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21st Century Supply Chain

954 posts
by Bill DuBois

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.


The top 10 supply chain predictions for the coming year released by industry analyst IDC illustrate the heightened need to innovate to respond to change. Simon Ellis, vice president of global supply chain strategy for IDC, said in a recent interview, “the common thread across these predictions is change. Manufacturing businesses are undergoing enormous change, including changing consumer expectations and technological advancements. I’ve been in and around the supply chain for 30 years, and it seems like the pace and impact of change is greater than we’ve seen.” He adds that e-commerce networks are simply a better way of doing most things in the supply chain, that organizations are recognizing this, and that they are using or plan to use solutions that accommodate e-commerce.


IDC’s top 10 predictions include:


  • By the end of 2016, one-third of all manufacturers will be actively integrating their “traditional” supply chain processes with product and network design, manufacturing, and service.
  • By the end of 2017, the need for visibility, scalability, and flexibility across the value chain will drive 60 percent of manufacturers to invest in cloud-based warehouse management systems and transportation management solutions aligned to their trade partner networks.
  • By 2018, proliferation of advanced, purpose-built, analytic applications aligned to the Internet of Things (IoT) will result in 15 percent productivity improvements for manufacturing supply chains.
  • By the end of 2019, enterprise-wide improvements in resiliency and visibility will have rendered short-term forecasting moot for 50 percent of all consumer products manufacturers and 25 percent of all others.
  • By 2020, 50 percent of the operational jobs in the supply chain will have evolved into “knowledge” roles required to support new technologies such as cognitive computing and modern robotics.

You can find the rest of their predictions here.


The post The Ongoing Impact of E-Commerce on the Supply Chain appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Bill DuBois at

by Jonathan Lofton

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.


Vitsœ’s designer, Dieter Rams. Photograph by Abisag Tüllmann
Vitsœ’s designer, Dieter Rams. Photograph by Abisag Tüllmann.

I started searching for the latest and greatest with respect to design for the supply chain. Not a lot popped to the surface. I was reading a blog on product design and supply chain where someone attended a forum in 2011 and claimed that in the previous 10 years there were only 36 articles in leading supply chain journals on the topic of product design and how it relates to the supply chain. I haven’t been able to validate that, but Googling didn’t get too many results from the past few years. What I did see were papers, products, and services related to supply chain “X” design (“X” being network, enterprise, etc.). There was information on modeling, simulating and optimizing supply chains but not a lot on designing processes, products, services, data, etc. for the supply chain or supply chain management. I’m encouraged when I see articles and activities related to sustainable supply chains because that’s a ‘good’ design principle and tackling sustainability while managing for profitability drives innovation and touches on a few other principles as well (e.g. the associated monitoring/verification for sustainability dictates attention to detail).


I’m going to try and follow in John’s footsteps and over a series of blogs take a look at how/if Dieter Rams’ principles apply to design for the supply chain (and by extension supply chain management). My ultimate objective is to share my thoughts and gain insight from the community through conversation that might help with Supply Chain Design Thinking for Industry 4.0.


Below are the principles I’ll be referencing and exploring. I’m looking forward to the conversation! Let me know if you have recent examples of ‘good’ design for the supply chain or have any general thoughts on the topic.


Good design


  1. Is innovative
  2. Makes a product
  3. Is aesthetic
  4. Makes a product understandable
  5. Is unobtrusive
  6. Is honest
  7. Is long-lasting
  8. Is thorough down to the last detail
  9. Is environmentally friendly
  10. Is as little design as possible

The post Design for the Supply Chain Pt 1: Industry 4.0 appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Jonathan Lofton at

by Kevin McGowan

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.


In an article by Vish Knanna on Pitchfork, he talks about one in particular: Rainbo Records in Los Angeles, California. They operate 24 hours a day, often 7 days a week to keep up with demand. And the other companies are experiencing the same level of success, all of which would have been unheard of 10 or 15 years ago.


So, what’s the problem with the supply chain in this case? Why don’t we have dozens of new producers opening their doors to produce records?


According to Rainbo account executive Rick Lepore: “The start-up costs would be astronomical. Getting a hold of presses is pretty much impossible; there’s no one making new presses so, if you want to start up a plant, getting a hold of presses would be very difficult. There’s nowhere to get them. And you need people with very precise technical skills, and finding those people who can run those presses is very difficult.”


Another issue with current vinyl production is plain to see if you wander the aisles of your record shop or check out online listings: “special editions”. Many labels are appealing to collectors with “special” colored vinyl in countless combinations. That means a lot more work on the production end.


“[An artist will] want to do a run of 500 but they want 200 in green, 200 in blue, and 100 in red and that really slows everything down through put-down, where we do a run and then have to stop and clean up the press each time,” says Lepore in the Pitchfork article. “Then with the packaging, we used to just put in the jacket and we’re done. Now quite often there’s inserts, people want to put in their download cards and stickers and that happens quite a bit.”


So, there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution to this particular supply chain problem, but it would be fascinating to get a closer look at the ins and outs of these supply chains to see if there are places for improved efficiency. Perhaps running a number of what-if scenarios, and utilizing a more nimble solution that lets planners know sooner and act faster would help alleviate some of the challenges.


It certainly is an interesting case study in what happens when there are defined production limitations, and a sudden surge in sales.


The post Why Hasn’t the Music Industry Supply Chain Responded to the Vinyl Resurgence? appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Kevin McGowan at

by Bill DuBois

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

Three key challenges were cited in establishing and implementing CoEs:


  • Clarity of purpose. A lack of clarity concerning the definition and purpose of centers of excellence has led to misapplication in supply chain organizations.
  • Executive support. Getting leaders of the organization to invest in a COE can be daunting, especially when looking to attribute value to a group without direct profit and loss (P&L) responsibility.
  • Application focus. While the definition of CoE does not change, its application in an organization can vary depending on the challenges and strategy of the supply chain.

And I would add a fourth: understanding of technological impact. Perhaps because of the emphasis in aggregating cross-functional experts in building CoEs, technology is sometimes overlooked as a driver of supply chain innovation and transformation in the context of the tool. Also key is the data quality necessary for supply and demand planning. The importance of having a system in place that can pull all data into one centralized system, provide real-time visibility across the supply and demand network, facilitate collaboration, and allow for quick analysis and scenario simulation is key for CoEs to perform at their best. This means software that is flexible and agile.


In today’s often volatile and constantly changing business environment, supply chain agility increasingly differentiates market leaders from followers—another factor supporting the use of CoEs. In fact, a recent study by Supply Chain Insights found companies with a supply chain CoE report their supply chains as agile nearly seven times as much as those that don’t have one (39 percent vs. six percent).


The post Supply Chain Centers of Excellence: Don’t Overlook Technology appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Bill DuBois at

by Alexa Cheater

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.”


At Argentus, where we recruit star Supply Chain professionals for top companies, we’re always on the lookout for moments when the Supply Chain discipline breaks into the wider news cycle, and our eyes are always peeled for a talent angle on those moments. As we’ve written about in the past, the Supply Chain discipline is a behind-the-scenes driver of innovation and efficiency, and only really enters the public consciousness when a Supply Chain issue or failure arises.


The Chipotle food safety scare is a case in point. It caught our attention, in particular, because it sits at an interesting nexus between the Supply Chain efficiency (cost), Supply Chain sustainability and ethics, and profit. This New Yorker article describes how Chipotle isn’t necessarily sunk, and there’s a precedent for restaurant chains suffering from food safety issues surviving (and thriving) after adopting food safety measures. But the question is, can Chipotle boost its food safety, and implement effective monitoring of the staggering amount of suppliers required to source local ingredients across the nation, without sacrificing price competitiveness and profitability?


As this Forbes article outlines, Chipotle’s food safety woes are a surfacing of an issue that’s been getting more discussion among Supply Chain gurus: the tension between a push for greater environmental sustainability / ethics in the Supply Chain and the practicalities of maintaining an efficient, predictable supplier base. To quote Kevin O’Marah, the article’s author:


“A reality of food supply chains is that elimination of variability in sourcing and production is essential to achieving low costs while maintaining quality.  Chipotle, by avoiding the industrial food supply chain as a matter of principle ends up needing to accommodate massive variability in its supply base.”


O’Marah argues that Chipotle must raise its prices to achieve the Supply Chain consistency and food safety that will allow it to keep consumers’ trust – without sacrificing the commitment to ethics by which it has built its brand.


But is this the case? Is it possible that Supply Chain ingenuity might offer Chipotle the solution it needs, without raising prices and sacrificing competitiveness? Is there a Supplier relationship management tool, or the right type of Supply Chain organizational change or improvement, that might help Chipotle solve this issue without sacrificing its competitive edge? We put the question to our network of star performers in the discipline.


If so, it might present a solution to how fast-casual restaurant chains can strike a difficult balance between offering high-quality, ethically-sourced ingredients, ensuring enough of a margin for stockholders, while keeping prices low enough to compete with quick-service restaurant chains.


The post Chipotle’s Food Safety Woes Present a Unique Supply Chain Problem appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Trevor Miles
Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Supply Chain Planning System of Record
This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available here.

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.


View this report for in-depth analysis of where supply chain planning is headed and why Kinaxis is positioned in the Leaders quadrant.



Also, complimentary to this topic, Kinaxis has also recently published an infographic: 5 Things to Look For in a Supply Chain Planning System of Record. This is great supplement to the Gartner research as it shares views and real-world results from Kinaxis RapidResponse customers.


1Payne, T., Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Supply Chain Planning System of Record, Gartner Inc., January 19, 2016


Disclaimer: Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.




The post Kinaxis Once Again Positioned in the Leaders Quadrant of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Supply Chain Planning System of Record appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Trevor Miles at

by Bill DuBois

Big data business scientist presenting the conceptA recent article on CFO points to a topic gaining strong momentum in the business press: the supply chain is the next big thing for big data to address. The authors, Regenia Sanders and Jason Meil, detail why this focus has become so compelling:


“Big data can have a measurable impact on driving greater accuracy in planning, ensuring that companies make the right amount of the right product. Advanced algorithms and machine learning can facilitate increased forecast accuracy across a company’s SKUs, which drives greater turns, less waste, less inventory, and fewer stock-outs, which leads to higher EBITDA, lower working capital, and greater competitiveness.”


Companies clearly see the benefits of leveraging big data for supply chain management, yet studies show a surprising hesitance to move forward with initiatives. In Inbound Logistics, a Capgemini Consulting study is cited showing nearly all shippers and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) believe big data is vital to their efforts to improve tactical and strategic operation of their supply chains. Yet only eight percent of shippers and five percent of 3PLs have implemented big data initiatives in their supply chain. The title of a Fortune article—“Big Data Could Improve Supply Chain Efficiency—If Companies Would Let It”—further underscores the conundrum.


A number of challenges must be addressed for big data/supply chain initiatives to move forward, including cost, cultural resistance to change, and in many cases a disconnect between internal IT and supply chain organizations; but one overarching challenge is the nature of supply chains in the current global commercial environment.


Today’s global manufacturer may have hundreds of factories and distribution centers, and hundreds of thousands of items it sells. An item may be sold in a single market (e.g., Spain or Portugal) but thanks to the supply chain it travels through multiple countries (originating, say, in Asia) along the way. A product going through a network like that may also go through multiple ERP systems, number changes, and various unit of measure changes. In such a network, how is demand translated into supply in a single flow? Consolidating the data is one thing, but addressing data harmonization is a big component of making sense and use of big data.


Visibility is about bringing up all the information crossing a network into a single, real-time support system so when a company sees a change in demand they can immediately translate it across the entire network. That lets them see where and how demand can be satisfied. When companies realize that the technology is at hand to do this—to harmonize and make useful what seems on the surface incredibly complex and dissonant—the hesitation to move forward with big data initiatives to improve supply chain operations is likely to dissipate.


After all, what supply chain decision-maker wouldn’t want the following at his or her fingertips?


  • Multi-tier demand and supply chain visibility
  • Long-term and short-term demand and supply chain planning
  • Supply chain risk identification and mitigation
  • What-if analysis and execution
  • Financial and operations performance management

The post Big Data and the Supply Chain: One Important Means of Moving Forward appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Bill DuBois at

by Alexa Cheater

Nipigon River Bridge


That’s the question I’m asking after one very important, and now very broken, bridge in Northern Ontario failed to stand up to the rigors of a cold Canadian winter earlier this month. The newly built Nipigon River Bridge is a vital part of the Trans-Canada Highway system, the main roadway linking Canada’s east and west coasts. And on Sunday, January 10 it was completely shut down, bottlenecking traffic and forcing commercial shippers to detour several hours out of their way and through the United States since there’s no other way around.


According to news reports parts of the bridge buckled, causing a grinding halt to the passing of the approximately 1,330 commercial vehicles, carrying more than $100 million worth of goods, that cross over it every single day. Thankfully, no one was injured when it happened.


While one lane of the bridge has since re-opened, allowing at least a trickle of traffic to flow across, larger transport vehicles are still being detoured, and the cost to the businesses impacted by this logistics nightmare is mounting. One federal politician is calling it a “wake-up call” adding this is a serious choke point to the Canadian economy. I’d add it’s yet another reminder to businesses to make sure their supply chains can handle the unexpected.


Would your supply chain be able to respond and recover quickly and efficiently if potentially hundreds of large shipments failed to reach their destinations on time? Is an unanticipated delay like this part of your supply chain risk plan? If not, perhaps it should be.


I want to reiterate that this is not just a logistics issue. Yes, that’s where many will feel the pain most acutely, with the hassle of 12 hour delays and the paperwork and regulations required to suddenly transport a shipment into a foreign country. But for the unprepared business, this could have a sizable impact on overall supply chain efficiency.


Say for example those trucks that are now looking like they’ll be days or weeks late were carrying materials critical to the manufacturing of your product, and they were coming from the single supplier you’ve contracted to provide it. Do you know what steps you need to take in order to remedy the situation and prevent lost productivity, an increase in late or unfulfilled orders, and the potential negative consequences to customer satisfaction ratings?


First off, you’d need to actually know there’s a problem. That means ensuring end-to-end visibility of your entire supply chain, and having a system in place that alerts you when a potential issue arises. Then, you’d need to be able to act rapidly in determining the correct course of action. Is that trying to find another supplier? Or diverting a shipment on route to another of your manufacturing plants to this one? Maybe even delaying a larger order of finished goods so you can get the multiple smaller orders out on time. Depending on the nature of your business, the possible options are numerous.


Running multiple what-if scenarios and in-depth analytics would help answer the question of what option is your best. From there, you’d need to collaborate with other team members, sharing the results of your findings and working jointly to approve and implement the solution. The faster these steps happen, the smaller the financial impact the company will face.


If you have those types of capabilities and a strong risk management plan, your supply chain should really only experience a small hiccup. I’d imagine that for most companies, the delay and hassle this broken bridge have caused, while costly, won’t be crippling. This certainly isn’t a black swan situation, but it is a good reminder that the unexpected does happen, and as the Boy Scouts like to say it’s always best to be prepared.


The post Can One Broken Bridge Cripple Your Supply Chain? appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Joe Cannata

A group of Kinaxis employees working on certification exams.By way of introduction, I am Joe Cannata, Kinaxis’ Certification Director. For the past several months, I have had the privilege to work with the broader Knowledge Services team and others across Kinaxis on designing a Certification Program which we are proud to begin rolling out today! This program is an important one because it marks a pivotal point in the company’s growth and maturity, and demonstrates the presence and authority of Kinaxis RapidResponse in the market as a leading and long-standing solution.


Before I get into the details, let me tell you that while working on this initiative, I came to the realization that developing the certification process is quite analogous to the supply chain. Start with concepts being tested, these are the raw materials. The raw materials are then processed into an exam blueprint, which breaks the concepts into major topics, and specific objectives for each topic. Resources and documentation are collected to use for creating the exam items. This is equivalent to the supplier phase. Using the blueprint like a bill of materials, the exam is manufactured using all of the concepts, translated into specific questions, or items, that complete the blueprint. Extensive QA is performed on each of the exam items before going into production. A final review is made before the exam is deemed ready. The completed, packaged exam is then sent on to a test delivery partner (the distributor) for distribution to our customers, partners and employees (the consumers) worldwide. With some exams being offered at proctored testing centers, those would be the retailers in this analogy. Even everyday products, such as exams, have supply chains, and yes, even some of the same supply chain issues.


At KinectED, our annual knowledge sharing event for Kinaxis employees and partners, we officially announced the launch of our new Kinaxis Certification Program. Now customers, employees and partners will be able to validate their RapidResponse knowledge and expertise. And yes, there will be exams!


Information on the program is available both at, and on a dedicated Kinaxis Certification page in the Supply Chain Expert Community (for registered members). Our community page will have exam study guides and reference material, news and announcements, and a discussion forum.


We’re building this program from the ground up, so we’re starting with offering two exams: Certified RapidResponse Author Level 1 and Certified RapidResponse Administrator Level 1. We’ll be sure to let everyone know when future exams are announced.


TeamWe recently created the RapidResponse Author Level 1 exam in a workshop held in Ottawa. The talented exam developers in this photo, from left to right are: Yanick Lavoie, Palvashah Durrani, Sebastien Dovan, Paul Rachniowski, Brigitte Bernard, Patti Vanderscheer, Emily Fisk, Jim Wood, Taunya MacDonald and Bill Mahoney. This group brings years of experience from all facets of Kinaxis. They are the brains and the manufacturers of the exam.


I was proud to be able to lead the group and direct them to scope, then write the exam questions. It is a long and tiring process, and for their efforts, this group will be a part of Kinaxis history, as the first recipients of a credential, Certified RapidResponse Author Level 1, from the new Kinaxis Certification Program.


Many times the exam developers say it is harder to build an exam than it is to take and pass it. In this second photo you see them at work, collaborating and validating their ideas, and smiling for the camera as well.


We look forward to offering a world-class certification program that is fair, challenging, and one that will provide competitive advantages to both the participants and Kinaxis.

The post Let’s Talk Certification appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Joe Cannata at

by Alexa Cheater

A group of hands representing collaborationA strong retailer-supplier connection can provide big benefits for retailers, suppliers, and even the end customer, but how does one go from a perfunctory partnership to a more intimate relationship that allows for things like common goal setting and joint improvement strategies? The answer is simple. Collaboration.


Unfortunately, building and maintaining said collaboration is a heck of a lot more challenging. I recently looked at two surveys examining the retailer-supplier relationship. The first, by SCDigest, gave an overall grade of B- to today’s retailer-vendor supply chain relationships. In its inaugural year, the 2016 State of the Retailer-Vendor Supply Chain Relationships survey focused on retailers and consumer goods manufacturers. What the results reveal is a very strong prevalence of an “it’s not us, it’s them” mentality coming from both sides of the equation.


According to the survey, 98% of retailers rate their relationship with their vendors as average or above, with 96% of vendors feeling the same way. Seems positive, right? Almost. Where there’s a bit of a disconnect is how each side views themselves and the other in terms of willingness and success at collaboration. Retailers feel their own knowledge and skill in how to collaborate successfully is a non-issue, ranking it as one of the smallest potential barriers to good collaboration. Vendors however disagree. They rank a lack of knowledge and skill in collaboration among their retail partners as the biggest single hurdle they need to overcome for supply chain collaboration.


On the flip side, vendors also rank their own knowledge and skill in how to collaborate successfully as a minor issue. Once again, the other side disagrees. Retailers cite the lack of knowledge and skill in collaboration of their vendor partners as their second greatest barrier to achieving successful collaboration, just behind difficulty on agreeing how to share gains. Level of trust was the third biggest barrier.


Another recent study, this one by Peerless Research Group on behalf of Logistics Management and Kane is Able, Inc., examined retailer-supplier collaboration barriers and the impact on supply chain performance. Retailer-Supplier Collaboration: Identifying and Eliminating Barriers to Improve Supply Chain Performance, also interviewed retailers and consumer goods manufacturers. What it found was while retailers and suppliers both see the value of greater collaboration, neither group believes they’re doing a great job at it. The largest alignment gap between the two groups was the accuracy and timeliness of demand forecasts. On a scale of one to 10, where one is poor and 10 is excellent, retailers rated their performance at 7.35. Suppliers however rated those same retailers in the 5.50 range.


The survey also highlighted a few key lessons coming out of the results:


  • Collaboration takes time and commitment
  • Communication is number one
  • Mutual benefits of collaboration must be clear up front
  • Issues with lack of trust still need to be overcome

I’d like to add one more:


  • Don’t just point the finger at the other party, examine your own actions to ensure you’re doing everything you can to foster good collaboration

That’s what I found most surprising, and most disturbing, about the results of both surveys. In each, respondents seemed to think any issues with supply chain collaboration originated or were the fault of the other party. Since obviously both sides can’t be right on that point, I’d propose the real culprit is both sides don’t want to take accountability for the role they play in fostering positive and successful collaboration.


When it comes to successful supplier-retailer supply chain collaboration, it is not a case of us versus them. That mentality is dooming you to failure. It’s more a mindset that it takes two to tango, and each partner needs to know their own steps, how they relate to their partners, and how to synchronize efforts to achieve harmony. There also needs to be a high level of trust among the partners, with each confident the other is doing what they’re supposed to.


How do you manage supply chain collaboration among your key stakeholder groups? Let us know in the comments.

The post Us vs. Them: Retailer-Supplier Collaboration appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Alexa Cheater

pharma supply chainHalf of organizations playing in the healthcare and life sciences space are feeling the pain of managing overall supply chain costs. At least according to the eighth annual UPS Pain in the Chain Survey. While this survey swings on the logistics end of the supply chain pendulum, there are some good takeaways for those involved in all other areas of supply chain management as well.


Compiling results from more than 400 healthcare logistics executives across 16 countries, the results show rapid business growth is the major stumbling block in controlling costs for pharmaceutical supply chains, with 56% of respondents admitting they struggled with it in 2015. Following closely behind are fluctuating fuel costs (55%) and fluctuating raw materials costs (49%). Other pain points included aging IT systems (38%) and lack of visibility (38%). From a supply chain planning perspective, we see the pain of growth, coupled with a lack of visibility and aging IT systems as a significant cost and operations performance hurdle as well for the companies we deal with.


Strategies employed by those who claim success in managing costs include forming logistics and distribution partnerships (57%), leveraging optimization analysis (55%), pursuing vested logistics and distribution partnerships (52%), and making an IT investment (51%). This is another prime example of how people, process and technology can come together to achieve positive results.


The formation of partnerships is at its simplest, a collaboration between groups of people to attain mutual benefit. Leveraging supply chain optimization analysis is a form of process — a way to evaluate your current position and course correct if and when necessary. The technology, well that’s really the linchpin holding everything together. The right supply chain management solution can provide the ideal foundation to allow people and process to come together harmoniously. Of course, the wrong solution can create an even larger set of roadblocks.


The survey also identified several key areas where respondents feel there’s additional opportunity for cost savings: optimizing transportation costs (68%), better inventory visibility (60%), consolidation of transportation providers (60%), IT investment (57%), and consolidating existing product supply chains (55%).


What was particularly surprising was the high percentage of logistics decision makers who felt contingency planning wasn’t an important factor in managing their supply chain. A whopping 60%. Yet in the same breath, those same decision makers admitted their supply chains have been affected by unplanned events in the past three to five – by as much as 6% of their total supply chain for each respondent. Seems like a bit of a paradox to me.


While some of the biggest issues in managing a healthcare-related supply chain were identified, so were the biggest successes. Three-quarters of those surveyed felt they had made strides in product security in 2015, compared to just 55% who felt the same way in 2014. Regulatory compliance, product damage and spoilage, and managing logistics, warehousing, and transportation costs also all saw gains over last year’s numbers. That’s pretty impressive given the increasing complexities in the industry’s supply chain.


More temperature-sensitive products, track-and-trace regulations, declining reimbursements, and faster delivery requirements, are all increasing demands being placed on the industry. Companies need to be able to manage all that, while ensuring continued product quality and accuracy. That could be a very tough pill to swallow without the right strategies and systems in place.


What supply chain pain points are being felt by your company? Let us know in the comments area below.

The post Cost Management Biggest Supply Chain Pain Point for Pharma appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Alexa Cheater

The impact of climate change changing green grass to dry desertOn the heels of the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference, now seemed like an appropriate time to revisit an often talked about supply chain topic. The impact of climate change on your supply chain operations.


Natural Disasters


Tumultuous weather is perhaps the most commonly thought of supply chain risk related to Earth’s climbing temperature. Undoubtedly, the impact of wild weather is substantial. An increase in the number of devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods and droughts should be worrying to everyone, not just those concerned for their supply chains. In 2014, three of the top five biggest supply chain disruptions were related to natural disasters. Typhoon Halong in Southeast Asia capped the list, causing a 41-week disruption at a cost of more than $10 billion for companies doing business in the region. Are we looking at a future where Mother Nature is responsible for the majority of disruptions?


Companies will need to evaluate the risk of losing a supplier in a specified geographic region, and whether there’s a case that needs to be made to diversify where raw materials are coming from, having multiple suppliers, and how far to take contingency plans. The same can be true for evaluating different transportation options. Severe weather can cause substantial delays, or even total shutdowns, of certain routes or modes of transportation. Supply chain managers need to have backup routes and options available and at the ready, and need to be able to quickly and effectively run scenario simulations to determine which course of action will allow for the smallest overall impact.


Another thought I had is whether these severe weather phenomenon will cause shortages of certain raw materials, like what we’re currently seeing with cocoa. What will that do to already unstable price fluctuations in some global commodity markets? Will supply chains be able to cope with the potential added costs? Can we expect to see an increase in civil unrest (and the associated supply chain challenges) as communities fight over dwindling resources? A good supply chain risk plan should take into account all of these factors.


Increased Regulation


Another related climate change supply chain cost is a move toward more regulation when it comes to carbon footprints. Emissions standards, safety standards, and new environmentally friendly legislation are likely to continue to emerge over the coming years. Driven by consumers and their growing demands, governments are taking heed and moving plans into action when it comes to protecting the environment and ensuring businesses are doing their part. Kevin O’Marah recently published his thoughts in a Forbes article, stating he believes a carbon tax applied to manufacturing and distribution is the way to go. Why? Because supply chain practitioners are already highly adept at managing trade-offs in pursuit of a goal, and the climate crisis is exactly that type of problem.


O’Marah also points out that if we moved to de-materialize society, we’d have a better chance of thriving. That means placing higher value on commodities that don’t need to be packed or shipped – things like ideas and great content, and other assets that can easily be transmitted digitally.


While I tend to agree that we’re an overly materialistic society (at least in North America), the reality is we’ll never be able to move 100% away from the creation and distribution of non-digital goods. People will always need clothes, food, and other basic necessities that can’t just be conjured out of thin air. I also tend to be a bit of a skeptic when it comes to accountability. New legislation to monitor carbon emissions and incentivize big businesses to take a smarter stance on environmental issues is great. But who is going to police adoption and how are they going to do it in a fair and just manner?


Loss of Productivity


Perhaps what I found most surprising while I was doing a little research for this piece was the potential loss of productivity that climate change could cause for some supply chains. I’m not talking about being unable to source raw materials, or transportation disruptions due to giant snow storms, I’m referencing the fact that your people – the very heart of what makes your supply chain tick – lose productivity the hotter the planet gets.


A new report by Verisk Maplecroft points out global manufacturing hubs in South-East Asia may experience significant falls in productivity over the next 30 years due to rising temperatures and an increase in extreme heat stress. Heat stress can cause dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and even death in some cases death.


Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century, and the report shows by 2045 nearly half the world’s population (47%) will live in countries categorized as at ‘extreme risk’ for heat stress, so the problem is looking like it will only get worse. Workers whose primary duties keep them inside may not be impacted as heavily (provided there is reliable air conditioning), but any supply chain that relies on individuals who work outdoors should prepare themselves for a dramatic spike in illness and absenteeism among their staff.


The report is predicting economies including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines could be as much as a quarter less productive than they are now. The number of heat stress days may rise to as high as 364 in Singapore and Malaysia, with Indonesia looking at 355 days and the Philippines 337. What kind of toll will that take on businesses who rely on workers in those countries?


Yes, the risks associated with heat stress and lost worker productivity are amplified in warmer countries dependent on manufacturing, construction and agriculture, but if temperatures continue to rise globally, how long will it be before we start to see this as a major problem elsewhere? And with all that needed air conditioning to keeps indoor workers cool, are we just adding more fuel to the fire?


What other ways is your supply chain going to be impacted by climate change? Let us know in the comments section.

The post The Cost of Climate Change on Your Supply Chain appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Alexa Cheater

Top 10 blogs of the yearAs you enjoy your downtime over the holidays, here are a few of our best blogs from 2015 to check off your reading list. So grab your favorite holiday drink of choice and read on! We look forward to continuing to bring you interesting and engaging content in the New Year!


  1. Technology and the Supply Chain: What Does the Future Hold?
    A recent report, ‘Technological Tipping Points’ by the World Economic Forum (WEF), takes a look into a crystal ball, examining the timing and impact of 21 ‘tipping points,’ which they describe as “moments when a specific technological shift hits mainstream society.” A staggering number of those points are things straight out of the futuristic cartoons and early sci-fi series I loved growing up.
  1. Preparing Skills for the Future of Supply Chain Management
    There is no question that supply chain talent development has become a top of mind multi-industry challenge that takes on different dimensions for both attracting and retaining key talent. The debate is often focused on whether strategies should address a perceived “skills gap” or a “training gap.”
  1. What Your Mom Can Teach You About Effective Supply Chain
    Have you ever marveled at how some women just seem to have it all together? They manage to turn a hectic household into a well-oiled machine, while I can barely manage to keep my household of two up and running! In honor of these Super Moms, I’ve pulled together the top five reasons why you should be asking your mom for more than just relationship advice.
  1. Supply Chain Risks: Big or Small, Plan For Them All
    The reality is that risk comes in many forms (including anticipated risk, uncontrollable risk and unanticipated risk). It’s constantly changing. And the amount of risk being faced by supply chain professionals has been on the rise for the past 20 years.
  1. 3 Ways Crowdsourcing Is Revolutionizing Supply Chain Management
    We’ve already seen the significant impact that crowdsourcing has on modern business product development, production and delivery, and that effect will undoubtedly only grow over time. Here are three ways that crowdsourcing is revolutionizing supply chain management today—and in the future.
  1. Why Having a Green Supply Chain Has Become a Necessity
    There is a growing need for sustainability integration into supply chain management and if you haven’t already started down the path to greener pastures you’re falling dangerously behind the trend, and it could be costing you more than you know.
  1. How Will Self-Driving Trucks Impact the Logistics Field
    What will be the impact of driverless cars and trucks on the Logistics field in general? It’s speculated that this technology might lower the demand for truck drivers – but for logistics planners and service providers (3PLs), are there opportunities for Supply Chain efficiency and strategic advantages?
  1. What Qualities Make the Best Supply Chain Leaders?
    When considering what attributes supply chain leaders are most likely to possess, it’s easy to think first of hard skills—analytical prowess, technology expertise, and operations and economics knowledge quickly come to mind. But while hard skills may land you a job, many times it’s your soft skills that will keep you there—and accelerate your climb up the corporate ladder.
  1. 3 Supply Chain Career Requirements for Millennials
    It’s obvious attracting and retaining supply chain talent is critical. Many articles have explored how to entice young people to study supply chain management at the university level. But here, I want to focus on how companies can attract millennials currently working in supply chain management—and keep them happy and productive on the job.
  1. 3D Printing Changes the Supply Chain
    3D printing has gone from a novelty to a serious industry, a predicted $16 billion industry by 2018 according to Canalys as stated in another article from the Guardian. Basically, it has become mobile. It has become additive manufacturing.

Have a topic you’d like to see us cover on the blog in 2016? Let us know in the comments area below!

The post Best 10 Blogs Posts From 2015 appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Jennifer Bell

santaAs pointed out by Alexa, Santa does operate one of the most complex supply chains ever imagined.  And as important as Mrs. Claus’s role as operations manager is, I’d like to focus on the role of the elves…the unsung heroes.


The legend is that the elves furiously make toys all year long, but the reality is that the demand has outstripped the North Pole’s capacity for many years.  Over 100 years ago, Santa and Mrs. Claus had to rethink their operations.  They had to start to rely on consumer products companies such as Mattel, Hasbro, Lego and others, who could build toys throughout the year with their resources and instead of waiting for a demand signal they could push those toys out into their distribution network for storage.  The big benefit for Santa is that he immediately extended his distribution network and was still able to achieve a very, very high level of customer service.  He was sure that if they contracted carefully with these toy makers, there would be more and more happy children on Christmas Day every year.


As a result, the elves’ role was going to change dramatically– they were going to become Replenishment Planners.  Their job is now to help these contract manufacturers maintain the correct inventory levels throughout the complex distribution network.  Additionally, they are responsible for redistribution of inventory between the distribution centers when it becomes apparent that they will need more Barbies in Chicago and more Legos in Ft. Lauderdale.  They also monitor storage and handling capacity risks and escalate any critical breaches to Mrs. Claus.  Lastly, in the off-season they generate a high-level warehousing plan to make sure that the network can sustain all the inventory that will be produced over the coming year and escalate potential service-level exceptions to the Sales & Operations Planning meetings.


So, cheers to you, Elves! Distribution Requirements Planning is a messy job, but I can’t think of a better pointy-eared solution than you! Happy Holidays!


The post Little-known Christmas Story appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Jennifer Bell at

by Alexa Cheater

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Happy Holidays! No matter what you’re celebrating, we hope the season brings you lots of joy, laughter, and love.


See you all in the New Year!


Play the video on


The post Happy Holidays from Everyone at Kinaxis appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

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