Over the labor day weekend I was traveling with my family and we stopped by a fast food restaurant for a quick meal.  Each person in line in front of me placed their order and was given the response, “that item will take five to ten minutes to prepare”.  When I placed my order I was given the same response and immediately changed my order.

While waiting for my order, I asked the four people who ordered before me what they initially ordered.  Amazingly enough, it was the exact same item that I ordered.  When I received my order I asked the Manager why the original item took so long to prepare.  The response: “No one orders that item so we don’t stock it and only prepare it on an order by order basis.”

The ability of their supply chain to respond quickly to my order significantly impacted what I actually ordered and my likelihood of placing future orders.  When Order Visibility is  discussed, the common focus is on processing the order and ensuring it arrives on time, in full and defect free.   Traditionally, it does not focus on seeing order changes and understanding the root cause of those changes.  Perhaps the most important questions are how many supply chains are positioning SKU’s incorrectly based on partially captured order data and why should a supply chain practitioner care?  In this instance, I was able to gain additional clarity.

A colleague of mine works in a demand management / generation function for this particular fast food chain and several weeks later commented that a large unplanned promotion will occur because the item is behind its sales plan.  The influence that the supply chain has on this item, particularly the “last mile” has never been examined.  What hidden influences does your supply chain have on sales?