Posts categorized as 'Supply chain management'

Innovate to Survive—Isn’t That Already the New Norm?


Innovative Supply ChainInnovate to survive. That’s the key message I took away from this year’s Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference. While that may not be exactly what Gartner had in mind—the official theme was The Bimodal Supply Chain: Tackling Today, Preparing for Tomorrow—it was a running dialogue across all the sessions I sat in on.

Their idea of the bimodal supply chain in essence breaks things down into two ‘modes.’ Mode one focuses on tackling the issues your supply chain is facing today. Mode two is about innovation and growth, and the point was made in a number of sessions that you need to do both if you want to excel. If you’re someone who looks forward to change, who seeks it out because it’s inspiring and exciting, then mode two may seem obvious. You’ve likely already embraced this era where innovation across all facets of life has exploded and become ordinary.

To me, innovation, aka what’s driving mode two of Gartner’s bimodal supply chain model, is already intertwined in our day-to-day lives. Hasn’t it always been to some capacity? Innovation is what has taken us from the birth of the internet to this growing concept of the Internet of Things and now beyond.

We know innovation is important, it’s what moves us forward. History has proven that notion over, and over, and over again. Just look at the advancements in supply chain courtesy of innovation like MRP I, MRP II, and APS. Without them, we likely wouldn’t have been able to keep pace with the widespread globalization that has led to extensive supply chains and an explosion in product portfolios. I do agree strongly with Gartner that while we may all know how critical innovation is, we have to face the reality that actually achieving it is hard. Very hard. And in most cases true innovation isn’t just going to happen on its own. At least not in siloed, conservative organizations.

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Is Your Supply Chain the Tortoise or the Hare?


Is Your Supply Chain the Tortoise or the Hare?In Aesop’s Fables there is a very famous story about a tortoise and a hare. For those of you unfamiliar with this children’s classic, the moral of it is this—slow and steady wins the race. Except of course, if you work in supply chain.

While turtles and tortoises have many wonderful qualities that should be celebrated as part of World Turtle Day, their characteristically slow pace and unhurried nature can prove detrimental to any business trying to keep up in this digital age, and the rapidly changing consumer demands that go along with it.

Now that’s not to say I’m advocating rushing headlong into anything without some thought. Your supply chain does need to be at least part tortoise in that aspect. There’s value and protection in stability. But if you spend all your time planning, are you really going to be prepared when the course unexpectedly changes direction? If your first thought is to go back to the planning stage to factor in this new variable, you may soon find yourself left in the dust of a much faster paced and agile competitor.

My colleague CJ Wehlage has described speed as the true innovation in supply chain. He talks about the ability to act on change in minutes, bringing your suppliers, distributors, shippers, etc. together and getting everyone on the same page as quickly as possible. Digital technology has enabled your customers to make decisions more rapidly and confidently, making the process that much more efficient and effective. Shouldn’t your supply chain be able to do the same?

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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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Executive Advisor Michael Massetti on Supply Chain’s Image, Workforce Automation, and Supply Chain Challenges


This guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management.

Today, we’re bringing your our follow-up to our interview with Supply Chain guru and advisor to Chief Supply Chain Officers Michael Massetti. In the previous installment, Michael gave us the lowdown on big picture trends he’s witnessing in Supply Chain and the market for talent in the field, as well as a discussion of Chief Supply Chain Officers and how titles might actually mean more than they seem.

Michael Massetti is Executive Partner in Supply Chain at Gartner, a leading technology research company. He has a background in the world of technology, having led Supply Chains at some of the world’s largest tech companies. He’s also a great advocate for the field, providing thought-provoking and engaging content about Supply Chain on LinkedIn Publisher.

In this follow-up, we talk about the role of automation in the Supply Chain. We talk about whether Supply Chain needs an image makeover, as well as challenges that Supply Chains face at high-growth, mature, and turnaround organizations, respectively.

Michael MassettiIn your work with Gartner, you act as a Supply Chain advisor to executives at Fast-growth, mature, and turnaround organizations. What different Supply Chain challenges do you think each of these types of companies encounter?

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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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The Supply Chain of Pollen

  • by Joe Cannata
  • Published

Though it may sound like an odd subject, nature and manufacturing do work together in some sort of hybrid supply chain. What got me thinking about this, was when I returned home to Atlanta from a recent trip. Upon arrival at my car in the airport parking garage, I encountered this sight:

Pollen on Car

My car looked as if someone had emptied a few containers of yellow-green baby powder all over it. Ah yes, a fact of living in the U.S. Southeast, pollen season. Our pollen counts typically hit the thousands in the spring. Mind you, a count of 120 or higher is where people start to feel irritation. This is the price we pay for all of the gorgeous flowering trees and plants that bring a huge burst of color each spring, and then on through the growing season.

These tiny grains that look like alien life forms, can range from .006 mm to .090 mm and find a way to invade every possible space inside and out. They are a necessary part of the circle of life for the plant world. Some plants self-pollinate, others require external stimuli to reproduce. There is also cross-pollination, where the mixing of plant genetic material produces some sort of hybrid.

So what does all of this have to do with supply chain? The plant reproductive process is really a self-contained supply chain of its own, but that is not the larger story. 20% of plant pollination is abiotic, meaning some external event like wind or water causes pollen to reach its target. The other 80% is biotic, where an external organism needs to be involved in the transfer of pollen to its intended target. Most of these pollinators are insects, but there are also some species involved like birds, bats, squirrels, rodents and even some monkeys. Surprisingly, there is a supply chain when it comes to pollen and the process of pollination.

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Video: First Solar – Challenging the Norm in Supply-Chain Management

  • by Melissa Clow
  • Published

Ever wonder how you can challenge the norms when it comes to defining supply chain processes?

This is something First Solar is in fact doing. For example, with supplier collaboration, the norm for collaborating with suppliers on components and raw materials needs is often through email – providing those fulfillment orders via external systems. It’s often difficult to give suppliers visibility to forecasts and on-hand inventory.

First Solar sets out to create a centralized network that will allow it to share forecast data with suppliers upstream, and customers downstream.

In this video, Systems Analyst Cameron Sulfaro describes the initiative, and what it has achieved to date. Challenged the norm in the sense of we are moving now at a completely different pace than we were prior to. Very fast, very cutting-edge in a sense.

Watch now: First Solar – Challenging the Norm in Supply Chain Management

First Solar: Challenging the Norm in Supply Chain Management

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The 2016 Top 25 Supply Chains – Three Bold Predictions

  • by CJ Wehlage
  • Published

Future PredicitionsTwo years ago, I made some very bold predictions on the 2014 Top 25 Supply Chains, and about 80% of them were true. Last year, I made the not-so bold predictions, as the Gartner 2015 Top 25 Supply Chain rankings were pretty much unchanged. That is, except for the new “Masters” category. I sure hope the Gartner gang will keep a focus on the Masters (Apple and P&G), as these two supply chains continue provide best practice learnings. Which leads me to my first Bold Prediction…

Bold Prediction #1: The Master’s category will be, more or less, forgotten this year.

Apple and P&G were put in a Master’s category in 2015. I’m still a bit confused about this move as I’m not sure if this was a way to clear these two perennials out and make room for others, or a means to focus on their unique capabilities. Having worked at AMR Research, I understand the need to showcase other companies – helps readership. But, like Ric Flair would say, “if you want to be the man, you gotta beat the man….”

Next year (2017), by the rules of “those companies that have consistently had top five composite scores for at least seven out of the last 10 years”, Amazon will be moved into the Master’s. However, I predict in next month’s Top 25 Gala, that both Apple and P&G will not have much airtime. Unfortunate, as I believe Apple and P&G can still share some significant strategies on supply chain. So, I will state one thing each of the Master’s can teach us.

Apple = Leverage
This starts with product simplification. Supply chain leaders talk about SKU rationalization, but rarely achieve it. Apple has. With a succinct variety, you can leverage common parts, and more precisely optimize the supply chain network. Apple’s supply chain also has a small amount of suppliers, allowing them to leverage relationships, price and volumes. The result being higher profit margins, something Apple could use to leverage exclusivity agreements (such as booking out UPS and DHL shipment capacities).

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