Posts Tagged ‘Scenario management’

Making the case for Response: knowing the right decision in time to make a difference

Published June 13th, 2012 by John Westerveld 0 Comments

So I’ve been doing a bit of traveling and talking to a bunch of supply chain folks along the way.  I attended a conference the other week and it was interesting how many conversations ran a similar course, coming down to the same topic of Response.

So much meaning in a simple word.  When talking to someone, the right response can bring a smile, the wrong response can bring a frown.  In an emergency, the right response done quickly can literally mean the difference between life and death. In supply chain, response often isn’t a matter of life and death, but responding quickly and correctly can result in millions of dollars of savings or additional earnings.  In most cases, we are not talking about single responses having huge financial impacts; instead, it’s the cumulative effect of many decisions, many opportunities where a person had to make a call.  Each small decision when added up can mean the difference between profit and loss.

So who are the people making these decisions?  Who are these arbiters of the supply chain?   Obviously they must be highly paid executives, right? Nope!  These are the doers of the supply chain.   The planners, buyers, master schedulers and analysts.  These people need to make the right decisions, quickly every day of the week.  They have the right knowledge, but from my conversations, what I see is that their challenge has been that the supply chain tools that are given to them are letting them down.  Here’s been my response in talking with them…

That ERP installation that you spent millions on?  It’s fine for tracking transactions.  It works ok to create THE PLAN (the daily or weekly batch run which creates a plan that’s valid until the first change occurs…usually at 7:05 the next morning). It doesn’t help when your planners need to make a fast decision.  Why?

  • The analytics takes hours to run.
  • The results are very difficult to analyze.
  • You can’t do a quick simulation and if you could, you can’t easily see if the simulated approach is the right approach.

So when your people need to make a fast decision, what do they do? They will try to work around the limitations of the system; dump data to Excel or Access and try to model the problem there. Maybe they take a guess, or my favorite approach…load and pray.  What is the result?  Bad decisions.  The kind of bad decisions that when taken cumulatively result in significant losses over time.

So what’s the answer? You have the right people.  You have the data. You simply need the tools to allow your people to make the right decisions and to make those decisions in time to make a difference. Where will you find this?  Hint: you won’t find it at your ERP vendor.

A rapid decision support solution will have the following characteristics;

  • Your entire supply chain data in a single environment; all sites, suppliers, forecasts regardless of the originating system, all available as a single view of the business.  This allows you to make decisions based on all available data.
  • The analytics of all of your different ERP systems modeled in a single system and run in-memory, which means that calculations that take your ERP system hours can be done in seconds at will.
  • The ability to do “what-if” analysis.  There is seldom only one possible answer to a supply chain problem. Being able to try different approaches allows you to explore different aspects of complex solutions.
  • The ability to understand what the data means.  This requires a powerful interface that allows you to view summarized information and also to drill down to the details to understand what is behind the numbers you are seeing.
  • Once you have some possible response alternatives, you need to be able to compare these resolutions to determine which response best meets the needs of your company.

It all comes back around to making the right decision in time to make a difference.

By properly equipping those people in your company that make critical decisions every day, you will ensure that those decisions are made quickly and with confidence.  This means, more of these decisions will be the right decision and cumulatively, they will result in higher customer satisfaction and higher profits.

How do you respond today?  Comment back and let us know.

Posted in Response Management

A Paradigm Lost: It’s not all about changes in demand!

Published June 11th, 2012 by Trevor Miles @milesahead 0 Comments

The title came to me after downloading the presentation slides from a Gartner webcast (Delivering Business Value from S&OP, Applebaum, T., Kohler, J., 29 March 2012). This is a very good presentation that outlines the reasons why most companies have not progressed beyond stage 2 of the four stage S&OP maturity model, and how best practice companies are achieving greater process maturity. Of course this is a play on the title of John Milton’s epic poem, “Paradise Lost”. But unlike Adam and Eve I feel as if we have not yet eaten from the “Tree of Knowledge” and it is this that is preventing us from progressing to higher levels of process maturity. We need to come to the realization that the “paradise” of the perfect plan is unattainable, which has so often been promised over the past 30 year, since the birth of Supply Chain Management. But while we continue to pursue the perfect plan by function, we will not attain the end-to-end process capabilities required to reach stage 4 of the Gartner maturity model. The four stages of maturity are described below.


In truth, the maturity model has great applicability to planning in general, not just to supply chain, and S&OP in particular. There are a number of terms used to describe the higher levels of maturity that jump off the page at me: Collaborative, Responsive, Agile.  And the great framing of the primary focus of stage 4: “What is likely to happen if …”  This captures so much that I think is important in good supply chain capabilities.  Planning in general, not just S&OP, should be driven by this question which is both predictive – likely to happen – and exploratory – “what-if”.

But included in the same webcast (Delivering Business Value from S&OP, Applebaum, T., Kohler, J., 29 March 2012) was the following slide.  When I first saw this slide I thought it was a really good way of capturing many of the themes central to S&OP: visibility, alignment with corporate goals, and setting operational goals.

There is one little term with which I disagree strongly that is embedded in the 4th bullet: “… when things go wrong”.  Inherent in this statement is a paradigm which really needs to change.  This is my paradigm lost.  I’ll explain below.

Implicit in the “Orchestration” stage is “demand translation”, which, in a Gartner report (Demand Management Elevates Value Network Performance, Lord, P., Steutermann, S., Salley, S. 30 March 2012) is defined as

Demand translation converts independent channel demand to dependent-demand plans and supply requirements. It is a critical capability that connects demand management to supply execution. Within the framework of DDVN, demand translation is an orchestrating response assessment capability, rather than demand management. Demand translation includes tactical decisions that select which supply network nodes should be loaded with customer demand and the operational explosion of customer demand into sourcing, production and delivery schedules, based on materials resource planning (MRP), distribution resource planning (DRP) and ATP algorithms.

But it is the market conditions, best described in a Gartner report (Agility Is More Than a Supply Chain Design Strategy, Lord, P., Barger R., Carter, K, 11 November 2011) that drive the business need for demand translation which are at the heart of my paradigm lost.

  • The top three considerations for designing the supply chain response to demand were responsiveness, sustainability and lowest cost. The priorities varied by industry sector, however. The need for agility, although cited less often, is implied in the need to balance speed and cost.
  • Each industry sector is struggling to balance competing design priorities, such as asset efficiency and responsiveness in process manufacturing. High tech is balancing the most complex set of considerations, with high performance gaps in efficiency, cost and collaboration.
  • The two most effective approaches for designing the supply response are rapid detection and translation of demand changes, and structuring supply agreements for flexibility across a wide range of demand levels.

But yet again the last bullet describes my paradigm lost in the use of the term “demand changes”.

Why is this important?

So what is my paradigm lost?  It is the inherent assumption that we can forecast customer demand correctly.  Demand didn’t change.  What happened is that we came to realize that we had predicted demand incorrectly.  Let me repeat: Demand didn’t change.  This is the same assumption of paradigm that is captured in the statement “… when things go wrong”. Of course things do go wrong. Tsunamis happen, suppliers go bust, deliveries fail inspection. We make our living by helping companies deal with this type of disruption.  And yes, customers change their mind after placing an order.

But in my experience, born out by several studies on forecast accuracy, the greatest contributor to “demand changes” is that we didn’t predict demand correctly in the first place.  What changed was not demand, but our understanding of true demand. As I have written before, the assumption that we can predict demand accurately is fatefully flawed.  Well, maybe I shouldn’t be so categorical, but in the low volume/high mix industries in which I mostly work, demand volatility is such that forecast error, as measured by MAPE, is seldom below 35% for mature products and seldom below 65% for new products. Let me repeat: Demand didn’t change!  We just predicted it incorrectly.  Did you get my message yet?  The point of my earlier blog is that even if we could forecast 100% accurately, demand variability would still exist, and it is this demand variability that drives cost into the supply chain through inventory or capacity buffers.

Which is where demand translation comes into play. If the demand forecast is not that accurate, then by definition the supply plan developed to satisfy the demand cannot be more accurate, unless through a ridiculously fortuitous circumstance.   I am all for placing inventory buffers at strategic locations to buffer against demand variability, but the amount of inventory required to buffer against 35%-65% forecast accuracy is enormous. Which is where postponement strategies come to play, but postponement strategies require capacity buffers.  Postponement also requires a key capability identified in demand translation, namely “the operational explosion of customer demand into sourcing, production and delivery schedules, based on materials resource planning (MRP), distribution resource planning (DRP) and ATP algorithms.”

But to evaluate trade-offs requires what-if analysis and the incorporation of financial metrics so that the profitability of the response can be determined.  And to reach compromise and consensus based upon trade-offs requires a collaborative solution in which multiple people can make changes to the same “what-if” scenario.  And if you can’t perform the “what-if” analysis quickly you might as well not do it at all.

Know sooner. Act faster.

Posted in Demand management, Inventory management, Response Management

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!….Oh Supply!

Published May 23rd, 2012 by Kerry Zuber 0 Comments

Lions and Tigers and BearsLike most of my generation, the movie, The Wizard of Oz, represented not only a breakthrough in movie making, but a source of magical entertainment that still has the power to captivate my attention even after seeing it 25 or more times.  One of the most beloved characters is the cowardly lion who is clearly risk adverse and draws others into his fear fantasies while chanting, “Lions and Tigers and Bears…”  While I doubt that my supply chain cohorts lay awake at night worrying about Lions and Tigers and Bears, I do believe recent world events do breed a legitimate source of concern (Earth Quakes, Fires and Floods).

The recently published 2012 BDO RiskFactor Report for Technology Businesses reported an increase from 81% in 2011 to 88% in 2012 of companies who found that natural disasters and other geo-political issues pose a serious threat to supply chain management and operations. Still I wonder whether the increased concern is actually materializing into meaningful actions.

Most risk mitigation activity has the negative consequence of increasing operating costs so there is delicate balance between how much insurance you can afford without risking a metaphorical foreclosure. Most companies approach  risk mitigation through stockpiling key component inventories or building a network of second sources, both of which hit the bottom line rather hard.

In my mind, there is one action that can be taken that costs relatively little but can help to expose serious vulnerabilities and assess the potential risks of a variety of supply chain disruptions. Think in terms of  scenario planning capabilities. In my travels and discussions with large multinational companies I’ve been shocked by the number of them which have very limited capabilities in the area of “what-if” analysis. The lack of depth and breadth in their coverage make risk assessments a bit like performing an auto damage estimate using binoculars from a mile away. So let me elaborate a bit on where effective scenario capabilities create value in the Risk Management arena.

First, provided you have access to the supply chain data representing your value chain, a scenario planning capability can help you simulate disruptions and quickly assess the potential ramifications to revenue, margins, and customer satisfaction.   Examining the data will expose the degree of risk associated with the current supply chain network and planning rules.  Often this data alone can lead to more strategic risk mitigation actions because they can serve as the foundation of a “disaster playbook” that promotes speed in reacting when a real disaster occurs.

Secondly, there is a class of natural and political disaster that often has some degree of warning associated with it.   Think in terms of a tropical storm during hurricane season that is headed for a particular area in Puerto Rico or Taiwan.   Can you quickly identify what supply sources are at risk and simulate what a disruption of 2 days or 2 months might mean?   What if the radius of impact is 25, 50 or 100 miles?   This information alone could be instrumental in making informed supply chain allocation decisions in advance of a disaster.

Finally, the scenario capabilities will prove to be critical in a post disaster mode where significant uncertainties exist with regards to the length and severity of the event. Being able to simulate alternatives is a key to making informed decisions to mitigate or minimize the impact on financial and customer service performance.

There are a handful of companies that reacted with unnatural speed to the events in Japan and to the best of my knowledge, scenario planning was a critical factor in their success. In light of the BDO report, I hope more companies come to recognized just how important “what-fi” analysis and scenario planning is to not only dealing with the normal volatility of demand and supply, but the kind introduced by the metaphorical Lions and Tigers and Bears.

Posted in Supply chain risk management

Monkeying Around with the Supply Chain: The Chaos Monkey Strikes!

Published March 27th, 2012 by John Westerveld 0 Comments

Do you have a supply chain risk management process in place? Have you evaluated the possible risks and built contingencies? How fast can you recover if a key component is no longer available? Maybe you have contingency plans in place, but how effective are they?

Someone forwarded this article to me from Forbes.  It outlines an interesting approach to supply chain risk management.  It’s based on a process used at Netflix where they test their distributed systems by killing (temporarily) various sub-systems to ensure that the other sub-systems can compensate for the missing system.  They call this process the “Chaos Monkey,” and the Forbes article suggests that a form of this could be applied to supply chain

The article suggests having someone go down to the receiving dock or stores, pick a part at random, then work through an analysis to determine what would happen if the primary vendor couldn’t ship this part for three weeks.

I like this idea, but I would like to see it used in conjunction with a more pragmatic risk analysis program that prioritizes risk assessment efforts on those parts that contribute most to corporate goals. A typical approach would be to evaluate each component to determine (by pegging up to the end item) how much revenue or margin would be lost if this component were not available anywhere. Components tied to high-value/high-volume end items would be at the top of the list as would common components used in multiple end items. The risk assessment/mitigation efforts should focus on these items first and be reviewed most often.

But even if you do have a structured risk management approach like I’ve outlined above, testing your assumptions and your mitigation strategies (not to mention your ability to respond) makes a lot of sense. The Chaos Monkey approach seems to be an interesting way to do that. A twist to this would be to expand the exercise (especially given the events over the past year or so) to assess what would happen not just if the part weren’t available, but if the vendor itself ceased to function. What if one of your key vendors was in Japan and was shut down by the earthquake? What if your supplier was in Thailand and was under several feet of water?

An exercise like this will show that assessment and mitigation isn’t necessarily going to be enough. Perhaps the part that was short wasn’t one of the parts you have a mitigation strategy for. Perhaps the  mitigation strategy that you established several weeks or months ago is no longer valid. When this happens, your ability to meet customer demands depends on how quickly you respond. Your supply chain software must allow you to assess the impact of this problem, identify various alternatives and then quickly assess which alternative best meets the corporate goals. To do this, you need various capabilities:

  1. You need to be able to quickly sense when an event has occurred. It is not enough to simply know that an order is late; you must understand the impact this order will have on customer demand (if the late order is safety stock replenishment, then perhaps dealing with it is less urgent than if the late order pegs to a large customer order).
  2. Similar to my first point, you need to be able to assess impact of the event. If a supplier can’t deliver any goods for 4 weeks, then you need to be able to make that change and instantly understand what that means to your key corporate metrics.
  3. You need to be able to try several different resolution approaches. Can we get parts from another supplier? What are the cost implications? Can I ship parts from another location? Will they get there on time?
  4. To do 2 and 3 effectively, you need to be able to model your supply chain in its entirety in order to capture the nuances required to make an informed decision. You need to have both the supply chain data from your ERP system and you need to be able to replicate your ERP analytics.
  5. To do any of this fast enough to make a difference, you need to be able to run this analysis in minutes, not in days.

So, as the original article recommends, go down to the dock or storeroom and pull a part. Test your supply chain responsiveness. If you can’t formulate a response you have confidence in within a few hours, maybe it’s time to look at your supply chain risk and more importantly your ability to respond.

Do you have a process similar to the Chaos Monkey? Do you think this is something worth looking at in your organization? Comment back and let us know!

Posted in Best practices, Response Management, Supply chain management, Supply chain risk management

Turning Supply Chain Risk into Opportunity at Jabil

Published February 24th, 2012 by Lori Smith 0 Comments

The third in our SupplyChainBrain video interview series is Jabil. These videos are jam packed with great content and I suggest you check them out (free registration to view, but well worth it!)

The cost of managing risk can’t be allowed to outweigh the value of the supply chain, says Joe McBeth, vice president, supply chain, at Jabil. But there are unknowns that have to be planned for.

As one of the largest manufacturing service providers in the world, Jabil is involved in everything from full product design, logistics, assembly and supply chain services for some of the biggest businesses around. That guarantees complexity to contend with.

“The challenges are consistent with some of the things we’ve seen in past, but they are more dramatic than they were” says McBeth. “The complexity of globalization, the number of nodes, the number of suppliers, the number of customers in the industries we serve, they all add a large amount of complexity to the equation.”

Added to that are the unknowns like the tsunami and earthquake combo that disrupted so many supply chains last year in Japan.

With a title like vice president of supply chain, McBeth is understandably a bit biased in assessing the importance of supply chain management. It’s simply the “the most important competitive advantage” that Jabil has in its space, in his view. He acknowledges that that arena is filled with good players. Everyone is working from small margins, and it’s difficult to stand out or to be unique. McBeth feels that Jabil is just that because quite aside from its product offering, its supply chain excellence “does create some separation” from the competition.

To have that kind of world-class supply chain, it’s imperative to have a data system and tool set that allow one to manage the complexity that happens daily. “The guy with the best information is always going to win,” McBeth says.

That’s no mere academic concern for Jabil. The manufacturer has 12,000 active suppliers and more than 250 major accounts. One needs a dependable data tool to plan and understand risk in order to keep ahead of the curve in that complex environment, he says. Sometimes you develop your own supply chain, sometimes you inherit one. Nevertheless, in all cases one needs to comprehend the risks around the master schedule and how to commit to customers’ demand signals. That necessity drove Jabil to invest in the RapidResponse solution from Kinaxis, McBeth says.

“We needed a tool set that was fast, that was easy to use and could do multiple scenarios so that we come out with better answers.”

As the company expands around the world, the supply chain needs to be continually reconfigured to support the additional manufacturing sites. “Having a control tower that feeds the best information, that does the modeling – that will allow us to be ahead of the game, to lower our risk, lower our costs and produce greater value for the end customer,” McBeth says.

It’s important to have tool that indicates course corrections that must be made. But McBeth says he envisions a tool one day that won’t just respond to changes but will anticipate them and take proactive measures.

To view video in its entirety, click here

Posted in Control tower, Supply chain management, Supply chain risk management

Keeping up with supply chain innovation at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics

Published February 17th, 2012 by Lori Smith 0 Comments

As mentioned last week, SupplyChainBrain recently completed a number of video interviews with some customers, analysts, and Kinaxis executives. These videos are jam packed with great content and I suggest you check them out (free registration to view, but well worth it!)

Each Friday for the coming weeks, we will be highlighting some of these clips. Next up, Lockheed.

As important as ERP and MRP systems may be to a company, it is critical to have visibility into one’s supply chain, both in real time and through what-if scenarios, says Mike Keltz , IT integrator at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

Visibility, of course, is not an issue solely for manufacturers of airplanes. But it is a major challenge for companies with worldwide reach, and that certainly describes Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, which is among the premier manufacturers of tactical and cargo aircraft for the military.

The pain can be felt when fluctuations occur in the supply chain, so it’s crucial to have as complete a view into the operations of suppliers (and their suppliers as well) as one can, Keltz says. Otherwise, overall operations are jeopardized, not least of whose are the customers.

Greater visibility would also enable forecasters and planners to work more efficiently. That, coupled with top-notch supply chain management becomes the differentiating factor among competitors, Keltz says.

A world-class supply chain needs enterprise resource planning and manufacturing resource planning systems “to actually keep the business going,” Keltz says. But they don’t give you the view into fluctuations and challenges, nor do they allow yo to do what-if analysis. The latter is key; one must  run such simulations before making any changes, such as altering scheduling agreements or adjusting lead times. Keltz says the what-if analysis enabled by the RapidResponse solution from Kinaxis has been invaluable to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “You can actually see what the effect will be of making changes before you invest some very expensive dollars.”

To view video in its entirety, click here

Posted in Supply chain management

Kinaxis life sciences newsletter: Featuring complimentary analyst case study report on Amgen

Published February 9th, 2012 by Lori Smith 0 Comments

We are in the final days for offering complimentary access to the Kinaxis life sciences newsletter, which includes a Gartner Case Study: How Amgen Reinvigorated Its Supply Planning Process (Barry Blake, Hussain Mooraj: May 18, 2011). 

According to the Gartner Case study, long supply cycle times require life science manufacturers to balance supply commitments, capacity management and product expiry issues. One global biotech company, Amgen, centralized elements of its planning processes and deployed a rapid planning tool to more effectively balance these requirements.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Rapid demand and supply planning processes are foundational capabilities required for a multitier sales and operations planning (S&OP) process that can propel companies beyond simple supply and demand matching to conscious, value-driven business decisions.
  • Life science manufacturers don’t often incorporate into their planning processes “what-if” analysis to optimize supply. Additionally, many companies have disconnected their short-term planning from long-term capacity and supply commitment processes.
  • By centralizing elements of its planning process and deploying the appropriate advanced planning tool, Amgen can now quickly model the impacts of various “what-if” scenarios and extend these analyses to multiple planning levels across the entire supply network.
  • The company is now able to rapidly develop more-accurate supply plans that optimize capacity, inventory and product shelf life, decreasing the total planning cycle from 21 to 12 days. These consolidated, synchronized views of demand and supply across the entire product supply network are generated by the tool in minutes.

Last chance to download the newsletter here:

Posted in Pharma and life sciences supply chain management, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain management

Benefits of optimizing the supply chain network and beyond

Published August 4th, 2011 by Martin Buckley 0 Comments

I came across the following article , ‘10 Guidelines for Supply Chain Network Infrastructure Planning’, in IndustryWeek, which discusses a methodology to reduce supply chain costs through the optimization of the network infrastructure. The authors discuss 10 things to keep in mind when tackling infrastructure optimization, which they say account for 75%-80% of total supply chain costs.

I would like to expand on a couple of these points, focusing on optimizing the supply chain through the use of collaboration, simulation, and scenario comparison utilizing modeling tools.

The supply chain network is composed of many different components acting in concert to deliver the required goods and services at the right time. The better these interdependent relationships are understood, the better the supply chain can be optimized. This raises the question how best to optimize such a complex set of data points.

In order to get an accurate simulation, you must be able to obtain accurate data about each node in the network, and then utilize software to model it. These nodes can include, but are not limited to:

  • manufacturing plants,
  • supplier plants,
  • sub contractor plants,
  • warehouses, and
  • transportation routes.

This requirement would suggest that any simulation model must be able to incorporate multiple disparate data sources in a relatively easy and timely manner. Important data to obtain would be:

  • lead times,
  • inventory levels,
  • in transit times,
  • associated costs,
  • quality levels, and
  • service levels.

There are many others that could also be included to give a more accurate picture of the network.

Once this data has been obtained (which may require some effort, especially with off shore suppliers), the next question then becomes, what do we do with the data? This is where the requirement for multiple scenarios becomes critical.

Because these networks can be extremely complex with many factors influencing outcomes, we must have the ability to compare many different scenarios in order to determine a path forward. One scenario may give us a lower overall cost, but poorer customer service. Another may result in cheaper raw material costs, but lower quality levels and increased transportation costs. All these outcomes must be weighted in order to determine the most optimal design, -this requires some way to be able to compare multiple scenarios in a clear and efficient manner.

The next step would then be to examine each scenario, and determine if the best parts of each can be combined into one ‘super’ scenario. As an example, one scenario may have a supplier with lower cost, but higher transportation costs. What if sourcing is split between a low cost/high transportation supplier and a higher cost/low transportation supplier? By managing the sourcing between the 2, an optimal outcome may be achieved (happy medium). This can only be determined by developing a complex model with multi-sourcing.

If you take this case and apply it across the network, the number and complexity of the inter-relationships can soon become mind boggling. This is why a multi scenario engine which can rapidly calculate the various outputs of the model from its inputs is so vital. In order to implement the optimal supply chain network, it must first be designed as a whole to deliver the optimal results.

Once the supply chain network has been successfully modeled, a powerful tool is now available for what if analysis. The maximal use of this tool can be realized by incorporating continuous improvement into the business development cycle and optimizing the network on a regular basis. But in order to make this an effective tool for continuous improvement, a plan must be generated quickly and easily analyzed, as time and resource constraints limit the amount of time to turn around the results and push improvements to the network. This is why speed and performance matter when implementing complex modeling solutions.

Because the only way to realize the benefits of an optimal network model is to implement it, collaboration among all the players in the network (inside and outside the enterprise), is vital. This leads us to another key criteria for a simulation system - the ability of many users to access and collaborate on the development of the network model.

Once the simulation, model, and collaboration pieces are in place, it raises the question: Can this environment be used to model other complex systems as well as the supply chain? What about the ‘sales chain’, the complex relationship between you and your customers? What about the complex network of relationships that exist between an enterprise’s internal resources (employees) and the enterprise? Financial models? As can be seen, there are a myriad number of networks in the modern world that can be modeled for the purposes of increasing efficiency, and thereby reducing costs or improving service levels.

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Posted in Best practices, Supply chain collaboration, Supply chain management