Simplified Systematic Network Planning – step 5

STEP 5: EVALUATE ALTERNATIVES
In Step 5, the planner evaluates the network plans developed in Step 4 by running several alternative scenarios.

Evaluation takes two forms:

• Cost analysis – comparing relevant costs among scenarios and their network plans.
• Intangible analysis – for factors or considerations that cannot be easily modeled or measured in economic terms.

Cost analysis is generally straightforward.

Modeling software typically computes each alternative’s difference from the baseline on each element of total cost. But when comparing alternatives, planners must decide whether to show all costs or only those that are affected by the proposed alternatives.

In the MTT example, as shown in the Alternatives Analysis Worksheet, the four alternative plans compare what the company’s historical costs would have been if 32 oz capacity had been added in one of four existing plants.

Madison’s costs (Alt IV) are highest. Vicksburg’s costs (Alt III) are the lowest, and would have saved about \$739,000 per year over the current or baseline network, and saved about \$1 million more per year than Madison. These savings easily justify the upgrade of a production line.

Note that the planners have dropped purchasing costs from the previous Step 4 cost summary since these costs are unaffected and the same for all plans. This action helps to accentuate the cost differences between the alternatives. (See line 5 of the Cost Summary section in the Alternatives Analysis Worksheet.)

Naturally we would like to implement the network plan with the lowest total cost. But intangible factors or considerations may also play a role. For MTT, annual costs differ by only four percent among the four alternatives. With such a small difference, costs alone should not decide which plan is best. When two or more plans yield similar costs, the best one is typically found by comparing such intangibles as:

• Ease of implementation
• Exposure to various risks
• Fit with organization structure
• Labor-related considerations
• Facilities-related considerations

To evaluate intangibles, SSNP uses the weighted-factor approach shown in the lower portion of the Alternatives Analysis Worksheet. The planners list relevant factors and management assigns weights reflecting their relative importance. By convention, SSNP assigns a weight of 10 to the most important factor. Next, those who will implement and operate the network discuss and rate the effectiveness of each alternative on each factor. SSNP uses the vowel-code convention of A, E, I, O, U and X, in descending order of effectiveness, where A=4, E=3, I=2, O=1, and U=0. A rating of “X” disqualifies a plan unless the objectionable feature can be fixed.

After all plans have been rated on all factors, the ratings’ numerical values are multiplied by the factor weights to arrive at total scores for each plan. The highest score indicates the best network plan from an intangibles perspective. Hopefully the highest scoring plan will also have the lowest total cost. But if not, this procedure will reveal the intangible benefits of the more costly network plans. When cost comparison results in a stand-off and does not indicate a clear winner, the weighted factor approach will help discover which plan is best and why.

In the example, Alternative II (Briansville) scores roughly 50 percent (84/54) better than the lowest cost Alternative III, Vicksburg. Briansville offers more capacity relief, easier implementation, and a better fit with the current organizational structure. For these reasons, MTT management selected Briansville for the 32 oz bottling line upgrade.