Posts by Alexa Cheater

ACT now to take your supply chain into the future


One message came through loud and clear during Gartner’s recent Supply Chain Executive Conference; you must ACT (aspire, challenge, transform) now if you want to have any hope in taking your supply chain profitably into the future. The conference’s theme of Aspire, Challenge and Transform in a Disruptive World featured prominently in the opening keynote address by two of the research firm’s VPs, Debra Hofman and Michael Burkett, who urged attendees to re-imagine their roles and ask how they will meet the future.

The pair talked about how disruption is the new norm. I would argue it always has been, but agree the explosion of interconnectivity and digital disruptors is causing an immediate impact on supply chain—even if the supporting technology behind it has individually been around for years. I’d also agree that to be successful it’s time to re-define the very notion of supply chain.

Providing an experience, not just a product

With more than $16 trillion exports moving between countries annually, the new reality isn’t just focused on getting the right product to the right people at the right time. As Hofman and Burkett put it, it’s about creating an experience-focused supply chain, which will force you as supply chain managers and leaders to gain a better understanding of your customers than ever before.

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Goodbye scheduled decision-making, hello concurrent planning


Sales and operations planningThe face of sales and operations planning (S&OP) is changing. Gone are the days when sequential, isolated planning and monthly meetings based on out-of-date data are sufficient to drive stability and success.

End-to-end initiatives now span beyond the confines of a single company’s supply chain, encompassing extended supplier and customer value networks, as well. Digitization, sparked by the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), the expanding number of connected devices and big data, is driving a shift in consumerism. Your company needs to keep pace, or risk falling behind forever.

The reality is, supply and demand waits for no one — not even your executive team.

Running a profitable global business requires speed and agility in both strategic and
tactical planning. But transitioning to a new way of looking at S&OP means saying goodbye to scheduled decision-making, a frightening thought for many. It may seem like an impossible step. How can you let go of the security of regular meetings planned weeks in advance? Or the safety of knowing those big decisions only come around once a month?

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Supply chain pain points: Semiconductors


5 hurdles the semiconductor industry needs to jump over to find success

Semiconductor supply chainBuilding your business on someone else’s supply chain blueprint may not be the best way to find success. What works for one company may not work for another – especially if they’re in varying industries, geographies or are different sized enterprises. As I noted in my earlier blogs in this series on consumer electronics and life sciences, each industry has unique supply chain pain points that need to be overcome to improve efficiency and profitability.

When it comes to the semiconductor industry, one of their biggest supply chain hurdles is that the speed of new technology introduction is 2-3X faster than the research and development (R&D) timeline. It’s a highly capitalized industry thanks to the high cost of fabrication centers (Fabs). It’s transforming from design and manufacturing companies into design and product companies. These new fab-less companies are working with foundries to manufacture wafers, instead of fabrication centers.

The cyclical nature of the semiconductor space requires impact mitigation through product expansion (portfolio diversification) and rapidly scaling capacities. The result is an increase in mergers and acquisitions (M&As) to stay competitive, leading to disparate processes, systems and tools.

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Supply chain pain points: Life sciences


8 life sciences-specific challenges and how to overcome them

Life sciences supply chain

As I mentioned in the first blog of this supply chain pain points series, working in supply chain is tough business. Every company’s supply chain is unique, with its own set of challenges and solutions. But when it comes to life sciences supply chains, things just seem to be a whole lot more complicated.

Regulations, expirations and generic and brand name labels add a certain complexity to the mix not always seen in other industries. Branded pharmaceuticals tend to be high margin products, while generics are lower margin with a large volume of new product introductions (NPIs). With an extremely competitive landscape, mergers and acquisitions are common, leading to a multitude of disparate enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, wreaking havoc on end-to-end supply chain visibility. Here are a few more obstacles those of you working supply chain in life sciences have to contend with.

Lack of robust sales and operations planning (S&OP) tools

Traditional S&OP tools don’t always account for the specific needs of the life sciences supply chain. S&OP in this space requires volume level planning at multiple hierarchies and provide mix level detail including material and capacity constraints at the site and SKU level.

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Supply chain pain points: Consumer electronics


Consumer Electronic4 problems facing consumer electronics and what to do about them

Let’s face it. Working in supply chain is no walk in the park. Unless of course you’re walking barefoot and the ground is covered in razor-sharp pebbles that randomly change location. Then maybe it’d be comparable.

The fact is, while supply chain is big business for most companies, it also comes with a whole new set of challenges unique to its many processes, data requirements and functions. But depending on which industry you work in, your specific set of supply chain pain points could vary greatly. This blog series takes an in-depth look at some of the specific supply chain obstacles certain industries face, and how to potentially overcome them.

First up is consumer electronics.

Relatively short product lifecycles (typically 6-9 months) with multiple feature changes throughout

This creates an atmosphere full of risk. With so many changes happening over the course of the lifecycle, you’re likely carrying extra inventory to make sure you have enough stock on hand to cover any part substitutions or adjustments. That means higher carrying costs and a greater risk to your bottom line if the product ends up as slow moving, excess or obsolete inventory.

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Overcoming the Amazon effect: Pushing retail supply chains to the limit


Amazon supply chain managementHow to overcome the Amazon effect

When it comes to supply chain excellence, particularly in the retail sector, there is one behemoth dominating the landscape. Amazon is driving innovation and change at a pace that’s putting the pressure on other businesses to find a way to keep up, or fold.

The online retailer’s most recent patent focuses on drone technology, and would involve drones delivering packages with parachutes. It’s just the latest in a string of patents that span the gamut from smart stores to flying warehouses. Amazon is even entering the transportation space, signing agreements with the Air Transport Services Group and the Chinese government to enter into the freight cargo business – effectively cutting out the middleman.

It has leased 20 Boeing 767 aircraft to shuttle goods around the US, and helped ship at least 150 cargo containers from China since October 2016. It’s all part of the global expansion of ‘Fulfillment by Amazon’, which provides storage, packing and shipping to small independent merchants selling products on Amazon’s website.

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The importance of customer service for end-to-end supply chains


Customer ServiceSupply chain rigidity could be costing you billions

Getting the right product to the right people at the right time – that’s at the heart of what demand and supply planning is all about. But as anyone who works in supply chain knows, it’s a lot easier said than done. Forecasts are wrong more often than they’re right, and shifting consumer priorities means your supply chain has to be able to react to change and shift directions in seconds.

The success of your business depends on it, because if you can’t adapt and adjust, your customers will find someone who can. Exemplary customer service matters to your bottom line. Whether you work in business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) or any other space, the reality is, we all have customers to serve. Supply chains are built around that fact.

The result of poor customer service

A recent study by NewVoiceMedia shows nearly $62 billion is flowing from companies’ pockets into the hands of their competitors as a direct result of poor customer service. Failing to deliver the right product, failure to meet on-time delivery promises or even just a lack of clear communication are just a few reasons why customers are disappearing. The same research shows almost half of respondents (49%) reported leaving a business due to inadequate customer service, with those aged 25-34 years old 62% more likely to switch to a competitor as a result.

Can your company really afford to lose that many customers?

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5 steps to supply change management success


Supply change managementWorking in supply chain means getting comfortable with change – changes in supply, changes in demand, changes in capacity, etc. The list is virtually endless. But supply change management isn’t just about dealing with unanticipated supply chain risks and adjustments.

Sometimes, it means changing your business processes and company culture to stay afloat in a complex, digitized world. Sometimes, it means pushing outside your comfort zone and trying something new. Sometimes, it means updating outdated supply chain management systems and bringing in better technology.

In any of those cases, especially that last one, achieving such a feat may seem daunting. But there is good news. There are things you can do to ensure you set yourself, your company and your team on a path to supply change management success.

Vision: Create a compelling vision of the future, a roadmap outlining what successfully implementing the change means, and what your team should expect as a result. Develop a clear plan with scope, and support it with a firm business case. Follow it.

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