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?
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.
When it comes to supply chains, certain words seem to be bandied about like the ball at a championship tennis match. Back and forth, over and over, these supply chain buzzwords seem to have an endless lifespan. But are they just creative marketing spin (after all, developing them is kind of part of the job), or is what they stand for actually making a difference in your supply chain planning? I set out to find the answer and share my findings on whether they’re all hype, or actually helpful.
Internet of Things – HYPE
Ok, ok, I know a lot of folks may disagree with me on this one. But I stand by my claim that IoT in supply chain planning is more hype than helpful. At least for now. Let me explain.
The Internet of Things, often referred to as simply IoT, is hard to ignore. With advancements in technology and new IoT-enabled devices launched daily, there’s little question as to why supply chain leaders are taking note. IHS Markit Ltd. estimates the number of IoT-enabled devices will surge to more than 30 billion by 2020 and 75 billion by 2025.
According to Gartner Research Director Andrew Downard, IoT enabled devices power supply chain planning by letting you continuously sense, communicate, analyze and act. In one of my earlier blogs, I recapped his presentation at this year’s Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference, where he noted several real-world IoT examples, including Coca Cola’s Freestyle machines, HP’s Instant Ink subscription model and Tesco’s virtual grocery stores. He also provided commentary on the rise of IoT order buttons, like Amazon Dash, and the impact they’re having on customer orders.
I was fascinated watching the key note address from Chris Hadfield at the Kinaxis user conference, Kinexions 2017. Canadians and space junkies will know him as the first Canadian to walk in space and as a commander of the International Space Station.
But, it was not all his accomplishments that made everyone else in the room feel inadequate. It was his level of preparation. As Hadfield said, “Astronauts are not adrenalin junkies. Adrenalin is an indication of lack of preparation and can have fatal results.” Rather, astronauts train for what they must do. They train to handle all the things that might go wrong and for making decisions with incomplete information.
When was the last time you made changes to your supply chain? I’m not referring to order changes, SKU changes or capacity changes, but rather, the processes and functionality that drive your day-to-day decision making. If it’s been too long to remember, you’re likely lagging behind when it comes to supply chain innovation. That isn’t good news when it comes to keeping up with the competition.
Innovation is happening all around us, and at a pace so fast, it may make your head spin. But the reality of doing business in a globally competitive environment is that you have to stay ahead of – or at least be part of – the pack if you want to succeed. For supply chains, the added complexity all this change is bringing about can be daunting. It’s becoming harder and harder to keep inventory costs low while still meeting customer demands for customization, same day shipping and easy returns.
Waiting for big, bulky annual releases to your supply chain management software doesn’t really seem to fit with the fast-paced world we live in. Why then is that still the norm for most companies? Wouldn’t you rather get immediate access to the latest supply chain innovations as soon as they become available? That’s the idea behind continuous delivery, and it’s far from new. App developers have been using it for years to provide regular feature updates to your smartphones. So have consumer software companies – just look at Adobe’s Creative Cloud or Microsoft’s Office 365. Yet enterprise software companies still seem to be lagging behind.
I am reading this absolutely fascinating book “Deep Thinking: Where machine intelligence ends and human creativity begins” by Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion. As the title suggests, in this book Kasparov shares a highly provocative point of view on artificial intelligence and its implications for the human race, with the backdrop of his 1997 loss in a highly publicized chess match up against IBM’s chess computer Deep Blue. The book did make me reflect on my own experiences and views on the division of labor between the machines and human supply chain planners.
Much has been written and said about how machine intelligence is impacting supply chain planning in the form of automating a human planner’s function, with implications on the future of the profession itself. I would be remiss in stating that automation will have no impact on planning profession. Yes! The focus on automation in planning is increasing and will continue to increase. However, this has to take place in the context of empowering planners and significantly augmenting their productivity to handle activities with larger scope and with higher levels of cognition that can drive strategic value for business. When done in a thoughtful and deliberate manner, automation initiatives can significantly benefit planners who are willing to adapt and change, and organizations as a whole.
Love them or hate them, it’s hard to escape the proposed sweeping changes to America’s trade policy put forth by US President Donald Trump. From withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to re-negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it’s clear the 45th President of the United States is pushing hard on an America-first agenda. But what impact will his trade policy changes have on your end-to-end supply chain?
Supply chain risks
The majority of US manufacturing leaders are optimistic about this shift toward more business-friendly policymaking, at least according to a recent survey by the Aberdeen Group and consulting firm TBM. Their research found as a group, manufacturers anticipate a 1.8% increase in profits and a 1.6% revenue gain from proposed tax, regulatory or trade policy changes. What remains unclear is the potential fallout of any changes to international trade agreements, which could be devastating to companies running global supply chains.
According to the 2017 Aberdeen Supply Chain Readiness Research Study, tax structure changes are likely to have the biggest impact on financial results over the next few years, but unfortunately for you, that’s largely out of your control. What you can control is how you mitigate the supply chain risks associated with any negative impact of changes to foreign trade agreements. That means knowing:
When approaching the concept of knowing sooner and acting faster, and the value of concurrent planning, the most common feedback I get from supply chain executives is:
“But my data is bad… I mean, really bad.”
It doesn’t matter if they’re high tech, consumer packaged goods, aerospace, automotive, or life science. The answer is so often the same. And trust me, I’ve seen some companies whose data is worthy of a top 10 list of the worst data around, including companies where:
A bill of material is only 10% accurate
The only inventory records are ‘inventory receipt date’ and ‘inventory ship date’
Routings are done in 20+ Excel spreadsheets
At Kinexions ’17, our annual user conference, we’ll have a customer examine this trend of bad supply chain data in its presentation, Seeing the Light at the End of the Data Tunnel, and showcase how it changed its bad data into good. Instead of turning back to fix data first, this customer went after the gaps and process breakdowns that had previously been a black hole.