your lacking forecasting will lead to competitive losses.

When we see this lack of balance in the Supply Chain Triangle, we try to gather different functions and different layers in the organization around a common understanding of what needs to be improved, and a common willingness to do so. If everybody understands the problem, then you can start envisioning where you want to go and keep on engaging your organization along the way. In the case of What’s Cooking, we want to focus on data integration, dedicated project management (with weekly/monthly meetings), overall change management efforts, and gathering feedback from key users to keep them fully committed to the new way of working and to the envisioned benefits.


In the middle of the fray with Hero

Hero – an international food company focused on making high-quality, natural products – has been working with Solventure since 2020 to improve, digitalize and align their supply chain data, systems and working processes to create one integrated, global ERP system. Unlike What’s Cooking, Hero is already concluding their demand planning optimization, after which they’ll focus on distribution and capacity planning, using the same, existing building blocks.

Typically, once an organization has started its S&OP implementation, they need to continue defining the high-level process and system architecture. Before digging into the details of a single process, the high-level architecture needs to be clear. That’s why Hero mapped out a "Plan & Deliver Transformation Framework", which details the problem, work area, activity and target state for their people, organization, processes and performance. 

In a following step, you focus on the detailed design of the processes, the functional and technical design of the system and the data integration. As you start implementing, take an iterative approach, in order to train key users and give feedback in multiple iterations. Insights keep growing as data come alive in each of the processes. 


The end is only the beginning with Indaver

The go-live is not the end of the project. It’s the start of the real work. And that’s certainly a lesson that Indaver learned not too long ago. Together with Solventure, this leading company in the field of sustainable waste management in Europe, created an international supply chain department, aligned internal supply chain processes and installed an efficient S&OP, a project that ended in 2022. Now, Indaver wants to ensure it can continuously optimize and sustain what they’ve reached in the past years.

To accomplish this, Indaver reached out to Solventure to support an S&OP assessment one year after their S&OP implementation. During this exercise, we interviewed the main stakeholders of the implementation process and provided digital surveys to everyone else involved. The main conclusion: their S&OE (Sales & Operations Execution) was running well, but the organization was still struggling with the idea of S&OP as a business process on top of a supply chain process.

Even though 2022 was a very good year for Indaver (most likely in part thanks to their reviewed, more efficient S&OP processes), including executive-level decision-makers remained quite difficult. That’s why, as a result of the S&OP assessment, Solventure recommended making the S&OP decision-making process more powerful, by getting every important stakeholder around the table on a regular basis. With a fixed (monthly, or even weekly) meeting structure, Indaver can make high-level planning decisions quicker, and more in advance thanks to the clear planning data coming out of their S&OP systems.


Solventure supports your S&OP every step of the way

We have experience in creating that common understanding and that common ambition to drive the required change. This needs to be done high enough and broad enough in the organization through a series of workshops, including the executive committee, regions/countries and cross-functional teams.

For those companies that are quite advanced in their S&OP, we are looking forward to introducing our vision on Strategy-Driven S&OP, creating a common understanding we need to align strategic, financial and S&OP planning, and creating a common willingness to do so.

Get access to our 7-step Approach

We want to proactively challenge our customers and prospects to drive sustainable change and value through S&OP, and to make sure a holistic perspective of people-process-tools-analytics is being taken. To do so, we have bundled our experience in a 7-step approach.


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