Posts categorized as 'Miscellanea'

Design for the Supply Chain Pt 8: Long-Lasting


“Oxfords, not Brogues”Design for the Supply Chain is Long Lasting

If you’re into supply chain and liked the movie this quote is from, then we’re on the same street!

Ok, now that we’re straight on ‘classic’ shoes, let’s talk about the next principle in the “10 Principles of Good Design” as applied to supply chain and supply chain management (Design for the Supply Chain).

Principle #7: Good design “Is long-lasting”

“Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design

I was talking with my wife recently and she mentioned the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle) for some systems engineering project she’s working on. I gave an example from inventory management about ABC classification. This way of classifying inventory to provide guidance on which items to place the highest focus on has been around since the 1950’s.

There are a multitude of approaches or techniques for managing inventory (e.g. just-in-time, kanban, postponement, backordering, consignment/vendor-managed-inventory, etc.). Different techniques are appropriate for different businesses and even different segments of inventory within a business. However, there’s always a need to do some level of classification to determine which technique makes the most sense. I keep debating with myself whether to say some techniques have gone “out of fashion” or we’ve just gotten a lot better at determining which ones to use as we’ve learned to manage extended supply chains.

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What is a Supply Chain Planning System of Record (SCP SOR), and Do You Actually Need One?



How many times have you heard about the perils of having siloed supply chain functions? I know we’ve written about them more than just once or twice on this very blog. And while working inside your own little box definitely isn’t ideal, it’s also not quite the all-consuming, end of the world type evil that is responsible for single handedly bringing down your entire supply chain.

That’s because, in my opinion, very few supply chain practitioners actually want to work in total isolation. In many cases, they’re forced to, thanks to antiquated technology that makes company-wide alignment and collaboration more difficult than traversing Dante’s nine circles of hell. Endless email chains, revision after revision of all those Excel spreadsheets, countless hours spent importing and exporting data to and from various enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. You can see why comparing it to purgatory isn’t that far of a stretch.

So what can these poor practitioners do? Implement a supply chain planning (SCP) system of record (SOR) of course! But what exactly is a SCP SOR apart from another in a very long line of supply chain-related acronyms?

Technology research firm Gartner Inc. defines a supply chain planning system of record as, “a planning platform that enables a company to create, manage, link, align, collaborate and share its planning data across a supply chain — from demand plan creation through the supply-side response, and from detailed operational planning through tactical-level planning.

Okay, sounds great. But what does that actually all mean, and how can something like that even be implemented?

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Change is coming: How will 3D printing affect your Supply Chain?


3D PrintingI recently had the great pleasure of teaching a group of new hires about manufacturing. As I finished describing traditional manufacturing techniques we paused to discuss 3D printing and how 3D printing will change the face of manufacturing (note I said will…not if). It was a great discussion and led me to think further about the impact 3D printing would have on the supply chain and supply chain planning.

3D printing is an additive manufacturing technique for making 3 dimensional solid objects from a digital file. In additive manufacturing, items are created by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created. You may have the mistaken impression that 3D printers can only fashion little plastic toys. That couldn’t be further from the truth; in addition to plastic there are 3D printers that can make ceramic, metal, food, resin, glass, medical implants, concrete (there is even a 3D printed house), and electronic components.

Currently, 3D printing is being used to create items for aviation and for NASA, prototype items for the automotive industry and approaches are being studied to use 3D printing in the medical space to create body parts such as noses and ears. Recently, a team of researchers have even created a 3D printed organ.

I’m not the first to discuss the impact of 3D printing on supply chain. You can find other Kinaxis discussions here and here.

So, let’s think about how 3D printing can impact your supply chain…

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Four Times You Really Should Have Listened to Your Mother


Happy Mother's DayMoms are full of great pearls of wisdom, cultivated from years of experience and life lessons. But how many times have you thought ‘I know better than that’ and ignored her sage advice? I know I’ve done it more times than I care to admit, and you know what—it almost always comes back to bite me. I’ve already written about what your mom can teach you about supply chain efficiency, so I thought I’d take a look at those times you really should have listened to your mother, and learned to apply the lessons she taught you early in life to your supply chain.

  1. Don’t jump into something blindfolded
    Sometimes phrased as don’t rush into something without giving it some thought first, this one applies to your supply chain in a big way. If something unexpected arises (and let’s face it, that’s bound to happen), don’t just guess at how to handle it. Run scenario simulations and weigh all of your possible options. There are always tradeoffs in life (more great mom wisdom!) and you want to ensure before you move forward you’re choosing the solution that best balances things like cost, delivery times, demand, and customer satisfaction levels.
  1. Play well with others
    In supply chain terms, that means not working in silos. Forming a collaborative process that accounts for input from all business functions is going to greatly enhance the way your supply chain performs. By working toward a common set of metrics based on the overall business strategy, everyone involved in your supply chain is focused on the big picture, not just the metrics related to their own role.

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Supply Chain Solution Providers Help Navigate Change


Supply Chain Solution Provider

How many silos are still operating in your organization? If you work in supply chain, the answer is probably too many. With economic pressures in countless industries swirling rapidly, companies still using Excel and email as their main planning and communication tools are likely to be left adrift at sea. Adapting to a more effective and efficient way of running supply chains is the key to survival. But in order to navigate this tidal wave of change, you’re going to need a strong partner by your side.

Ed Shepherdson, executive vice president of products and services operations at Kinaxis, recently sat down with Bob Ferrari of Supply Chain Matters to talk about the role of solutions providers, and where he feels the future of supply chain technology is headed. Spoiler alert—it doesn’t involve silos, Excel, or struggling to bail water out of a leaky boat!

Change Management Ahoy!

In their in-depth interview, Ed noted even those who recognize the need to change in terms of collaboration, extended visibility, and transparency, may not actually have the capacity to do so. At least not all at once. He says many companies simply can’t absorb the change management required to go from a one to a 10 on the process maturity scale in a single stroke.

That’s where it becomes the responsibility of an organization’s supply chain management solution provider to help them out. Assuming of course they took that first required step and actually implemented some kind of technology other than mass quantities of spreadsheets!

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Yoda’s Advice for the Supply Chain Padawan


Yoda’s Advice for the Supply Chain Padawan

In honor of Star Wars Day (yes, that’s a semi-real thing), I thought I’d resurrect my Star Wars blog series. In this latest installment, I explore what the small, but mighty, Jedi Master Yoda can teach us about supply chain. While he might not have said them directly about supply chain management, these pearls of wisdom still apply.

“Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.” – Yoda

Your beliefs are based on what you think you know. But in reality, are you really only seeing a small portion of a larger picture? When it comes to your view of the supply chain, what you perceive as reality is directly related to how much end-to-end visibility you have. If you’re working with partial or incomplete data—perhaps only looking at top tier suppliers—you won’t really know if you can meet changing customer demand in the most efficient manner. Sure you can determine if orders can be fulfilled, but you wouldn’t really know if you were doing it in the way that best meets corporate objectives. For that, you’d have to look outside of what you think you know, to what all the data—not just your limited view of it—is really showing you.

It also means expanding your vision of the supply chain to include the truths of other departments. So often supply chain functions are siloed within an organization. Sales makes promises supply managers can’t keep. Marketing runs a promotion without letting the demand planners know. Everyone is working toward their own end goals. This creates chaos and conflict. When everyone works from the same complete picture, the same version of the truth as illustrated by the data, decision-making becomes collaborative, and departmental objectives harmonious with those of the company as a whole.

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt 7: Honest


We’re getting into the second half of the “10 Principles of Good Design” as applied to supply chain and supply chain management (Design for the Supply Chain). This week we’re talking about the honesty of the supply chain management solution.

Principle #6: Good design “Is honest”

“It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design’

This principle immediately brings to mind for me the Gartner hype cycle. As an example, below is the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2015.

Design for the Supply Chain is Honest

Source: Gartner

I like to think about the hype cycle as being similar to Tuckman’s model of group development: Forming–Storming–Norming–Performing where:

  • Innovation Trigger and Peak of Inflated Expectations ≈ Forming
  • Trough of Disillusionment ≈ Storming
  • Slope of Enlightenment ≈ Norming
  • Plateau of Productivity ≈ Performing

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Supply Chain Lessons from Prince and Other Fallen Musical Heroes

  • by Bill DuBois
  • Published

Musical Hero

The past year has not been kind to our musical idols. Although many have passed, including David Bowie, BB King, Glen Frey and most recently Prince, we’ll always have a phenomenal body of musical works to keep them alive in our hearts and minds. When you hear these names and their music you don’t immediately think supply chain, but for all the supply chain nerds out there we’re always thinking, ‘what’s the impact on the supply chain?’ Aside from family, now that my hockey team is out of the NHL playoffs, supply chain and music are what’s running through my brain.

As a guitar player myself, I was in total awe of Prince’s prowess on the fretboard. Check out the YouTube video of Prince soloing on While My Guitar Gently Weeps during George Harrison’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The smile on Harrison’s son at 4:46 of the video says it all when it comes to Prince. While watching the video I was thinking two things. He is the ultimate axe slinger / showman, and there will be a huge demand spike for everything purple. Thinking about the musical geniuses mentioned above there are few other helpful lessons we can take away in their memory.

Challenge the Status Quo

I’m huge Eagles fan. I couldn’t believe someone could tear up the guitar as well as Prince. So I paid close attention to the careers of both Glen Frey and Prince. From the time a song idea popped into their heads, until that song ended up as soundwaves directed at fans’ ears, they both were meticulous about the entire process. That includes the song writing, recording, and distribution of their works. Glen Frey for the most part fired Glyn Johns, the same guy who produced The Who, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones, because he wasn’t satisfied with the recording process. Glen and Prince also challenged the way music was distributed. For example, the Eagles completely bypassed the record companies to distribute their album The Long Road Out Of Eden. Instead they inked a deal to distribute directly with Walmart. If Prince had been a supply chain leader (just imagine that) he would likely be asking the same questions he asked during his musical career, ‘Why are we doing things this way?’ or ‘this isn’t good enough, what else can we do?’ We should ask the same questions about our supply chain processes and technologies all with the goal of achieving excellence.

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