Palo Alto Networks supports its customers throughout the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic

In a webinar we recently took part in, we examined how one of our clients, Palo Alto Networks, successfully supported its customers throughout the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Palo Alto Network’s overall SLA performance was down just 0.2% during the pandemic. The business intelligence and global execution provided by Prophet by Baxter Planning and our partners at Flash Global helped Palo Alto Networks achieve this remarkable service level.

Below are some lessons from early-2020 that can help your organization prepare for the next pandemic or other unforeseen challenges by using spare parts planning and global execution.

Communicate Early, and Often

During the beginning of the pandemic, international supply chains slowed, but in most cases never completely stopped. The main challenge was dealing with unprecedented uncertainty:

  • Which countries’ policies changed overnight that might impact a shipment?
  • Where is the shipment?
  • How long will it take to clear customs?
  • When will it be delivered?
  • What do we tell anxious customers?

Flash prioritized timely communication with its global install base, building a strong, consultative dialogue that addressed high-tech clients’ needs. As a result, they collaborated with clients to strategically distribute spares from alternate locations to end-users to mitigate transportation and customs delays. At the start of the crisis, customers received daily updates of all impacted locations throughout their global network of Global Service Centers, distribution centers, and 700-plus forward stocking locations.

For Palo Alto Networks, the near-real-time updates from Flash about customs issues and shelter-in-place orders meant that account teams could access reliable inventory level and order tracking data, which they then used to proactively alert end-users about delays. The planning analytics our team was able to provide Palo Alto Networks gave them the data they needed for informed decision-making. Clear visibility into their global supply chain system in near real-time empowered them to make proactive strategic changes to uphold their commitment of meeting customer requirements.

Immediate access to reliable data and cross-communication among all stakeholders meant that everyone was working off the same set of facts and aligned expectations. Palo Alto could communicate reliable information to customers and adjust operations to meet new requirements.

Put Parts Closer to Customers

Being lean ruled as companies tried to reduce costs by consolidating spare parts inventory in a few large warehouses. However, this pandemic has shown us that it is possible to have operations so lean that they can starve customers’ spare part needs during a crisis.

Many realized that having one depot to service 50 customers doesn’t work, especially during a pandemic. Regional and local restrictions on movement, with shelter-in-place, and even quarantine orders, restrict both the flow of goods and the available labor pool.

Retire the Spreadsheets

The 2018 Supply Chain Resilience Report published by the Business Continuity Institute found that 46% of supply chain professionals worldwide relied on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to monitor, measure, and manage supply chain disruptions. Some companies still used spreadsheets to manage their entire supply chain.

When it comes to supply chain management, spreadsheets are unreliable. They take valuable time and are vulnerable to input errors that cascade through the system. The pandemic prompted longer lead times, fewer available workers, and an urgent need for real-time visibility around the clock. Spreadsheets and manual processes delay access to critical data and can lead to decisions made by hunches or based on outdated information.

Palo Alto Networks was already set up for success prior to the deep impacts of the pandemic. The data provided by Flash and Baxter shared via integrations (electronic messaging), allowed Palo Alto Networks to support their customers by prioritizing critical repairs and delaying less-urgent return merchandise authorizations.