Posts by Trevor Miles

Let’s be clear: Digitization is not the same as Digital Transformation


Much is being written about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) recently. It is the topic du jour. There is undoubtedly a lot of opportunity in this space for automating highly manual and repetitive tasks, and even for redefining tasks. But there is little evidence that we have even begun to explore the opportunity to redefine whole supply chain planning processes.

To be honest, I have some doubts about the use of AI or ML to assist significantly in this space. More importantly, there is compelling reason to rewrite many processes with or without AI/ML. Most supply chain planning process definitions date back to before the advent of computers. In fact, most organizational structures, which dictate the processes, date back to military concepts of communications.

Process definition







I was prompted to write this blog based on an article published in Inc on Aug 30, 2017: This Email From Elon Musk to Tesla Employees Describes What Great Communication Looks Like. I will quote from the article quite liberally because there is a lot that Musk writes that is relevant to this discussion.

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Don’t confuse precision with accuracy!


These were the words that popped out at me during an excellent presentation by Alex Brown of Xilinx during his keynote presentation. Recently my colleague covered an interview with Alex and it reminded me of his aptly titled presentation “Taming Complexity”.

As a practice Supply Chain Management is made up of a bunch of engineers who pride themselves in their mathematical skills, and Alex, with a PhD in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University, is a prime example. Nothing pleases us as much as solving complex problems using mathematics. We spend years learning about linear programming and the theory of optimization, so we want to put these skills into action.

What we don’t get taught at university, is that most “interesting” problems are too complex to be solved using mathematics. Recognize that word “complex”? It was in Alex’s title. What we are taught at university is the word “intractable”.








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The Sensing + Intelligent + Social Supply Chain: How can you achieve it?


The Result is Faster and More Effective End-to-End Supply Chain Management

End-to-end supply chain managementIn my first two blogs on this topic, I explained how supply chain management is a collective activity. It requires collaboration, consensus, and compromise across functions for optimal decision making. With growing globalization and complexity, it is becoming more important than ever that your supply chain has all of these aspects. The Sensing + Intelligent + Social Supply Chain provides a way to harmoniously connect data, process and people to make better decisions faster and achieve an effective end-to-end supply chain management.

I outlined how decisions made by one functional group often have a ripple effect on other departments. Today’s velocity of change is only magnifying this cause-and-effect relationship. It can’t just be about individual issues. There has to be an eye on the bigger picture. But today’s environment of modular, functional supply chain planning is failing to provide that view. Companies can’t see, understand and orchestra end-to-end.

As highlighted in my previous blog on why you need a Sensing + Intelligent + Social Supply Chain, this new way forward can provide big benefits. But how can you implement one? That will be the focus of this final blog in the series.

Visibility into the End-to-End Supply Chain

When it comes to implementing a Sensing + Intelligent + Social Supply Chain, it starts with believing in the change.

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The Sensing + Intelligent + Social Supply Chain: Why do you need it?


For Global Supply Chain Visibility and Faster Decision Making

Global supply chain visibilityMy earlier blog talked about what the Sensing + Intelligent + Social Supply Chain is. So why do you need one? If you’re experiencing supply chain pain points around lack of visibility, slow decision making, or poor collaboration, these may be the symptoms that will help answer that question.

Most existing planning solutions were developed in the 1990s. At the time, they represented big improvements in planning capacity. But, most companies still had supply chains that were almost entirely housed within their own four walls. That’s not the case anymore. Supply chain globalization has exploded. Market needs have expanded exponentially. Companies have surpassed the capabilities of these dated solutions and need full global supply chain visibility.

Today’s supply chains often have data housed in multiple locations. These can include multiple enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, product life cycle management systems (PLM), ad-hoc databases, and most commonly, mass amounts of Excel spreadsheets. The inherent latency in these islands of data reduces the speed and effectiveness of decision-making. More time is spent collecting and consolidating data than making planning decisions.

No matter how many systems are used, or how much data is available, if decision-making isn’t rapid, the quality of those decisions will suffer. Planning delays lead to higher inventory levels, lower capacity utilization, and subpar on-time delivery performance. As companies become leaner, it becomes clearer that decisions must be made more quickly.

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The Sensing +Intelligent + Social Supply Chain: End-to-End Supply Chain Agility


End-to-end supply chainGlobal supply chains are getting bigger and more complex. As a result, companies are facing added pressure to respond effectively to fluctuating demands and unexpected change. Add in more frequent supply disruptions, managing product life cycles, and increased regulatory controls, and it’s no wonder it’s getting more difficult to protect the bottom line. So how can businesses profitably keep pace with the challenges of today? The answer is increased end-to-end supply chain agility.

What is the Sensing + Intelligent + Social Supply Chain?

Reducing lag time in decision making is critical. To achieve success, organizations need to connect data, processes and people across the entire network. Until that happens, demand translation and response will be cumbersome and slow. Competing metrics need to be visible, and actionable insights easily accessible. That is the heart of what a Sensing + Intelligent + Social Supply Chain addresses. Its hallmark characteristics are:

  • Sensing—alerting decision makers when an unexpected supply chain event occurs, and identifying impacts on other parts of the network.
  • Intelligence—providing rapid understanding of business issues and consequences, and allowing tradeoff analysis of multiple alternatives by comparing metrics side-by-side.
  • Social—bringing the right people together in a collaborative environment to share assumptions, vote on alternatives, and discuss opportunities.

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NASCES 2016: End-to-End Supply Chain Management Transformations


I was at the North American Supply Chain Executive Summit in Chicago earlier this week. I’m a pretty jaded conference goer, so it is difficult to please me, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the keynotes and sessions I attended. The general theme of the conference was about transformational change. What kept nagging at me though is that the presentations were largely about “righting the ship” rather than “moving from ship to air.”

Undoubtedly there were many case studies on companies making huge leaps in performance, and great advice on how to get change. But I couldn’t help think that much of the advice was focused on doing well what we have been doing in supply chain for the past 20-30 years. I’m trying to determine what we will do differently over the next 10-20 years.

Peter Gibbons of Mattel said we should focus on behaviors rather than culture. He said that in all companies there is a lot to be valued in the culture, but, more importantly, trying to change the culture will usually be met with strong resistance. Changing behavior is a lot easier, and if the behavior changes, the culture will change in the manner desired. Another great piece of advice from Peter is to focus on the outcome, the “what”, not on the method, the “how”. Perhaps most importantly though, was Peter’s view that you cannot get transformation without disruption.

NASCES 2016: End-to-End Supply Chain Management

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Move over old man. It’s time to meet supply chain planning 4.0


What I took away from the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference

Supply Chain Management is a relatively young practice, though many of the core principles go back many decades and are based on Operations Research concepts. These have focused on optimization and efficiency. Undoubtedly the world is a better place because of this focus on manufacturing and distribution efficiency over the past 50 years, resulting in large gains in productivity and therefore standards of living, initially in the West, but more recently around the world. All of this productivity gain was achieved in the analog phase.

We are now entering the digital phase of business. Even if we discount a great deal of the hype for what it is, hype, the reality is there has been a significant shift to digital. The title of the recent Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference, “The Bimodal Supply Chain: Tackling Today, Preparing for Tomorrow”, says it all. It was focused on the manner in which companies can adapt to the digital world while still operating in the analog world. Hence bimodal. As outlined in the diagram below, the bimodal approach advocated by Gartner is about innovating on top of a stable platform. Once the value of the innovation has been captured and stabilized it can be drawn into the stable platform.

Gartner Supply Chain Strategy

“Disrupt or Be Disrupted — Defining the Bimodal Supply Chain”, 30 December, 2015 Analyst(s): Dana Stiffler | Jane Barrett | Debra Hofman | John Johnson

The keynote, delivered by David Willis of Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, describes the bimodal shift as:

The shift requires a new approach to investment in technology, leadership and talent, taking a more agile approach. The bimodal supply chain combines stable best practices with innovation-seeking behaviors to keep your organization competitive.

I have no question that Gartner is correct in their assertion of the need for a bimodal approach to the adoption of digital technology, whether more broadly to the business in general or specific to supply chain processes. Industry 4.0 is a reality. The Internet of Things is a reality. The only question is how quickly companies will absorb these innovations and adapt processes to accommodate them.

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Kinaxis Once Again Positioned in the Leaders Quadrant of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Supply Chain Planning System of Record


Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Supply Chain Planning System of Record Gartner recently published an update to their Magic Quadrant for Supply Chain Planning System of Record and we’re thrilled to be positioned in the Leaders quadrant for the second consecutive time. That makes us two times a leader when you also consider the Magic Quadrant for S&OP Systems of Differentiation.

Gartner defines a supply chain planning (SCP) System of Record (SOR) as a planning platform that enables a company to create, manage, link, align, collaborate and share its planning data across a supply chain — from demand plan creation through the supply-side response, and from detailed operational planning through tactical-level planning.1

In this regard, we stand out from other vendors in the space. This is because Kinaxis RapidResponse is a “one-to-many” offering – a single product that can be used to address a broad array of supply chain functions. It is our technical architecture that allows companies to create, manage, link, align, collaborate and share its planning data across a supply chain, and with customers and suppliers.

Functions have long been segmented into isolated activities that reflect organizational structures and specific functional goals, and software has been developed and deployed in the very same manner. In contrast to that, RapidResponse is a planning and analysis layer that crosses organizational boundaries, planning levels, and time horizons to improve the way supply chain stakeholders work together to make fast, value-based decisions for the enterprise. With RapidResponse, companies create the foundation for bringing supply chain functions together, and maturing or defining new processes as a result.

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