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During my drive back to Tucson from the Gartner Supply Chain conference in PalmDesert, CA, I was provided with a few quiet hours to more deeply consider some of the accomplishments of those companies that made up The Gartner Supply Chain Top 25 .




While those companies came from a range of industries, there were more than few common denominators regarding their business performance and supply chain focus. First, and perhaps foremost (in my mind anyway) was their "outside in" demand driven focus, or as the CPG companies refer to it, from the shelf backwards. In particular, (#2 on the list behind Apple), was recognized for their ability to not only help shape the demand, but to deliver it virtually overnight.This demand driven focus on the ultimate consumer requires not only staggering amounts of data, but the analytic tools to make sense of it.




Anyone who has purchased from Amazon knows that while you shop for what you think you want, Amazon is both subtly and overtly attempting to influence your purchasing decisions by exposing you to accessory options, package deals, and competitive alternatives they also offer. In addition, they are analyzing your purchase and product search choices to expose you to other things that you might be interested in. These aren't random suggestions, and without knowing all of the details, you can be sure that with continued investments in the analytics, the precision of those suggestions will progress.




As I contemplated what “big data” has done for those that are capturing it and effectively analyzing it, I wonder what kind of computing horse power Amazon has applied to this effort. I do know that the costs for computing are continuing to drop as a bit of research led me to learn that a PC version of a Cray computer is now available on the market for mere $25,000. I wonder what I might do with that kind of horse power at home? Perhaps I could distill the product reviews from across all of the store front sites to provide a more comprehensive picture of consumer satisfaction for the products I'm interested in.




Still, I suspect that there is an area of opportunity that even Amazon has yet to tap.I speculate that Amazon is only analyzing the consumer habits of the purchases and inquires that flow through their store front. What if all of the purchasing data could be analyzed for a given consumer or class of product and the factors that influenced those purchasing decisions? As with most statistics, the volume of data does contribute to providing a clearer picture especially when trying to segment the data into something more actionable. Now we are probably talking about computing needs on the order of the department of defense, but the potential rewards are staggering.I believe what Amazon has already accomplished is reasonable proof of that fact.




At a somewhat scary end of this spectrum, I can imagine logging into Amazon a few years from now and being presented with a list of the latest electronic and sports oriented toys that are perfectly matched to both my habits, budget, place of residence, and fashion style. Furthermore, perhaps these toys will be manufactured within miles of my home using 3D printers rather than the traditional manufacturing and distribution supply chain (If you are not familiar with 3D printing technology you need to check it out). One thing is for certain, properly leveraged, big data has the potential of transforming our shopping experiences and the companies who best leverage it.



Originally posted by Zuber Kerry at

We try to keep the self-promotion to a minimum, but we have a great customer, TriQuint Semiconductor, that recently allowed us to write up their case study storythat I think has merit in sharing.


There’s lots of good bits on how they are using RapidResponse and the benefits they see (likerealizing inventory reductions a month before the solution even went live). But the jewel of the storyis where they say that, with RapidResponse, they“are changing the role of the planner to be more analytical rather than just the data hunter.” A simple statement…with enormous implications.


From the corporate perspective, this means higher productivity, more value-added activity, and results-oriented decisions…all leading to better business results. But equally important, from the supply chain professional perspective, think of the satisfaction that happens when someone feels equipped and able to actively and effectively contribute to the business. It becomes not just about getting things done, but about making a difference.


JP Swanson of TriQuint said it best…


“Previously we spent so much time gathering the information that we weren’t able to spend enough time analyzing the information, understanding it and doing something about it…Our team likes the fact that they can use their minds more and they are getting to touch a different skill level because they have more time to do it and more information in front of them to do it with.”




A big thank you to TriQuint for letting us tell their story. We love what you are doing with the product!

Originally posted by Smith Lori at

Like most of my generation, the movie, The Wizard of Oz, represented not only a breakthrough in movie making, but a source of magical entertainment that still has the power to captivate my attention even after seeing it 25 or more times.One of the most beloved characters is the cowardly lion who is clearly risk adverse and draws others into his fear fantasies while chanting, "Lions and Tigers and Bears…"While I doubt that my supply chain cohorts lay awake at night worrying about Lions and Tigers and Bears, I do believe recent world events do breed a legitimate source of concern (Earth Quakes, Fires and Floods).


The recently published 2012 BDO RiskFactor Report for Technology Businesses reported an increase from 81% in 2011 to 88% in 2012 of companies who found that natural disasters and other geo-political issues pose a serious threat to supply chain management and operations.Still I wonder whether the increased concern is actually materializing into meaningful actions.


Most risk mitigation activity has the negative consequence of increasing operating costs so there is delicate balance between how much insurance you can afford without risking a metaphorical foreclosure.Most companies approach risk mitigation through stockpiling key component inventories or building a network of second sources, both of which hit the bottom line rather hard.


In my mind, there is one action that can be taken that costs relatively little but can help to expose serious vulnerabilities and assess the potential risks of a variety of supply chain disruptions.Think in terms ofscenario planning capabilities.In my travels and discussions with large multinational companies I've been shocked by the number of them which have very limited capabilities in the area of “what-if” analysis.The lack of depth and breadth in their coverage make risk assessments a bit like performing an auto damage estimate using binoculars from a mile away.So let me elaborate a bit on where effective scenario capabilities create value in the Risk Management arena.


First, provided you have access to the supply chain data representing your value chain, a scenario planning capability can help you simulate disruptions and quickly assess the potential ramifications to revenue, margins, and customer satisfaction. Examining the data will expose the degree of risk associated with the current supply chain network and planning rules. Often this data alone can lead to more strategic risk mitigation actions because they can serve as the foundation of a "disaster playbook" that promotes speed in reacting when a real disaster occurs.


Secondly, there is a class of natural and political disaster that often has some degree of warning associated with it. Think in terms of a tropical storm during hurricane season that is headed for a particular area in Puerto Rico or Taiwan. Can you quickly identify what supply sources are at risk and simulate what a disruption of 2 days or 2 months might mean? What if the radius of impact is 25, 50 or 100 miles? This information alone could be instrumental in making informed supply chain allocation decisions in advance of a disaster.


Finally, the scenario capabilities will prove to be critical in a post disaster mode where significant uncertainties exist with regards to the length and severity of the event.Being able to simulate alternatives is a key to making informed decisions to mitigate or minimizethe impact on financial and customer service performance.


There are a handful of companies that reacted with unnatural speed to the events in Japan and to the best of my knowledge, scenario planning was a critical factor in their success. In light of the BDO report, I hope more companies come to recognized just how important “what-fi” analysis and scenario planning is to not only dealing with the normal volatility of demand and supply, but the kind introduced by the metaphorical Lions and Tigers and Bears.

Originally posted by Zuber Kerry at

They are the focus of our latest RapidResponse release.


The Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference continues today and we took the opportunity to unveil powerful new RapidResponse capabilities. I thought I would share some highlights.


Mobile :

  • access to "live" executive and operational dashboards on any tablet of choice
  • have uninterrupted visibility to the current state of the supply chain and make decisions regardless of location


Integrated Project Management :

  • manage projects in the same systemyou manageyour supply chain
  • gainan accurate view of how a project is impacted by supply chain disruptions, or conversely, how a project change alters supply chain requirements
  • link project management "what-if" analysis capabilities to supply chain analytics to accurately calculate the implications of changes


Rapid Supply Chain Data Integration :

  • new integration layer facilitates rapid integration and automation among heterogeneous system environments with multiple data sources
  • closed-loop integration to disparate transactional systems ensures companies operating in multi-application environments can work in near real-time


By the way, weare tweeting from the Gartner conference. Follow #Gartnerscc, @kinaxis, or @milesahead for live commentary on the events.

Originally posted by Smith Lori at

I guess many of you are familiar with the new laser printing capabilities that allow one to print , for example, a working flute? The silver one in the photo is a traditional flute made out of silver or some other metal. The white one was printed using a laser machine and composite materials. It took 15 hours and wasn't perfect, but my guess is that it takes more than 15 hours to make the metal flute if we add the time to make the mold, melt the metal, pour the molten metal into a form, machine the molded parts, and then assemble the flute. And I'm guessing the technology is going to improve over time and, in the process, become cheaper and faster.


Click on the image to watch the video. There are a whole bunch more of these printers being used to print a bicycle. Or a wrench. Or a model airplane that can fly. Yes, one that can fly.


I don't know about you, but I get a little queasy watching these videos. It is very difficult for me to comprehend such a radical shift in the manner in which products are manufactured. I suffer from vertigo and it feels like I am looking into "the abyss" with this new technology. At first I thought this stuff was just for models, something like the Matchbox cars. But look at this complex chain mail shape that was printed. And note that the model airplane, with what looks to be a 1.3m/4' wingspan, or thereabouts, required no screws to hold it together. Another one that proves to me that this mode of 'manufacturing' has gone beyond concept to reality is the working wrench. OK, I'm not sure how much torque the wrench can absorb, but I'm sure over time they will get harder materials.


This is radical technology that is going to change a huge part of the supply chain and manufacturing process. Think about all the skills and jobs that will change as a result of being able to print all sorts of end items. This would likely result in a drop in some commodity prices and a rise in others, such as, unfortunately, in the oil price. At the same time it is likely that printing machines could be placed much closer to the point of consumption making long supply chain redundant, reducing the need for oil. The opportunities for mass customization are huge, including not only color but shape too.


A lot has to happen before we get to this point, not the least of which are improvements in quality, reduction in cost, and increase in throughput. And I am not sure that we will see ships manufactured in this manner. But maybe we will. After all the Boeing Dreamliner is the first fully carbon fiber air frame, so why not some other composite material that can be printed? And I am not sure how we will ever get to using this technology to manufacture electronics or electrical and combustion motors. But perhaps this just shows my lack of vision and knowledge of materials. But there is a huge potential in other product areas that are more mechanical in nature where printed manufacturing is going to be hugely disruptive, assuming the issues of cost, quality, and throughput can be addresses.

Originally posted by Miles Trevor at

As the old song goes, "the times are-a-changing".I was captivated this weekend by a blog post from Lora Cecere who went to great pains to highlight the revolution (versus evolution) needed in supply chain management to take things to the next level. No prisoners were taken in this post when examining the actions of all the players, from the big name ERP's to the analysts themselves.


As Lora so eloquently outlined, the move to an "outside in" demand management perspective with real time sense and respond capabilities would certainly change the game. What I did struggle a bit with was the argument that leadership to make the necessary changes will have to come from within the companies themselves rather than through consulting. If by consulting we mean those firms that that simply provide guidance, I would agree. But, if we expand the definition to include companies that can both advise and perform the necessary functions, then I believe that a new breed of service provider might be the superior solution. Let's face it, the changes that Lora describe will require new processes, skills, data, and the tools to knit them together into a meaningful and sustainable model.


I think back to my own supply chain days when our vertically integrated CCA manufacturing operation was the number 1 source of our delinquencies and cost overruns. When we finally made the decision to outsource, it wasn't purely for cost reasons, but with the expectation that delivery and quality would improve as well (and it did!). The contract manufacturers were very effective at selling that their expertise in manufacturing and managing the supply chain were superior to our own because it was their primary focus.


I think the revolution that Lora is promoting might herald a new breed of subcontractors that can provide outsourced SCM services that will achieve the new objectives in a more efficient and sustainable way then each company could individually. Subcontractors today are operating on razor thin margins and have therefore been more proactive in responding to change, although the changes are often a step or two from the source of real consumer demand. It's not much of a stretch to see them actively promoting SCM outsourcing services that are built upon their growing expertise in this area.


Still, there is much work to be done before this becomes a reality, but wouldn't it be easier to purchase a service (think about in terms of a desired outcome) than having to engineer, construct, and deploy a solution yourself. This is particularly relevant when you consider that the existing tools, skills, and processes can't simple evolve to the new state required (lipstick on pig). Instead, the tools and processes need to be designed from the ground up to support a synchronized demand driven supply chain.On that front, I believe that more progress has been made on the tools side of this equation than the process side, simply because it's easier to design capabilities than to deploy them. But a few inspired subcontract manufactures are seriously looking towards the future of SCM and the potential gains by providing a next generation type of service to their customers.


It's clearly too early to tell if this kind of move will be embraced by brand owners, or if they will choose to "go it alone", but I'm certain of one thing, those who embrace the changes will reap huge rewards in all areas of their business.

Originally posted by Zuber Kerry at

If you don't already know, the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference ̶ the must-attend event for supply chain professionals ̶ is taking place May 21-23 at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, Palm Desert, California.


While you can find lots of information on the conference site, here's what we think are the top 5 things you should know...of course, we're biased ;)


#5We're attending: Kinaxis will have a staffed booth at the event. Come by booth #2 and say hi to the team!


#4We're tweeting: We'll be tweeting from the event as well! Follow #GartnerSCC, @kinaxis, or @milesahead for live commentary on the events.


#3We're sponsoring: Kinaxis is the Premier Sponsor of the conference, and once again a proud sponsor of the Supply Chain Top 25 Dinner celebrating world-class supply chain achievements.


#2We're presenting with style: We are hosting a Solution Provider Session on Tues May 22nd at 3:15 p.m. And once again we are turning our presentation session into a live taping of our well-known LATE LATE SUPPLY CHAIN SHOW. Laugh and learn with Kinaxis business consultant, Bill Dubois, as he moderates a panel discussion on the CONCEPT, COMPONENTS AND CONSEQUENCES OF CONTROL TOWERS. Guests include:

  • Roddy Martin, Sr. VP Global Supply Chain at Competitive Capabilities Int.
  • Shellie Molina, VP Global Supply Chain at First Solar
  • Robert Reinckens, Sr. Partner at Business 1st
  • Trevor Miles, VP, Thought Leadership at Kinaxis


#1 Were offering a free pass!


We would like to recognize and thank our blog followers by offering the chance at acomplimentary pass to the conference (a value of US $2,795). Simply submit your information here before end of day, Wednesday, May 16th to be entered into the random drawing. The winner will be notified by a Kinaxis representative on Thursday, May 17th.


Good Luck!

Originally posted by Smith Lori at

We recently published a newsletter which includes complimentary access to a Gartner research report titled "Multitier Supply Chain Visibility Improves Supply Chain Relationships and Reduces Risk" (R. Barger, M. North Rizza, B. Kraus, 12 August 2011).


The loss of supply chain visibility as a result of outsourcing manufacturing operations is of real concern to brand owners. But it's the subsequent loss of control over orchestrating activities across the multi-tier supply chain that is creating the most risk.


A tactical exchange of data node-by-node through the global supply chain is no longer sufficient to achieve effective collaboration between brand owners and suppliers in today's volatile business environment. What is required is a holistic, end-to-end supply chain planning and response management system, where everyone can understand the consequences of decisions up and down the supply chain.


Case in point, Agilent.


Agilent undertook a supply chain improvement program which included the creation of a vertically integrated planning process that consolidates all of its different MRP and those of its contract manufacturers, to create a single plan (via BOM integration) with minimal data latency. RapidResponse is the foundational platform that merges all the information systems and provides the supporting capabilities to create and manage a single vertical supply chain.


In the newsletter:

  • Gartner's analysis on how leading organizations are undertaking collaborative initiatives with their suppliers and technology providers to obtain near-real-time visibility for functional stakeholders
  • Kinaxis' view on what's required for brand owners to gain supply chain coordination by planning and collaborating across multiple tiers of the global supply chain
  • Agilent's story on how they used RapidResponse to establish a virtual, vertical supply chain


Download the newsletter here (available for a limited time)

Originally posted by Smith Lori at

It's been quite a week over at the Supply Chain Expert Community. In an ongoing series to celebrate the 30 th anniversary of the term "supply chain management," Lauren Bossers posted the question "How has the evolution of technology changed supply chain management today?" We had some insightful responses that covered some of the most important changes that have impacted supply chain management. For the full comment, look at the post. I've included some of the highlights here.


Dustin Mattison observed that " Technology has only changed supply chain management in so far as our mindsets and organizational cultures have changed," arguing that, in fact, people and mindsets lead organizational change, and the technology needs to keep up. He goes on to add that supply chain collaboration technology has the potential to increase in value as the number of people using the technology increases. He draws a comparison to Google search where the more people using Google, the better the search results.


Richard Cushing had several points starting with the fact that the introduction of the personal computer and the subsequent commercialization of the internet empowered buyers to gain access to a plethora of goods and services from around the world. The interesting side effect is that it drove competition into markets that didn't realize they were competing. This global competition drove costs and prices down and drove a new growth industry — global logistics. The fact that small businesses now had access to computing power and the internet drove other changes to what we now consider the supply chain; small manufacturers discovered that they could effectively focus on their core products and competencies and outsource the rest, thus increase profits. Companies recognized that data needed to be shared if supply chains were to work effectively. Companies came to realize the importance of logistics to support the new global supply chain. And finally, companies started to understand that they weren't just competing on products and brands, they were competing with their supply chains.


Richard finished with a the following; " After 30 years of technology involvement in the supply chain, it is not the cheapest manufacturers, or the highest quality products, or even the best marketing that makes for industry leadership. More and more it can be said that it is the most effective supply chains —those supply chains that take the lead in meeting and exceeding customer expectations with speed and value —that win the day and will continue to make more profits tomorrow than they made today."


Tom Brouillette's focus was on warehousing and logistics. He commented that warehouse management systems have evolved from a policy of "No mouses in warehouses" to basic systems that formed the foundation for a homegrown WMS to fully packaged systems that, once configured, work out of the box. Tom also observed that the internet was a great equalizer when it came to information exchange. Back in the 80s, electronic information exchange was accomplished using EDI (electronic data interchange), which, while effective, was extremely expensive to implement. Further, the ongoing costs of the value-added networks (the companies that acted like internet providers by controlling the flow of data between trading partners) would preclude mid- to small-sized companies from taking part. When PCs and the internet came along, companies that couldn't afford to do electronic data exchange could now take part. Tom also talked about the ever growing use of RF technology and how that has impacted the supply chain. He wrapped up his response by pointing out how pervasive technology is in our personal and business lives, with hardware, social software and the internet increasing the velocity of change and the impact of change on our personal lives and on business.


Jim Fulcher also agreed with Richard and Tom that technology really impacted the supply chain with the personal computer and the internet. He went on to say that computers led to software solutions which led to enterprise solutions that strove (sometimes unsuccessfully...even today) to integrate the various business systems. He has also seen an increase in collaboration that has been enabled by technology. His thinking is that supply chain collaboration plays a critical role in creating an agile supply chain.


My own manufacturing career started in the mid-80s, so I've been able to observe firsthand the transformation that technology has caused in supply chain. To see this transformation, it's sometimes fun to look back at how things were 30 years ago:

  • I had hair. (But that's beside the point)
  • Some companies were still not using computers for supply chain. They were using inventory control cards and manually entering orders, withdrawals, allocations, scheduled receipts and inventory balance


  • Those that were used green screen systems hooked into large mainframe computers. The screens allowed interaction with a single part at one time. Planners learned to be proficient by remembering obscure screen names (actually...reminds me of using SAP today...maybe some things don't change much) and by muscle training the number of tabs to get down to the quantity field.
  • Personal computers were just starting to make their appearance, but were used mainly for generating simple reports, not so much for hard data crunching.
  • Systems were much simpler, yet the supply chain itself was simpler, too. Companies didn't have many of the complexities of today's supply chain; wide varieties of model options, distributed supply chain around the world, significant lead time pressures and very volatile demand. So, if MRP took a day to run, well that was fact, companies were encouraged to run MRP less frequently to reduce system "nervousness" (the idea that it's better to run less frequently, because if something changed today then changed again tomorrow, you would only need to react to one change rather than two).


Now let's look at some aspects of today's supply chain. Unfortunately, some things haven't changed much; Large ERP suites still run in batch mode and still take way too long to plan. Further, ERP systems (even though they are considered a suite and are from the same vendor) still are not well integrated and need to transfer data from system to system.


But it's more fun to focus on the things that have changed. The biggest change that I think can be attributed directly to technology is the velocity of business and the incredible rate of change we are seeing around us; new products come and go in the blink of an eye. If you bought an Android phone last month, it's already out of date. The iPad has gone from not existing a few years ago to selling millions per quarter. Technology plays multiple roles in making this happen. In one role, technology itself drives the demand for new products. Technology websites, blogs, podcasts and YouTube all help drive up demand (or drive down demand in some cases) for new products. In another role, technology enables companies to design, source, manufacture and distribute these incredibly complex devices at a blistering pace.


What technological changes are enabling manufacturers to keep up with this insane pace of innovation and demand change? The obvious technology enabler would have to be the internet and how the internet enables communication and collaboration. Even the most technologically challenged company sends information via e-mail. This alone speeds communication drastically. More advanced companies use web services to enable system to system communication such that your suppliers are aware of changes almost at the same time you are. Collaboration is also enhanced via the internet. Video conferencing, instant messaging, sharing pictures over mobile devices all means that ideas and concepts can be shared around the world without the need to travel. I can go home, have dinner and meet with colleagues in Asia...then get upstairs in time to watch "Big Bang Theory" before going to bed.


Looking to the near future, the next change to watch in terms of supply chain management is mobile. The day is coming when planners will be able to monitor supply chain performance and manage day-to-day supply chain issues from their smartphone. We are already seeing supply chain apps that enable some supply chain interaction through devices like the iPad. These applications aren't perfect but they are clearly showing the path ahead. It's a great time to be in supply chain management!


What do you think are the key technological changes impacting supply chain management in the last 30 years? What technology changes do you see coming? Comment back and let us know!

Originally posted by Westerveld John at

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