Most people have heard the acronym “VUCA” as used to describe changing and sometimes dangerous situations. The military used this acronym to describe extreme conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. When I think of VUCA, I want to change it to “VACUUM” as it applies to my supply chain, because a missed delivery or a loss of a reliable source can leave me hanging out there in empty space.
I submit to you the acronym VACUUM. It stands for, Volatility, Ambiguity, Complexity, Uncertainty, Unreliability, and Malpractice.
That last one sounds like I am accusing someone of doing bad things to my orders on purpose. I think that is exactly the case when I receive fake, remarked, or used parts sold as the genuine articles. Buyers have to be aware of the massive influx of counterfeit parts now circulating through the supply chain. I hear statistics such as every 15 seconds another counterfeit part is discovered. So “Malpractices” are practices that are MAL-icious, and now I have to watch for these bogus parts the same way I have to keep an eye out for Malware trying to hack or invade my computer.
I also added “Unreliability.” Though it has an element of uncertainty to it, when I use the term, I am thinking of laggards who don't use best-practices for parts ordering, handling, or shipping. This is not just a procedural flaw; it is also a company employee character flaw.
Recently, I ordered critical parts for a board assembly operation, and I was told by the distributor that all parts I had ordered were on their way. Not true. After the parts were due, I had discovered that the person who took my order and made the promise to deliver, had a “bad day” (her own words) and made several errors when entering my requirements into her computer. She had delayed entering the order in the timeliest manner, which would have secured my parts in the order management system, and she neglected to verify the costs and availability she had quoted. Now you see why I use the term, “Unreliable” instead of “Uncertain.” My parts were not “on their way.” They were not even ordered.
If you are wondering where the other letters in VACUUM went, let me assure you that I became a Volatile customer and in no Ambiguous terms, I curtailed doing additional business with her company. She made a simple order so Complex that she gave me a “complex” that borders on paranoia about the reliability of order takers in general. It took days to figure out where in the ordering process the ball had been dropped.
Now, I have inside sales people repeat back everything I order, including part number, price, quantity, shipping methods, and delivery time estimates. I also insist on an immediate email copy of the order acknowledgement. I also check every line item on the acknowledgement before I am satisfied that the purchasing requirement has been met.
I like the term VUCA as it applies to the supply chain in general. Risk management has to take into consideration all of the potentialities. But I like VACUUM even better because if I don't consider all of the other possibilities inherent in character flaws, I could get sucked into situations that would make me look like a “space cadet” to my superiors.