Every time you make a credit card purchase, do your banking, trust the medication provided by your pharmacist or call 911, Stratus Technologies makes it possible by providing the highest uptime availability in the industry.
Stratus focuses on helping its customers keep critical business operations online without interruption, with a wide range of solutions that include software-based high-availability solutions, continuous availability servers, availability consulting and assessment and remote system management services. The company has 30 years of experience as a trusted availability solutions provider in the fields of manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, public safety, transportation and many other industries.
In 2009, Dave Harrington joined Stratus as its vice president of supply chain and corporate quality officer. The supply chain veteran set out to implement a transformation for both the company’s production and logistics supply chains.
“The first transformation that we undertook was a total restructuring of our production supply chain from one that was domestic-centric to what is now an Asian-based value chain,” Harrington explains. Stratus moved its hardware production to Japan in 2010.
To ensure the success of this transformation, Harrington and his team implemented a five-phase plan. “Our transformation plan had five distinct phases,” he explains. “We started with an investigation phase and methodically moved through the other phases: the justification phase, the planning phase, the transformation phase and finally the execution phase. All the while with a three-dimensional focus encompassing operational, financial and informational aspects of the phases.”
Harrington expected that going through those five phases would make the company view the supply chain through a different lens. “To be successful you must truly view [the supply chain] through the customer’s lens,” he says.
The planning phase had to be very specific to be successful. “When you go into the planning phase, it’s very important to put a concise and clear transformation plan on paper, with defined criteria and an end date,” Harrington says. “Developing a risk management plan is also an essential component to any transformation.”
Another element critical to the supply chain transformation was to ensure the new value chain had the systemic capability to provide worldwide customer order fulfillment, to guarantee customer service is consistent and reliable in any market.
To implement all the changes necessary to improve the company’s supply chain, Harrington and his leaders organized customer-focused transition teams. “We put together a detailed plan, with defined milestones, and we made sure that accountability for each milestone was clearly defined. With that we created major phases of activity and scheduled periodic reviews to measure the results,” he explains. “We also made sure we didn’t move to a new phase in our transformation until we had completed all the milestones in the previous phase.”
The Best Plans
Having a risk management plan in place during the planning phase is critical, according to Harrington, because during the execution phase, not everything is going to go 100 percent according to plan. “We are fortunate to have an elite team of leaders who have the anticipatory skills to manage through unforeseen complications,” he says. “When something goes awry you can’t panic, because when you do, you typically end up making the wrong decision.”
The pressure-packed environment of the supply chain business makes it imperative to have leadership and stay calm. “You are not only dealing with your supply chain ecosystem, but you must keep in mind that the supply chain is providing customers with a competitive model, from component sourcing through order fulfillment,” Harrington explains.
The transformation of Stratus’ supply chain has already yielded many benefits for the company. “We have been able to significantly reduce our supply chain cost model, improve our on-time delivery and predictability with our customers, and our product quality has never been better,” Harrington states.
Harrington and his team take great pride in learning from every process the company undertakes. “We believe that there are lessons to be learned in every experience,” he says. “One of the lessons we will carry forward is that it’s very important to take the time to choose the best partners possible and collaborate with them, because they are the people that will spell success or failure for you.”
Stratus also places a high value on fostering a process-driven, metric-supported culture and making sure that all stakeholders receive the executive sponsorship that they need to succeed.
“Developing anticipatory skills and ensuring accountability, along with having a maniacally planned, milestone driven transformation will yield a successful result for your organization,” Harrington states.
One of the biggest benefits of the supply chain transformation for Stratus has been in ensuring the seamless transition for its customers. “I’ve seen the benefits of our transformation, but it has been seamless for the customers,” Harrington says. What the customers might have noticed is nearly 100 percent on-time delivery in the last eight quarters and an improvement in product quality.
The focus for Harrington now is to complete the transformation of the logistics segment of the supply chain. “We’ve implemented a super-hub logistics model in Asia over the last year and we are now fine-tuning that model to provide our customers the best experience they can have from a logistics standpoint,” he says.
Stratus’s new supply chain model comes at an optimum time for the company as it positions itself at the head of the industry. “We recently acquired Marathon Technologies, and were very excited as this union creates the industry’s most comprehensive set of solutions for ensuring application availability,” Harrington notes.