Industry: Audio visual, manufacturing
Contact(s): Ihor Stech, Executive Vice President, Operations (audio), Warren VanDrine – Commodity Manager, Global Supply Chain Management (written)
Christie is a global visual, audio and collaboration solutions company offering diverse solutions for business, entertainment and industry. Christie employs over 1,500 people globally and has installed over 100,000 projection solutions for a variety of industries, worldwide.
Christie continues to break new ground as a powerhouse of innovation: leading the film-to-digital conversion, putting pixels everywhere with Christie MicroTiles® and digital displays, and bringing massive landmarks to life with projection mapping and, on the leading edge of new and exciting solutions: introducing immersive audio, advancing seamless presentation and collaboration, and opening up a new frontier with laser projection.
Headquartered in Cypress, California with engineering and manufacturing headquartered in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada with a second manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China, Christie is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ushio, Inc., of Japan.
Scope of Christie’s Global Supply Chain Management System
In a phone interview with Ihor Stech, Executive Vice President of Global Operations at Christie, the blending of traditional supply chain management practices with new communication tools needs to embrace communicating “good data” versus “a lot of data”.
“Just concentrating on the projection business, projectors are built out of mechanical, electrical and optical components. It is a fairly complex and really a beautiful dance, when you think of hundreds and hundreds of parts from different sources with different lead times coming together at the same precise moment to be assembled together into a projector.”
The supply side of enterprise asks – how many of each part do you need, when and where they need to end up delivering to a forecasted demand. Each of these individual parts has a supplier or multiple suppliers and, individual lead times. These parts could be standard or customized and could be coming from different geographies. Once we know that information – when we need parts and which parts – it’s a question of communicating that to our suppliers.
Disruptions create an initial “oh gosh” moment, according to Stech and then, planning begins – working with the range of suppliers to mitigate issues. Christie maintains an inventory of key components with the longest lead times. Parts with a 6 month lead time have inherently more risk in recovering from issues. Another layer of mitigation is maintaining and managing multiple suppliers. If there’s a disruption in ocean freight or a natural disaster such as an earthquake, the preference is to have more than one single supplier – in fact, multiple sources in multiple geographies is best practice.
“Our ideal situation for every component is that for every major component we like to have three suppliers – the lead supplier has 60% of the volume, a secondary supplier has 30% and a third supplier looking to increase their business would have 10%.”
Collaboration is critical
Collaboration with this complex web of suppliers and vendors is critically important to Christie – and according to Stech, it’s independent of the type of communication that they use within the system.
“The use of social media for communication may be prudent to increase speed and ease of communication. But it isn’t the sole channel. We treat our suppliers as partners. We invest a lot of time, effort and money in developing these relationships. It’s critical that we communicate well. Social media may be one of those elements to improve communication,” Stech states. But he adds that a cautionary point is that the need to look at improved communication as a tool that goes hand in hand with improved systems that actually creates a quality message to communicate.
“Similar to the way computers were introduced to business – strong businesses with strong business practices became stronger and better. Businesses with weak practices were able to make the same mistakes much faster and went out of business. New communication methods are very powerful tools, and they need to be treated with a lot of respect, using them to communicate good data, not just a lot of data.”
Effective supply chain management through social networking
Guest columnist Nicholas Moores, writing for the North Carolina State University’s Supply Chain Resource Cooperative “View From the Field” blog, states that social media in industry is not just outward facing, but is being used increasingly within business to help manage supply chains, creating what Adrian Gonzales, founder and president of Adelante SCM refers to as “social business networks”. These networks are more about facilitating “people-to-people communication and collaboration”, allowing real time transparent conversation between peers groups. This function, in a wide spread, even global supply chain, is proving to be a golden ticket.
First and foremost – users are able to monitor in real time, their supply chain production and needs. Logistical updates can be tracked, data can be shared, and progress can be monitored. All this means that in turn should any problems arise, they can be dealt with quickly and effectively, pooling resource and ideas from across the entire network of suppliers.
This ongoing conversation enables companies to share with one another best practice, build and improve relationships and share knowledge and data effortlessly. Document and process building can now avoid the black hole of email systems, as shared platforms allow for collaboration throughout a business, such as cloud, where multiple users can input into a document and feed back to one another simultaneously.
And finally, social networks can therefore provide a wider view of the supply chain – a large kinetic entity, rather than static and separated cogs. Seeing how the chain functions as a whole can help businesses make decisions to increase efficiency, and cultivate innovation.
Social business networks in action at Christie
Warren VanDrine is a Commodity Manager, with Christie’s Global Supply Chain Management. While he and his colleagues continue to personally engage with their suppliers, VanDrine has been introducing a new technical aspect to day to day business through social media platforms to increase efficiencies and effectiveness.
“If we’re launching a program we need to manage the timeline as effectively as possible. We work with Google Docs/spreadsheets. Our suppliers populate their updates and we collaboratively manage the document together – we’re not just sharing screens – we can pick up the phone and we’re literally on the same page,” VanDrine explains.
Considering a process like a product design review – the collaboration required includes Supply Chain, engineering and sometimes product management as well as suppliers. From design review to design approval to tooling kick-off to first-shots, to scheduling, paint masks, work centers set up to process flow on the assembly process – every step of the way needs to be carefully managed against tasks, deliverables and timelines.
VanDrine shares through Google Drive with different suppliers, each having different access rights to different folders. They collaboratively managed different stages of the program, like supplier development, program timeline, tooling progress, open issues. There is notification when items have been modified in real-time. As such, VanDrine is able to advise management accordingly.
The collaboration depicted above included Supply Chain, Engineering and the supplier. In this case there were 3 vendors from Canada and the US that collaborated, due to high impact / risk to the program timing of their components. The number of components involved between these 3 vendors was ~40, and all components were custom designed and required tooling.
“The information we share is in real-time. We could have a schedule in the past where you send information, but it may not be a reflection of actual development. Suddenly, vendors are basing decisions and progress on out of date information. Still, the process is not without flaws – each user has to be diligent to make updates,” VanDrine explains.
Other social collaborative tools used include ooVoo, a free on-line video chat for multiple collaborators, used for meetings with global colleagues in China. Similar in nature to Skype, ooVoo allows up to 12 people to communicate at one time, with the ability to send text, video and images. Trello, free online software allows users to set up folders on a message board where documents can be uploaded, issues discussed with instant messaging.
“It’s conducive to information sharing – it’s issues-based, point form, where users can be invited to review, comment, collaborate and share any issues that need addressing throughout the process,” says VanDrine. “The pros are that it’s one document in real time with a connected history and everyone is singing off the same song sheet.”
Lessons for others
- Social media is here to stay…how businesses choose to embrace and adopt elements of the broad range of platforms may directly impact their ability to play effectively, efficiently and competitively.
- Not every platform of social media is right for Supply Chain Management. Businesses need to start with a goal in mind and assess and understand what the opportunities for improvement could be.
- Communication and collaboration are still in essence, a people issue. Technology can enhance that communication, but shouldn’t preclude the need for solid business practices as the foundation.
- Social media integration into supply chain management doesn’t have to be costly – many collaboration tools are free or, provide free trials initially.
A final thought…watch and listen to some sound social media advice from the founder of the Supply Chain Network, Jeff Ashcroft. Perhaps, social media has a place in your supply chain management system.
Submitted by: ASeymour, University of Waterloo
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