On Time, for Real

By Joshua Weinberger Print this article Print

Rick Beers

Voice Of Experience: Rick Beers

Director, Supply-Chain Technology
Corning, N.Y.

PDF Download MANAGER'S PROFILE: At Corning since 1973, Beers has a long history in the manufacturing and supply-chain fields. He oversees supply-chain technology strategy and deployment across Corning's businesses. Emphasis in the future will be broadened to include business-value modeling.

THE REALITY OF REAL-TIME: "My concern is that it's beginning to look like yet another hunt for a technology Holy Grail. In some cases real-time isn't even necessary, and then you're devoting scarce resources to technologies you don't need."

SO WHAT ABOUT THE REAL-TIME ENTERPRISE? "People are talking about it as if it were a tangible goal, but it's not." Beers prefers the term 'on-time.' "At least I know what on-time means. One attribute of an on-time enterprise is that the information that a process is changing is managed before any negative result of that change occurs."

WHAT'S CRITICAL? "Concerning the use of information, only two things truly matter to technology people: What is it we need to be telling users, and are we getting it to them at the right time? To that end, we have two responsibilities: to provide world-class transaction systems (which we have), and to provide world-class information capability (which we haven't yet)."

WHO DECIDES WHAT QUALIFIES AS ON-TIME? The entire supply chain does, together. "If my industry moves from monthly forecasting to weekly, and I don't move with it, I'm going to encounter variability issues. Synchronization may be an old term, but that's what we're after." ("Synchronized" and "real-time" may not be the same thing, he says.)

CAN THERE BE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? Absolutely. "If I go from monthly to weekly, the logical extension might be that daily must be next—but you'd be wrong. Eventually you'll achieve a level of granularity you simply don't need." The trick, he says, is to determine "optimal" time. "To do that, you have to engage in a dialogue with the business involved."

SO HOW DO YOU ENGAGE BUSINESSPEOPLE? Easy: "Ask them what they need to do their jobs better. Analytics may be one way we could provide that. But we risk getting ahead of ourselves."

"AHEAD OF OURSELVES"? "We're still mastering transactional processes across multiple platforms. For example: How do you do any kind of analytics to compare [purchases] if your part numbers aren't synchronized? Data compatibility is the uphill task."

This article was originally published on 2003-03-01
Assistant Editor
After being on staff at The New Yorker for five years, Josh later traveled the world, hitting all seven continents in a single year. At Yale University, he majored in American Studies, English, and Theatre Studies.

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