Archive for the ‘Response Management’ Category

Transform your supply chain process – don’t just improve it

Published December 18th, 2014 by John Westerveld 0 Comments

transform your supply chain handsawDid you ever hear the joke about the old lumberjack?  The old lumberjack came out of the forest and went for supplies.  He needed a new saw – his old two-man saw had been sharpened so many times there wasn’t much left.  At the store, the salesman showed him the newest tool for cutting trees called a chain saw.  The salesman said that he can cut trees 10 times faster than with the two person hand saw.  The lumberjack was impressed! He bought one.  Several days later he came back and said to the salesman “This saw is no good!  No matter how fast I push and pull it doesn’t cut! What’s worse – my partner keeps cutting his hand because there is no handle at the other end.

Okay… admittedly that was a silly joke.  But if you consider how many people think about supply chain software it’s like the old lumberjack and the chain saw. The chain saw was a revolutionary tool and if used right, could make a single man more effective than a team of two. Advanced supply chain planning software like RapidResponse can do the same thing for supply chain.

In my role, helping the sales team, I’m often asked to reproduce a report that the prospect currently uses to run the business.  I totally understand why this is important – the prospect wants to feel assured that their current business process can be maintained. Creating even the most complex report in RapidResponse is a breeze so it’s not a big deal for us.  The prospect gets value because the report that I’ve just built in RapidResponse replaces an Excel report that takes hours every day to update. In RapidResponse, the update is instantaneous and can show changes with every data update and with every change to the scenario.

The problem when you buy new software like RapidResponse and use it to speed up the old way of doing business, you are missing out on the true revolution that RapidResponse can bring to your supply chain.   One company we were selling to a few years ago wanted us to reproduce a report that alerted the buyer whenever a purchase order was changed by the supplier through the on-line portal.  So, we did that.  We also added a few additional bits of information that they could never get before.  One was how many customers were impacted by that delay.  The other was how much revenue was impacted.  With this new information, the buyer can instantly see the priority in which they need to tackle these late purchase orders; some changes had no impact at all – the orders were just replacing safety stock.  Others drove millions in potential revenue.  This simple addition significantly reduced the time the buyer spent on chasing down late orders that really didn’t matter and allowed them to focus on the ones that did matter!

If I were to offer any advice to those looking at new supply chain software it’s this; your supply chain planning can be (and should be) a competitive advantage for your company.  You are looking for better planning because you recognize the flaws in your current system. By all means, ensure that the candidate software can address your current processes, but then work with the vendor to think outside of the box. You don’t want to do your current processes faster – you want to revolutionize your processes altogether. Only then can you achieve the supply chain transformation you seek.

Are you considering transforming your supply chain?  Have you just gone through the process? What were the results? Comment back and let us know!

Posted in General News, Response Management, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain collaboration, Supply chain management


Your supply chain is costing you money – Reason #10 Failure to adequately train your supply chain planning staff

Published December 12th, 2014 by John Westerveld 0 Comments

Supply chain career pathOver the years, working for and with numerous manufacturing companies, I’ve seen many supply chain practices that cost companies money.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll outline these issues and discuss some ideas around how to avoid these practices. You can find the previous posts here:

Reason #10: Failure to adequately train your supply chain planning staff

When you think about it, your supply chain planning team is responsible for making decisions that can impact millions of dollars. A bad decision can result in missed orders, significant inventory, or scrapped materials.

Yet, when you look at the background of many supply chain planning workers, you’ll find a huge variation in education and experience. From people with a basic education that worked their way up from the shop floor, to people with engineering degrees that fell into supply chain planning, to business majors who have never been to the factory floor, to recent graduates with a supply chain planning background, but don’t have real-life experience on how manufacturing and supply chains work.

Having worked with a cross section of these people, I’ve seen the very best and the very worst. The very best include people that not only understand supply chain from end-to-end, but can also come up with creative solutions beyond what the typical supply chain education can prepare you for.

The worse have me wondering why they decided on a career in supply chain at all.  These are the planners that don’t know and don’t care how supply chain works. They do their jobs moving inventory from here to there, opening orders that the system says should be opened, cancelling orders that the system says should be cancelled, yet never questioning why or whether it makes sense.

Why is this a problem?  Lesupply chain management training t’s look at a quick example. Have you ever seen a situation where some result from a system– whether a bill from the phone company, a stock report or MRP recommended actions have been messed up?  It might be a programmatic error but more likely it is caused by bad data.  So imagine that you are a supply planner and the MRP report is telling you to increase orders 10x for an expensive component.  Do you do it?  The computer told you to, right?  If you are one of those planners that just blindly execute what the system says to do, then you probably would order it.  However, better supply chain planners might question that recommendation.  They use their knowledge of how planning systems work to peg up to find the source of the change and determine that someone changed the wrong record causing the change and confirm with the planner that the change was intended.  By doing this, they could potentially save the company millions of dollars in excess inventory.

There will always be people that just want to do things the way they always have. Don’t want training and aren’t interested in learning.  However, there are also those people who have a real drive to learn and would like to understand supply chain better. These are the folks you want to do everything in your power to give them the education they need.

While traditional supply chain training isn’t the only way to get really good at supply chain (I’ve met some planners that instinctively “got” supply chain – and knew their way around the system better than most) it certainly helps to have a good foundational knowledge of supply chain concepts.  One very good source of supply chain training is APICs (American Production and Inventory Control Society).  They have multiple resources as well as two certification programs; CPIM (Certified in Production Inventory Management) and CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional). CPIM is broken out in to 5 modules that each have an optional instructor led review course.  At the end of each module, the student is encouraged to write the exam.  Once all 5 exams have been passed, you achieve your CPIM certification.  CSCP consists of three workshops followed by an exam for certification.  Many companies have paid for their employees to achieve their certification and some have even brought instructors into the workplace to do the certification training there.  In reality, providing training in this way is a win-win for the company and the employee. The company gains by having better educated planners, the employee gains by having a certification that is recognized my many companies around the world.

Supply chain is a very complex world. Yet, it’s one place where practitioners can have a huge effect on the business yet have minimal education…and I really think that’s kind of cool!  But your supply chain team could be much more effective if given the right tools and some basic supply chain education.

How did you learn about supply chain?  Do you have any education advice for people just starting out and wanting to learn?  Comment back and let us know!

 

Posted in General News, Products, Response Management, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain management


Your supply chain is costing you money – Reason #8: Keeping supply chain information in silos (and preventing your users from making the best decisions)

Published November 26th, 2014 by John Westerveld 0 Comments

supply chain information silos

Over the years, working for and with numerous manufacturing companies, I’ve seen many supply chain practices that cost companies money. Over the next several weeks, I’ll outline these issues and discuss some ideas around how to avoid these practices. You can find the previous posts here:

Reason #8 Keeping supply chain information in silos (and preventing your users from making the best decisions)

Don’t ask… you don’t want to know.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase from different people in different contexts.  Sometimes it’s true.  I probably don’t want to know.  Sometimes (like when I hear it from my son) I probably not only want to know, I NEED to know.  Not because I want to pry (well… maybe a little) but mostly because I care and if I know I might be able to help.

When companies deploy supply chain solutions, they often make the decision for users… “you don’t want to know”.  They do this by preventing them from getting (or making it very difficult to get) any more information than they absolutely need to do their specific job.  Sometimes this information limitation actually prevents them from doing their job adequately.

Sometimes this is intentional and necessary;

  • Some companies (especially publicly traded companies) restrict access to revenue / margin information to prevent unauthorized financial data from getting out.
  • Some companies prevent access to data to prevent trade secrets (or in the case of US military manufacturers ITAR regulations prevent foreign nationals from accessing manufacturing data)

Sometimes this is intentional and questionable;

  • One company I’ve talked to told me that they limit information to their planners because they wouldn’t know what to do with it… that it would just confuse them. But in my opinion, there are few things more complex than supply chain management. Planners are smart people and if educated (APICS training should be a prerequisite in my opinion), they likely will have no problem absorbing and using additional information.
  • In other cases, information is limited because of interdepartmental rivalries, for example, “I don’t want demand planning to see my supply planning information.  I’ll tell them what they are getting.”This is just plain wrong on multiple levels.  If you hear this rational, then I’d look at your management levels and how people are being rewarded. In today’s competitive manufacturing environment, the only metrics that count are how a change impacts the company’s goals.  Departmental goals should be secondary.
  • One reason I’ve heard many times is that we don’t expose this data because one group “doesn’t care” about the information from the other group; “Demand planners don’t care about supply information; Planners don’t care about what orders are impacted by a change they are making”. Deep down we all care about the impact we are having on the company.  I think sometimes “don’t care” is the result of “I can’t” or “it’s really difficult to”. Which brings us to the next section…

Sometimes information is limited because of the systems we use;

  • Many companies suffer from limited visibility across sites.  The primary reason is that companies often grow through mergers and acquisitions and sites will often have different ERP systems that are incapable of working together.  Even if you use the same ERP system but sites are at different versions, (or even the same version but different instances) you can have limited or delayed access to information.
  • Traditional ERP systems limit access to information by making it very difficult to get the information you need.  ERP systems are transactional and are designed to view information one piece at a time.  If you look at the old green screen interface that we used back in the 70s and 80s and then compare it to a modern screen from a traditional ERP vender, you’ll notice that while the “modern version” runs on windows, it still looks and behaves very much like that green screen terminal interface.
  • Want to see summarized information in a cross-tab?  This is typically very hard to do in a typical ERP interface and you usually would need to run a report.
  • Want to see your results in a chart? Better export that to Excel.
  • Want to do add some additional information to a screen?  Sure! Submit a request.  Several months and thousands of dollars later – here you go!  This is one of the reason so many decisions get made using Excel (see “Your supply chain is costing you money – Reason #4”)

Let’s look at an example of how information can change a role.  Let’s start with the customer service representative… the person on the phone taking orders.  In many cases, the only information this person may have is a standard lead time for order promising (if they are lucky they’ll have standard lead time by part.  In most cases it’s just a fixed lead time for everything. The problem is that the lead time is likely padded and over estimates how long it will take to fulfill the order.  The reason that the customer service representative is forced to work with such limited data is that traditional systems cannot quickly and accurately provide this information.  Imagine if you could provide the customer service person with a system that determined the “capable to promise” date. A date that given the current state of the supply chain, including component availability and capacity, accurately represented when the order could be fulfilled? Imagine, as well, a system that could even show what parts, supply orders and constraints are preventing the order from being completed on time.  What if in addition to the late items, the CSR had information about who was responsible for the items or resources that were late.  Do you think that would change the order promising function?

Now, let’s look at things from the other side – the component planner/buyer.  Let’s imagine that this planner was responsible for some parts that were going to be a few days late.  They may be able to get them here on time if they expedite the shipment… at a higher cost. Should they do it? In traditional ERP systems, it is a laborious process to peg up multiple levels through the supply chain to figure out if there is any impact (the order may be simply replenishing safety stock or it could be gating a multimillion dollar sale).  With an advanced planning tool, pegging is instantaneous and you can see exactly which orders are impacted and if enabled, the revenue and margin impacts as well.  Put this information into the hands of your planners and suddenly they are making decisions based on the impact to the company, not just to their own internal metrics (like expediting costs).

So what do you think? Would your supply chain be more efficient if users could get access to more information and that information were presented in a way that helps make better decisions?  Would you want your planners to be able to see which orders a shortage is impacting?  Would you want your customer service reps to be able to see why an order is late – right down to the component order that’s holding everything up?  Do you have an additional reason why some information should be restricted?  Comment back and let us know!

 

Posted in General News, Response Management, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain collaboration


Remembering: Turning Visibility into Possibility by Don Gaspari, NCR at Kinexions

Published October 9th, 2014 by Melissa Clow 0 Comments

As we countdown the days until Kinexions (18 days!). I’m remembering our fascinating customer videos. Today I’d like to share the interview on ‘Turning Visibility into Possibility’ from Kinexions.

In this video hear, Don Gaspari, Director, Materials & Inventory, Global Operations and Logistics, NCR, speak about his time at NCR and their vision to leverage it’s market leadership in self service devices and applications to transform the way that business does business with consumers. To support the company’s vision, NCR’s Global Operations team has developed a “Next in Class” supply chain strategy to enable it’s manufacturing and distribution network to efficiently and effectively respond to customer requirement’s.

To view the video in its entirety, watch it below or here.

Posted in Demand management, General News, Inventory management, Response Management, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain management


Unleash Pixar-like Creativity in Your Supply Chain Management Organization

Published September 30th, 2014 by Jonathan Lofton 3 Comments

pixer creativity in your supply chain management organizationI recently read “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” and it got me wondering about creativity within supply chain management organizations. There’s obviously a level of ‘magic’ at Pixar, for them to be able to create 14 No. 1 movies in a row.  Evidence that the principles they’ve developed has merit is easy to see as Disney Animation Studios, led by Pixar’s Ed Catmull (President) and John Lasseter (Chief Creative Officer), has now started producing blockbusters again (e.g.  Frozen, the top-grossing animated film of all time, surpassing the $1.063 billion earned by Toy Story 3) after a long period of so-so animation movies.

I’m always curious if success in one area/industry can be translated to generate similar success in other areas/industries. In this case I do believe there are learnings that can be applied to supply chain management.

So what makes Pixar so creatively successful?  How do they get from a movie that “sucks” to a blockbuster?  And more importantly, can supply chain management leverage these learnings?

“What I’ve learned running Pixar applies to all businesses.  I apply the term ‘creativity’ broadly … it’s problem solving. We are all faced with problems and we have to address them and think of something new and that’s where creativity comes in.”

 – Ed Catmull, FastCompany article, “Pixar President Ed Catmull On How To Run A Creative Business”

At the back of the book Catmull has a lot of bullet points around thoughts for managing a creative culture, which at the end of the day isn’t exclusive to ‘creative’ businesses, including:

  • Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up.  Give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.
  • Failure is a necessary consequence of doing something new.
  • The healthiest organizations are made up of departments whose agendas differ but whose goals are interdependent.  If one agenda wins, we all lose.
  • The process of problem-solving often bonds people together and keeps the culture in the present.
  • A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure.  Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.
  • Imposing limits can encourage a creative response.
  • Engaging with exceptionally hard problems forces us to think differently.

What stands out foremost in the book as the underlying factor of Pixar’s success is what they call the “Braintrust”.  The Braintrust brings together a bunch of smart, passionate people to review a movie as it goes through its lifecycle.  The folks that make up this group naturally include directors, producers, writers, and animators but it could also include individuals outside the typical ‘creative’ areas.  They use this Braintrust to create a healthy culture where people feel free to share ideas and to constructively criticize.  There are a few principles of the Braintrust that are vitally important:  The individuals must be sharp and passionate; the team has to put a lot of solutions out in a short amount of time; there has to be absolute candor – this is the premier guiding principle.   I think the ‘magic’ comes via another key tenant of the Braintrust – this group has no authority.  The group can’t make the director change the movie.  It’s their job to get to the essence of what’s wrong (Catmull says all Pixar movies “suck” at some point); it’s the director’s job to figure out how to address the feedback.

OK, so how does this relate to supply chain management?

Well, these periodic Braintrust sessions remind me a lot of Consensus Demand Planning and Sales & Operation Planning (S&OP).  Consensus Demand Planning incorporates various organizational views and possible biases on what the forecast looks like.  Others in the organization are required to collaborate and creatively determine how to best balance supply & demand while optimizing company objectives (margin, inventory, revenue, etc.).  At the end of the day, the S&OP team may have several suggestions on what to do … but it’s the Executive S&OP (the “movie’s director”) that has the ultimate responsibility for absorbing the options and deciding how best to drive the company forward.  So what if Consensus Demand Planning and S&OP looked and felt more like a group reviewing a movie’s “dailies” using Pixar Braintrust-like principles to collaboratively solve problems?

I tend to subscribe to “The Wisdom of Crowds” and believe that if we can leverage tools that give end-to-end visibility to the strong, passionate professionals in our supply chain organizations and break down walls to encourage & support real-time collaboration, we can also unleash Pixar-like creativity (and success).  In support of the Braintrust principles, below is what I currently see on the creatively collaborative SCM continuum.

creative braintrust supply chain collaboration
I’d appreciate additional wisdom from the supply chain crowd out there (I’m sure there are other applications, approaches and principles out there that are really creative and bleeding edge). Do you have a formalized ‘Braintrust’ type process and the supporting tools for creative SCM? What are you doing (or seeing) in terms of SCM creativity!?

 

Posted in General News, Response Management, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain management


Your supply chain is costing you money – Reason #4 Making key decisions by modelling the supply chain in Excel

Published September 24th, 2014 by John Westerveld 5 Comments

Reason #4 Making key decisions by modelling the supply chain in Excel

Making key decisions by modelling the supply chain in Excel

Over the years, working for and with numerous manufacturing companies, I’ve seen many supply chain practices that cost companies money.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll outline these issues and discuss some ideas around how to avoid these practices. You can find the previous posts here:

In my career, I’ve had the pleasure of working with several top tier supply chain companies. Companies that are household names. Companies that have been in business for decades. Companies worth billions of dollars.  Companies that are forced to use Excel to manage large swaths of their advanced supply chain planning.  Companies that are starting to realize that while Excel is a powerful tool and can be used for lots of things, it isn’t the tool to use to run your supply chain.

Excel excels (if you’ll pardon the pun) at many things.  But modelling complex supply chain relationships isn’t one of them. There are many issues with using excel that have been written about numerous times in this blog.  A sampling are here, and here.

I can briefly summarize the main points;

Companies use Excel because their traditional planning systems don’t allow them to view and understand aggregate data and more importantly, don’t allow them to effectively react quickly to change.  However, because people need this information and because people (especially those in supply chain) are very smart and come up with ingenious ways to solve problems, they extract data from their ERP systems and build complex models in Excel.

So we understand why companies turn to Excel; they can’t get what they need from ERP.  Now let’s look at why Excel shouldn’t be used to run your supply chain.

Errors – Excel is a free form modelling tool – which means anyone can build a spreadsheet for just about anything.  Many of these spreadsheets are not validated or tested, meaning that the model is only as good as the persons that create the model.  Millions of dollars have been lost to Excel errors.

Everyone has their own version – While you can password protect and lockdown Excel spreadsheets it is difficult to do effectively and many companies simply don’t do it.  This means that often there are multiple copies of the same spreadsheet, all slightly different.  I’ve been in meetings where what appears to be the same spreadsheet tell different tales because someone made a data or formula change.  Eventually everyone has their own version and are all going off in different directions.

Excel is not supply chain software – it doesn’t matter how good your Excel model is, you simply cannot model the complexity of the supply chain in Excel. This means that the best you can do is build an approximation of your supply chain in Excel.  As we know, in supply chain, details do matter and the small detail that is approximated in your model might be the detail that costs you.

So if ERP can’t do it and Excel isn’t the tool, what tool can help you make supply chain decisions?  This tool needs to have the following characteristics;

End to end visibility – To make supply chain decisions, you need to have visibility across your supply chain. You need to be able to see where inventory exists, what capacity is available and what the issues are.

Simulation – The ability to create a scenario, make a change and instantly see the impact of what that change means that you can try things out and know with confidence that it’s going to work.

Full supply chain analytic model – Supply chain planning is very complex and while most vendors have similar basic logic there are many differences between systems, even within implementations of a given system.  To effectively model this logic, you need a tool that can simultaneously model the supply chain logic from all these different systems.

Collaboration - No one person has knowledge of the entire supply chain in their head.  You need to be able to work with others to resolve complex issues.  So an effective supply chain decision tool will need to allow you to quickly identify who you need to work with and then share your scenario with those people.

How do you make your major supply chain decisions? Comment back and let us know!

 

Posted in Demand management, General News, Inventory management, Response Management, Supply chain collaboration, Supply chain management


4 Parallels between Planning a Wedding and Supply Chain Planning

Published July 9th, 2014 by Melissa Clow 3 Comments

wedding-planning-supply chain planningI got married on June 28th. After 7 years together, we decided to make it official. To be honest, I never had much interest in planning a wedding so I had lots to learn. As exciting as it was, at times the task was daunting: venue, guest list, colors, theme, bridal party, transportation, music, photography and of course the dress.

Throughout the nine months we took to plan, I realized there are a lot of similarities between wedding planning and supply chain management. Here’s my top 4 list on the parallels between the two:

4. Disruptions

To no one’s surprise, I learned that wedding planning does not always go smoothly.

Just like supply chain management, there will always be disruptions –it could be a small disruption like your parents invite people that weren’t on your original invite list or a larger one, like what a Saskatchewan couple experienced last week on their wedding day… a tornado! Despite this, their photographer was able to think quickly and capture some breathtaking photos.

Lesson learned: There will be bumps in the road but you can’t dwell on them; they need to be dealt with rapidly and maybe even a little creatively.

supply chain disruptions wedding

For business, competition continues to grow. Responding rapidly to changes is critical, whether it is ordinary daily order changes to large and unexpected supply chain disruptions such as strikes, blockades and regional tragedies. We can no longer predict the future with acceptable levels of accuracy, and so the success or failure of supply chains is dependent on how quickly and effectively stakeholders can understand and respond to evolving situations. Once you know the impact, you need to act quickly to simulate the various scenario alternatives and find the best solution. The timeliness of resolution is a key factor in mitigating any potential damage to your operations.

Risk management

wedding supply chain risk managementWe contemplated who we would ask to give a speech. For example, do you ask your husband’s friend to make a toast even though you know there’s a very good chance he will say something offensive? We decided to decrease the risk of any bad behavior by our friends and kept speeches to a minimum by only asking the best man and maid of honour to speak.

In supply chain, it is not just about avoiding risky situations, supply chain risk management has a component that many companies fail to consider; the ability to respond:

  • Even the best thought out mitigation strategy may fail when the time comes to implement;
  • events that you couldn’t have imagined (or considered too low a probability to worry about) during your risk assessment may in fact come to pass; and very importantly,
  • small events, which may be considered insignificant on their own, but that taken in sum become a large risk consideration if not managed effectively.

It is important to be proactively alerted to urgent issues before they turn into major problems.

Collaboration

Because there are so many aspects that go into successfully pulling off a wedding, it’s really important to have a good working relationship with all your vendors. One challenge that we ran into with our venue, is that every time we spoke about our wedding plans we were passed along to a different wedding coordinator to help us… and more often than not, it wasn’t the person that would be there to help us the day of. This was a little unnerving because without telling our coordinator firsthand, it felt like we were playing telephone. Getting on the same page is key since these are the people that are going to help you execute your big day.

Just like collaborating with all your vendors, guests, bridal party, those in supply chain now need to coordinate with a number of tiers in the value chain network. Because of that, supply chain visibility and supply chain coordination has been reduced and often made the brand owners dependent on suppliers for their business and operations performance results.  To be truly effective, supplier collaboration needs to go far beyond the tactical exchange of data. Key suppliers must actively review information and directly contribute to the decision-making process so that companies can exchange early warnings and collaboratively resolve supply chain risk issues. Better supplier collaboration improves the flexibility of a supply chain and the profitability of the enterprise. 

Talent

We hear a lot about supply chain talent and how important it is to build up less experienced supply chain professionals to operate an effective and efficient supply chain. The same could be said for those getting married. We certainly needed and appreciated our friends and family that supported us throughout the wedding planning process. Without their support and advice, we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off, or at least not as well.

Just like we received a lot of sage wedding and marriage advice from married friends, colleagues and acquaintances, many organizations are creating formal supply chain talent-management programs to help transfer knowledge to cultivate growth. Often, these programs aim to engage both the mentors and the mentees by providing opportunities for a connection and growth. And now, more and more colleges and universities are offering undergraduate- and graduate-degree programs in supply chain management to better prepare younger supply chain professionals to enter into the field.

 

All that said, I can officially say we did it! And I can’t wait to give advice to future engaged couple thinking about planning a wedding.

Happy Wednesday!

Posted in Demand management, General News, Response Management, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain management


Gartner Supply Chain Leaders Conference – What will be Hot?

Published May 20th, 2014 by Trevor Miles @milesahead 0 Comments

My friend and colleague CJ Wehlage has weighed in on what he believes will happen on the Gartner Top 25.

CJ is most certainly being bold and I cannot fault his analysis beyond the usual carping that the Top 25 generates. Instead I want to focus on what seem to me to be major trends that are maybe below the surface but will inform a lot of the discussion. I go to and speak at a lot of conferences so I hear a mixture of over stated claims, future initiatives, and concerns about the state of Supply Chain Management.

Over the past 3-4 years Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) has seen a resurgence in interest, including the many variants such as Integrated Business Planning (IBP) and SIOP. More recently there has been a lot of discussion, including from Christian Titze, Ray Barger, and others at Gartner on Visibility, usually coupled with the term end-to-end. What I have been hearing more and more recently, let us say late 2013and early 2014, is end-to-end planning. Kinaxis led the charge in this space first calling this a Control Tower in 2012-2013, but that was quite confusing because the 3PLs were already calling their capabilities Logistics Control Towers. Which got even more confusing when Visibility became more popular because how is that different from a Logistics Control Tower?

To me this is all semantics. At the core what people are trying to do, whether during execution or within operational, tactical, or strategic planning is to bring in a wider set of data so that they can investigate more alternatives during the planning phases and get early warning of things not going to plan during the execution phase. Perhaps even more importantly it is about getting different functions within the organization and even across organizations to work together to resolve issues, which is of course the essence of S&OP:

Sales and operations planning (S&OP) is an integrated business management process developed in the 1980s by Oliver Wight through which the executive/leadership team continually achieves focus, alignment and synchronization among all functions of the organization.

Substitute the words “executive/leadership” for any other group and you have what I am hearing over and over as End-to-End Visibility and End-to-End Planning. It is about lowering the walls between functions and organizations so that we can finally replace inventory with information.

But this isn’t what is in the core of the bubbling cauldron. End-to-End Planning and Visibility are driving a core need for a rethink of the entire supply chain data layer. Gartner went through this rethink a few years ago, and, as much as I hate to admit it, they were ahead of me. This is when Gartner moved from a 4 stage demand-driven maturity model to a 5 stage model in March 2013 by inserting a stage in the middle called Integrate. (Introducing the Five-Stage Demand-Driven Maturity Model for Supply Chain Leaders, 26 March 2013, Noha Tohamy, Matthew Davis)

Gartner states that what is required to achieve this stage of Integrated DDVN are

Technologies to support end-to-end supply chain processes; improved data rationalization and integration capability.
Cross-functional decision making across internal supply chain; process-focused COEs to enable the business.

I bring out these description of technology and process needs because they show the dependency of the process on the technology. They also show that my statements above are totally consistent with Gartner’s perspective.

But the elephant in the room is the technology. In fact it is really the data. Many companies have several instances of ERP, each deployed differently. Despite many moving to a single instance of ERP there are still many ‘shadow IT’ required to do what the core ERP solution cannot. And then there is the planning layer, which is even less harmonized or standardized. Most business people consider this an IT problem. Guess what? It isn’t going away until the business makes solving the data issue their issue. And it isn’t about consolidating down to a single ERP system. Even though consolidating down to one ERP instance is a step forward, with manufacturing outsourcing accelerating in many industries, heterogeneous data sources are here to stay. The question is what will the future data layer look like?

As Josh Greenbaum states in a blog published just today and titled “Security, Privacy, Big Data, and Informatica: Making Data Safe at the Point of Use

Our data warehouse legacy treats data like water, and models data management on the central utility model that delivers potable water to our communities: Centralize all the sources of water into a single water treatment plant, treat the water according to the most rigorous drinking water standard, and send it out to our homes and businesses. There it would move through a single set of pipes to the sinks, tubs, dishwashers, scrubbers, irrigation systems, and the like, where it would be used once and sent on down the drain.
But data isn’t like water in so many ways.

My bold prediction is that the data layer isn’t going to be ERP centric as it is now. And we are not going to repeat the marketplace craziness of the late 1990s. Unless cloud native ERPs such as Kenandy, which is based on SalesForce, emerge with built-in semantics to absorb meta-data from many sources and pull data in when needed. But I predict we will see a whole new breed of data providers emerge, possibly out of the wreckage that is the EAI space, that will capture this space and serve up data for analytics and business purposes.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Posted in Milesahead, Response Management, Supply chain collaboration, Supply chain management