Posts by Bill DuBois

Where are you on your capacity planning journey?

BillDuBois

Tight ropeBalancing capacity can be as challenging as walking a tight rope. It’s a fine line between staying balanced or plunging to your death. Not enough capacity and you lose balance when it comes to delivery and customer satisfaction. Too much capacity and you lose your balance when it comes to costs and margins. All companies are walking this fine line with capacity planning, but some are continuously waving their arms trying to stay upright, while others have secured their footing.

At one end, you have what you might call the “order toss” approach. Let’s throw the orders over the wall and try not to listen to operations scream bloody murder. Planning decisions are made with the best of intentions but for reasons that aren’t always clear, those decisions are made without much consideration for capacity.

At the other end, you have organizations with finely tuned collaborative processes that consider capacity at all levels of the planning horizon. From business planning, sales and operations planning (S&OP) down to detailed material planning, capacity planning is part of the conversation at all levels. Utilization is a key metric for high capital equipment. Capacity and inventory planning work closely together to manage prebuild plans against inventory targets. In overloaded conditions – and let’s face it, regardless of how good your processes are it will happen – demand, supply, inventory and capacity planners are all in sync to balance revenue, margin and delivery targets against utilization, inventory and cost reduction goals.

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How you doin’? Is your supply chain doing the right thing to prepare for the future?

BillDuBois

Sears supply chainThe other day I turned on the news to the headline of Sears Canada closing 59 stores. My thoughts went immediately to images of my mother passing around the Sears catalog as she asked us to mark pages with gift suggestions. That tradition continued with my own children as she would sit down with them and shift through the toy section for ideas. What happened to those “good ole days?”

Those days of bonding over the Sears catalog were over a decade ago and the strategy of mailing a catalog has long been left in the dust. In the meantime, Sears hasn’t turned an annual profit since 2010, with losses in the billions. The gut reaction for many would be to say Sears, or its Kmart brand, didn’t keep up with the growth of online shopping, but the store’s troubles started long before browser buying became the norm, and can be tied to the brand not planning for the future of their supply chain.

Doing things

For the most part during all those years of losing money, Sears didn’t change the way it did business. The company just went about the day doing things the way they’d always been done, like mailing catalogs. It did little to invest in its brand and tried to work its way back to profitability by cutting. There was also little done to attract new customers and the Sears clientele remained for the most part late baby boomers. One would have been hard pressed to find a millennial coming out of Sears and pulled aside for an interview on what they thought about the store’s demise.

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5 pieces to the global capacity management puzzle

BillDuBois

Global capacity managementRecently I was watching a video interview with David Thomas, the Director of Global Capacity Planning for Ford Motor Company. Among other things, he’s been leading the charge at Ford to deliver a global capacity management solution. He describes the process as a jigsaw puzzle. The challenge with getting a global view as he puts it, is if the pieces “don’t fit together, you don’t see the right picture.”

Ford’s challenges to global capacity management

In the interview, David describes the challenges facing Ford in fitting the pieces together. One of which is its extensive legacy. Ford has been around for 100 years and the five main regions of the company (North and South America, Asia, Europe and Middle/Eastern Africa) grew up individually. There wasn’t a need to move data and information between the regions because they had different products, teams and organizations.

Over the past few decades, the auto industry, like most other industries, experienced unprecedented changes that drove a need to transform capacity management from a regional to a global view. The 2008 downturn hit suppliers extremely hard, putting some out of business. But in 2010, an upturn in demand in emerging regions like Brazil, India and China meant capacity required varied significantly by region. But that demand didn’t match what companies had available in those areas. Thus, a global view of capacity management was required to combat these newly emerged supply chain constraints.

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It’s time for a revolution of the supply chain kind

BillDuBois

Supply chain planning systemsThere have been some pretty significant revolutions throughout history. The French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and the Chinese cultural revolution – just to name a few.

Well, today I’m going to talk about the need for another revolution. A supply chain planning systems revolution. Will it be the stuff that future historians drool over or universities base curriculums on? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m going to discuss it anyway, because for those of us living in a supply chain world, it’s big deal.

The world is changing – new technology, globalization, shifting markets, changing demographics, global warming – you get the idea. So while everything’s been changing around us, why hasn’t supply chain planning evolved to any great extent?

Times Haven’t Changed

Across the supply chain, functions and processes still operate in silos. Excel spreadsheets remain the number one way companies manage supply chain data (go figure). Current planning systems simply aren’t designed to deliver the speed and agility needed to deal with the complexity and risks associated with today and tomorrow’s supply chain.

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The lighter side of supply chain: 10 more supply chain jokes

BillDuBois

end-to-end supply chain jokes Much has changed in the world of supply chain since we published our last batch of supply chain jokes. Supply chain disruptions continue to be the norm. Cognitive computing, IoT and big data are changing the technology landscape. Shifting demographics and supply chain talent questions leave many of us in the field scratching our heads. However, it’s not all depressing. Advances in end-to-end supply chain solutions and customer success stories show it’s a great time to be in supply chain. There are a number of events to look forward to, including the Gartner Executive Supply Chain Conference in May and the Kinaxis user conference, Kinexions in October, that celebrate our many supply chain achievements. As we get ready to take a deep breath after an exciting start to the year, we thought some cheesy supply chain humor would help us relax as we gear up to take on the rest of 2017.

So here you go, some more supply chains jokes. I apologize beforehand to all supply, demand and capacity planners, sales, engineers and statistical forecasters. We hope you enjoy!

  1. ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I apologize’ mean the same thing. Except at a funeral or an S&OP meeting.

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Supply chain planning system revolution: Are you yanking my chain?

BillDuBois

Supply chain isolationWords get thrown around like rice at a wedding these days to describe what makes a world class supply chain planning system: “End to end visibility”, “collaborative planning”, and “what if simulation” are only a few of the many terms you hear when discussing the keys to supply chain success. Don’t get me wrong, these are all valuable attributes, but are often addressed in isolation and problems are usually tackled one functional silo at a time.

Kinaxis CEO John Sicard talked about the traditional, siloed view of supply chain during his interview with SupplyChainBrain’s Russell Goodwin. The title of the interview, Revolutionizing Your Supply Chain Planning, immediately made me wonder, “Are you yanking my chain?” The word “revolutionizing” was one I hadn’t heard in any supply chain narrative before, and with a word that strong, doubt is a natural reaction. When you hear “revolution,” you think the American Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, Batman vs. Superman. Ok, maybe not that last one, but epic supply chain battles definitely aren’t top of mind. However, Sicard got me thinking of a revolution like a rotation, a turnaround, a 180 – a way of doing things differently.

Goodwin does a great job of extracting the definition of the supply chain planning system revolution from Sicard. In this case, yanking my (supply) chain is actually a good thing. Let me explain. Mr. Sicard started by looking back with a brief supply chain technology history lesson: “Processes are disconnected because supply chain planning has grown up in a siloed manner,” he said.

Because of these functional barriers, “it’s futile to follow that model and think you can optimize the supply chain one link at a time.” Since functional processes are disconnected, it takes a significant amount of time for the impact of a change to get from one end to the other of the supply chain. In most organizations today, the supply chain is managed by looking at the individual links in the chain. That makes it difficult for individuals managing one supply chain planning process to know what the others are doing or what impact their decisions have on others.

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Supply chain risk management in 2017

BillDuBois

Financial crisis. Check. Environmental catastrophes. Check. What’s next? Is this the year of political disruption?

Supply chain risk managementWorking in supply chain is like starring in a Rocky movie. You keep getting knocked down and you have to keep getting back up.

You don’t need to go back any further than a decade to understand the many challenges supply chains have endured over the years. Interestingly enough, the first episode of Breaking Bad that aired in 2008 reflected what it was like being in supply chain risk management at the time: “Hey, a science teacher is cooking meth, how much worse could it get?”

If you were a fan of the series, you were on the edge of your seat amazed at the plot’s crazy twists and turns. My guess is people who didn’t see the show were the supply chain practitioners too busy trying to ride the storm of the 2008 financial crash.

Supply chains had to deal with squeezing margins and dramatically cut costs, which included significant downsizing. Doing more with less wasn’t an option; it was a necessity. Maybe the one good thing to come out of it was some companies figured out how they could survive with lower inventories. Some suppliers weren’t so lucky. In 2009, I’m sure most we’re thinking, “How much worse could it get?”

Well, it got a lot worse.

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2017 – The year of learning

BillDuBois

Education and training – What’s the difference?

learningFor anyone in supply chain, 2016 was an exciting and challenging year. Hot topics included advanced analytics, Internet of Things, 3D printing and robotics. Drop in all the global, economic, political and environmental challenges into the conversation and the changes needed to make supply chains survive and thrive in the future became front and center at all the top supply chain events.

At the Gartner supply chain conference back in May the theme was the “bimodal” supply chain. What exactly is bi-modal? Gartner describes it as running two modes within your supply chain simultaneously. Mode one focuses on managing day-to-day operations; mode two is all about making the breakthrough innovations needed to take on the new challenges facing supply chains.

Taking a bi-modal approach to learning

I recently sat in on a webinar that discussed learning options, subscriptions and how you can revolutionize the way your organization learns.

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