Posts by Dr. Madhav Durbha

Agility and flexibility in the age of digital supply chains – Insights from the 2017 Supply Chain & Logistics EMEA summit & expo

Dr. MadhavDurbha

2017 Supply Chain & Logistics EMEA summit & expoAs supply chain professionals, we can grow insular in our thinking, as on a day-to-day basis we risk confining ourselves narrowly to our domain of responsibility or solving challenges specific to our regions. However, from time to time, it is important to find opportunities to network with our peers from different regions or from different functional domains and learn from each other. The 2017 Supply Chain & Logistics EMEA summit & expo was one such opportunity. About three hundred supply chain professionals from various pockets of the world representing manufacturers, retailers, logistics providers, and technology vendors took part in the summit. It was a 3 day event with some very provocative content while providing sufficient opportunities for networking and peer-to-peer learning. Here are the key takeaways for me from the event.

1. Innovation in the warehouse: Markus Kückelhaus of DHL trend research, in two separate panels gave very compelling presentations on the innovation DHL is driving in the warehouse. One of them is Augmented Reality (AR). Through the pilots that DHL conducted, AR is showing tremendous productivity gains in the warehouse such as a 25% gain in picking productivity. Through the use of wearables, employees are able to navigate, scan, pick, and put away product. These wearables are eliminating the need for the associates to carry scanners, freeing up both hands to be more productive. There was also some discussion around AR vs VR (Virtual Reality). While VR has some potential in terms of testing out layouts and such, Markus observed that for the most part the potential for VR seems to be fairly minimal in the warehouses as compared to AR.

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The changing role of IT organizations in supply chain management

Dr. MadhavDurbha

Information technology in supply chain managementI recently read this very interesting book, “Be the Business: CIOs in the new era of IT” by Martha Heller. In the book, the author made several very interesting observations about how the role of a Chief Information Officer is changing in the age of cloud computing, personalization of tech, and the rise of shadow IT. As I was reading the book, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experience of working with IT organizations over the last two decades I have been in the supply chain business. Let us examine the shifts that happened. I will lean on the Supply Chain Planning space as an example and relate to the broader shifts in the role of IT in supply chain management.

1. The disillusionment with the establishment: In the late 90’s, i2 Technologies (the company where I started my career) was blazing a new trail in supply chain planning technology as most companies know it today. Manugistics was a strong contender to i2. However, the market was small enough that it was largely ignored by the big ERP vendors for a while. With the promise of these newer and exciting technologies at the time, IT organizations opted for a “best-of-breed” strategy bringing together the best of the ERP platforms and the specialty supply chain vendor capabilities.

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Aspire, challenge and transform: Insights from the Gartner Supply Chain Executive conference

Dr. MadhavDurbha

Gartner Supply Chain Executive conferenceI enjoy attending conferences. They give me the opportunity to reflect, reconnect and recharge. One conference I recently attended is the Gartner Supply Chain Executive conference in Phoenix, Arizona. With a lineup of very inspiring speakers, provocative content and pragmatic use cases shared by practitioners, the event certainly lived up to the theme of ACT (aspire, challenge and transform). Here are my takeaways:

1. Digital disruption is here and now: John Phillips, SVP of Customer Supply Chain, PepsiCo, presented some fascinating examples of getting products into the hands of consumers in unique ways powered by robotics and artificial intelligence. Here are some of the examples he shared to highlight how the traditional linear supply chains are being disrupted:

  • Connected home sharing consumption signals (e.g. smart refrigerators and Amazon dash buttons)
  • Cashier-free stores powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) (e.g. Amazon Go)
  • In-store robotics (robots scanning shelves and delivering real-time signals)

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The future of the supply chain planning profession

Dr. MadhavDurbha

Supply chain planning systemIt is a great time to be a supply chain planning professional. Advances in processing power, networking, and storage aided by the enduring power of Moore’s law have opened doors for some exciting new developments in supply chain planning. Specifically for planners, the advent of real time planning, ability to process massive amounts of data, and the rise of machine intelligence are all opening up newer challenges and opportunities. Mundane tasks such as gathering data and processing it into information are being automated to a larger extent. The ability to run end to end network-wide scenarios is a reality now.

While this revolution in supply chain planning is in early stages of adoption, it is only a matter of time before these capabilities become mainstream within many organizations. Given that such a future is inevitable, how will this change the supply chain planning profession? Let’s examine the possibilities:

“Stempathy” excellence will be critical for success

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Moore’s Law and supply chain planning systems

Dr. MadhavDurbha

Supply chain planning systemIt was in 1965 that Dr. Gordon Moore made a prediction that changed the pace of tech. His prediction, popularly known as Moore’s law, was with regards to doubling of the number of transistors per square inch on an integrated circuit every 18 months or so. As a result of the innovations attributable to the endurance of Moore’s law over the last 50+ years, we have seen significant accelerations in processing power, storage, and connectivity. These advances continue to have major implications on how companies plan their supply chains. In my nearly two decades as a supply chain professional, I have seen quite a few changes.

Let’s look at some of the big shifts that have taken place in the supply chain planning space.

1. Planning community gets bolder in tackling scale:

Early on in my career, I remember working with a large global company who had to take their interconnected global supply chain model and slice it up into distinct independent supply chain models. This was because the processing power at the time was simply not enough to plan their supply chain in a single instance. This surgical separation of supply chains required a high degree of ingenuity and identifying the portions of supply network with the least amount of interconnections, and partition them. This was not the most optimal way to build a supply chain model, but they did what they could within the limitations of the technology then. With the advent of better processing power, they were able to consolidate these multiple instances into a single global instance leading to a better model of their business. This is just one of many such examples.

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Insights from Kinexions Tokyo 2016

Dr. MadhavDurbha

Kinexions TokyoKinaxis hosted Kinexions Tokyo 2016 customer user conference event at the Canadian embassy in Tokyo. It was a stupendously successful event with many customers, prospects, and partners in attendance. The day kicked off with some very interesting and engaging presentations by Deloitte, Roland DG, Mitsubishi, and a Kinaxis keynote delivered by me. Here are some common themes based on the presentations and the conversations I had with the event attendees:

  • Organizations are looking to digital supply chains as a differentiator. With increased complexity and volatility in global supply chains, the ability to respond quickly to supply chain disruptions is becoming very critical. However, such transformation is not a big bang switch, but is a journey. Both Roland DG and Mitsubishi shared their experiences and their journey towards faster decision-making.
  • Companies are looking to significantly revamp their supply chain planning processes. This is due to increased realization that the current batch oriented planning processes are limiting their ability to run scenarios in real time and collaborate based on them.

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How Uber Parallels the 6 Design Principles of Digital Supply Chain

Dr. MadhavDurbha

Digital supply chainDigital supply chain is the “in” thing! Don’t take my word for it, though. Just google the term. You will come across many articles talking about how supply chains are being remade by industry 4.0, internet of things (IoT), 3D printing, big data analytics, cloud computing and so on. But what most of these articles focus on are the means rather than the ends for the digital supply chain. On a day-to-day basis I speak to a number of supply chain practitioners. Most of them tell me they are at some stage of evolution with their digitization strategy. However, much confusion exists in terms of what constitutes a digital supply chain. So, I decided to write this blog to share my point of view on the topic.

Supply chain digitization is not simply taking existing information and capturing it in a digital format. It is not about automating your existing SCM processes. It is not about layering in Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) as a band aid to connect disjointed processes. It is about having the most current information to run your supply chain effectively, available on demand, so you can service your customers and grow profitably. In other words, think of a Google search for supply chain. You ask questions and you get answers!

Here, I will introduce 6 design principles that make up a digital supply chain. I will lean on the example of Uber, how it digitized the taxi experience, and draw parallels to digital supply chain. Let us take a look at these design principles:

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Is S&OP an expensive band aid?

Dr. MadhavDurbha

S&OPI love talking to customers and prospects! Each of these interactions provide me with an opportunity to meet someone new, learn about their business, their challenges, dreams, and aspirations. The topic that often comes up in these conversations is Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP). While S&OP as a discipline has been around for over two decades, it has been generating great interest recently. As much interest as it has generated, based on my conversations, the results from S&OP efforts have been mixed at best. From time to time, I hear comments such as:

  • “My monthly S&OP process takes 6 weeks to execute”
  • “We have this massive excel sheet into which we load all our S&OP data to generate the reports for review. The process to gather the data is time consuming and by the time we present our S&OP to our leadership, the world has moved on and our plans are no longer valid”
  • “We started S&OP as our COO insisted we do it. It is turning out to be a report to him, rather than a tool to run our business”

In fact, this has been such a recurring theme that I decided to share my point of view in this blog. Let me elaborate on what I believe are the reasons behind this disillusionment.

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