The March 11, 2010, earthquake and tsunami in Japan lasted less than 10 minutes, but its impact was felt for months, if not years, afterward. One of the disaster’s most widely reported aftereffects was the meltdown of three of the six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, which resulted in a mass evacuation and cleanup effort.

CANBERRA, a leading manufacturer of radiation detectors and nuclear measurement equipment, was front and center during most of these efforts. “We’re proud of our response to that incident and the role we had in safeguarding the people of Japan,” says Joseph Nuzzi, executive director, global supply chain, CANBERRA. The company is a subsidiary of AREVA, a multibillion dollar publicly traded power generation solutions company based in France.

“We developed a number of products to support Japan post-Fukushima, and many of our employees spent a lot of time there delivering and training operators of our equipment to safeguard the region,” he adds.

New radiation measurement products developed in response to the incident included a mobile soil testing machine, a radiation monitor designed specifically for babies and small children, and radiation detectors used to test rice crops, a major food staple in Japan.  Detectors were also developed to test various fruits and vegetables to safeguard the food supply.

Many of the products introduced following Fukushima were based on the company’s existing product lines but modified for a specific purpose, while others were designed and manufactured from scratch for specific applications in Japan.

Consolidation Efforts

CANBERRA continues to apply the knowledge it gained from Fukushima to its ongoing product development efforts while also strengthening its global supply chain. The almost 50-year-old company can attribute much of its growth to its acquisition of a number of European manufacturers, each of which have their own established supply chain practices. “Because we grew through acquisition, our supply chain was very fragmented,” says Nuzzi, who joined the company in 2012 with the goal of unifying its supply chain.

The company’s manufacturing and distribution centers use different ERP platforms. To integrate the sites, the first step was to understand each facility’s core competencies and key distinctions to avoid redundancies.

Nuzzi then developed a number of tools to unify the sites’ sourcing practices. On the software side, all facilities are using Excel and other Microsoft software products in addition to their existing ERP systems to better facilitate electronic communication and material process transactions.

Nuzzi, inspired by worldwide brands such as McDonald’s that have universal products and practices despite their many locations, also implemented a “franchise book” that defines its global purchasing processes. The book also establishes best practices to identify and negotiate with suppliers and includes a “supply chain skills” matrix that lists the critical skill sets needed within the company’s supply chain operations. “All of the really important information that you need to manage a global supply chain are in this book,” he says. “We must standardize our global supply chain processes across all international sites to be successful in developing a world class organization.”

The matrix helps the company identify the specific location of subject matter experts; for example, those staff members who are best versed in contract negotiation or global/regional logistics. This person’s identity and contact information are then shared across the organization. “If someone is having a supply chain issue, they can easily find the person on the team who has the skill sets and experience that can help them find solutions to their supply chain problem,” Nuzzi says.

Under Close Examination

Supplier consolidation is another one of Nuzzi’s goals for CANBERRA’s supply chain. “Because we manufacture a highly engineered technical product, the engineering community was typically responsible for supplier selection, which ballooned our supply chain,” he says. “We don’t need 100 different circuit board suppliers; we might need 10 to 20 to get what we really need while still maintaining a quick turnaround process cycle.”

Electronic components are one of three main purchase segments for the company, along with sheet metal fabrication and machined parts. Supply chain personnel closely examined each of the company’s commodity suppliers to identify similarities in the products they offered.

High-performing non-redundant suppliers were offered five-year agreements with CANBERRA that allow them to not only supply components, but also assist and help guide research, development and production.

“We have a circle of R&D suppliers we try to keep in close communication and proximity with our teams, a separate circle of suppliers who support production needs, and some who do both,” Nuzzi says.

CANBERRA’s supply chain transformation also included employee outreach. “There are people who think supply chain management is simply logistics, shipping and receiving, but that’s just one component,” he adds. “It’s a full 360-degree environment that includes strategic sourcing, purchasing, quality, materials, and logistics management from order entry to customer delivery of our products and services.”

“Defining our global strategic intent for the supply chain is the easy part. Driving the execution and meeting the key milestones along the way is the challenge and the most rewarding part of the journey in managing a global supply chain.” Nuzzi says.