Never let a potential customer slip out of your grasp. If your order process ever puts you at risk, then it is time to change your order process. John Westerveld writes at his blog for The 21st Century Supply Chain on what to do when crunch time hits with a potential new customer, and you and the customer both need to know right away if accepting a big new order is possible. Factors to consider in a tense situation like this include impact to revenue, impact to margin, willingness to make other orders late in order to fulfill this big new one, components that block timely completion of the order, and options to resolve those blocking components. Westerveld says trouble in considering these factors occurs in that: With traditional ERP systems, responding with confidence is nearly impossible. Batch based calculations mean that you simply can’t know the impact on the supply chain unless you run the various processes that rebalance the plan. This can take several hours at least – and are typically run at night or over the weekend. Further, many companies have different versions of ERP in different sites. Worse, companies may have grown through acquisition resulting in different ERP systems across the various sites. This means that visibility across the various nodes of the supply chain is limited. Once the calculations are done, the ability to visualize the impact of the change and the required response is very limited since ERP systems tend to be stuck in the 70’s model of presenting information, part by part, on a single screen. Typical responses in such an environment include accepting the big order and just hoping it gets done on time, or accepting the order according to large models built in Excel that inaccurately approximate the supply chain. Both strategies all too often lead to customer dissatisfaction. Westerveld offers several better alternatives upon which he elaborates at his blog, including creating a supply chain planning tool to introduce wide visibility, what-if simulations, high-speed analytics, responsibility-based collaboration, scenario comparison, and alignment. It will take a great deal of effort and thoughtful planning to develop such tools, but the gains will be immediately evident, and your supply chain will become that much more robust for it.