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Making Mobile a Reality

Posted by Kinaxis Sep 30, 2015
by Matt Benson

woman on mobile phoneI don’t really see my iPhone as a mobile phone anymore – it’s so much more than that, and judging by the number of people as attached to their phone as I am to mine, I’m far from alone. Every day I use it for a multitude of different applications that assist my life. Things like tracking times and distance whilst exercising, checking travel status, messages, watching the Rugby World Cup and occasionally tweeting about life thoughts.


At the excellent European Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference last week, I was really surprised to see Kinaxis was the only vendor actively demonstrating a functional supply chain management product on a mobile device during the course of the two day event. Isn’t that a path we should all be headed down given society’s acceptance and reliance on mobile technology these days? Aren’t more and more businesses finding ways to allow their employees to work from where they are? Why should supply chain be any different?


Customers are driving the supply chain. There’s no question about that. The demands of consumers, in an age where information is king, are becoming ever more dynamic and the need to be responsive is paramount. If a sales person is on the road and he gets a call from one of his major customers asking if an order can be achieved – how long is reasonable to get back to them with a definitive answer? Well, it probably depends on the circumstances of the order, but I’d state that in nearly every single case, responding quickly with accuracy will always be better than either a slow response, an inaccurate one, or worst of all, a slow and inaccurate answer.


Technology is an enabler to decision making and if the technology is there, why not use it to your advantage to gain that competitive edge? Having the ability to take part in critical supply chain decisions on the fly means shorter cycle times, improved productivity, and the ability to get things done in real-time, regardless of how far apart you and your team are.


For more information about how mobile devices dynamically linked to your cloud-based RapidResponse implementation can add value to your organization, get in touch for a discussion and demonstration of this amazing capability.

The post Making Mobile a Reality appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Matt Benson at

by Alexa Cheater

A robot as a depiction of future technologyMeet the Jetsons! Like any well-rounded child of the 80s, I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons. Admittedly the futuristic family sitcom The Jetsons, which actually first aired in the 60s, wasn’t top of my list like He-Man or Captain Planet, but there was something fascinating about the whimsical and almost unimaginable gadgets and gizmos they featured. Smartwatches, drones, jetpacks, robot housekeepers, a food replicator and even a flying car that could transform into a briefcase.


Decades later and a sizable amount of that technology has hit the mainstream market (can anyone say Apple Watch?) with others about to break through. So what does my nostalgic look back at my childhood have to do with the future of supply chains? Apparently everything.


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.


Wearable devices, 3D printing, implantable technology, connected homes, automated workforces, driverless cars and smart cities are all on the list. And all of them, once they reach critical mass in the marketplace, will have a staggering impact on the future of supply chain.


The WEF report focuses on five shifts that will directly influence supply chain. Let’s take a look at each, starting with the notion of a more prominent share economy.


Sharing Economy


In case you’re not familiar with the term, a sharing economy is basically a way to enable the optimization of resources through the redistribution, sharing and reuse of excess capacity in goods and services through collaborative consumption. Think Uber, Airbnb, and other peer-to-peer lending services. But it’s not just individuals taking part. Big business are jumping on the bandwagon too – utilizing collaborative distribution, reverse logistics and cooperative sourcing to lower costs, improve efficiency and better optimize their supply chain.


WEF notes 2025 as the year the sharing economy will reach its tipping point into the mainstream market, but I’d lean toward seeing this impact your supply chain a whole lot sooner as the number of new startups in this space continues skyrocketing.


Internet of and for Things


We’ve talked about the Internet of Things (IOR) before and the implications it has on supply chain, but what I found particularly interesting was WEF chose not to focus on issues like consumers’ growing need for instant gratification. Rather they honed in on the fact in just seven years, when they’re predicting the tipping point will be reached, we won’t have enough readily available talent who understands S&OP, analytics and supply chain in the needed context. Smart machines, more workforce automation, and new ways to improve processes will be in place, but what about the education required to teach supply chain leaders how best to utilize these emerging technologies?


3D Printing and Manufacturing


Seven years from now WEF is also predicting we’ll see fully functional 3D printed cars in production — and the implications of wide scale on-demand production to supply chain are huge. Those on the manufacturing side will likely need to build new models that accelerate product development and reduce cycle times while finding new ways to lower cost. Not an easy task. A 2014 article in the UK’s Guardian suggests consumers will be creating the majority of their own goods at home, while traditional manufacturers will be relegated “to only producing highly technical and specialist products.” And of course, we’ll need those delivered same-day.


Robotics and Services


Automated workers, aka robots, are already out on factory floors – 1.1 million of them to be precise. Those in auto manufacturing, where these machines now perform 80% of the work, are already used to seeing a combination of robot and human employees working alongside each other. Everybody else had better get used to the idea. According to Gartner, 5% of companies with complex picking operations will be utilizing self-navigating warehouse robots in the next three years. WEF says by 2021, the automated workforce will reach its tipping point into mainstream and become the norm.


In terms of supply chain, this robot employee revolution will allow greater streamlining and the ability to deliver more efficient and predicable business results – and will inevitably cause a shift in the skillset needed by their human counterparts.


Big Data for Decisions


According to WEF, in the next five years, we’ll see 30 billion Internet-connect physical devices, which will considerably impact supply chain operations. How? Data from these legions of devices will result in the ability for faster decision-making. And that means an easier way to ensure end-to-end supply chain health and performance. They say future analytics tools will “help make decisions and seize opportunities” and data-driven organization will be able to access “real-time analytics depicting valuable metrics…” So essentially businesses will have the ability to know sooner and act faster when it comes to critical supply chain decisions.


Now that may sound eerily familiar to some of you. Why? Because the future is now (sorry to burst your bubble WEF!). Very rarely do I talk specifically about our supply chain software on this blog, but in this instance I just couldn’t resist. RapidResponse® already gives users the ability to perform demanding analytical calculations in seconds and our alerting technology makes it possible to see supply chain risk and opportunity in context, with a clear view of potential impact, and the ability to simulate next steps and compare results. But make no mistake, just because we’re ahead of our time doesn’t mean we aren’t already working on future innovations!


What other emerging technology do you foresee having a sizable impact on your supply chain? How do you plan to handle any future technology shifts? Let us know in the comments!

The post Technology and the Supply Chain: What Does the Future Hold? appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Alexa Cheater

Ken PoeFor our final interview in our ‘Learn from the Masters’ series, we sat down with business consultant Ken Poe. Coming up on his two year anniversary with Kinaxis, Ken provides some great insight into the supply chain management field.


How did you come to find yourself in a supply chain software business consultant role – what was your path to here?


I studied advanced planning and scheduling in University, back when it was a new and cutting edge concept. Eli Goldratt had published “The Goal” and constraint management was up and coming, and I worked for an ERP company and was promoted to manage the integration to the i2 planning engine. Unfortunately the small ERP company was squished by the SAP onslaught, so I went to work for Red Pepper Software as a BC, demoing advanced planning and scheduling.


What’s the biggest lesson about supply chain management you’ve learned?


If you don’t like the plan, just wait 5 minutes, it will change.


What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in supply chain?


Develop a thick skin, develop an immunity to stress, and take Yoga… you need to be really flexible.


If you had to name three priorities for a company looking to evolve their supply chain processes, what would they be?


  1. Educate yourself on the art of what’s possible. Supply chain applications have evolved, but not all. There are so many silo’d applications out there, learn the difference.
  2. Get executive buy in… evolving the supply chain takes years, and it’s not cheap. Executives need to know the effort and cost, but also the benefits that can be achieved.
  3. Begin the education process on the goal of the supply chain evolution… get employees educated and on board. Supply chain folks are way too busy for another project… you need consensus.

If you could change your job title to a comic or superhero name that would aptly describe what you do, what name would you give yourself?


Spiderman… flexible, quick, responsive and cares to make a difference. Plus he’s my favorite anyway.


What’s the one app on your phone that you can’t live without?


Map… how many cities per week do we travel too?


The post Learn from the Supply Chain Masters – Q&A with Ken Poe appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Alexa Cheater

This guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management.


Teacher With College Students Giving Lesson In ClassroomFor a few years, economists and technology analysts have been closely watching the increasing automation of the workforce. Analysts have also long-discussed how automated manufacturing has replaced middle-class domestic manufacturing jobs. In recent months, there’s been increased buzz over Google and Uber’s efforts to develop self-driving cars, as well as talk of self-checkout McDonald’s counters. These and other technologies have led analysts and journalists to clamor over predictions that robots will gradually replace truck drivers, retail staff, and other service industry jobs.


And now, there are increasing predictions by academics and pundits that, in the coming decades, automation will threaten white-collar professions as well. There’s a proliferation of articles on business websites talking about how financial reporters, legal associates, financial analysts, and online marketers are already under threat of automation, with other, more skill-intensive white collar professions to follow. Scientific American recently reported on a University of Oxford study that estimated that 702 occupations, or a staggering 47% of U.S. workers’ jobs, will be threatened by automation.


Economists seem divided about whether existing metrics are sophisticated enough to properly measure the link between technology and job loss. However, there seems to be wide agreement that the impact of automation on a number of fields might be much larger, and arrive much faster, than anticipated. While people have worried for centuries about technology eliminating jobs, and have often underestimated the role of innovation in creating new careers, it’s clear that immense change in the job market is on the horizon.


Last week, we read a report that stopped us in our tracks: an Australian non-profit studying education and career prospects for young people in Australia reported that nearly 60% of Australian university students are studying for “dying” careers – or jobs that will be automated during those students’ lifetimes.




As a recruitment agency specializing in a very specific (and often under-reported) area of the job market (Supply Chain Management), we’re always interested in news about the next generation’s talent picture. To us, it’s staggering to read that a high percentage of students are studying for careers that will be no longer performed by humans in the near future. Especially given the fact that universities and the Supply Chain profession aren’t doing quite enough to promote Supply Chain as a career to young people – a career that, for the most part, is well-suited to thrive in the post-automation workforce.


It’s true that more transactional Supply Chain related roles (such as Procurement Clerks and Warehouse personnel) are under threat of automation. But strategic, communications and strategy-focused roles are only projected to grow in the coming years as the world continues to globalize.


The report out of Australia identified three key changing economic factors that will impact today’s students in the future: automation, globalisation, and collaboration.  A keen understanding of the latter two factors also happens to be what separates the highest-potential junior Supply Chain professionals. As Supply Chain rises in organizational importance and increasingly drives business decisions, the ability to collaborate with internal and external partners, as well as the ability to understand the fast-changing nature of global commerce, is becoming more and more crucial.


Which is maybe why the CSCSC is projecting that the sector will add 15,000 jobs a year in Canada going forward, with most of the growth occurring at manager and executive-level jobs. As a recent SCMA article put it, “The best Supply Chain Management jobs don’t even exist yet.”


That’s our take. But what’s your perspective? Where do Supply Chain Professionals stand in the race towards automation? Let us know in the comments!

The post Are Universities Training Students for Obsolete Jobs? And Where Does Supply Chain Fit in? appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Alexa Cheater

We recently had the chance to sit down with Gary Hanifan, Managing Director, Accenture Strategy, to discuss all things supply chain. And one of the biggest topics coming out of that discussion was how you can determine if your supply chain is a growth engine.


One big red flag it might not be? Your supply chain is still linear. According to Hanifan, networks are the wave of the future. Companies need to be heading in a direction that allows for the concept of a digital supply chain network, with an emphasis on growth and efficiency.


On the road to achieving that requires a few stops along the way. Hanifan says the first is ensuring you have end-to-end visibility. Stop two requires moving from a reactive supply chain to a proactive one. Once you’ve accomplished those two things, you can get the network aspect going – meaning you end up with visibility not only into your supplier’s network, but their suppliers’ networks as well.


But in order for your supply chain to really become a growth engine, one more thing is needed. Speed. Hanifan says speed is the currency of the future. To him that means realizing ways to take advantage of finite opportunities in the marketplace, including introducing a new product or growing a service.


Hanifan does caution against just slapping on a so-called ‘digital band aid.’ That is, overlaying digital processes on top of traditional practices without leveraging the new digital technology fully. It’s a pitfall he’s seen hinder supply chain growth at many companies.


Want to hear more of what Hanifan has to say about supply chain growth? Check out the complete interview below.


So what steps have you taken to turn your supply chain into a growth engine? Let us know in the comments.

The post Is Your Supply Chain a Growth Engine? appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Alexa Cheater

Jay FosterNext up in our ‘Learn from the Masters’ series, which features answers to your burning supply chain-related questions from our talented business consultants, is Jay Foster. Jay may have only been with Kinaxis for just over a year, but he’s already made himself invaluable to the team!


How did you come to find yourself in a supply chain software business consultant role – what was your path to here?
Business consultant is one of my favorite jobs in my entire career. Found myself specifically here by accident, a Lemony Snicket sort of path.


What’s the biggest lesson about supply chain management you’ve learned?
It has a zillion moving parts with a Sisyphean chance of real accomplishment akin to pushing a pea up Mt. Vesuvius with your nose.


What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in supply chain?
Supply chain is the pulse of a company. It is the very heart of providing goods and services to customers. Despite all the complexities, moving parts, and seemingly conflicting demands, at the end of the day you are intimately involved with the success of the company. There is little more satisfying and rewarding than that.


If you had to name three priorities for a company looking to evolve their supply chain processes, what would they be?


  1. Get honest with yourself.
  2. Set clearly measurable, attainable, and sustainable goals.
  3. Hire competent people, give them authority, enable them and get out of their way.

If you could change your job title to a comic or superhero name that would aptly describe what you do, what name would you give yourself?
Mr. Fantastic. If you know who he is then you’ll understand.


What’s the one app on your phone that you can’t live without?
Not a one. However, the ones I would like least to lose are the ones surrounding travel (airline and hotel apps interactive maps, etc.).




The post Learn from the Supply Chain Masters – Q&A with Jay Foster appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Joe Cannata

Do you recall products such as VisiCalc, Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro Pro? They were the names of very early versions of spreadsheets, which some claim, were the first killer apps for personal computing devices back in the 1970s-1980s. They helped launch the personal computer, or PC, as a viable business tool. They were however, not the first.


In fact, the concept of a spreadsheet on a computer goes back to 1961, when Professor Richard Mattessich, from the University of California at Berkeley, pioneered the development of computerized spreadsheets for use solely in business accounting. Early mainframes, using a programming language called FORTRAN IV, were the forefathers of what we use today.


Before computers and data analysis became the norm, physical paper accounting ledgers were used. They contained large pages with rows and columns to hold data. The ledger consisted of two facing pages, or a spread, but were treated as one page to give more columns for data. This eventually led to the term “spread sheet” which stuck, became spreadsheet, and then was applied to software applications that had rows and columns for data. Spreadsheets have come a long way, and have evolved into major business applications. They became one of those items that makes major generational changes, the way the smartphone and tablet have today.


Spreadsheets are not without limitations and issues that can be critical for a business, especially in supply chain management. As a newcomer to this world, I have learned just how complex, dynamic and complicated a supply chain can be. There are many moving parts and pieces that have to be orchestrated carefully, in order for a business to maximize investments in raw materials and components that will become products. Unfortunately, all too often, companies rely on spreadsheets, push them to their limits, and use them in ways in which they never were intended. A poor procurement choice based on stale data can lead to a decline in profits.


There is a major issue with the lack of revision control and auditing. Many times I have seen file names such as 2015Q4Budgetv3.xlsx, so if I grab v3, and decide to make changes, I may or may not decide to save it as v4. Also, unless the file is kept in an environment where it needs to be checked out for revision protection, two people could be working on their own copies simultaneously. That won’t end well. And, who has final audit control? From our eBook, S&OP in the 21st century, “An audit of 50 corporate spreadsheets in 2007 revealed that 94% had errors… one for $100 million!” If no audit service is used, or that function does not exist within an organization, the results could likely be ominous. An error in forecasting made by one function will almost always have an impact on at least one or more other functions. That could mean excess inventory sitting in a warehouse, gathering dust or depreciating.


Should one spreadsheet depend upon another spreadsheet’s data, the opportunity for error and inconsistency grows immensely. Also, add in the fact that there is no security control within a spreadsheet; it has to be at the file level. If someone has write access to a spreadsheet, they have access to all of the sheets, and the data. There is no way to segment access, unless yet another spreadsheet is created. Trying to manage all of this can be a nightmare. Even the best-trained staff, can commit errors of some sort. Multiple silos of spreadsheets are as bad as business silos in general. I’m reminded of this graphic I have seen in some of our Kinaxis literature, which uses the Microsoft Excel® symbol to represent a spreadsheet:


Visual representation of Excel and it's interconnectivity


Simply erase one of those lines, which would represent some sort of disconnect, and the complex system flirts with a major failure. The cause and effect relationships in the supply chain are disconnected, and there can be a greater disparity between what is forecast vs. what the actual demand is, for example.


Lastly, depending on the software and revision being used, spreadsheets do have a finite limit to the amount of data they can store. You can’t throw more hardware at them to expand their capacity. The potential is there to hit a dead end with data storage.


For the record, I do not hate spreadsheets, or think unkindly about them. They are great personal and business productivity tools, when used for what they were designed. I use them all of the time for various needs, with great success. Their functionality, and charting, has made my life easier many times in managing certification programs, and producing critical metrics data. What I don’t recommend is ever using a business tool, like a spreadsheet for the wrong purpose. I will admit to using a flat head screwdriver on a Phillips head screw. However, I would not use a hammer to bash a Phillips screw into a piece of wood.


As part of the theme of looking back, another major generational change, which had a substantial impact on the music industry, was created 34 years ago. On Saturday, August 1, 1981, at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time, MTV launched, with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” and a tagline of “You’ll never look at music the same way again.” The first video they played, Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles, began a revolution.


As Kinaxis leads a revolution in supply chain management and S&OP processes, we’re doing our best to replace misused, disparate spreadsheet technology with our industry-leading supply chain software product, RapidResponse®, and the powerful feature of “What-if Analysis” scenarios. This can lead to smarter decisions and an improvement in supply chain performance.


I thought you might enjoy this video from our 2013 Kinexions Conference, a fitting parody of the Buggles’ hit.




Play the video on




The post Spreadsheets – A Look Back appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Joe Cannata at

by Lori Smith

Abstract Image of Business People's Silhouettes in a MeetingIn a previous post, I discussed the sometimes surprising technology choices some organizations are making to manage their S&OP process. Now I’d like to take a look at the Top 4 technology capabilities you need in order to achieve a successful sales and operations planning process:


#1: A single application with deep data


We know that successful S&OP must be fed by solid and complete information from across the extended supply chain and supported by robust advanced planning analytics. Only when you have that all in one place can you achieve broad and deep visibility, fast and accurate analysis, and effective and continuous alignment.


From one system, you should be able to:


  • Integrate data from every division, location, department, product family, legacy system, and supply chain partner
  • Administer both demand and supply planning
  • Centralize, track, and test assumptions of the plan
  • View data at multiple hierarchies at any time to support the specific analysis you need to do
  • Make changes at the volume level that will automatically ripple down to the mix level, and vice versa
  • Translate between units, dollars, and other units of measure
  • Evaluate different scenarios simultaneously, and against multiple operational and financial metrics

Managing S&OP from a single application enables companies to better balance tradeoffs and most effectively align volume and mix, as well as Operations and Finance.


#2: Quick, comprehensive “what-if” scenarios


In today’s fast-changing economy, business success can depend on finding effective answers to typical questions like these:


  • What if sales of the new product are slower than we expect?
  • What if we run a promotion to clear out inventory of the older model?
  • What if a supplier goes bankrupt?

Any enterprise with mature S&OP is continuously searching for better results. This means balancing factors like go-to-market strategies, new product launches, sustainability, and all kinds of risks. It means trading off KPIs between different teams, divisions, or business partners to find the best overall win-win. It means trying to peer into the future by asking, “What if we did this? What if we tried that?”


A “what-if” capability is perhaps the single most vital key to effective S&OP.


To help find the answers, “what-if” scenarios must be easy and quick to run, must accept data from many sources, and must support collaboration across the enterprise and the extended supply chain. If it’s not fast and easy, it won’t happen.


#3: Collaboration and consensus-building


People working together is the bedrock that supports everything else in S&OP. This is an area where S&OP excellence can be won or lost.


Have you noticed how hard it can be to get people to work together, even in the same company? It’s even harder to share information, opinions and decisions with a supply chain partner…especially a complete stranger from a different culture on the other side of the world. Yet this is a common reality in today’s outsourced and off-shored supply chains.


Collaboration is clearly about people and process. But technology has a key role to play in promoting collaboration.


The role of technology in collaboration goes well beyond simply sharing data. S&OP technology must also help to:


  • Capture assumptions, inputs, and opinions of stakeholders in a meaningful, organized fashion
  • Identify and proactively bring together teams of people who are widely dispersed (and may not even know each other) for both planned and spontaneous interactions
  • Enable stakeholders to share and evaluate scenarios in an interactive way
  • Document and track any commitments made and actions taken

#4: Continuous monitoring of KPIs


The S&OP data provided to executives today often suffers from many defects, including:


  • Little connection to current reality
  • No way to explore multiple scenarios
  • No way to evaluate how decisions affect KPIs
  • Difficult to spot trends

However, a mature S&OP system is capable of generating a graphical dashboard showing the KPIs of most interest: sales, profits, ROI, inventory turns, customer satisfaction, and so on. This kind of dashboard makes it far faster and easier to understand the current state of affairs, spot trends, and notice developing issues.


S&OP dashboards should be role-based, so that they show the data that matters most to the person looking at them and should include the ability to drill drown as desired, going from high level summaries to the smallest of executional details without ever leaving the system.


Data in the dashboards should be used to actively monitor the S&OP plan. You’ll be immediately alerted to deviations that put the plan at risk, understand the financial and operation impact of those events, evaluate proposed scenarios against each other, and respond quickly with the most profitable (or least costly) action.


 cover shot of the S&OP in the 21st Century ebookS&OP in the 21st CenturyAs the S&OP process continues to evolve and mature, a different interpretation and expectation for S&OP is emerging that entails better, broader goals. This recently published eBook elaborates on the evolving horizontal S&OP process capabilities that are required in order to achieve a transformation. Download your own copy here.

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Originally posted by Lori Smith at

by Alexa Cheater

Matt BensonContinuing with our ‘Learn from the Masters’ series, which features answers to your burning supply chain-related questions from our talented business consultants, we bring you the Brit – Matt Benson. Matt has been with Kinaxis nearly a year and has more than 25 years of senior supply chain management experience. He is currently based across the pond in the UK.


How did you come to find yourself in a supply chain software business consultant role – what was your path to here?
At my first company, I was responsible for operations planning and our 1970’s ERP system (Impcon) wasn’t Y2K compliant – In 1999 I was seeing planned orders being generated for 1949 year dates! I was part of a small team that then implemented MFGPRO, I got the ‘implementation bug’ and that eventually lead me to supply chain software vendors. (Kinaxis being the most recent and easily the greatest, obviously!)


What’s the biggest lesson about supply chain management you’ve learned?
It’s difficult to please everyone, all of the time. It’s a balancing act, so I’d encourage knowledge sessions with all of the supply chain players to ensure everyone understands the corporate goals – this then makes trade-off decisions easier. For example, having near 100% customer service targets may ensure a very happy customer base but the inventory cost to the company may put you out of business! If, for example, the customer service team knew about end item inventory limitations and the reasoning, it would make setting and adopting to reasonable policies much more effective and understandable.


What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in supply chain?
Consider your personality type and skill set – check that you have the following traits:


  • Tough negotiator
  • Keen attention to detail
  • Entrepreneurial spirit

Do something else if you don’t!


If you had to name three priorities for a company looking to evolve their supply chain processes, what would they be?


  1. Do an honest appraisal of your supply chain maturity – there are tools and methods that will help you position your place on the matrix.
  2. From the maturity model, prioritize the top three improvement activities that will give you the best-perceived corporate value. Select the toolset that will assist in making the improvements.
  3. Adopt a scrum based approach and make small gradual changes (Kaizen) – before long, those small changes will add up.

If you could change your job title to a comic or superhero name that would aptly describe what you do, what name would you give yourself?
Galahad from ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ – quintessentially English but with kick-*** ability.


What’s the one app on your phone that you can’t live without?
Facetime – I can see my children when I’m working away from home.


The post Learn from the Supply Chain Masters – Q&A with Matt Benson appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Bill DuBois

Plan Do Act CheckFirst, let me apologize to all the lean enthusiasts, maybe dead is the wrong word. Certainly Shakespeare isn’t dead to the literary world just as Deming isn’t dead to the continuous improvement world. However, there have been many modern takes on Shakespeare’s work so possibly Deming’s Plan Do Check Act could use a revisit given it’s been over 60 years since Deming started the equivalent of Beatlemania in the lean community. I’ll also apologize to the lean community because I did put a supply chain planning slant on this but it’s still something to think about whether you’re managing your supply chain or driving an improvement project (or both!). Let’s have a closer look.


Plan: Well I can’t dispute the planning part. “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Who said that again? Anyway, you certainly set objectives, expectations and targeted improvements in the plan phase. The one modern day caution would be the length of the planning cycle. With all the change in today’s supply chain, a plan is almost out of date the moment it’s complete. So if for example, your S&OP cycle takes a month, just think of everything going on that could influence inputs and the resulting plan. If we’re not stuck on a one word description for each step maybe plan becomes “Plan Now”. The one thing Deming did promote was testing possible effects as early as possible. This was really focused on process improvement but could also apply to planning demand and supply. There is huge value in “testing” demand increases or decreases to see impact before moving on to execution or the “Do” phase. If I may then, just add one more word to this phase it would be, “Plan/Simulate Now”.


Do: This is the money step. It’s execution; it’s the designing, production and delivering of product. It’s executing on the plan and improvement projects. It’s also collecting data for the next two steps. As Deming was arguably given credit for the quote, “In God we trust, all others must bring data”, much of this step is also about measuring. This is where the modern update may kick in. The PDCA cycle seems to be linear. While you execute, you collect your findings then after a certain period of time you check. Why can’t this be concurrent rather than linear? What if there is such a drastic change, perhaps a major engineering change, that any further execution would cause significant loss or risk? The common theme in the previous statements is “execute”. The word execute also has a more powerful connotation than “Do”. If somebody asks, “What are you doing?” How many times have you heard or said “not much”. You likely won’t get that answer when asked, “What are you executing on?” Of the four PDCA steps, this one really remains intact but since this is a blog about recommending change, I’ll go with “Execute”.


Check: Besides being the most popular thing you’ll hear when a band is doing their sound check, it’s also like unwrapping a present and finding out what you got. The hardest part is waiting. I was not a fan of the word because it seemed to imply you had to wait until the “Doing” was done. I preferred the word “Monitor”. Monitor implies you always have your finger on the pulse during execution and the moment something occurs that needs attention or is a significant anomaly, you don’t want to wait to “Check” results. Speed also adds value in this step. The sooner you can accurately understand the impact of expected results against target, the impact of change of implications of any deviations, the faster you can get to the next step. It is also important to note that not all data you collect may be needed, only that information that impacts expected results or causes unacceptable deviation. For the updated PDCA, “Check” now becomes “Monitor”.


Act: Act, as in react. Here you are, finally at the end of the PDCA cycle and you can finally decide if you need to do anything. What if you weren’t completely finished on reaching consensus on a plan? What if you were still executing or collecting data and something happened that warranted immediate attention and action? Act implies a reaction. A more competitive advantage would be a proactive approach to all of the above steps. For example, what if you could simulate in seconds during the planning phase to better predict and plan for unfavorable conditions. This is more of a response than a reaction, much like being prepared for the unexpected rather than being surprised. And if you did have to respond, much like in the planning phase, what if you could test and compare options in seconds and immediately understand the most profitable response. One underlying theme you may have picked up on is “Speed”. The ultimate goal of the PDCA cycle in terms of improvement initiatives is to do things better and faster but that also applies to the PDCA cycle itself. For the last step, the “Act” (reaction), becomes “Response”.


Looking at all those suggestions, Plan Do Check Act now becomes Plan/Simulate Execute Monitor Respond. OK, a few more words than before so if we imply you need simulation capabilities at all times you’ve got Plan Execute Monitor and Respond. I don’t know if Deming would approve but another Deming quote suggests the he might, “Rational behavior requires theory, reactive behavior requires only reflex action.”


Plan Execute Monitor Respond


The post Is Plan Do Check Act Dead? appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Bill DuBois at

by Lori Smith

Buiness person reviews S&OP documentsIn my previous blog post, I compared a pilot flying from New York to LA at night without any modern navigation systems or instruments, to supply chain teams trying to effectively manage their organizations without a proper S&OP process. Obviously, the likelihood of either arriving at their intended destination in an effective and timely manner is quite slim.


Successful sales and operations planning provides a navigation system to help determine where you are going, where you have been, when you are off course, and how to get back on course. To be effective, S&OP must:


  • Bring together demand and supply planning (often referred to as East-West integration)
  • Bring together Finance and Operations (North-South integration).
  • Tie volume and mix plans together
  • Facilitate S&OP on-demand, not only on-schedule

I covered the first two bullets in my last post, so let’s discuss the other two here.




Key #3 Tying together volume and mix plans


One of the stumbling blocks of traditional S&OP is that volume-only plans often end up being infeasible when disaggregated to the mix level. The challenge is to translate the aggregate, volume-level plans to a SKU or mix-level operational plan and then test the feasibility of the plans before committing to them. Otherwise, the S&OP plan will lose credibility within the organization.


The second challenge is to keep the plan feasible.


It sounds good to talk about aligning daily operations with S&OP objectives. But to achieve true S&OP maturity, executives and managers throughout the enterprise must find a way to reconcile demand and supply, Operations, and Finance on an ongoing basis, not just as part of a periodic planning and review cycle.


The way to bridge the gap between volume and mix planning is to bridge the supporting systems and processes. For most supply chains, data needs to flow between different planning and execution systems. And it is what and how things take place between these systems that companies are struggling to manage.




Key #4 S&OP on-Demand, not only on-schedule


While the monthly S&OP meeting is important, mature firms develop a way to revise plans and take action any time the plan is at risk. Companies with a modern S&OP process enable a continuous flow of course corrections to help generate more effective results.


Here are a few goals for S&OP on-demand, not only on-schedule:


Goal #1: Unshackle yourself from the calendar


You don’t want to review your plan (and your performance) only once a month. You need more flexibility to respond to any events that have an impact on your S&OP objectives. Having a complete representation of your supply chain enables people to understand cause-and-effect in real-time rather than as part of a review process.


Goal #2: Gather and analyze data faster


In some firms, it takes three or four weeks – or more – to do one cycle of S&OP data collection and analysis! This makes mid-cycle course corrections impossible. This is a direct result of the number of disparate systems being used to feed the S&OP process. When there are so many islands of data, the focus ends up being on data consolidation rather than data analysis.


Goal #3: Encourage collaboration across your enterprise


You need to exchange detailed S&OP data with every other function, location, division, and legacy system in your enterprise. And you need to support both planned and ad hoc discussion and consensus-building with multiple stakeholders in your company whenever it’s required. It is important that that collaboration happens in the same system in order to provide the right context and to track the analysis and commitments.


Goal #4: Support data integration across your supply chain


You also need to exchange detailed S&OP data with all of your trading partners across your extended supply chain. The most mature enterprises support ongoing decision making and consensus-building with outside partners, including suppliers and contract manufacturers.


Finding a way to support on-demand S&OP may not be easy. This likely involves making changes to your process, information, and technology. But this capability is a vital key to the S&OP promise.


 cover shot of the S&OP in the 21st Century ebookS&OP in the 21st CenturyAs the S&OP process continues to evolve and mature, a different interpretation and expectation for S&OP is emerging that entails better, broader goals. This recently published eBook elaborates on the evolving horizontal S&OP process capabilities that are required in order to achieve a transformation. Download your own copy here.

The post Four Keys to S&OP Effectiveness (continued) appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.



Originally posted by Lori Smith at

by Alexa Cheater

Bill DuboisAs part of our ongoing ‘Learn from the Masters’ series, which features answers to your burning supply chain-related questions from our talented business consultants, we bring you the comedy stylings of Bill Dubois. Bill has been part of the Kinaxis team for more than 12 years, and is also the host of our home-grown Late Late Supply Chain Show. Take from his answers what you will!


How did you come to find yourself in a supply chain software business consultant role – what was your path to here?
I lost a bet. Well actually, I was in manufacturing when I was asked to join what was Kinaxis at the time as an Integration Consultant. I jumped at the new opportunity to gain experience in a software company and inside of a year of joining a Business Consulting role came up. I didn’t apply for it and the VP of Sales at the time asked why. Well he must have been a good sales person because within an hour I went from telling him why I didn’t apply to why I was the best candidate for the position. The next week I was on a plane to Europe to deliver my first demo.


What’s the biggest lesson about supply chain management you’ve learned?
The plan is always wrong. You have to plan but be ready for the unexpected. The best golfers are the ones that can hit great shots out of the bunkers or other hazards. It’s like that in supply chain. The best supply chains are the ones that can respond when things don’t go as planned.


What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in supply chain?
Network. Consultants, Analysts, Practitioners (especially from other industries) all have valuable insights into the best practices for supply chain management. Meet and talk to as many people as you can. Hit some conferences. (Kinexions is a great place to meet all of the above!) The next generation of supply chain technologies are at a tipping point and getting outside your own four walls will keep you up to speed on what’s next.


If you had to name three priorities for a company looking to evolve their supply chain processes, what would they be?


  1. The Customer. Find out what’s important to them and make it happen. (it will likely be a balance between quality, cost and delivery/service).
  2. Right Size Your Inventories. Satisfy the customer but make some money too. Inventory is a good barometer for improvement initiatives. For example, a reduction in lead-time usually means a reduction in safety stock requirements.
  3. Supply Chain Education. Encourage supply chain employees to research, join APICS, attend conferences and not be stuck in the status quo. Give employees opportunities to drive supply chain improvements.

If you could change your job title to a comic or superhero name that would aptly describe what you do, what name would you give yourself?
Superman. We both fly a bunch and sometimes I wear glasses.


What’s the one app on your phone that you can’t live without?
OnSong – if you’ve ever played guitar around a campfire it’s your best friend.


The post Learn from the Supply Chain Masters – Q&A with Bill Dubois appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.


Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Kirsten Watson

Visual representation of crowdsourcing using heads made of mechanical gearsThe term crowdsourcing—the process of obtaining ideas, services or information by soliciting feedback from a large group of people—has existed since 2005. But its fundamental concept predates the name by centuries. In 1714, the British government offered the public a monetary prize to the person who created the best solution for measuring a ship’s longitude.


As has been this case with so many concepts, the internet has given crowdsourcing phenomenal reach and influence. 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.


Crowdsourcing increases on-time, cost-effective delivery.


Amazon consistently ranks on or near the top of lists touting the best supply chains—and for good reason. It drives an innovative fulfillment strategy through its vast distribution center network and independent delivery fleet that enables it to guarantee two-day delivery. Amazon’s achievements in supply chain management have led consumers to establish an incredibly high bar for timely and accurate product delivery. The Amazon customer satisfaction standard has changed the game for every retailer of every size.


Crowdsourcing transportation presents a solution for smaller enterprises to compete in this environment. One such service provider is Cargomatic, who connects local shippers with carrier companies who have extra space in their trucks. The “last-mile” phase of the traditional fulfillment process is often the most expensive (accounting for as much as 50 percent of a company’s logistics costs), but crowdsourced transportation can sometimes enable same-day delivery at the cost of standard shipping. And crowdsourced traffic apps like Waze are helping a multitude of delivery drivers find the most efficient routes with real-time help from other drivers.


Crowdsourcing supports risk management strategies.


Supply chain risks like natural disasters, geopolitical turmoil, epidemics, and extreme weather events are unpredictable—and relatively infrequent. But supply chain professionals responsible for risk management can’t afford to take a “if something goes wrong” approach. Truly successful supply chain risk management incorporates a “when things go wrong” methodology, because inevitably, things will go wrong. And when they do, supply chain disruptions like halted manufacturing and transportation breakdowns rattle even the largest, most prepared enterprises.


Crowdsourcing has emerged as a way to both gain better visibility into where risk events may occur, and understand their financial implications. One example is zeean, a project based in Potsdam, Germany that enlists public feedback to collect data on global economic responses to extreme weather. The organization’s goal is to use this data to improve supply chain resiliency, though it’s still early in its development. Information compiled in zeean, combined with climate risk assessments, would assess the relative risk or safety of a country as a production site.


The impact of crowdsourcing on mitigating supply chain risk is also apparent in technology that enables companies to communicate and collaborate with their suppliers is real time. Social networks for the extended supply chain provide a platform for trading partners to share their internal data and contribute information that affects the supply chain, such as transportation timelines, severe weather, and manufacturing interruptions. This creates increased visibility that empowers key stakeholders to quickly mitigate risks as they emerge.


Crowdsourcing improves product innovation.


Just a few years ago, it would have seemed far-fetched to imagine a world in which consumers would have innumerable opportunities to tell companies the merchandise they want to buy—and companies would actually respond in kind. Today, both traditional and emerging companies have deployed crowdsourcing to transform the way they design and develop new products. As a result, customers contribute real insight to enable companies to meet needs they may have otherwise dismissed or never even thought of.


Dell’s IdeaStorm crowdsourcing site enables customers to talk directly to the company to submit ideas for new products and services. Dell has received more than 16,000 ideas through the site since 2007, and has implemented nearly 500 of those. Samsung maintains a crowdsourcing facility in Palo Alto, CA, that pursues innovative solutions for many of its products, like cameras and screens. And online retailer ModCloth employs a “Be the Buyer” program that solicits customer feedback on popular products it should order and re-order. Items with high popularity ratings will receive higher production runs.


So while customers may be happier with products that are designed and made available based on their feedback, the implications for the supply chain are significant. A company who asks consumers to help it develop new product ideas must be ready to quickly bring new products to market. And companies who aren’t interacting with their customers at this intimate level need to understand the competitive implications of manufacturing products that may not as accurately reflect demand.


Where else do you see crowdsourcing having an impact on supply chain management? What are the risks and rewards in the current landscape? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.





The post 3 Ways Crowdsourcing Is Revolutionizing Supply Chain Management appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.


Originally posted by Kirsten Watson at

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