Posts by Carol McIntosh

‘Best in Class’ Supply chain from a Road warrior perspective – Part 4


supply chain technologyInsight #4 – Embracing Supply Chain Technology as a way to change SCM

I have been following the United Nations Climate Change Conference. If you were to ask anyone what he or she thought about climate change, you would probably hear:

  1. Excitement
  2. Skepticism
  3. Concern or Fear

I came to the realization that you would get the same reaction from a supply chain executive when discussing supply chain technology.

When I refer to supply chain technology, I am talking about software to support the fundamental supply chain business processes — Demand, Supply, Inventory Planning, and Sales and Operations Planning.


  • We have electric cars, new transportation systems, wind turbines, solar panels. There is much excitement about technology favorably impacting the climate.
  • Like climate change, when you hear about new supply chain and manufacturing technologies, and the advancements being made, you want to be part of the sea change. Advanced analytics, cloud solutions, cross functional collaboration, big data, in-memory computing, 3D printing. These are all advancements in supply chain that are changing the way you do business. You will be more competitive, more profitable with more market share if you embrace these advancements.

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‘Best in Class’ Supply chain from a Road warrior perspective – Part 3


Insight #3 – Your supply chain measurements

Much has been written about supply chain measurements. Just Google it. If nothing else, this blog reinforces the importance of establishing goals and measuring performance. Which metrics are most important? How are they calculated? How do you align your supply chain at every level?

Supply Chain Metrics

Everyone would agree that the big buckets of metrics are Service, Revenue, Inventory (Cash), and Cost, which support your company’s strategic goals. Knowing what to measure isn’t so difficult. Knowing how to make people accountable and communicating why it is important are characteristics that stand out in best in class companies.

In Part 1, I wrote about company culture and making decision trade-offs using metrics, alignment of objectives, and the need to measure past, present and future performance. I am re-emphasizing that below.

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‘Best in Class’ Supply chain from a Road warrior perspective – Part 2


In my previous blog I looked at the role company culture plays in being able to develop and maintain a best-in-class supply chain. This blog will explore the role supply chain processes play.

Insight #2 – Your supply chain processes

Do your supply chain processes look like this?

supply chain silos

There is still a mindset that drives a focus on functional excellence, which means processes end up siloed.

Referencing Gartner’s Five-Stage Demand-Driven Maturity Model, this would only place your company at Stage 2. Integrated supply chain decisions place you at Stage 3; integration across the extended supply chain to customers and suppliers places your company at Stage 4. Stage 5 incorporates technology that enables value network creation as well as risk management and scenario analysis for profitable trade-off analysis.

Companies that have reached Stage 5 have reaped the rewards of profitable growth.

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

This does not preclude the need for excellence in demand planning, supply planning, inventory planning, and S&OP processes. The distinction is to think of their value holistically. Companies will often conduct technology evaluations on individual processes rather than ensuring that all processes are interconnected through the technology. This requires a strategic vision of the value chain with business and IT.

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‘Best in Class’ Supply chain from a Road warrior perspective – Part 1


supply chain road warriorFirstly, what is a supply chain road warrior?

A supply chain road warrior works for a company that specializes in supply chain, spends many, many hours on a plane, uses lean principles when going through the security line, gets far too much satisfaction from collecting air miles and hotel points, is constantly wondering why the airlines have such antiquated software, can spot a casual traveler from a mile away, and is fixated on every situation where demand does not equal supply… or vice versa.

The focus of this blog series is to share the insights I have gained during my 15 years as a supply chain road warrior. Having spoken to many companies, peeked inside their organizations, and worked alongside them during countless supply chain initiatives, I’ve built myself a bit of a list of what it means and what it takes to be best-in-class.

Insight #1 – Your company culture

Insight #2 – Your supply chain processes

Insight #3 – Your supply chain measurements

Insight #4 – Your supply chain technology

Does being the best at a specific supply chain function — Demand Planning, Supply Planning, Inventory Planning,

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Which Comes First? The Supply Chain Process or the Technology?


chicken or the egg? process or technology?The chicken or the egg?
The supply chain process or the technology?
Supply chain process then technology?
Technology then supply chain process?

The consensus of opinion is process and technology simultaneously.

That was the unanimous response from customers at Kinexions, Kinaxis’ user and training conference. Technology is of equal consideration to process and both are required to drive transformation.

How do you implement a new supply chain process without understanding the art of the possible with technology?

Customers and speakers at Kinexions talked about turning their supply chain on its head, innovation beyond customer expectation, thinking differently, transparency, demand driven supply chains, embracing their complexity, and all learning is developmental. There was recognition that you will not benefit by trying to implement new processes without the right technology.

Supply chain is not dead, it is not dormant and it has changed significantly in the past 10 years. This was a supply chain software vendor’s conference and I do believe that the supply chain industry has finally caught up with Kinaxis. The value that Kinaxis provides is a necessity and not just a nice to have. I have to admit that I am biased. I was a Kinaxis customer, I worked for them, and I will always be an evangelist. The concurrent planning, in-memory computing, simulation and speed will cause you to stop, think, rip up your old processes and drive exciting and necessary change in your supply chain.

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What happens in Vegas CANNOT STAY in Vegas!


Las vegasThere were so many great insights this year from Kinexions, Kinaxis’ annual training and user conference. The learning about supply chain that happened CANNOT stay in Vegas!

Some of the themes from this year’s conference were innovation, collaboration, agility and concurrent planning.

  • Jeff DeGraff gave a memorable speech on innovation. To quote Jeff, “Innovation is the result of constructive conflict. Innovation requires accelerating the failure rate; not avoiding it.” Many of us in supply chain are baby boomers, caught up in processes, standards and procedures. We like everything to be under control. There is a talent shortage in supply chain. If we are going to attract millennials to join supply chain we need to be willing to change our perspective. We need data scientists and supply chain professionals that embrace creativity, collaboration and innovation.
  • Accenture pronounced the death of the linear supply chain. Decisions are made collaboratively across global networks. Decisions are made in hours to days versus days to weeks. Supply chains require visibility, real-time analytics, predictive analytics and execution. Predictive analytics allow companies to quickly assess the past, present and future. The execution of decisions requires collaboration and human judgment.

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Step Five: Stage Five Supply Chain Planning System of Record (SCP SOR)


Forward Thinkers

Car on a foggy roadAs you can probably guess, this is the last step in reaching Stage Five for your Supply Chain Planning System of Record (SCP SOR).

Why can’t we predict everything?

Predictive analytics are one way to forward think. Quantitative analysis has really become popular and there is no lack of data. Data scientists are the new generation of supply chain planners. However, the assumptions and variables can be wrong… leaving you with a lot of data, but zero visibility. How do you manage the risk?

Supply chain is a risky business!

Risk management is being seen as a strategic imperative in supply chain. Events like natural disasters, world economic issues, regulatory changes, demand volatility all wreak havoc on your supply chain. With shorter lead-times and fierce competition, a missed delivery can result in losing customers and missing financial projections. A generic pharmaceutical company I worked with told us that when they miss a delivery to Walmart for a SKU they can loose the sales for the entire product line.

On the other hand, I have worked with a company that within a few hours after learning about the Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011, were able to determine the impact of supplier late deliveries and very quickly find alternate sources of supply. How was this done?

They already had a risk management strategy in place using what if scenarios. When they modeled the impact of the tsunami, they created multiple versions of the data with different variables and assumptions. The scenarios were compared and quickly the best course of action was agreed upon. A recent Forbes article said ‘the more paths travelled the greater the likelihood of coming up with the best answer’. That is really what risk management is about. In a study completed by Accenture, they found that more than 75% of the 1,000 plus executives they interviewed consider operations risk management to be very important in addressing supply chain risk issues. They also learned that various industries have their own approach. The levers that they value for trade off decisions were different.

How does risk management relate to a SCP SOR?

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Step Four: Stage Five Supply Chain Planning System of Record (SCP SOR)


Collboration is step four in acheiving a stage five SCP SORCollaborative Management is Step Four to a Stage Five Supply Chain Planning System of Record (SCP SOR)

Supply chain collaboration. What is it and why is it so important?

Today there is a focus on supply chain analytics and the automation of decision making. However, this does not preclude the need for humans and collaboration.

A quote from a Forbes article read ‘humans evolved to survive and collaborate to ensure survival’.

In my first blog I wrote about talent management. The millennial generation thrives on working in a social collaborative manner. In supply chain they need to share plans, assumptions and recommendations with others.

The Cloud

The good news is that working in the cloud makes collaboration that much easier. It is estimated that the market for cloud-based supply chains is growing at a compound annual rate of 19%.

Why Collaborate?

Yesterday the emphasis was on vertical supply chains while today companies require horizontal supply chain excellence. Global companies require data and information to be shared and decisions made across the organization very quickly.

Those of us raised in the traditional supply chain era where functional expertise was the #1 priority may think of collaboration as a very nebulous term. Today it is a necessity for timely communication and decision making from the customer to manufacturer to supplier.

The emerging digital supply chain requires data and analytics AND social media functions.

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