Posts tagged as 'Supply chain management'

Bring Out the Best in Your Supply Chain


supply chain diagram hand drawing on chalkboardA recent article in Fleetowner shed some light on the human aspects of supply chain management. Featuring research by Arash Azadegan (Ph.D, Professor of Supply Chain Procurement at Rutgers University), the article discusses some key traits held by the best supply chain managers. But the article alludes to something more: the collaborative human efforts in the supply chain, especially in difficult times.

Relationships are often really tested in times of crisis. We see this in many aspects of our lives, but the same applies in your supply chain. When the storm clouds move in, you need to get your product moved out, and you’ll need help.

Azadegan talks about how the “dominoes of the supply chain are now very close together – and the closer they are, the faster they fall.”

Imagine a situation where you have 24 hours to analyze, plan, and execute supply chain changes on a massive scale. Would your planning tool be up to the challenge? Would your team be able to deliver? Would all the dominoes fall?

In the Fleetowner article, author Sean Kilcarr discusses a textbook example of a massive supply chain crisis: Hurricane Sandy, which devastated large parts of the United States back in October 2012.

As Anne Strauss-Weider (from A. Strauss-Weider Inc., a management consulting firm) explains in the article, things had to move quickly as Sandy literally loomed on the horizon. The Port of New York and New Jersey was hit hard, and they “had about 24 hours’ notice before Sandy hit,” she said.

In a crisis like this, Azadegan says “jobs, inventory, and profits are at stake, and beyond that, suppliers, customers, communities, and families of employees etc. are at risk as well.” There is no time to panic, “there is only a short time that [a manager] can be visionary and academic. [These situations] are unforgiving.”

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt 1: Industry 4.0


good supply chain designMaybe because I was a Mechanical Engineer in a previous life I carry around a strong bias for good design (without debating what ‘good’ design is, I’ll just reference ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design since it’s seemed to have stood the test of time). I’m always commenting to my wife about whether I think something is designed well or not.

These comments were more frequent and probably annoying when my boys were smaller and I had to assemble toys for Christmas! It seems that everywhere I look these days there are articles on design, the rise of Design Executive Officers (or some other term combining ‘creative’, ‘design’, ‘executive’, …). Without realizing it, I’ve amassed a decent sized favorites folder of web sites related to design.

I was recently reviewing the series of excellent blogs by John Westerveld (“Your supply chain is costing you money – …”), which got me to reflecting on my personal experiences and research to see if I could connect the dots between some of these costly shortfalls and the concept of ‘good’ design for the supply chain.

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Why Hasn’t the Music Industry Supply Chain Responded to the Vinyl Resurgence?

  • by Kevin McGowan
  • Published

Vinyl records with headphonesIf you read any of the articles about the “vinyl resurgence” in the music industry, it’s easy to understand why record companies, artists, and fans are getting so excited. The pendulum has swung ever so slightly from music fans streaming music on their phones and tablets to buying an actual physical object — a 12” slab of vinyl. It’s revolutionary (pun intended).

If you’re a music fan of a certain age, you will remember the LP being the dominant music format for a few decades. That lasted until the mid-1980s, when cassettes had a brief boom. Then, by the early 1990s, CDs moved in, which led inevitably to MP3s, file sharing, and now streaming.

But LPs have always had a certain level of credibility amongst audiophiles and many hardcore music fans. One can, and many do, argue about their sound quality, artistic integrity, and associated snobbery. However, one thing that we need to really think about is this:

If people want to buy LPs, what is the established supply chain to get the LPs produced, packaged, and shipped to these listeners?

And also, if more and more people want to buy these new LPs, how can the supply chain change to accommodate the increased demand?

The vinyl resurgence surprised many, and the industry has been slow to react in many ways. The main reason they have been slow is understandable. In the United States of America, in 2015, 12,000,000 new LPs were sold, up from 1,000,000 in 2007 (Source: Wikipedia). How many plants actually produce the LPs — cut the master, press and package all those vinyl discs? The answer will surprise you: 20.

There are 20 independent companies in the United States who make these LPs. 20. Twenty. Just 20.

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Chipotle’s Food Safety Woes Present a Unique Supply Chain Problem


Chipotle restuarant facing supply chain challengesThis guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management.

As you might have read over the past few weeks, one of the leading companies of the fast-casual food revolution is in turmoil following an emergence of food safety issues. Chipotle has made its name as the fastest-growing restaurant chain in America, and as a pioneer in what’s come to be called the “fast casual” restaurant sector – chain restaurants that specialize in high-quality ingredients and offerings at a slightly higher price point than conventional Quick Service restaurant (fast food) chains.

The company has built its brand on quality ingredients, ethical treatment of animals, and local sourcing in its Supply Chain. But in a series of developments that have sent the chain’s stock price tumbling, the diversity of supplier base and Supply Chain complexity that these commitments require has opened it to food safety risks – and various restaurant locations have been linked in recent weeks to outbreaks of E. Coli and Norovirus. Chipotle is now facing a sales shortfall, and stock sell-off, as a result of a Supply Chain risk that it opened itself up to by adopting the local and sustainable-sourcing strategy that makes it so compelling to consumers. As a Bloomberg article about the restaurant’s food safety issues recently put it, “Chipotle’s greatest strength has become its greatest weakness.”

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Big Data and the Supply Chain: One Important Means of Moving Forward

  • by Bill DuBois
  • Published

Big data business scientist presenting the conceptA recent article on CFO points to a topic gaining strong momentum in the business press: the supply chain is the next big thing for big data to address. The authors, Regenia Sanders and Jason Meil, detail why this focus has become so compelling:

“Big data can have a measurable impact on driving greater accuracy in planning, ensuring that companies make the right amount of the right product. Advanced algorithms and machine learning can facilitate increased forecast accuracy across a company’s SKUs, which drives greater turns, less waste, less inventory, and fewer stock-outs, which leads to higher EBITDA, lower working capital, and greater competitiveness.”

Companies clearly see the benefits of leveraging big data for supply chain management, yet studies show a surprising hesitance to move forward with initiatives. In Inbound Logistics, a Capgemini Consulting study is cited showing nearly all shippers and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) believe big data is vital to their efforts to improve tactical and strategic operation of their supply chains. Yet only eight percent of shippers and five percent of 3PLs have implemented big data initiatives in their supply chain. The title of a Fortune article—“Big Data Could Improve Supply Chain Efficiency—If Companies Would Let It”—further underscores the conundrum.

A number of challenges must be addressed for big data/supply chain initiatives to move forward, including cost, cultural resistance to change, and in many cases a disconnect between internal IT and supply chain organizations; but one overarching challenge is the nature of supply chains in the current global commercial environment.

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Can One Broken Bridge Cripple Your Supply Chain?


Nipigon River Bridge

That’s the question I’m asking after one very important, and now very broken, bridge in Northern Ontario failed to stand up to the rigors of a cold Canadian winter earlier this month. The newly built Nipigon River Bridge is a vital part of the Trans-Canada Highway system, the main roadway linking Canada’s east and west coasts. And on Sunday, January 10 it was completely shut down, bottlenecking traffic and forcing commercial shippers to detour several hours out of their way and through the United States since there’s no other way around.

According to news reports parts of the bridge buckled, causing a grinding halt to the passing of the approximately 1,330 commercial vehicles, carrying more than $100 million worth of goods, that cross over it every single day. Thankfully, no one was injured when it happened.

While one lane of the bridge has since re-opened, allowing at least a trickle of traffic to flow across, larger transport vehicles are still being detoured, and the cost to the businesses impacted by this logistics nightmare is mounting. One federal politician is calling it a “wake-up call” adding this is a serious choke point to the Canadian economy. I’d add it’s yet another reminder to businesses to make sure their supply chains can handle the unexpected.

Would your supply chain be able to respond and recover quickly and efficiently if potentially hundreds of large shipments failed to reach their destinations on time? Is an unanticipated delay like this part of your supply chain risk plan? If not, perhaps it should be.

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Let’s Talk Certification

  • by Joe Cannata
  • Published

A group of Kinaxis employees working on certification exams.By way of introduction, I am Joe Cannata, Kinaxis’ Certification Director. For the past several months, I have had the privilege to work with the broader Knowledge Services team and others across Kinaxis on designing a Certification Program which we are proud to begin rolling out today! This program is an important one because it marks a pivotal point in the company’s growth and maturity, and demonstrates the presence and authority of Kinaxis RapidResponse in the market as a leading and long-standing solution.

Before I get into the details, let me tell you that while working on this initiative, I came to the realization that developing the certification process is quite analogous to the supply chain. Start with concepts being tested, these are the raw materials. The raw materials are then processed into an exam blueprint, which breaks the concepts into major topics, and specific objectives for each topic. Resources and documentation are collected to use for creating the exam items. This is equivalent to the supplier phase. Using the blueprint like a bill of materials, the exam is manufactured using all of the concepts, translated into specific questions, or items, that complete the blueprint. Extensive QA is performed on each of the exam items before going into production. A final review is made before the exam is deemed ready. The completed, packaged exam is then sent on to a test delivery partner (the distributor) for distribution to our customers, partners and employees (the consumers) worldwide. With some exams being offered at proctored testing centers, those would be the retailers in this analogy. Even everyday products, such as exams, have supply chains, and yes, even some of the same supply chain issues.

At KinectED, our annual knowledge sharing event for Kinaxis employees and partners, we officially announced the launch of our new Kinaxis Certification Program. Now customers, employees and partners will be able to validate their RapidResponse knowledge and expertise. And yes, there will be exams!

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Us vs. Them: Retailer-Supplier Collaboration

  • by Alexa Cheater
  • Published

A group of hands representing collaborationA strong retailer-supplier connection can provide big benefits for retailers, suppliers, and even the end customer, but how does one go from a perfunctory partnership to a more intimate relationship that allows for things like common goal setting and joint improvement strategies? The answer is simple. Collaboration.

Unfortunately, building and maintaining said collaboration is a heck of a lot more challenging. I recently looked at two surveys examining the retailer-supplier relationship. The first, by SCDigest, gave an overall grade of B- to today’s retailer-vendor supply chain relationships. In its inaugural year, the 2016 State of the Retailer-Vendor Supply Chain Relationships survey focused on retailers and consumer goods manufacturers. What the results reveal is a very strong prevalence of an “it’s not us, it’s them” mentality coming from both sides of the equation.

According to the survey, 98% of retailers rate their relationship with their vendors as average or above, with 96% of vendors feeling the same way. Seems positive, right? Almost. Where there’s a bit of a disconnect is how each side views themselves and the other in terms of willingness and success at collaboration. Retailers feel their own knowledge and skill in how to collaborate successfully is a non-issue, ranking it as one of the smallest potential barriers to good collaboration. Vendors however disagree. They rank a lack of knowledge and skill in collaboration among their retail partners as the biggest single hurdle they need to overcome for supply chain collaboration.

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