Getting Away from Excel Spreadsheets: A Project Logistics Case Study

We talk a lot about the importance of agility and flexibility in supply chain management and that is certainly true when it comes to project logistics. Almost by definition, every project is different — different suppliers, different materials and components, different locations and product flows, and different requirements and constraints. “It’s really vital for us to have a very transparent supply chain where we can see what’s going on and where every box [of materials or components] is currently moving,” said Gabriele Hennecke, Head of Logistics Execution and IT at Siemens Energy Management in a recent episode of Talking Logistics.

The projects Ms. Hennecke oversees from a logistics perspective are mostly engineered-to-order systems, with suppliers and end-customers around the world. “The process generally involves placing a purchase order with a supplier that says ‘Please deliver to us a cooling system to the attached specification’,” explained Ms. Hennecke. “Then I in logistics see that I will get a cooling system, but I don’t know how many boxes that entails, I don’t know how heavy and big it will be, I don’t know how many dangerous goods might be involved, and so forth.”

Therefore, the ability to gather and share timely and accurate information between the various stakeholders in the overall order-to-delivery process is critically important. However, prior to implementing their current solution from Axit, this was all done via Excel spreadsheets, as Ms. Hennecke explained:

“It was very challenging. It took a lot of discipline to fill out all of those Excel spreadsheets and make sure they were filled out correctly by all the stakeholders and were up to date…It was a ‘cut, copy, and paste’ process. We would receive information from different sources via email or telephone about the status of an order and shipment and then we had to make sure we entered all of those incidents and dates into the spreadsheet, which was very time consuming. And if Excel crashed, you could lose hours or even days or weeks of work!”

So, when the time came to implement a more effective IT solution, what were some of the key capabilities Siemens was looking for? “There are so many different requirements involved with project logistics and each project looks totally different, so when you design a supply chain for one project, the IT system you use needs to be very flexible and agile,” said Ms. Hennecke. Watch the short clip below where she shares some other important capabilities they were looking for.

I encourage you to watch the rest of my conversation with Ms. Hennecke for additional insights and advice on this topic, including the benefits Siemens has achieved to date by having a more streamlined and centralized visibility platform. And if you’re attending the CSCMP EDGE 2017 conference next month in Atlanta, Ms. Hennecke will be presenting this case study there, so make sure you don’t miss it!

I’ll leave you with her parting words with regards to digitizing your supply chain: “Don’t wait, get started, do something. If you try to [digitize the entire end-to-end supply chain at once], you will never get there. Pick a small part of your supply chain to digitize first, learn from that experience, and then build from there.”