Confessions of a 50-Year-Old Hacker

JohnWesterveld

Hackathon judgesLast week was the Kinaxis solutions development hackathon. In a hackathon, people form up into groups and within a one-week time frame, identify a market need, develop an approach to addressing that need – in many cases prototype solutions – then present those ideas to a leadership team. This year was extra fun because we used a “Shark Tank” (or “Dragons Den” for us Canadians) approach (without the snarkiness that makes the TV version so popular).

As I sat and watched the presentations, I was blown away by the depth of supply chain knowledge and the amount of creativity on display. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of the ideas eventually becomes another of the features that make RapidResponse great.

Our team put together some ideas around supply chain risk management. We addressed supply chain risk in two ways; the leading indicators that show when you are at risk, and a simulation to see how well your supply chain can respond to a major event. The leading indicators range from single sourcing risk to global supply risk, with a number of other factors included as well. Each of these metrics help you identify where you could potentially be at risk.

The other part of our project was based on a concept I wrote about a year ago or so; the Chaos Monkey. The concept here is to go beyond the typical metrics and indexes and to prove how resilient your supply chain is to an actual disruption.

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt 2: Innovative

JonathanLofton

A look at kanban from an innovative viewpointI recently began reflecting on if the “10 Principles of Good Design” applied to supply chain and how we design for it. In this blog I will explore the first of Dieter Rams’ ten principles for good design to see how it applies to the supply chain and what practices are emerging as we transition to Industry 4.0.

Principle #1: Good design “Is innovative” – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Let me start by how I personally interpret these individual statements:

  • The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted.
    • I take this to mean that even with a new ‘twist’ added to it, the designed solution should be sound and adaptable enough to stand the test of time … to evolve. At the end of the day, it can’t be a fad.
  • Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs.
    • As technology evolves, the designed solution will not get thrown out but be further enabled to provide even more productivity, efficiency, etc.
  • But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
    • The designed solution should have an eye towards what’s coming next. I believe this statement is what makes the previous two achievable even though I’m not sure anyone could have seen all that’s been enabled through technological advances in the past 10-15 years.

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Bring Out the Best in Your Supply Chain

KevinMcGowan
  • by Kevin McGowan
  • Published

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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The Ongoing Impact of E-Commerce on the Supply Chain

BillDuBois
  • by Bill DuBois
  • Published

e-commerce transaction on mobile phoneA recent post on Logistics Management cites some figures supporting the idea that e-commerce is a runaway train continuing to gather momentum. Based on data for the latest major shopping days, Cyber Monday has eclipsed Black Friday when it comes to sales numbers and what consumers did to meet their holiday shopping needs.

This finding continues a clear statistical trend. In Q2 2015, the U.S. Commerce Department reported e-commerce sales grew at 4.2 percent (compared to 1.6 percent for overall retail sales). This growth, combined with the impact digital commerce has on consumer behavior, has what the Wall Street Journal called “an outsize impact” on the supply chain.

Increased e-commerce volumes and omnichannel strategies are putting unprecedented demands on the supply chain. The rapidly changing demands of consumers (e.g., click and collect or click and next-day delivery) present a whole new set of challenges to retailers and e-tailers. They’re desperately searching for new supply chain and fulfillment solutions at every stage of operations, which includes demand forecasting, inventory management, warehousing strategies, technology integration, and distribution practices. Increasingly, manufacturers are turning from a traditional supply-driven orientation to demand-driven solutions to effectively meet e-commerce and omnichannel challenges to the supply chain. In fact, an article on the Journal of Commerce website notes visibility into the supply chain and agility in responding to change are key to mitigate risk and maximize opportunity in meeting the challenges e-commerce growth and the digital consumer present to the enterprise.

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt 1: Industry 4.0

JonathanLofton

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?

KevinMcGowan
  • 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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Supply Chain Centers of Excellence: Don’t Overlook Technology

BillDuBois
  • by Bill DuBois
  • Published

ExcellenceIn today’s networked global marketplace, organizations increasingly see supply chain performance as a source of sustainable enterprise vitality and competitive advantage. To ensure a long-term strategic perspective that goes beyond the routine execution of supply chain tasks, Supply Chain Centers of Excellence (CoE) have become a more common tool companies use to drive innovation and best practices. According to a Gartner study of chief supply chain officers, 71 percent of organizations are employing CoEs.

Gartner defines a center of excellence as “a physical or virtual center of knowledge concentrating existing expertise and resources in a discipline or capability to attain and sustain world-class performance and value across the supply chain.” Their seminal research into Supply Chain Centers of Excellence found them to be “critical enablers of success in supply chains.” The study clearly demonstrates the value of the model, because organizations that have implemented CoEs show tangible results, including:

  • A broader supply chain span of control
  • A greater likelihood of being perceived as “partners to the business”
  • Greater implementation of more advanced supply chain practices such as segmented supply chains, end-to-end business planning, or product/service portfolio management
  • Greater success in meeting their goals with respect to revenue, margin, and return on assets
  • Twice as likely to reach revenue and margin targets than organizations without a CoE

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

AlexaCheater
  • by Alexa Cheater
  • Published

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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