It’s the start of a new year and in North America that often means a lot of excitement is building for the upcoming Super Bowl. The Super Bowl, like many supply chains, is becoming more global, attracting more than 56 million live viewers and several hundred thousand more through social media. One of the world's biggest sporting events, the Super Bowl brings a barrage of sports commentators translating a season’s (or more) worth of data on every team, player, coach, support staff, weather, stadium…you name it…to tell you who they think will win. That data is also at the heart of each team’s strategy to win. Translating all this information into a strategic playbook is critical. So, what valuable lessons for strengthening supply chains against uncertainties and disruptions can we learn from the NFL’s (National Football League) playbook?

Within the NFL, a playbook stands as a comprehensive list of all the plays (SC policies) and strategies (SC plans) that are available to use in any game within a given season. An NFL team’s playbook is based on a team’s desired objectives (e.g. tough, run-based versus finesse passing) and business conditions (e.g. playing indoors vs playing in warm weather or cold weather). NFL teams also define their ideal player roster makeup to meet the needs of the team’s makeup and objectives. This is similar to what leading, proactive organizations and teams develop, covering a spectrum of scenarios and what-ifs to guarantee a systematic response to a disruption or new opportunity.

Much like how sports analytics have revolutionized decision-making in the NFL, offering teams a wealth of actionable insights and data – supply chain leaders can draw inspiration from this systematic approach to game scenarios to enhance their own resilience.

Companies define the corporate ethos (lifestyle, eco-friendly, philanthropic, profit-driven) and strategies (high service, low-cost) that govern the overall approach, much like an NFL team does. Each company and each NFL team are shaped within that framework.

Like the NFL, creating a robust supply chain planning strategy requires more than just a theoretical understanding of potential risks and opportunities; it demands a proactive approach. Drawing parallels with the strategic maneuvers seen on the football field, we explore some key points for supply chain planners from this analogy:

1. Leverage Simulation to Identify Vulnerabilities

The concept of simulation in supply chain planning mirrors the NFL's approach to understanding and adapting to various game scenarios. In both contexts, the idea is to perform simulations considering multiple factors while injecting real-world variation to predict the likelihood of various outcomes. Just as football teams assess the likelihood of competitor actions, injuries or weather impacts, and build a gameplan based on vulnerabilities, supply chain planners can simulate scenarios such as raw material shortages, manufacturing or transportation outages or unexpected demand changes for a swift response.

It’s key to pinpoint critical elements, such as key suppliers or raw materials, that could pose significant challenges. Developing mitigation plans for these vulnerabilities ensures a timely response when disruptions occur to keep your supply chain running.

Like a football team planning around a star player's potential injury, companies must leverage advanced planning tools to strategize around potential risks to essential resources.

2. Experimentation: Uncover and Explore Upside Opportunities

Simulation in football not only focuses on negative outcomes but also uncovers opportunities for success. Likewise, you can make the most of simulations to identify positive scenarios, optimizing inventory, exploring new markets, or capitalizing on cost reductions. It's crucial, for example, to understand where flexibility and capacity can be leveraged to achieve greater efficiency and profitability.

3. Scenario Planning: Proactive Responses, Not Gambles

Knowing the impact or likely impact of a change allows you to identify various responses and understand which will drive the greatest positive change for your organization. This is the true strength in scenario planning and is a crucial step for companies to prepare for uncertainties. Take it from the adept sports analysts in the NFL who make their predictions based on projections. In the supply chain, scenario planning offers a proactive approach for a calculated response, rather than relying on chance or speculation.

Supply chain planning tools equip planners to translate simulation insights into actionable strategies, creating scenarios for different potential situations. This allows planners to craft a strategic playbook that includes responses to different situations, ensuring adaptability and resilience.

Whether it's raw material shortages, unexpected demand spikes, or global supply chain disruptions, having predefined scenarios ensures a strategic response rather than a reactive one. This proactive approach minimizes the impact of disruptions and contributes to the overall antifragility of the supply chain.

4. Use Experimentation for Resilience

The concept of experimentation, akin to an NFL team preparing for unexpected challenges, involves injecting failures and variations into the supply chain system. Picture this: introducing a failure, whether it's losing a plant, a production line, or a crucial raw material, or even adjusting variables such as demand surges or supply shortages. The supply chain requires different strategies to effectively handle these scenarios either in isolation or in combination.

For instance, if raw material costs skyrocket or face constraints, supply chain planners can experiment with different approaches. This involves tweaking variables like purchasing more raw material, engaging additional suppliers, or even altering the bill of material. It's a dynamic process allowing planners to discern the impact of fluctuations in the supply chain.

Experimentation serves as a compass for identifying valuable scenarios – and recognizing where value lies. Planners can use experimentation to distinguish which variables or strategies offer meaningful insights, then delve into stress tests and simulations to understand the consequences of different scenarios and bring value to the supply chain resilience efforts. Stress-testing your supply chain is critical to assess different scenarios and find weaknesses that might otherwise go unnoticed – and take the steps to address them.

5. Learn From The Past: Don’t Forget to Look Back

The NFL conducts film studies to analyze past performances and make informed decisions for future games. In supply chain planning, we refer to the approach of conducting a ‘look back’ to analyze historical data, identify patterns, leading indicators, and areas for improvement.

Analyzing previous successes and failures helps companies refine scenarios and enhance the playbook, ensuring that past lessons contribute to a more resilient future. Here, powerful AI reviews the data, uncovers patterns and identifies the impact across the end-to-end supply chain. Innovations in look back technology allow us to connect seemingly disconnected data to determine the real-world impact of that relationship.

Strengthen Your Supply Chain Game Plan

By having a playbook encompassing various scenarios, supply chains can become more resilient, adapting and evolving in the face of uncertainty and variability. Whether it's redesigning bills of material, diversifying suppliers, or optimizing production processes, the goal is to mitigate risks and ensure smoother supply chain operations.

We help companies like yours embrace simulations and leverage scenario planning for supply chain resilience, empowering teams to mitigate risks and position operations for success in an ever-changing business landscape.

Just as an NFL team wouldn't leave a game to chance, supply chains should not leave their fate to uncertainty. Let’s set you on the right path to build a playbook for a resilient and adaptable supply chain strategy.