As a teenager in the 80s, it probably comes as no surprise I relate heavily to every cultural reference in Stranger Things. From the hair (I coveted to Steve’s A-Ha inspired coif) to the arcade (DigDug not so much – I would spend my allowance quarter by quarter on Star Castle and Defender, instead) and everything in between, the binge-watch worthy Netflix series contains pop culture Easter eggs in virtually every scene.
Which brings us to Dustin’s purple brontosaurus hoodie from Episode 1 of Stranger Things 2 – apparently purchased at The Science Museum of Minnesota, perhaps while on a road trip with his mom during the summer between season one and season two. This seemingly innocuous vintage piece of costuming features the logo of a popular touring fossil exhibit popular in the 80s known as “Thunder Lizard”.
Picking up on the appearance of their brand on the show, the museum scrambled to add the hoodie to their online and brick and mortar store. Smart move. Why not capitalize on the most anticipated release of the fall entertainment season?
These days, not a single supply chain conference I attend goes by without someone mentioning Blockchain. Given the growing chatter, I wanted to share my views on the topic. In fact, my interest in Blockchain further increased as I started dabbling in Bitcoin, an application of the Blockchain technology.
As per Wikipedia, a Blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Bitcoin is a form of decentralized digital cryptocurrency, not controlled by any nation or issuing bank.
Launched in 2009, Bitcoin was initially written off as a scam or fad. However, to the surprise of naysayers, Bitcoin did survive and is thriving, building quite a following. Here are some factors that are making Bitcoin a very attractive proposition, which are a direct result of the underlying Blockchain technology:
Secure encrypted transactions ensuring privacy of the involved parties: Through a combination of public and private key encryptions facilitated by Blockchain, Bitcoin provides a virtually hacker-proof way of making and receiving payments. This is quite fascinating considering the code behind Bitcoin itself is open source. In a Blockchain, each transaction is recorded to a “block” across a large number of distributed systems. This transaction is then authenticated by each node in the network and is facilitated by individuals like you and me, who are referred to as “miners” in the Bitcoin world. Once recorded, the transaction cannot be altered, and it forever resides in a public distributed ledger that’s shared between the network nodes. The identity of the sender and receiver are protected through the encryption mechanisms. Not surprisingly, some of the early adopters of Bitcoin were those dealing in illegal goods and drugs through the now defunct Silkroad, online marketplace being the most prominent. While any technology can be put to both good and bad use, supply chains require a high degree of privacy and security to ensure validity of transactions for perfectly legitimate reasons – which Blockchain can enable.
Mesmerizing. Motivating. Magical. That’s how best to describe the experience of hearing famed Canadian astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station (ISS) Chris Hadfield address the crowd at Kinexions, our annual user and training conference.
Hadfield’s inspiring presentation focused on preparedness, failure and what it takes to blast into the future. While not speaking directly on the topic, his presentation was full of revelations and pearls of wisdom you can apply directly to your supply chain.
“When you do it the first time, you’re going to get it wrong.”
No one gets it perfect on the very first test flight. NASA didn’t. Just look at the Vanguard TV3, the space agency’s first attempt at launching a satellite into orbit. Two seconds after leaving the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, the rocket came crashing back down and exploded. It had only reached a height of about four feet.
If NASA can’t blast it out of the atmosphere on its first attempt, what makes you think your supply chain can? The expectation of immediate perfection is particularly relevant when implementing process or technological changes. These things take time, effort and persistence, but you can’t give up. Trying something new within your supply chain may seem like an exercise in futility, but it you stick with it, you’ll soon find yourself soaring above the stars – and your competition.
Last week I attended the IBF Business Planning, Forecasting & S&OP: Best Practices Conference in Orlando, Florida. If you’re involved in your company’s sales & operations planning processes and you haven’t heard of the IBF, stop reading now and go check them out here! These guys bring supply chain rookies and the best-of-the-best together to talk forecasting and S&OP in a variety of different forums throughout the year.
This year’s conference was a great opportunity for me to talk with demand planners and other supply chain practitioners about their S&OP journey, and the common pitfalls along the way.
A big theme of the conference this year was that to be effective with S&OP, it’s important to focus on three pillars of success:
People – It’s important to continually invest in your people to generate a competitive advantage because you rely on them to be the care-takers of your supply chain.
Processes – Best practices in supply chain are continually evolving, but you likely face unique challenges in your business that require innovative solutions.
Technology (enabler) – It’s tough to compete against your competitors’ supply chains without an advanced analytics tool designed to enable the S&OP process.
“As complexity and consumer and shareholder expectations increase, CEOs and supply chain professionals must retrain their focus on contributing to strategic initiatives instead of solely on fulfilling demand as cheaply as possible.”
I love this concept. So many times we’ve seen what were once excellent companies that focused on customer satisfaction and quality goods, fall prey to the siren call of “cut costs at the expense of all else”. The problem with this approach is that if cost cutting is the only metric, you soon start making decisions that impact the quality of your product and the reliability of your supply chain. For example, choosing the lowest cost supplier over one that provides better quality and delivery guarantees.
If you had anything to do with supply chain planning in the early days of enterprise resource planning (ERP), you may consider those years the “good ol’ days”. Spreadsheets were the latest and greatest thing, your biggest headache was a supplier failure, and collaboration meant walking down the hall to visit with your buyer or dropping by the shop floor to check on a machine breakdown.
Times have changed. Supply chain planners (I’m lumping in all the silos, including demand, supply, inventory and capacity planning) today are dealing with challenges that were unimaginable when Lotus notes were the next big thing. Arguably, changes to the good ol’ days started with product proliferation, increasingly shorter product life cycles, globalization and a more educated, demanding customer.
Aligning the supply plans to these new volatile demand profiles was no easy achievement. However, none of this physically destroyed your supply chain. The increase in extreme weather events is becoming commonplace for the supply chain community and the challenge of managing around these supply chain disruptions is the new norm.
“Hi, my name is Mike. I’m the new Influencer Relations Manager here at Kinaxis.”
That’s the line I delivered dozens of times over the span of two and a half days to customers, analysts, and co-workers alike at Kinexions ‘17 in Orlando, to which one reply came, “What exactly does an Influencer Manager do?” I was about to find out.
To provide a bit of context, I started at Kinaxis just one week prior to Kinexions. Just. One. Week. Though that may sound somewhat ominous, the expectations on my attendance and participation were reasonable, and quelled any concern over having to understand the industry right out of the gate.
The mandate was simple: to meet as many people as possible, analysts, customers, and co-workers included. And listen. Listen to the language of the industry and absorb as much as I could in a short amount of time.
The opportunity to dive in to all things Kinaxis right out of the gate proved invaluable. I quickly discovered that in many ways supply chain management was something to which I could easily relate. Something that was both immediately accessible yet infinitely complex.