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Heavy Lies the Operations Manager Head That Wears a Crown

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”— Shakespeare

Whether you’re the hardware engineer at a startup; the manager or director of operations at an SMB; or the VP or COO of an enterprise, achieving operations excellence is your responsibility. But a flatter manufacturing world has made managing global supply chains challenging—even for the world’s top operations professionals.

To help operations managers thrive we just launched the whitepaper Success Strategies of Operations Executives. This whitepaper includes interviews with four of the top operations leaders in Silicon Valley to learn how they overcame challenges to achieve success. In this whitepaper, you’ll hear their unspeakable supply chain confessions.

Nutanix’s Senior Vice President of Operations David Sangster is heralded as one of the top operations professionals in the Silicon Valley. Sangster admits that early efforts to manage Nutanix’s outsourcing strategy were not easy; the number and frequency of product development changes and complications of big data sharing among globally dispersed partners had become problematic. “It’s embarrassing to admit, but we had several instances where the suppliers built the wrong version of the product,” said Sangster. It was ‘rev A’ all right, but the wrong rev A.”

Nutanix’s inability to effectively manage its expanded supply chain team resulted in costly rework with extra procurement, build and test cycles that caused delays to the company’s time to market with products. Sangster found this to be “totally unacceptable.”

Roost’s Vice President of Operations Jim Van Patten has teams distributed globally. He’s constantly asking “what-if” questions, such as “What are the pros and cons of packaging the product here versus China or Europe? And what would be the cost? Or what would happen if I created a partial product, kitted it in China, and then packaged it and shipped somewhere else?”

Van Patten has learned to be very careful how he manages his contract manufacturers and supply chain. If he didn’t, he’d have nightmares of product errors and shipping delays. “What if I find my Chinese supplier actually has a silent partner that decides they’re going to take over most of their capacity and I have to wait to see what happens,” he says. “How do I mitigate that risk? Again, it’s an ongoing decision. It’s the stuff that keeps me up at night.”

Even smaller companies like Swan Valley Medical have suppliers and contract manufacturers around the globe. Swan Valley’s Chief Operating Officer Laurence Sampson has design and manufacturing operations in Denver but has suppliers all over the country, including one overseas in Taiwan. Sampson began to realize that the company now desperately needed a better way to manage product information to facilitate synchronization across a globally dispersed supply chain.

“It had become difficult to disseminate the information to both internal employees and suppliers,” explained Sampson. “When using a paper system to record quality process data, it is increasingly difficult, in a timely manner, to accurately recall the correction evidence in the context of an external audit,” said Sampson.

So, when it comes to managing global supply chain teams, what’s the one key to success that everyone agrees upon? The answer: visibility. Just ask Palo Alto Networks’ Supply Chain Risk and Operations Manager Rachel Yabut.

 “Visibility is a big issue. It’s been on my roadmap for Supply Chain development for quite a while now,” she says. “Visibility impacts a few different areas. Companies like ours that are 100% outsourced put procurement and many supply chain issues in the hands of their Contract Manufacturers (CM) and can lose visibility as a result. You don’t know what the CM has in the current pipeline, on order, inventory on hand, what channel the CM is buying through, or what is being bought direct or through sub-tiers of vendors/distributors.”

If you want to learn more about how these four operations managers were able to successfully manage their globally dispersed supply chain teams, you won’t want to miss reading this whitepaper.  Get your copy here.