We’ve all asked ourselves the question… what-if? What if I bought that new car? What if I took that job? What if I won a million dollars? It’s fun to dream. But sometimes the what-ifs are slightly more mundane yet still important…. especially when you say “what-if” with your supply chain.
What if I could decrease the lead time on this part? What impact would this have on safety stock?
What if I accepted this large order? Could I build it by the due date? What other orders are impacted?
What if my key supplier suddenly couldn’t deliver for three months? What would that do to my revenue? What customers are affected?
What if I shifted production to a new supplier that had much lower costs but higher lead times? What would that do to my margins? My inventory levels?
The list goes on… we’ve only barely scratched the surface of the types of what-if analysis that supply chain professionals try to do every day. The challenge supply chain planners and analysts face every day is that the tools they are provided really don’t support what-if analysis. ERP systems don’t support multiple simulation scenarios, they have fixed, part-by-part reporting that doesn’t support further investigation, and it takes hours to run the batch processes needed to evaluate a significant change.
Since they can’t effectively perform what-if analysis in the ERP system, supply chain analysts often need to model these key decisions using Excel. And while Excel is an excellent tool for doing basic models, it simply cannot effectively capture the complexity of a real supply chain. Layer on top of this, the errors that inevitably end up in any Excel model, and you are often making key strategic and tactical decisions based on a flawed model.
An interesting topic came up the other day at the office, the idea of non-traditional supply chain. Not non-traditional in the sense of a company that thinks and acts a little outside of what’s considered to be ‘normal’ supply chain operating processes. Rather, supply chains that don’t deal with material goods at all. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Millennial, part of Generation Y, and came of age at the same time the internet did, but my very first thought was of course there’s such a thing as non-traditional supply chain – just look at the data!
Anyone who works in traditional supply chain knows data is king. It plays an integral role in managing not only your sales and operations planning (S&OP), but rules the roost so to speak when it comes to making sure your supply chain is operating effectively. Without accurate and timely data, that’s also easily visible, you’re likely not making the best decisions for your business.
But what I’m talking about isn’t using data to enhance your supply chain. I’m talking about data as a commodity – and it’s a booming business right now.
The first words foretold the upcoming days. When I checked into the hotel at the High Tech Supply & Demand Summit in San Francisco, the front desk person, as she was handing me the room card, pointed to the right, and said, “if you go for a walk, don’t go that way, that’s the Tenderloin district. It’s a very dangerous place.”
Those initial words rang true to what happened the next two days. Having spent two years at AMR Research, I’ve seen the type of analyst that will be so direct, the message comes across harsh. I’ve leaned towards the concept of writing the positives, with some humor, and based on practical, business-based supply chain knowledge. Today, for this blog post, that changes.
Google “Top 10 supply chain challenges” and you’ll find 44 million different opinions on the biggest issues our industry faces today. Many are filled with our favourite industry buzzwords: Visibility, Risk Management, Cost Pressure, The Internet of Things, Security Threats… and the list goes on. These are all interesting and catchy concepts but they don’t necessarily address the fundamental challenges faced by your supply chain organization. A common mistake when developing a supply chain strategy is to select some key initiatives or technology platforms and a list of best practices, and work backwards to highlight the business problems you’ll solve with your plan. If this is your approach then the Boston Bruins aren’t the only one’s putting the cart before the horse (Go Sens!).
I like the approach recommended by Peter Bolstorff, a Supply Chain Council Executive Director with APICS. He recommends a fundamentals-first approach to strategic planning and suggests focusing on three basic challenges:
Rate of supply chain planning
Resource management in a global organization
Real time transformation of data into competitive insight.
In honor of Earth Day I thought I’d take the opportunity to outline in my humble opinion why having a green supply chain is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s a necessity. Gone are the days when consumers would look the other way while companies rode roughshod over the environment in pursuit of a more profitable supply chain. Nowadays even governments (the good ones at least), are actively involved in making sure Mother Nature is protected, at least to some extent. Are you doing your part?
There is a growing need for sustainability integration into supply chain management and if you haven’t already started down the path to greener pastures you’re falling dangerously behind the trend, and it could be costing you more than you know.
According to a recent World Economic Forum report written in collaboration with Accenture, companies like UPS, SABMiller, DHL, Unilever and Nestle are among 25 multinational companies that have increased their revenue by up to 20% while cutting supply chain costs as much as 16% thanks to a focus on sustainability. Beyond Supply Chains: Empowering Value Chains outlines 31 best practices for businesses to follow in order to see similar results, in what they’ve termed “the triple supply chai
The following guest blog commentary is contributed by Bob Ferrari, Founder and Executive Editor of the Supply Chain Matters blog and Managing Director of the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC.
We often context and plan supply chain transformation initiatives under the three-pronged perspectives of People, Process and Technology enablers. I would urge transformation teams to seriously consider a fourth component, that being Information, including the velocity, context and clarity of information. While some may be of the mistaken belief that the element of Information is solely the perspective of IT, it is rather a jointly-owned, cross-functional element of transformation.
Across various industry supply chains, a lot of executive level visionary thought and leadership energy is becoming focused on supply chain transformation efforts, namely moving the needle towards more agile or resilient supply chain response capabilities. The reasons are many and varied. Today’s clock speed of rapid and continuous business change requires that industry supply chains be more agile and able to anticipate changes in customer, product, or fulfillment segment needs, quicker than competitors. The complexity and sheer speed of events occurring across the global supply chain implies an exceptions-based focus, allowing advanced technology to monitor and oversee day-to-day customer focused fulfillment. Having a bold vision to the end-state capabilities required across the value-chain is essential. With the increasing demands of online and omni-channel customer fulfillment, the end-state is often defined as the supply chain being more predictive and exceptions-driven in terms of response.
Many of today’s industry supply chain and sales and operations planning (S&OP) teams however, find themselves drowning in too much data while lacking in important insights. Hence transformation efforts can start on the wrong footing.
SupplyChainBrain attended our annual Kinexions user conference, and while there, they completed a number of video interviews with customers, analysts, and Kinaxis executives. And, we’d like to share them!
We know that companies are desperate for new talent to help them achieve supply-chain excellence, as they grapple with ever-larger volumes of data and increasing unpredictability in consumer markets. Companies have been investing in supply-chain technology for 20 years or more – yet many are still far from the goal of creating global, demand-driven networks. “Getting there takes more than a great tool,” says Green.
Check out this recorded roundtable discussion with Benji Green, director of global supply chain operations with Avaya; Trevor Miles, executive vice president of thought leadership with Kinaxis, and Roddy Martin, managing director of Accenture Supply Chain Strategies.
It’s that time of year when planning for Kinexions, our yearly user conference, kicks off in full swing. Locations are scoped out, agendas are developed, speakers are secured, and graphic designers are slaving away crafting captivating themes and logos.
This year, for the first time ever, we are bringing Kinexions to Las Vegas. There is a lot of excitement about the location and, unsurprisingly, it made for some fun logo designs. The Kinaxis marketing team recently met to review all the proposed logos and taglines. We had quite a few laughs and wanted to share all the fun ideas. Check out the following logos and transcripts of our reactions, take a stab at guessing the winner, and post your guess in the comments. We will be unveiling the final logo and additional conference details shortly, so stay tuned.