Vitality of distribution network

  • Business
  • Thursday, 20 Mar 2003

By Dr Ong Hean-Tatt

LAZINESS leads to failure to check. This leads to misreading of the actual field situation, and so, how can there be adequate coordination? 

The distribution network is a vital field component of major corporations. 

The points of the distribution system depend on local personnel who know the area better.  

Penetration into the European flower market is impossible without alliances with local Europeans.  

McDonald's succeeded in entering Japan because of an alliance with a major Japanese businessman. 

These distribution systems take much effort and time to build up and are generally a first-line defen-ce against new competitors, who cannot readily penetrate the distribution network or have the resources to create alternative equally effective systems. 

It means that new competitors will find that one of thei r first priorities would be working very hard to establish the distribution system. 

Their executives may have to spend much time networking and in public relations exercises. 

Lazy leaders shirk from work. They would not put in enough effort to check things and the organisation could end up unprepared. 

A major problem in modern organisation is the common complaint by the marketing personnel that the production people do not produce supplies in time for the marketing people to deliver on time. 

Conversely, the production people say that the marketing people do not provide them with an adequate forecast for production to be scheduled for timely delivery. 

There is insufficient coordination between the two groups by the leader checking the field. 

If one [wants to] set in motion an entire army to chase an advantage, the chances are that he will be too late. If one sends a flying column, it will lack heavy equipment. 

Thus, in rolling up the armour to make force marches incessantly day and night, marching at double time for a hundred li to wrest an advantage, the commanders will fall into enemy's hands.  

The stronger soldiers will arrive first while the weak ones will fall behind, and by his method, only one-tenth of the troops will arrive. 

If you march fifty li, the front commander will fall and only half the troops will arrive.  

If you march thirty li, then two-thirds will arrive. An army cannot survive without its equipment, food and stores. Sun Tzu 7:6-11 

The inability of the marketing or sales department to gauge the field conditions can lead to inefficient production schedules. Either there is lack of timely supplies or there is grossly stocked inventory.  

You lose customers in the first scenario and waste money in the second scenario. 

All because you are too lazy to check on the field situation and thus make adequate preparation. 

So, the leader must endeavour to check the details of the field, so that adequate preparations are made for the smooth cooperation of the groups. Otherwise, one group will lag behind another. 

The unit best given the task of checking the field is the marketing or sales department. 

Field staff are needed to check the field and what department would fits the job best but one which deploys so many field staff? Thus; the staff of the marketing or sales department have dual missions. 

Another area of preparation has got to be the communication links between the different groups in the organisation, and also between the organisation and its distribution system. 

The Book of Army Administration says: “In the battlefields, as orders cannot be heard clearly, make use of bells and drums. Nor ordinary objects be distinguished, so use flags and banners.” 

Drums and bells, flags and banners are to unify the sight and hearing of a person. When soldiers are thus united, the brave cannot advance alone and the coward also cannot withdraw. 

This is the art of controlling a large army. In night fighting, use torches and drums; and use flags and banners in day fighting, as a means of influencing the army's sight and hearing. Sun Tzu 7:23-26 

Checking means that facts must be found, weighed and the findings conveyed to the appropriate targets who can then make preparations.  

Efforts must thus be made to form an efficient communication-cum-distribution system. Other-wise, the organisation will fail to coordinate its people. 

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