Do not underestimate the amount of resources required for serialisation

In my last article I talked about selecting global solutions, the risk of an overstretched supply chain, the need to fully understand your supply chain and undertaking a thorough impact assessment across the organisation.  In this next article, covering tips 7, 8, 9, and 10, I talk about our next four learning points.

Learning 7: Develop and leverage standard solutions where possible

For larger organisations, where there will be a number of sites, packaging lines and possibly distribution operations to enable for serialisation, developing standard solutions has proved very useful in enabling roll-out in a timely and resource efficient way.

Serialisation systems are complex and therefore not trivial to design and implement. The various solutions also need to interface effectively with each other. Selecting and developing standard solutions therefore provides an opportunity to design and prove capabilities once and significantly reduce the overall timeline, cost and risk of subsequent implementations.

In complex organisations, it is unlikely that it will be practical to develop single solutions for capabilities such as the packing lines. However, it should be possible to achieve significant simplification by adopting this approach and selecting a small number of standard solutions and or methodologies.

A knock-on impact of this approach is that there needs to be time built into the project plans to enable this approach to be successful. The initial implementations need to be given the time and resources to develop well thought through and comprehensive solutions. Fur­thermore, ideally these solutions need to be implemented and optimized before rolling out subsequent solutions so that learning can be built into these later implementations. Unfor­tunately, given the long lead times of developing and implementing initial solutions, time is rapidly running out for companies wanting to fully benefit from this approach.

Learning 8: Do not underestimate the amount of resources required to deliver serialisation

Given the broad reaching impacts of serialisation across an organisation, a great deal of time and effort is required to deliver effective solutions.

It is all too easy for projects to focus on aspects such as line solutions and the enterprise IT and miss some of the other impacted areas.

As with all projects, deliverables cannot be achieved to acceptable time, cost and quality without sufficient resources with the right skills and knowledge being applied to the prob­lem at the right time.

Many of us have a tendency to underestimate the amount of resources required to achieve any given set of tasks. This can often be compounded by the new nature of serialisation; meaning, that organisations have little or no analogous experience to be able to adequately assess the resources needed.

Therefore, in order to ensure the correct level of available resources throughout the project, we would recommend starting conservatively in defining the resource levels required and tracking the achievement of resourcing plans and resource utilization.

 Learning 9: Put a capable, dynamic and motivated leader on the problem

Serialisation is clearly a complex and evolving topic that touches many parts of an organi­sation. With the challenges facing the leadership that is charged with implementing such capabilities, they need to have a broad range of skills, the drive and motivation to anticipate risks and issues, as well as ensure they are effectively managed proactively.

Serialisation is a complex technical problem involving engineering systems at the line and distribution operation levels, as well as enterprise IT systems at the site and global levels. It should also be remembered that many of the solutions lack maturity, therefore, there will be many practical issues to deal with during implementation. Consequently, the leadership of a program needs to have the technical strength and breadth to succeed in managing this technical challenge.

Furthermore, serialisation touches many parts of any organisation, often crossing the tradi­tional organisational lines of supply chain, commercial and research and development. More often than not, company boundaries also need to be negotiated as contract manufacturing, third party logistics providers and commercialisation partners need to come together to provide effective end-to-end solutions. Therefore, the leadership of a program often needs to have the cross-functional and cross-organisational skills and experience to effectively nav­igate this complex change management environment as well as the technical skills and knowledge described above.

Learning 10: Ensure you understand the evolution of serialisation legislation and instruct the organisation accordingly

Serialisation legislation can be somewhat vague, incomplete and sometimes contradictory, with individual pieces of legislation often evolving over a long period of time.

Interpreting the legislation as it evolves and predicting its impacts can present significant challenges. We have found that there are several key pieces of expertise required to suc­cessfully interpret evolving requirements. Local regulatory and legal representatives will be required to obtain the legislation, manage dialogue with the regulatory agencies, and in­terpret its application to a company’s products and the consequences of non-compliance. Serialisation expertise is clearly a necessity, both in the technical aspects of the topic, but also in the ways that serialisation legislation typically evolves. Local and central management also need to be involved to ensure that the requirements are interpreted appropriately in the context of the local environment and company situation. Also, an important and practical point to remember is that the legislation will more likely than not, need accurate translation into English.

When considering the timelines allowed in the legislation, history has shown that timelines are often vague and subject to change. However, when implementation dates are finally set, they often do not allow enough time for robust implementation. Therefore, waiting until the legislation is clear can result in missing deadlines.

Given the uncertainties in requirements and timing, organisations need to ensure there is a clear way of communicating their considered view of the legislative requirements at any particular moment to the various project teams who are responsible for designing and implementing solutions. Failing to do this will potentially result in individual functions or groups creating their own interpretations of legislation and timelines, which at minimum is wasteful of resources, but at worst, results in capabilities being implemented which do not meet the eventual requirements of the legislation.

In this article I have talked about the development of standard solutions, the need for appropriate levels of resourcing, provision of the right leadership and the need to stay abreast of the continually evolving legislation.  These are all key aspects of your implementation and need to be built into you project and financial plans.  The next article will cover the final three learning points.

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