It seems like everywhere I look I see mention of millennials, that ‘next generation’ who seems to be shaking things up in a big way. From the way companies do business to the products available on store shelves to the rising stars of the executive world, there’s no mistaking the millennial influence. That got me wondering, what kind of sway does this technology-loving, values-driven, need-to-know right now, group have over your supply chain. And do they deserve the power we’ve given them?
I should start by saying that I am in fact a part of this often talked about demographic, which according to Wikipedia is comprised of anyone born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. I’ll let you guess where in that range I fall.
So why the big fuss about us up-and-comers? Well, according to Forbes, who agrees that 2015 is the Year of the Millennial, there are 80 million millennials in the U.S. alone, and it’s estimated that by 2017 we’ll be spending $200 billion annually. But it’s not just our spending power that has companies taking note. Here are a few facts from a Forbes and Elite Daily report.
A measly 1% are swayed to trust a brand based on advertising
75% believe it’s fairly or very important for a company to give back
62% will engage with brands on social media
60% are often or always loyal to their regular brands
42% are interested in co-creating products with companies
87% use between two and three tech devices at least once a day
What if there were little, to no, limitations to the what-if analysis you could do? What if you could change anything (data, working assumptions, business rules) to explore options and see the impact instantly? What if you could do scenario simulations for any function of your supply chain? What if you didn’t need to make it an IT project to create new scenario parameters? What if I go on and on with these questions… ?
Like many supply chain capabilities discussed in the industry, it is something touted by many, but not all what-if capabilities are created equal. Many advanced supply chain planning systems involve conditions where computing power must be rationed, scenario parameters are limited and collaboration is not built-in. Yet the value of what-if analysis is in the power to put the ability to do scenario simulations in the hands of many.
What-if analysis, in the most optimal condition, would be quick, flexible, extensive, and collaborative. And because it’s fast and easy, the capability would be leveraged fully and often, leading to decision-makers being able to test multiple scenarios projecting the impact of various “what-if” alternatives and evaluating their achievement against relevant operations performance metrics so a team is choosing objectively among a full range of options.
And we would argue that is exactly what happens in RapidResponse. It’s our secret sauce after all – well maybe not so secret given how much we advocate it. The point is that what-if analysis is absolutely foundational to our product and among the most critical capability in delivering on the “Know Sooner, Act Faster” value proposition.
This came through loud and clear in some recent customer interviews, whereby our customers talked about how scenario simulations are being used across business processes (strategic to tactical) to enable new ways to analyze situations and make decisions… fast!
Today is ‘Take Your Plant for a Walk Day’ (yes, apparently that is a real thing), and in honor of houseplants everywhere I thought I would look at the supply chain of an industry that has long fascinated me – the nursery industry. What exactly goes in to getting all those lovely shrubs, trees and flowers from the grower to the garden?
Let me start by saying that I personally do not have a garden. Why? Because while I love plants, they do not love me. No matter how enthusiastically the very knowledgeable staff tell me that this plant or that one can survive anything, the sad truth is none has survived my very, very black thumb, despite years of trying.
That of course does not stop me from visiting my local nursery to see what they have in stock. From seeds to shoots to seedlings and fully-grown shrubs, trees and flowers – the complexities of getting these plants to the end consumer are many.
Whether you’re a fashionista or overly fond of the frumpy look, chances are you’re buying into the multi-billion dollar clothing industry. And whether you realize it or not, the garment industry supply chain is changing – both for the better and for the worse.
Cambodia, China, Taiwan, India – look at the ‘made in’ labels on your clothing and you’re likely to find these popular clothing manufacturing countries. A recent Wall Street Journal article reveals African nations such as Ethiopia may soon be added to that list thanks to their lack of minimum wage regulations. Apparently, the $67 a month workers make in Bangladesh was getting to be too costly. This represents what many feel is wrong with the industry – large companies willing to sacrifice human dignity and safety to save on their bottom line.
There have been countless examples of big fashion brands finding themselves caught up in controversy thanks to their supply chain, and the use of factories that pollute, employ child labor, mistreat workers or worse. Sadly, it took a major tragedy to open the eyes of millions to see exactly what goes into making the clothes on their backs.
This post concludes my inventory management blog series.
Throughout this series I’ve proposed an elevated role for the inventory manager that challenges the assumption that an inventory manager is a victim of his colleagues’ business decisions and plays only a limited role in formulating inventory results. Inventory management is not a stand-alone business process that occurs after other processes are complete. It is a high-level process that should be integrated into other supply chain planning processes including, at a minimum, sales and operations planning, master production scheduling and supply action management. Inventory managers should support multiple business objectives and should have business integrated targets related to inventory levels, customer service levels, total inventory cost, and inventory quality.
The inventory manager needs to act like an air traffic controller, effectively collaborating with his management peers to guide and coordinate their processes together in a way that leads to optimized inventory results. They should be able to update safety stock and order policy settings, and they should be able to collaborate on improvement initiatives related to lead-time optimization, supply and demand variability, and supply chain agility. It’s important for the inventory manager to have strong analytic skills and a deep understanding of the principles of supply chain management as a successful inventory manager will understand how to meet his targets without negative consequences in other areas of the business. The company should support the inventory manager with access to continuous learning resources and development courses to ensure they stay current and can take advantage of recent industry advancements.
Supply chain visibility… ah, yes, possibly the most over used term in the industry. And as is typical with over used terms, there are as many interpretations as there are colors in a kaleidoscope. What it means, what it involves, and what the goal is can be very different depending on the person, the organization… and even (or especially!) the solution provider.
Below you will find video links to Kinaxis customers that speak to the visibility they have gained from RapidResponse, which so fittingly articulates the three key components we believe are critical to gaining the type of visibility that can produce real value for an organization.
Hi, my name is Alexa and I am a chocoholic. It’s been less than a day since my last indulgence.
There’s no two ways about it. When it comes to the cocoa-laden confectionery, I’m hooked. It doesn’t matter if it’s milk, dark or white. Anything with even a hint of chocolatey goodness will suffice – and sadly for my waist line, one little taste is never enough.
What’s even more unfortunate than the effect on my figure is that it’s about to get a whole lot more difficult to feed my addiction thanks to a lack of insight into supply chain risk. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently posted an article about the huge shortfall in the cocoa crop in Ghana. Dry weather coupled with the late application of vital pesticides to cocoa trees has caused the crop to shrink significantly, and sparked fears growers may not be able to deliver enough cocoa to fulfill their contracts. That means manufacturers will likely be scrambling to find enough cocoa to satisfy their chocolate producing needs.
Skyrocketing prices aside, this latest news is enough to send any chocolate lover to the store to stock up, and really puts the spotlight on a major supply chain risk in the $7 billion cocoa-futures market. As the WSJ points out, there is a drastic over reliance on the Ivory Coast and Ghana when it comes to the global cocoa supply chain. Together they account for more than half of the world’s cocoa supplies!
With that much of the world’s supply coming from one region, it’s no wonder the price and availability of chocolate fluctuates as wildly as it does. Natural disasters, poor growing conditions, pandemics, war, political and social unrest, terrorism and accidents can all have huge consequences on supply chains relying on either a single supplier, or suppliers who are all in the same geographic region.
“Sense and Respond”, or as we position it, “Know Sooner, Act Faster”, is a favorite topic on the Kinaxis blog. Many have had a lot to say on the topic (see here, here and here as examples). And now, so do our customers.
Before we get to that, let me ask you, do you know what the first step is that leads to being able to sense and respond? Acceptance – a recognition that you can’t plan perfectly. I suspect you are thinking to yourself, “everyone knows this and accepts this already”, right? Well, in theory and in their words they might, but in execution… not so much. For example, at a meeting with a prospect recently the team talked at length about their need to be more responsive and flexible. They said they needed to advance their processes and bring them together to be able to be more agile and effective in their planning, analysis and decision making. Awesome… music to our ears! And when the conversation turned to the capabilities they were seeking, guess what happened? They presented a series of feature checklists for each individual function, primarily focused on planning capabilities. Hmmm.
When an organization truly recognizes the difference between planning better and knowing sooner, acting faster, it means they are looking at the problem differently. And equally important, they start looking at the solution differently. The conversation changes from looking at ways to optimize the plan, to looking at ways to optimize decision-making processes when there are variances. They consider a set of capabilities that are fundamental to creating a competency in “sensing and responding” – from getting harmonized data, to being able to do quick simulations, to bringing teams together to make informed risk decisions and business tradeoffs.
We’ve posted a series of Kinaxis customer clips, among them are a few that speak to this theme. There are some pretty good insights that are definitely worthy of a listen.
“…we haven’t been able to accurately forecast for a long time, and it was just fooling ourselves, and so years ago we really embraced this philosophy that, “No we can’t, so what can we do about it?”…and so what we began doing was… ”