Strategic Focus, one amongst the most important step in the design and development of a product, enables companies to discover and explicitly commit themselves to important considerations (Ahoy, 2008). In the current case studies of Ready Materials and Zara, efficient and effective strategic focus assisted in expanding and extending the business into the narrow market or industry segment. More specifically, the super-responsive supply chain developed by Zara permitted the company in designing, producing and delivering new garments for marketing worldwide (Gattorna 1998). Ready Materials, on the other hand, possessed no clear strategic focus and witnessed complexities in meeting the volatile demand pattern. This characteristic absence of strategic focus caused a demand uncertainty, which eventually led to the emergence of buffering mechanisms (forward load, inventory and capacity). Owing to the fluctuating nature of daily demand, most of the purchasers of Ready Materials have aligned their orders with respect to a day per day operation and waited for the dispatch for an average time of 24 hours. Use of capacity buffering system in the form of annualised hours helped in managing Ready Materials at times of demand fluctuations, enabling adjustments to the working day by up to two hours, either way, without any intimation (Gattorna, 2009). Though these buffering mechanisms caused the company to witness low levels of staff morale and retention, in recent years, this has gained immense attention with the work force finishing the task early more often than late. Buffering mechanisms undertake the forms of order backlogs link with a variable extension to lead time. Inventory buffering mechanism, used by Ready Materials, compressed the customer response time by committing capacity in the advance of demand. Reducing the capital or, in other words, operating at the negative working capital helps in aligning with offsetting the investment in additional capacity. Thus, managing buffering mechanisms through resource alerts and effective prioritisation of resource attention assists projects in taking an advantage. It minimises the impact of Parkinson’s Law, and prevents unnecessary distraction alongside facilitating recovery planning when required, yet at a time in advance when the project or company is in trouble. Presence of high demand uncertainty necessitates the need of project and strategic management (Lake, 2010). As indicated earlier, the use of buffering and alignment mechanisms, allow the resources and companies to gain a strategic focus of resource attention besides enabling the advantage of good morale and early task finish. Much focus can be levied on time schedule management, and this automatically decreases unnecessary distraction, further enabling for the recovery planning to prevail, when needed. However, this is only necessary whenever the company witnesses extreme difficulty (Ahoy, 2008).
Managing of uncertainty remained at the core of improvement of project performance for Ready Materials. Making use of highly sophisticated just in time systems could help in adjusting to the alignment and this automatically offers an efficient strategic focus. At such times, the company is required to get the projects completed both ahead of schedule and with efficient reliability of stock delivery dates that were promised. This specific approach to alignment offers mechanisms which allow a “complete system” view of projects. The mechanism of alignment recognises and safeguards the uncertainty and thereby avoids the Parkinson’s Law at the task level whilst considering Murphy’s Law at the project stage. All of these implications suggest an intimate interrelationship between strategic focus, buffering and alignment. Effective and efficient management of these three segments of operational management helps each of the companies in driving towards success (Vitale, 2002). It is the duty of project managers to shift their attention from assuring the achievement of strategic focus, task estimates and intermediate milestones. All of these are vital from the date it is required to the final promised due date. But, a grasping of the whole implication of this approach is an immense challenge. Running factories for only a single shift, sending half empty loads to other countries, which were followed by Zara, could help in focusing local efficiency at the expense of international responsiveness. Investing in the overall capital assets can eventually enhance the strategic focus and organisational flexibility (Stratton, 2008). Owing production assets can offer the company a level of control over its schedules and the companies no matter what they intend to do. Besides manufacturing of complicated products, it can enhance strategic focus and thereby minimise the incorporation of buffering mechanisms and alignment patterns.
Ahoy, K. (2008). Customer Driven Operations Management: Aligning Businesses, Processes and Systems, London: Hoffmann Publishers, pp. 90-100.
Gattorna, J. (1998). Strategic Supply Chain Alignment: Best Practices in Supply Chain. London: SAGE Publishers, pp. 451-460.
Gattorna, V. (2009). Dynamic Supply Chain Alignment. London: Heinemann Publishers, pp. 341-390.
Lake, H. (2010). Operational Management and Control. London: Routledge Publishers, pp. 34-90.
Stratton, R. (2008). Theory Building: Relating Variation, Uncertainty, Buffering Mechanisms and Trade-offs, Proceedings of the 3rd World Conference on Production and Operations Management. Tokyo: Japan.
Vitale, B. (2002). Business to Business Marketing. London: Routledge Publishers, pp. 34-89.