At Last…My First Four Weeks At Kinaxis

Published September 5th, 2014 by Jennifer Bell 0 Comments
At Last!

At Last! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s the end of my first four weeks as a Kinaxian (aka Kinaxis employee), and you can queue the nightclub lullaby sung so warmly by Etta James.

This romance started back in 2011 when I was researching planning solutions as a Systems Analyst at First Solar, Inc.  I stumbled across the Kinaxis website and watched a marketing video that showed the creation of a scenario…love at first sight. Luckily for me, First Solar hired Shellie Molina, who had leveraged the software at previous organizations. A few months later, we were attending Kinexions and she was signing on the dotted line.

From the beginning, I looked at implementing RapidResponse as the opportunity of my career.  But, I’m not sure I realized exactly how big of an opportunity it was. The next two years were so fun! We implemented demand/supply balancing, full integration to 4 source systems, a custom production planning solution and integrated project management. It was a whirlwind. The thing that I loved the most about my job was how much I was able to say ‘yes’ to my customers. The platform was so flexible that I could do almost anything.  I was limited only by my imagination.

As I worked with so many Kinaxis employees throughout the implementation, I was repeatedly impressed at the knowledge, experience and spirited approach of the group. The more interaction that I had, the more intrigued I became. So, when I discovered there was an opening on the Solution Demonstration team, I was very excited to travel to Ottawa, meet the team and interview for the role.

I am excited to be a Kinaxian.  As a member of the Solution Demonstration team, I will be focused on positioning RapidResponse as the best solution for new potential customers. I will have an opportunity to expand on my knowledge of supply chain across different industries.

Over the last 4 weeks, I have not been disappointed. Kinaxis is brimming with helpful people who are experts on the product and, also, in supply chain best practices. I’m most looking forward to picking their brains at every chance presented.

So, queue the music, at last…

Posted in Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain management


Throw Back Thursday: How Can Companies Respond Rapidly to Demand?

Published September 4th, 2014 by Melissa Clow 0 Comments

How Can Companies Respond Rapidly to Demand? Kinexions - Kinaxis & SupplyChainBrain Series

As I’ve mentioned in my last couple of Thursday blogs, we are starting to gear up for this year’s Kinexions (our annual training & user conference). A few weeks ago I began to reminisce about our videos from past conferences and I decided to create a blog series to share. So, on this ‘Throw Back Thursday’, I would like to share this video of Trevor Miles, Vice President of Thought Leadership, speaking about “How Can Companies Respond Rapidly to Demand?”.

In this video, hear Trevor detail industry’s major supply-chain management challenges – in particular, the difficulty of obtaining full visibility of supply and demand, and dealing with the volatility of markets.

Many companies seem wedded to their spreadsheets, even though they’re aware of the format’s shortcomings. Miles says executives have “a very legacy approach” to thinking about business processes. As a result, they’ve created “islands” of automation that do not add up to a coherent, smoothly flowing supply chain.

“People want to get away from that,” he says, “but it’s the manner in which they are trying to enable those different processes that is just lacking.”

If you don’t see the video below, view “How Can Companies Respond Rapidly to Demand?” here.

Posted in Milesahead, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain collaboration, Supply chain management


Your supply chain is costing you money – Reason #1 Offshoring without getting the full picture

Published September 3rd, 2014 by John Westerveld 2 Comments
Here, there and everywhere | The economist
Here, there and everywhere | The economist

Reason #1: Offshoring without getting the full picture

Over the years, working for and with numerous manufacturing companies, I’ve seen many supply chain practices that cost companies money.  In a series of blog posts, I’ll outline these issues and discuss some ideas around how to avoid these practices.

We all understand the appeal of moving manufacturing offshore;   In many cases, offshore manufacturing is considerably cheaper, is apparently easier (just send the requirements and they build it!)  But before you pull the trigger, make sure you understand these cost factors that don’t often get considered;

Longer lead time – The product that at one time was manufactured in your plant and then shipped to your customer (often in the same country) is now being shipped by boat.   Instead of a 1 week lead-time, you are looking at a month or more.  This significantly changes the supply chain picture and must be considered in terms of additional safety stock requirements (which will drive up inventories) and your order promise policies.

Communication issues – Dealing with people in other countries has its challenges; language barriers can make communicating detailed technical issues a challenge.  Meetings are difficult to set up because one side or the other will need to take the call outside of normal business hours. And if you decide to meet face to face, you are looking at long travel times.

Increased transportation costs – Has anyone noticed that the price of fuel is going up? Kind of hard not to notice actually.   And I don’t think we are going to see fuel prices declining any time soon.  These high fuel costs impact the shipping lines too and those costs will get passed on to you.

Loss of control and oversightSupply chain is complex.  Anyone remember the complexity of managing a multi-part engineering change? Expediting multiple lines on a customer order?  Implementing a manufacturing process change, Resolving a significant quality issue? Tough to get everything working together, right?  Now imagine trying to do these things when you have no control over the manufacturing process.  The bigger issue is that in the public’s eye, there is no difference between the company manufacturing the product and the brand that owns it.  So, if the company manufacturing your goods has an accident or mistreats their employees, your brand is going to get dragged through the dirt.

Intellectual Property loss – Very often, your design, your manufacturing processes are a closely guarded secret, and rightfully so.  This knowledge is what sets you apart from the competition. When you offshore your manufacturing you are, by necessity, letting your secrets out to the world.  And because you are dealing with a foreign country you may not have recourse if the company you contracted to make your product goes ahead and copies your product.

So, as I mentioned earlier, moving your manufacturing offshore could well improve your financial position.  That being said, before you make the move make sure you investigate and consider these additional cost factors.

Do you have other costs associated with offshoring?  Have any interesting stories? Comment back and let us know.

 

Posted in General News, Inventory management, Supply chain management


Elephant in the Room: Thoughts on Metrics That Matter in Semiconductor and Hard Disk Drives

Published August 29th, 2014 by CJ Wehlage 0 Comments

Metrics That Matter in Semiconductor and Hard Disk Drives

Supply Chain Insights recently published a Metrics That Matter report covering both the Semiconductor and Hard Disk Drive (HDD) industries. Despite being hit hard by the recent recession, overall the research shows that these two industries have fared well over the last decade and are positioned to continue that success.

Success, provided they monitor the 7 “elephants” in the room.

Consolidation

Notice in the Supply Chain Insights report, there are only two HDD companies.  That industry has already gone through consolidations.  Semiconductor is poised to consolidate, which will have huge impact on the metrics.  It’s already happening with Avago/LSI, RF Micro/TriQuint, Micron/Elpida, MediaTek/MStar and Fujitsu/Panasonic.  Speed to integrate the planning functions during an acquisition is critical.

Profitability

With the OEM’s driving down the price, the semiconductor/HDD companies will have to follow (or innovate new products).  Lower price means lower profitability. This will begin to impact the semi/HDD ability to raise capital and innovate/expand.  Cost pressures and faster time to market in the planning processes will be required.

Global pressure

Consider that the Chinese and India governments are investing in the semiconductor industry.  With China already a source for semiconductor raw materials and the China/India end consumer market growing, there will be pressure to supply chips and hard drives to local China/India OEM’s first.  This could create a shortage in the US/Europe OEM chain.  Understanding inventory planning will take on a new dynamic.

Of course, like any industry, Semiconductor and HDD manufactures are faced with a set of unique challenges in their space that puts their supply chain at risk.  The largest risk being a balance between shrinking product lifecycles in the OEM world versus expensive asset utilization.  We are at a time where consumer electronic brands have a 9 month (that’s 270 days) lifecycle, while Semiconductor & HDD supply chains have 6 month component lead-time, with 3-5 year depreciation of capacity.  After reading the research, I would summarize the main obstacles as follows:

Position in the Supply Chain

As suppliers of technology embedded in more complex products, Semiconductors and HDD manufacturers find themselves further back in the supply chain, often 3-5 levels down. This can make it difficult (compared to those closer to the front of the supply chain) to find balance in what Supply Chain Insights calls the Effective Frontier – growth, profitability, cycle and complexity. The ‘bullwhip effect’ certainly plays a role here, creating wide fluctuations (over and under) of supply and demand – due to disorganization, lack of communication or miscommunication, incorrect demand information, etc. – as information moves down the supply chain to the manufacturer.

Potential for Tightening Margins

Related to their position in the supply chain, competitive and consumer pressures that drive down pricing are often pushed down the supply chain, forcing suppliers to tighten their costs.

Supply Chain Length

Reliance on suppliers beyond the US borders has extended the length of the supply chain, and opened it up to significantly more risk, as demonstrated by the impact of the Thailand flooding on both the Semiconductor and HDD segments.

Growing Complexity

As one of several suppliers contributing to the creation of a single product, Semiconductor and HDD manufacturers are susceptible to issues experienced by others in the supply chain, as explained by Broadcom in the Supply Chain Insights report: “Our products are incorporated into complex devices and systems, creating supply chain cross-dependencies. Accordingly, supply chain disruptions affecting components of our customers’ devices and/or systems could negatively impact the demand for our products, even if the supply of our products is not directly affected.”

Despite these challenges, the Supply Chain Insights dive into financial data shows that these two industries have fared well, thanks to strengths in product innovation and supply chain planning functions. More specifically, the research shows strong year-over-year growth and large (and increasing) operating margins (with minimal impact -so far-on from upstream cost pressures).

On the downside, it appears that these industries are struggling with inventory issues. The research shows the cash-to-cash cycle has increased, as have days of inventory, and inventory turns are on the decline. Supply Chain Insight’s look at four key Semiconductor companies and two key HDD companies indicates these inventory issues are not the result of poor inventory management but rather an industry trend. The research suggests that both product complexity and the length of the supply chain are contributing factors.

Based on the above, it seems clear that putting a focus on optimizing inventory management practices, making risk management initiatives a priority, and building strong collaborative S&OP practices with their customers, will help Semiconductor and HDD manufacturers continue to see success in the coming years.  This comes with a solid planning system of record.  One that will remove manual steps in the process, drive real time information from the semiconductor/HDD testing to the OEM demand, and connecting the end-to-end decisions with the planning model.

P.S. The Supply Chain Insights’ research report covers additional areas than what I’ve summarized here, and supplies comparative financial data. If you’d like to read the Supply Chain Metrics That Matter: Semiconductors and Hard Disk Drives report in its entirety, you can download a copy here, with no registration required.

 

Posted in Demand management, Inventory management, Supply chain collaboration, Supply chain management


3 Lessons from Gold and Silver Pawn: This… is Supply Chain, This… is Pawn Stars

Published August 27th, 2014 by CJ Wehlage 0 Comments

3 Lessons from Gold and Silver Pawn This is Supply Chain. This is Pawn StarsIf you read my prior blog, “Storage Wars rescues supply chain ignominy”, you would have seen my garage after I moved from Boston to San Diego. Every box we collected for 16 years, stuffed in the Boston attic. And now, in San Diego, the only place to put it was the garage.  Well, here’s the updated picture of my garage. I used the supply chain ERP “shedding” theory to innovate and clear out my garage.

Just like shedding ERP when building a planning system of record, when I shed my garage, I was able to find cool side benefits. I found an “item” dating back to 1910, Carnegie, Pennsylvania.  My grandfather passed it down to my uncle, who passed it down to me. It’s a piece of baseball history from the Pittsburgh area. I’ll tell you in a minute why I cannot say what the item is.

shedding ERP vs shedding my garage clutter

Now came the decision as to what to do with it.  I could frame it and put it in my office. A home office that pretty much only I go into.  I could hand it down to my son. Or, I could sell it. I know you all would say “hand it down”, but our challenge is having a son with autism.  His ability to comprehend what the item means is limited.  His interests lie elsewhere.

So, as I was watching one of my favorite shows, Pawn Stars, I thought the next time I am in Las Vegas, this is what I will take into the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop. I did some investigation as to the process, best times to avoid the crowds, and how to get a fair price.  I found out two really important things:

  • The guys: Rick, Big Hoss, Chumlee and the Old Man, rarely, if ever, work the counter. Too many picture takers compromise the discretion of the customers.
  • Rick Harrison did something truly great for a young fan with autism.

CJ Wehlage Pawn StarHaving a son with autism myself, I was inspired by this story, and decided this “item” is going to be sold to Rick.  In January, 2015, I will follow up this blog with more details.  Suffice to say at this time, I did sell the item to the Pawn Stars, and in January, 2015, the episode will air. Until that episode airs, I need to keep the details to a summary level.

During the process, I had the chance to talk with the Pawn Stars team.  One of the most interesting –  well interesting to me, since my world is supply chain – is how they view their business.

I asked the guys what the key success factors were:

  • Know how to make a profit when buying and selling
  • Know your inventory, what needs to turn now, this week, this month, etc.
  • Think “cash-flow” at every transaction

This is so much like our world of supply chain. I asked Rick what the toughest challenge was to meeting these success factors. His answer, “determining if something is real or fake, genuine or hot”. Same applies to an end-to-end supply chain – working with bad data.

I love Rick’s view of “bad data”. He says you’re running your business on bad data today.  What you need to do is twofold. Firstly, do whatever you can to improve the data and secondly, continue to run and improve your business. Don’t wait to fix all the data and then run the business.

I’ve been in front of so many supply chain leaders who have this challenge. They have multiple ERPs, external nodes, Excel files, etc., and their data is bad. They feel that this bad data needs to be “fixed” first before doing any supply chain innovations. This is a trap that leads to an endless and expensive “master data” project. Expensive not just because of the project cost, but also because of the lack of focus on improving the business.

I challenge each supply chain leader to do what Pawn Stars does – keep the focus on:

  1. Profitability: as we improve our data, create simulation capabilities to understand the profit tradeoffs.
  2. Inventory: as we improve our data, build speed into our demand/supply processes that will drive down inventory, improving working capital and lowering carrying costs.
  3. Cash Flow:  as we improve our data, collaborate across your entire supply chain network to optimize cash flow, enabling the optimal margins for each partner, and the best cost to serve for the consumer.

Great lessons for supply chain, coming from the Pawn industry. Kinaxis RapidResponse not only provides end to end visibility of data, but also the planning models.  This critical, as you can see what bad data is impacting what model, and prioritize the focus on cleaning data.

To close, I couldn’t leave without some fun facts I learned along the way:

  • symbol of a pawnbrokerThe symbol of the pawnbroker is three spheres suspended from a bar.  Some say it’s from St Nicolas’s gift of three bags of coins to the three daughters of a poor man so they could marry.
  • Most expensive item sold at Gold and Silver Pawn shop? Four one kilo gold bars $125,000 USD.
  • Oldest item at the shop? Greek Didrachm (ancient Greek currency) dating back to 325 BC.
  • Rick’s is an expert at assessing the value of:
  • Gibson guitars
  • Rolex watches
  • Diamonds
  • Best night for business at the shop? Fight nights (boxing)
  • Who buys the most jewelry? Pimps
  • Percentage of pawns redeemed?  80%
  • Four items Rick Harrison will never sell?
  • Olympic bronze medal
  • Patriots Superbowl ring
  • 1490 Samurai sword
  • Original Iwo Jima battle plan

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


Case Study: How Nimble Storage’s Focus on Inventory Management Improved Visibility and Planning Cycle Times

Published August 25th, 2014 by Melissa Clow 0 Comments

Nimble Storage Inventory ManagementOne of the biggest challenges facing data storage companies is demands from enterprises for better performance and protection of their data.

Recently, I had the chance to chat with Stacey Cornelius, vice president of operations at Nimble.

Nimble Storage is a provider of flash-optimized data storage solutions with a powerful support model, unique in their industry. The company has a commitment to deliver the highest level of support and customer satisfaction with around-the-clock resources and four hour onsite parts replacement service.

Stacey spoke about how as their install base grew, the company faced challenges getting visibility into its more than 70 global inventory hubs and spare parts depots for its service parts planning business. Nimble was using a spreadsheet-based process to manage its service parts planning business. Data was imported and copied from a variety of sources and some of the key data was maintained only in Excel spreadsheets.

80% of the processing time included data collection and data clean up with approximately 50 steps to complete the planning process. This resulted in the process being error prone and not as responsive as was required for the growing business.

Here’s a quote from Stacey Cornelius, vice president of operations at Nimble on how they doing today:

“Nimble’s world-class customer service agreements are incredibly important to our business. As a past RapidResponse user, I know the breadth of capabilities and the flexibility of the solution. With RapidResponse deployed, we have the confidence we can keep up with our growing install base to achieve visibility of inventory at hubs, depots and parts in transit. We have the ability to quickly perform many “what-if” questions we face on a daily basis and have already reduced the time to make decisions to help our relationships with our customers.”

We also learned that because of their focus on inventory management the team realized:

  • On time delivery to customers across 70 inventory depots > 98%
  • Inventory availability > 98%
  • Service inventory as a % of installed base COGS < 5%
  • Weekly spare parts planning process went from 5 hours to < 30 minutes

Amazing! A big thank you to Nimble Storage for letting us tell their story.  We love to hear what you are doing with RapidResponse!

If you are interested in learning more about this customer, read the complete case study.

 

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


Remembering: Compromise. Confessions of a Supply Chain Dropout by Laura Dionne, TriQuint at Kinexions

Published August 21st, 2014 by Melissa Clow 0 Comments

Compromise. Confessions of a Supply Chain Dropout by Laura Dionne TriQuint at Kinexions

Like I’ve mentioned in my last couple of Thursday blogs, we are starting to gear up for this year’s Kinexions (our annual training & user conference). A few weeks ago I began to reminisce about our fun customer videos from past conferences and I decided to create a blog series to share. So, on this ‘Throw Back Thursday’, I would like to share this video of Laura Dionne, director worldwide operations planning, presenting “Compromise. Confessions of a Supply Chain Dropout”.

In this video hear Laura Dionne, JP Swanson and Guenter Schmidt speak about their experience with RapidResponse – it’s not only educational, but fun too. Please check it out!

Laura Dionne has over 30 years of semiconductor experience spanning manufacturing, supply chain, IT and operations. Her career has spanned supply network activities from the days of 13 column pads to Lotus 1-2-3, to MRP & APO and now into Her professional passion is focused around business intelligence and decision support, rapid analysis of multi-dimensional problems (profit, revenue, cost, capital) as well as the marriage of business process, IT solutions and employee development for solving business challenges.

If you don’t see the video below, view “Compromise. Confessions of a Supply Chain Dropout” here.

Posted in General News, Supply chain comedy, Supply chain management


We Proudly Accept the ALS #IceBucketChallenge: 10 Things You Should Know About ALS

Published August 20th, 2014 by Melissa Clow 0 Comments

Kinaxis ice bucket challenge

If you walked the halls of Kinaxis headquarters today at lunch you may have noticed plenty of folks that were dripping wet. Here’s why.

After being nominated for the ALS ice bucket challenge, we proudly accepted! We are happy to bring awareness to ALS and the fight against it. We are also going to make a $1000.00 donation to the ALS Association. Next, we would like to nominate our partner GT Nexus, our customers First Solar as well as Flexera Software to this challenge, which is to be completed in the next 24 hours. Check out our video!

The Ice Bucket Challenge is awesome because it is raising money for ALS. Here’s 10 things you should know about this diease:

  1. ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which is a rapidly progressive neuromuscular disease:
  • Motor nerve cells die
  • Voluntary muscles degenerate
  • The senses are unimpaired and the intellect may remain unaffected[1]
  1. Every 90 minutes someone in the US is diagnosed with ALS
  2. The incidence rate is nearly identical for ALS and MS (2 per 100,000)
  3. More than a dozen different familial genetic mutations have been linked to onset, however, the vast majority of ALS is considered sporadic with the exact cause(s) unknown
  4. ALS is also considered by most to be a heterogeneous disorder, with site of onset, progression rates and overall survival varying dramatically from patient to patient
  5. Because the process is one only of exclusion, it can take a year or more to get a confirmed diagnosis of ALS on average
  6. While the reason is unknown, military vets are twice as likely to develop ALS
  7. There are more than 150 potential treatments being looked at for ALS in the US today
  8. ALS is NOT just an old person’s disease, many people in their 20s and 30s are diagnosed
  9. The ALS clinical network is incredibly supportive for trial initiation, enrollment and retention[2]

 


[1]FACTS ABOUT ALS AND THE ALS SOCIETY OF CANADA”, ALS Canada, www.als.ca

[2] Steve Perrin, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer and CSO, ALS Therapy Development Institute, “ALS Awareness Month: 10 Things You Should Know About ALS”, Biotechnology Industry Organization

Posted in General News, Miscellanea