Business Scenarios


Scenario #1 - When your top customer says, "If a $250,000.00 order doesn't get your attention, what will?
 

Situation

Despite a poor payment history, the client is a profitable customer because they pay list price, but are seriously past due with $250,000 over 90 days old. The client company owner is a friend of the President, and their truck picks up goods on a weekly basis.

Since the client AP clerks have been unresponsive to collection calls, the collection clerk calls the client’s Controller who says: “This is the first I’ve heard of it. Who’ve you talked to before?” The clerk has to rely on hand written notes, memory, and e-mails in the deleted folder, can’t recall all the names, and remembers only fragments of past conversations. The Controller asks for a list of the past due invoices for review.

The collection clerk faxes a list of invoices to the client, which sits on the Controller’s desk. The collection clerk calls again for action on a steadily growing past due balance. The Controller reaches an agreement with the vendor’s credit manager that their truck driver each week will bring a check to cover CIA (cash in advance) for the goods being collected plus 50% over the CIA amount to be applied to past due balances.

The client’s Controller forgets to let anyone know about the agreement or the check that’s needed for pickup. The collection clerk leaves a voice message on the arrangement with shipping, which is mistakenly deleted by a temporary employee. The situation worsens as the customer continues to pick up goods without leaving a check.

The collection clerk finds out and complains to the CFO. The CFO places the client on immediate credit hold. The owner of the client company appeals to the President because his business is threatened by the material shortage. None of the alternatives are appealing: the President can lose a friend or continue with an increased risk because the customer is so far behind now that they are unlikely to catch up any time soon.

Summary: Exposure for bad debt expense; high days outstanding; poor cash flow; potential loss of a significant customer.

With Final Link

When the client’s Controller asks about previous contact history, the collection clerk accesses Final Link ™ and reviews recent collection activities in the central repository from all prior calls including date, time, discussion points and promises, and the contact name. The clerk then creates an activity by entering the conversation topics with the client’s Controller in the activity workbench along with the terms of the delivery payment agreement at pickup. The activity (message) is sent to the President, CFO, shipping department, the distribution manager, and the client Controller’s PDA as well as being stored in the Final Link ™ central repository.

The customer’s truck arrives without a check and the driver is turned away with an explanation. The customer is contacted and their Controller apologizes for not following through. The customer’s Controller agrees to wire the money immediately so that the truck can return, and commits to a check with all trucks in the future.

Summary: Customer is retained; bad debt reduced; lower days outstanding; improved cash flow.

 


Scenario #2 - Losing customers due to late shipments caused by quality problems is avoidable.
 

Situation

The VP of Sales & Marketing advocates the international marketing of a top product line, something not tried previously because of concern with after sales support. The projected numbers are impressive, with additional sales of $25M from Europe alone. The VP states that support is not an issue, as only 5% of the shipments over the last two years have had complaints, technical requests or other follow up action. An early decision on the European project is urged because of an approaching favorable window of opportunity. The cost for new sales and distribution channels is $7M; however, the President is not quite sure, and decides to investigate further.

The managers responsible for manufacturing, technical services, quality, finance, and customer service are asked to check their records.
Finance reports only two documented incidents of full-order credit memos, but the current systems do not track credits by reason.
Manufacturing says that supervisors occasionally report difficulty in meeting specifications, but there is no specific documentation. The only data the current system tracks is work orders and quality, but only at the level of quantities and rejects.
The technical services manager has only been with the company for 6 months, and reports that they keep better records now, but past accounting was poor and incomplete, and the President remembers that’s why they fired his predecessor! There have been three requests for tech support in the six months he’s been here, but specifics were not well documented.
Customer service is sure the product line gets more than its fair share of problems and complaints. The supervisor collects the few notes the order desk personnel can find from the past 3 years. There are Post-It notes and two handwritten reports, but these are so cryptic they defy interpretation.

Somewhat reluctantly, the project is approved. All is well for six months, at which point the President is informed the products don’t meet metric specifications, and they need to open local language customer support locations in Europe. The President stops the project with a loss of $5.6M and a lowered reputation abroad as well as with domestic customers who have international connections.

Summary: General damage to quality reputation; lower sales; serious financial loss.

With Final Link

All the activity and actions with respect to service and support are recorded through Final Link™. The President or his assistant is able to review the historical records for customer complaints, technical service requests, quality issues, and customer returns. The reasons for returns are available, with notes on the cause of the problem. The average of eight complaints per month about operating instructions is clearly visible, as are notes by plant supervisors about tolerance and other production problems.

The impending quality problem is detected well in advance of the proposed project, which is put on hold until the situation is remedied.


Summary: Business volumes and profitability maintained; reputation damage and financial loss avoided.

 


Scenario #3 - Does your sales forecast get more laughs than results?
 

Situation

On Monday, a large customer calls to place an order for 250,000 units. The customer service representative quotes a unit price of $1.00, using standard price tables, but the customer states the sales representative promised 90 cents per unit if the order was placed by today.

The CSR tries to contact the sales rep, but she is on vacation that week, and the sales manager is out of the country. The customer says, “OK, but check back next Monday”, because they will need a rush on the first shipment because of this order confirmation delay. The order is entered, placed on hold, but a credit limit warning appears.

The CSR uses a post-it note as a reminder to call the sales rep on Monday, and sends an email to the rep as well. The following Monday the CSR is out sick, and returns on Wednesday. The reminder is there to be acted on, but there are also messages from an upset customer and the sales rep wanting to know what is going on.

The company now appears unresponsive to a large order. The customer comments: “If a quarter million dollar order doesn’t get your attention, what will?” They have to act fast, to save face and revenues, and deal with an uncomfortable situation. The doubtful credit is approved because it would be embarrassing to chase overdue amounts at this time. The shop floor schedule is disrupted to accommodate the now very urgent and expedited order, impacting the delivery dates of other clients.

Summary: Dissatisfied customer; late deliveries; poor cash flow; bad debt exposure; high days outstanding.

With Final Link

When finding the sales person is unavailable, the CSR accesses the Final Link activity workbench. She enters an activity that includes customer and order numbers, documents the calls and distributes the activity to the materials manager, credit manager, sales rep, as well as to herself:
1. Credit manager needs to approve the order and credit limit overrun.
2. Warns manufacturing that a large order may have to be rushed.
3. The sales rep to respond on the pricing.

Credit control is aware of the late payments and reviews the AR inquiry. The customer is immediately informed that the credit limit cannot be increased, and overdue must be paid before this order is confirmed, regardless of the pricing issues. The customer promises to expedite a check. The Final Link activity workbench is accessed and an activity (message) created to inform both sales and order entry of the promise to expedite a check.

The materials manager responds to the CSR’s activity with a schedule that is sent to the sales rep.

On her return on Monday, the sales rep accesses her Final Link ™ inbox, and can see details of the actions to date, including new messages that a check has been received and credit approved. The sales rep uses Final Link to notify order entry that the 90 cent price is good and they can now update the customer.

Summary: Improved customer satisfaction and cash flow; retained sale; lower bad debt and days outstanding.

 


Scenario #4 - Do the words Expedite and Shortage make you pull your hair out?
 

Situation

The VP of Manufacturing is facing falling performance of orders that ship on time. Customers are looking at alternative sources, so corrective action is needed. He discovers that the primary reason for this problem is that a high volume of rework is occurring.

The VP meets with various people to pinpoint the cause of the problems, but receives unsubstantiated opinions rather than factual information. Also, there is some finger pointing at vendors and material specifications as well as at the process specifications from engineering. He commissions his Production Control Manager to dig around in the systems for the problems and causes.

Meanwhile, the VP holds daily meetings to review every customer order that is in process or pending, and to get reports on progress and problems. This meeting is often quite long, involves most plant managers and supervisors, materials and purchasing and QC supervisor. Everyone has to lose time that could be better spent elsewhere. Three weeks later, the PC Manager reports there is little to add to the initial findings of a lack of clarity and blame on others. There is one report of poor quality at step 2 of the manufacturing process, but not detected until inspection prior to finished goods. Rework of up to 40% of a major product line has been required.

An immediate fix is implemented, with 100% inspection at several process steps, and stern warnings to supervisors to increase their vigilance, and operator awareness. Some improvement occurs, but so does an increase in direct labor and supervisory overhead that includes inspection. Because people try to cover the shortfalls with additional quantities there is an increase in material costs and some higher inventory.
Summary: Profit erosion to achieve only partially improved quality and deliveries, with lower plant morale.

With Final Link

Final Link ™ activities are established to record and communicate all product and process quality problems, with causes, as they occur. Depending on the process step, results are collated and analyzed by product, works order and/or customer order number and reason code, with descriptive text to identify the issue accurately.

Within three weeks there is an accurate picture of the problems and causes, including material and vendor issues, process improvement needs and engineering specifications. Further, all the plant people feel they are contributing rather than being blamed.

All the information is available in Final Link’s central repository to the different departmental managers, who become contributors to a coordinated crash program of corrective measures. The VP of Manufacturing can access all the reported problems, to gain the global perspective and monitor improvement. As and when they occur, problems that impact quality are sent to purchasing, materials planning and the appropriate shop foremen, so they can focus immediately on their areas of responsibility. Even the production scheduler can receive certain messages and be informed of any impacts on downstream operations or need for reissue work orders and replacement material.

Final Link facilitates a quickly installed monitor of reliable shop floor and quality information. Immediate corrective action is accelerated and effective, with pointers to the need for longer-term actions such as operator training.

Summary: Customer service improved quickly; lower levels of rejects and rework; no impact on costs, and better on time deliveries.

 


Scenario #5 - Is your company Fat or Lean. You don't have to starve to get lean
 

Situation

The VP of Manufacturing is worried about the impacts of material shortages, with consequent service level impacts. The Materials and Purchasing Managers are trying to identify the extent and root of the problems. Expediting is making people cut corners and disrupting teamwork. Buyers and planners are trying to improve the situation, but they are all finding it difficult because there are no formalized controls or descriptive information that can help. Personal productivity is poor. Priorities keep changing, and teardowns are increasing production costs.

The two managers start by examining how the planners or buyers deal with ERP exceptions, to change and expedite supplier or fabrication replenishments. Typically, phoning the vendor contact or the machine shop supervisor is first, but they are forced to leave a message. Handwritten notes are used as reminders to follow-up if nothing happens immediately. When contact is established eventually, each party has to go away and access their systems or talk to others to check status or possibilities, and then get back.

The assembly foreman keeps chasing the buyers, but absences, meetings and busy telephones are chronic obstacles to prompt communications and follow up. The Sales Order Servicing department is consulted, and complains that they have communications difficulties with the master scheduler, who always seems to be in meetings. “And when decisions are made it sometimes takes half a day for manufacturing to get back to us. Customers are not going to wait around.”

The ERP system provides the raw numbers on quantities, but this is not much help and has to be supported by personal records, from Post-It notes to binders spiral notepads and email. Everyone uses different approaches that are cryptic and subjective in viewpoint, and useless for access or analysis.
Summary: Poor service levels; low productivity; disrupted relationships (employees and suppliers)

With Final Link

Materials planners, buyers, the master scheduler, assembly and fabrication foremen supervisors use Final Link™ for entering shortages and probable causes, as and when detected. Sales Order Servicing has a similar facility for tracking customer change requests.

Everyone can use the Final Link™ Activity Workbench to see both messages and actions required immediately, with simultaneous access to the essential customer or product detail history. They can enter vendor or departmental source for shortages expected or that have occurred. For example, buyers distribute an activity for a vendor to planning, QC and assembly foreman.

Assembly can access the data to see what is going on, without chasing others for information. Priority codes sequence the actions, and even Customer Service can keep abreast of situations. Note books, phone messages and post-it notes disappear in favor of a centralized and objective system that helps everyone to work together.

The Materials and Purchasing Managers use the repository with reports by activity type, vendor and item/product numbers. They identify the few components that account for 75% of the shortages. This focus allows faster correction of the major causes, such as poor scheduling, inadequate specifications, and some ineffective capacity planning. The VP of Manufacturing’s concerns are now cleared.

Final Link facilitates a quickly installed monitor of reliable shop floor and quality information. Immediate corrective action is accelerated and effective, with pointers to the need for longer-term actions such as operator training.

Summary: Critical shortages reduced; ship dates are met; plant productivity is increased.

 


Scenario #6 - How good is your quality... NO REALLY... how good is it and what's it costing you to be a good as your are?
 

Situation

The recall imposed on the confectionery manufacturer was not going too well, but was cancelled by the FDA after four days of intensive effort. The consumer complaint had proved to be unfounded and erroneous. "We dodged a bullet on that one!" was the QC Manager's verdict. “But we need better approaches in case there is a next time!”

Like the recall process of most companies in the food and pharmaceutical industries, the QC Manager, assisted by the Marketing Administrator and Production Control Manager used their systems to backtrack from the lot number and customer shipment through distribution, inspection, packaging, production, to inventoried materials and purchasing. These applications traced product and material disposition by lot ID, with some "paper clip" attachments of subsidiary information and documents to orders and other records.

The problems arose when the Production Control Manager reported that all the associated and sometimes critical supporting production and materials records and specifications were spread across several departments, on unconnected PCs and various manual and other records from notebooks to process logs. As a result, getting access to supplier provided details posed similar problems.

“The supporting information decides the extent of the recall” was the QC Manager’s comment. “Yes, and the magnitude of lost revenues” added the Marketing Administrator. It had been a long time since the company had been inflicted with a recall procedure. Four days of uncompleted work on all the dispersed and unconnected information on material and process quality, product specifications and inspection results had never been foreseen. Fortunately this recall had been canceled just as the enormity of the required effort had been realized.
Summary: Ineffectual controls; high manual effort; slow response; loss of revenue.

With Final Link

The appropriate processes and essential records are stored in the Final Link™ central repository and referenced by product number, with the lot number and the purchase or production order numbers as secondary keys to facilitate easy lookup ability. Sales, production, and all personnel involved from purchasing and receiving through production, QC, packaging and shipping use the Final Link™ Activity Workbench. Internal procedures are modified so that the information and the events to be entered into Final Link™ are properly defined, and familiar to all employees.

The QC Manager, Marketing Administrator and Production Control Manager decide to carry out a test recall. Based on lot identities in the enterprise system, filtered or selective Final Link reports are used to collate details and any subsidiary data that was involved. All the supporting information needed for recall, or to resolve quality questions, is now available almost instantaneously. No longer is it necessary to use one system for an initial search and then a massive human effort to collect substantiating information. A rigorous test recall was completed in two days.

Six months afterwards, apparent packaging imperfections or tampering is discovered on a retailer’s shelves in the Mid-West. The same team initiates a full recall procedure. The problem is identified and narrowed down to just one implicated batch of product to be recalled. The comprehensive investigation and communications to the FDA authorities is completed in less than 24 hours.

Summary: Fast response; minimal effort; reputation enhanced; minimized revenue impact.