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by Alexa Cheater

Complex supply chainRushing kids out the door, walking the dog, navigating traffic—life is complicated enough without having to deal with overly complex supply chain management processes. Unfortunately, increasing consumer demands, growing globalization and mounting pressure to stay profitable in an ever-changing world is the new reality, and for many it means working harder than ever.


Just because supply chains are getting more complex, doesn’t mean the job of managing them has to as well. Isn’t it time you simplified your day-to-day responsibilities, made room for a little more ‘me’ time and moved away from bracing for chaos every single day at work?


Connect data

The first step in re-gaining your work-life balance and getting your sanity back is ditching the plethora of Excel files littering your desktop. To do it, you have to take a deep breath and say goodbye to running your supply chain from Excel. Instead, bring a little peace back into your life by harmonizing all that disparate data from multiple sources and legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and bringing it together in one solution.


Having access to all supply chain data in a single system means you’ll gain the ability to run what-if scenario simulations faster and more effectively. They’ll be no need to import and verify data from multiple sources, which will cut down on the potential for data errors or integrity issues, and speed up the decision-making process. No more fretting about whether your data’s up-to-date and accurate. Just think of all the time you’ll save not having to do multiple data pulls and merging Excel files. You might actually make it home on time for dinner!


But connecting your data into a single, up-to-date version of the truth isn’t enough on its own to make your work life easier and get you less overtime and more personal time.


Connect processes

The second step in simplifying your day job is a biggie. You have to break down those corporate silos. You know the ones where every team works towards its own goals and objectives independently. Overcoming this obstacle means connecting planning processes across all business functions—supply chain related or not. Bridging together sales and operations planning (S&OP) with demand, supply and capacity planning is critical, but you also have to look at the interconnectivity between outside departments like sales, marketing, finance and even in some cases IT. All these groups need to be working toward a unified set of corporate metrics—putting the health of the company as a whole above the health of their own teams. Compromise becomes key.


Thinking beyond the confines of your own supply chain can help simplify your life even further. By shifting from regionally driven processes to globally standardized ones, you’ll have clarity across the company. Looping in partners, suppliers and even customers, as well, drives even more worktime bliss. You’ll actually have full visibility into what’s happening across your end-to-end supply chain network. No more getting caught off guard when a supplier’s shipment is late or a customer suddenly makes an order change.


With an interconnected supply chain and aligned processes, when an unexpected change does happen, and let’s face it, that’s a lot more frequent of an activity than we’d like, you’ll see the impact across the entire value network. If you make a change, everyone will be able to see it, and perhaps more importantly, if someone else makes a change anywhere along the chain, you’ll see the effects before you feel them, giving you enough time to course correct if needed. Imagine not having to put in all those late nights playing firefighter in your own functional area just because of a decision someone outside of it made.


Connect people

The final step in reaching work-life nirvana relies on the kindness of others. Or at the very least their attention. By connecting data and processes, you get greater, faster visibility into your supply chain so you can know sooner and act faster when issues arise. But you know what would make reaching a bliss-like state even easier? Actually being able to reach people when you need them.


How many times has something changed along the supply chain, and you’ve been left waiting for someone to respond to an email or answer your call before you can move ahead with the appropriate action (pre-determined by all those quick, easy scenarios you’re running with your fully connected data)? The answer is probably too many to count, and a whole lot more than what’s good for the company’s bottom line. The faster you make critical decisions, the better chance you have of minimizing any negative impacts.


Just like cross-functional processes are important factors in simplifying your day-to-day activities, so too is cross-functional collaboration. Find a supply chain management software tool that lets you share scenarios and jointly make decisions from right within the platform. You’ll cut down the time it takes for stakeholders to get up to speed since they’ll get your communication and the context of the problem all in one go.


No matter where in the world your colleagues may be, everyone is connected and on the same page. And since you’ve already broken down those silos, you’ll all know which tradeoffs to make to best achieve those corporate key performance indicators (KPIs). You’ll finally be able to say goodbye to phone tag and cluttered up inboxes.


Embrace the simple life

Simplifying your day-to-day supply chain management workload isn’t rocket science (not even if you work in aerospace). It’s all about managing by exception, not the rule. That means spending time on high-value, proactive activities (like managing changes) and less time on low-value tasks that can easily be automated and streamlined (like data collection). Connecting data, processes and people in your supply chain will help you embrace the simple life and take back your day.


How hectic is your day? We’d love to hear how you’re coping with the day-to-day challenges of managing a supply chain. Let us know in the comments section below.


The post Life is complicated. Supply chain management shouldn’t be. appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.


Top 4 capacity planning obstacles


Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Alexa Cheater

Forecast accuracyThere’s no such thing as 100% when it comes to forecast accuracy. Let me say it again. One hundred percent accuracy does not exist. I don’t care how good your demand sensing is or how sure your sales team is of their market projections. It’s just not possible. Anyone who says differently is either selling something, or a deity. So why are you spending so much time trying to make the impossible real?


Time and again I’ve heard how important forecast accuracy is when it comes to improving supply chain operations. It always seems to be a priority no matter where on the maturity scale a company falls. But this practice of chasing perfection is killing your supply chain. Not slowly, over time, but rapidly, like a tsunami sweeping your profits out to sea as that one giant wave recedes. Because that’s all it takes to destroy you. One catastrophic unexpected event.


Why forecast accuracy fails


It could be a natural disaster, a drastic shift in the political landscape or even the collapse of your only tier one supplier. The unknown is your biggest supply chain weakness, and the one you’ll never see coming, no matter how great you are at forecasting. Pretending otherwise, that forecast accuracy can save you when the unexpected strikes, is foolhardy at best, a death sentence at worst.


Forecasting fails because it can’t account for unanticipated supply chain risks. But there is a glimmer of hope in all of this doom and gloom. While you’re never going to perfect your forecast accuracy, you can better prepare for unanticipated events by making sure your supply chain can react and respond. That means enabling:


  • End-to-end supply chain visibility—see the impact before you feel it
  • Robust scenario simulations—ask ‘what-if?’ and get an immediate answer
  • Cross-functional collaboration—make better decisions faster

Overcoming the unexpected


Developing these capabilities requires concurrent planning, which is the ability to simultaneously and continuously plan, monitor and respond to supply chain changes in a single environment. Concurrent planning bridges functional silos and connects all nodes in the supply chain, enabling cross-functional coordination and rapid, more effective decision-making.


You’ll gain immediate, actionable visibility across the extended supply chain. By seamlessly connecting your entire network of data, processes and people, you can conquer the unexpected and make your supply chain more nimble across demand, inventory, supply, manufacturing constraints (across tiers), supplier restrictions and transportation modes.


With concurrent planning, you radically shrink supply chain planning cycles and response times. This improves the accuracy of analysis and the profitability of actions. Ultimately, leveraging a central system for supply chain visibility, planning and analysis will enable you to know sooner and act faster when catastrophe strikes.


Improving the anticipated


While forecast accuracy may not save you from the unexpected, it still has a place in your supply chain. It can help you better understand demand, align it with supply and capacity constraints, and yes, help with that bottom line.


The trick is understanding its limitations, i.e. that it can’t predict everything. Once you get past that hurdle (and it’s a big one for many), improving your forecast accuracy goes back to some of the basics of concurrent planning.


  1. Connect your data in a single system. This allows better visibility into the current state of your supply chain and means you’re building your forecast from the most up-to-date and complete numbers as possible.
  2. Connect your processes, both within and outside of traditional supply chain roles. This allows you to account for outside inputs like marketing (are they running any promotions?), sales (did they make a big commitment in the field?) and finance (do budget cuts mean no new machines or manpower for added capacity?)
  3. Connect your people, regardless of where they’re located geographically. This allows for faster, more effective collaborative decision-making and makes it easier to have conversations around tradeoffs and impacts.

Striking the right balance


Chasing perfection is a lot like trying to reach the end of the rainbow. While you may seem to be getting closer to it at times, you’re never actually going to get there. To prevent the destruction of your supply chain by one unexpected event, find the balance between improving forecast accuracy and enabling a more responsive supply chain. It will bring you a lot closer to reaching that pot of gold.


Does your company place a higher value on forecast accuracy or responsiveness? Let us know in the comments area below.


The post Chasing perfection is killing your supply chain appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.


In pursuit of the right supply chain technology solution


Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Dr. Madhav Durbha

CPG supply chainIn my recent conversations with the CPG industry executives, regardless of the company, there are several common themes and trends that bubble up. These trends make the business conditions more challenging, and some may say exciting. I will review some of these in this blog.


1. The assault on brands:  The great recession of a few years ago has caused significant shifts in the consumer buying behaviors. Private labels have gotten better with packaging and presentation, in addition to value for money. A recent wall street journal article about Brandless, a company which sells generic CPG with simplified US$3 (three US dollars) pricing for every product on its site is an example of creative business models that are popping up. Competition is using pricing or niche assortments as a means to compete with branded manufacturers. Amidst lessening brand loyalties, CPG brand manufacturers are being forced to become more cost competitive.


2. Increasingly complex and volatile supply chains: There are several trends here that are causing increasing complexity and volatility for CPG supply chains. Here are some:


a) Increased price and promotional actions – Dynamic intraday pricing by the likes of Amazon and increased promotional activity targeted to consumer segments or even to individual consumers are causing more demand volatility, shifting more volume and revenue towards promotional business as compared to turn business. Word of mouth, good or bad, is now spreading much faster in online channels.


b) Commodity price and currency exchange volatility – together they introduce increased unpredictability into the business and make managing shareholder expectations more challenging.


c) Channel complexity –online channel is increasing in prominence with eCommerce getting into double digit percentages of the total size of the market in several emerging economies. In addition to on shelf availability (OSA), CPG companies will need to monitor their online availability (OLA). Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods will increase options for CPG fulfillment models. Also with retailers investing in private brands co-opetition between retailers and manufacturers is growing making collaboration somewhat of a challenge.


d) SKU complexity – As the assortments get broader, manufacturing is becoming more complex as the production lines need to handle more changeovers, pressuring OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). This also makes previously unconstrained production lines constrained and managing mix level complexity more challenging.


e) Regionalized models are evolving – the regionalized model of CPG manufacturing and distribution is evolving towards an increasingly complex, cross-regional flows of the product. These cross regional flows and increased sourcing options add to supply complexity.


3. Emergence of subscription models: Amazon Dash buttons, Dollar Shave club, and HP instant ink are some examples of how the traditional transactional model of buying products when needed is being replaced by newer, stickier subscription models with more predictable demand signals and revenue streams. CPG companies can harness the power of such subscription models to align supply to true consumption, and bring more stability into their operations.


4. Shifting consumer demographics: In the mature economies, the middle class is feeling the squeeze with increased healthcare, educational costs and life expectancy. Emerging markets, while proving to be fertile ground for the growth of brands, are more recently under pressure due to softening economies amidst currency weakness and rising nationalism in the western hemisphere. Consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious and are looking for products made of organic, locally produced ingredients as much as possible. Deeper understanding of consumer choices and catering to them will provide topline growth opportunities for CPG brands.


5. Rising environmentalism:  Recycling and reusing while reducing the global carbon footprint is not only becoming an imperative, but a competitive differentiation for brands and their social image. Environmental sustainability is near the top of every CPG supply chain executive’s agenda. Biodegradable packaging and retrieval of unconsumed products is becoming critical for CPG companies.


All in all, these trends are causing CPG companies to rethink their business strategies and operational models, increasingly making supply chain agility a core enabler. In a future blog, I will discuss some key ideas and practices for CPG in improving their supply chain agility.


What trends are you seeing? As always, would love to hear your thoughts.


The post 5 key trends affecting the Consumer Package Goods industry appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.


In pursuit of the right supply chain technology solution


Originally posted by Dr. Madhav Durbha at

by Alexa Cheater

CPG supply chainEvery day it seems as if one company or another is touting they’ve just released the next big thing—that new device that will change your life. In reality, all this emerging tech, whether it’s turning your world upside down or not, is having a very real impact on how businesses manage their supply chains. None is feeling the effects more pointedly than those in consumer packaged goods (CPG), as all this new technology has fundamentally altered the way consumers research and shop for products.


That in turn is changing how organizations are manufacturing and delivering goods. As John S. Phillips, SVP of Customer Supply Chain & Global Go-To-Market for PepsiCo shared during his keynote presentation at the Gartner Executive Supply Chain Conference, this digital revolution presents enormous challenges and opportunities across the end-to-end consumer value chain.


He outlined eight emerging technologies that are most likely to drive dramatic changes across the CPG supply chain.


1. Connected home


You won’t just find smart devices in futuristic TV shows anymore. Odds are there’s one within arm’s reach of you right now. But smartphones aren’t the only device turning your home into something straight out of The Jetsons. Already on the market, Samsung has released a refrigerator that lets you see its contents in real-time directly from your phone or the in-door display panel. HP has a printer that can order ink and have it shipped directly to your door automatically. Whirlpool has a washing machine that does the same thing with laundry detergent.


Key points:


  • Evaluate IoT connectivity to gain new insights into your customers
  • Look to consumer and home IoT devices for inspiration on commercial applications
  • Assess your company’s ability to read, warehouse and act on IoT demand signals
  • Leverage new consumer and demand insights to rethink your supply chain

2. IoT at retail


Homes aren’t the only thing getting smarter. Retail is upping its game too. With advances like smart shelves that have sensors detecting stock in real-time and cameras in refrigeration coolers to ensure stock, the right product mix and brand display alignment, the race to capture customer data is heating up. Phillips gave an example of how PepsiCo is using cameras in display fridges that send real-time pictures to their team. The team checks for things like stock outs or foreign products, but the crux has been how to take that data and turn it into actionable insights for field teams. That depends on alerts managed autonomously, and Phillips has already seen them in action. He relayed how he saw a demo of true shelf-aware systems at a retail location that sends alerts in real-time when a stock out happens directly to a mobile phone.


Key points:


  • Take visibility beyond dashboards to true shelf-aware systems
  • Consider infrastructure requirements in store design and within supplier systems
  • Collaborate with trading partners to unlock the full capability of retail IoT
  • Think beyond scorecards and dashboard and work toward autonomous interventions

3. In-store robotics


Taking things beyond just smart shelves and cameras, robots are already roaming the aisles of select stores, doing their part in ensuring quality and great customer service. These retail robots can scan and track on-store inventory at rates far exceeding what any human worker could accomplish, capturing data on up to 20,000 products an hour. Simbe Robotics’ Tally is one such retail robot. It traverses large brick and mortar retail environments to capture, report and analyze the state and availability of merchandise, and help ensure compliance with the store’s planogram – the ideal placement of products on shelves in order to maximize sales. Tally performs the repetitive and laborious tasks of auditing shelves for out-of-stock items, low stock items, misplaced items and pricing errors.


Key points:


  • Create new opportunities to improve customer service with robots
  • Automate manual processes
  • Gain near real-time insights with image recognition and cloud processing technology
  • Evaluate processes within your organization that could benefit from autonomous robots

4. Crowdsourced delivery


In the way that Uber has transformed passenger transportation, similar companies are doing the same thing for product and package delivery. Companies like InstaCart and Shipt offer last mile grocery delivery so you don’t ever have to go to the grocery store again. Roadie connects people hitting the road with stuff that needs to get delivered for cheaper, friendlier (according to them) service. The number of websites and apps providing delivery from restaurants seems nearly endless. Manufacturers are getting in on the action as well, splitting shipping costs with competitors to ensure trucks don’t go out half-filled. The gig economy is providing limitless opportunity.


Key points:


  • Explore crowd sourced delivery capabilities, they’re expanding nationally at a rapid pace
  • Evaluate partnerships to offer delivery of your products to consumers and businesses
  • Create sticky purchasing behavior with customers by offering robust delivery services
  • Expand sales by providing delivery services that increase the size of your trading area

5. Drones


Adding to those opportunities is the use of drones. It’s estimated drones could reduce delivery costs by 80-90%. But it isn’t just on goods delivery where drones are having an impact. Remarkably, air passenger drones are already set to take to the skies in Dubai this summer. These driverless, flying taxis are part of Dubai’s plan to have self-driving vehicles (of all kinds) account for a quarter of journeys made in Dubai by 2030. Ground delivery drones are also quietly kicking things into high gear, getting far less publicity than their airborne counterparts, but delivering big innovations for businesses.


Key points:


  • Realize aerial and ground drones are becoming a reality
  • Recognize drones have the potential to redefine the cost of last-mile logistics
  • Explore how drones can play a role within your international operations in terms of inventory and goods transport
  • Begin testing with key drone partners

6. Autonomous vehicles


Companies like OTTO, which produces self-driving vehicles designed to automate material transport and take your intralogistics to the next level, and Urban Aeronautics, which created the AirMule, an unmanned flying car used for search and rescue in areas otherwise too inaccessible to reach, are putting autonomous vehicles on the map. Beyond just driverless cars, autonomous trucks, travelling in convoys, could change the very face of logistics.


Key points:


  • Be aware autonomous vehicles are maturing globally at a rapid pace
  • Acknowledge aerial and truck formats have the potential to disrupt supply chains
  • Understand autonomous vehicles can improve transportation safety
  • Evaluate how and where autonomous vehicles can play a role in your organization

7. Virtualizing expertise


Imagine having all the information you need right at your fingertips—without having to pull out your computer or smartphone. Augmented reality is bridging the gap between humans and machines, letting us experience the real world in entirely new ways. Current real-world examples include service technicians who can use augmented reality to improve their on-the-job performance with full schematics overlaying the physical object they’re working on. Taking things even further, it’s allowing those same service techs to connect and share live what they’re seeing with experts anywhere in the world.


Key points:


  • Comprehend the impact advanced wearables are enabling new augmented reality capabilities
  • Improve profitability by enabling frontline workers with hands-free access to data
  • Provide transformational capabilities with remote expert tools
  • Identify and test applications and hardware in your environment

8. Artificial intelligence


Advancements in augmented reality are paving the way for even further human-machine collaboration. Artificial intelligence has the ability to revolutionize life, and your supply chain, as you know it. Prescriptive analytics and AI are providing the ability to machine learning to take place, ultimately culminating in a reality where AI-equipped machines are making and executing decisions regarding your supply chain.


Key points:


  • Begin planning your AI data foundation today to leverage emerging capabilities
  • Assess your organization’s data maturity and hygiene
  • Understand AI capabilities by exploring available resources like Google’s AI Experiments
  • Recognize the key to machine learning systems is the training that goes into them

Phillips says it’s time to think about extending your supply chain vision all the way to the consumer. That means identifying and adopting technologies that provide a competitive advantage. What steps is your organization taking to prepare for these digital disruptors? Let us know in the comments area.


The post Coming soon to a supply chain near you: 8 big digital disruptors appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.


In pursuit of the right supply chain technology solution


Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Alexa Cheater

IoT Supply chain planningThere’s no denying the Internet of Things (IoT) has taken hold of nearly every aspect of our lives. With the number of connected devices estimated to surpass six billion next year and more than 20 billion by 2020, the steady stream of data these devices are providing can easily crowd and clog your supply chain planning processes if you’re not prepared.


Gartner Research Director Andrew Downard addressed the issue during his presentation at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference by outlining three macro trends affecting supply chain planning, chief among them IoT.


He defined IoT as a system of inanimate internet-connected devices linking the physical and digital worlds, and predicted that retailers engaged in IoT partnerships with major manufacturers will take significant market share from their competitors as early as 2018.


When it comes to your supply chain planning, the data sourced from IoT-enabled devices lets you continuously sense, communicate, analyze and act.


Real-world examples

Examples of this already exist in the marketspace. Coca Cola’s Freestyle machines, which enable end consumers to select their own unique beverage flavor combination has already inspired the creation of new mainstream and traditionally distributed products. Take the launch of Cherry Sprite. The data coming from the Freestyle machines let Coca Cola see which flavor combinations were most often selected by people across locations and determine if there was any seasonality to it. What they found was a demand for cherry flavoring added to traditional Sprite.


HP’s Instant Ink has transformed a section of the printer manufacturer’s business model into a subscription-based revenue model, and transformed part of its supply chain in the process. HP’s new venture uses smart printers that sense each drop of ink being delivered to a page so it can monitor ink levels and order and ship new ink cartridges before you run out. That means better forecast accuracy for HP, but also a change in how and where to handle distribution and logistics.


Grocery store Tesco has altered its business by creating virtual grocery stores in subway stations in select regions. Commuters have the option to digitally browse for goods on virtual store shelves, selecting and purchasing products and then scheduling home delivery for a time that’s convenient for them—say 40 minutes later when their commute is over.


All of these examples relate to the second of Downard’s macro trends—digital business.


Digital business

Digital business is about ideas and models that blend the digital and physical worlds. It creates a convergence of people, business and things. While the above real-world examples of how IoT is affecting supply chain planning were mostly related to retail or business-to-consumer (B2C), there are business-to-business (B2B) examples of digital business, as well.


Lockheed Martin is building smarter airplanes, where engines can run self-diagnostics, alert flight crews to any issues and even schedule its own maintenance based on flight schedules and service bay locations. The same is happening in the trucking industry.


One trend that is helping shape the reality of digital business is the notion of an IoT order button, the most notable example of which is an Amazon Dash button. Essentially, it overcomes the challenges of abandoned online shopping carts, which have sat at a staggering 70% abandonment rate for the past decade. That means seven out of 10 online orders will never be completed. Regardless of how or why this phenomenon occurs, IoT buttons are finding a way around it.


These buttons allow users to order a select item instantaneously without the need to go through an oftentimes-lengthy online checkout process. In many cases, we’re talking about physical buttons. The infamous Staple’s ‘Easy’ button, which started out as a novelty item, will soon be able to actually place orders for you.


There are currently close to 300 brands using Amazon Dash buttons, and early reports show they’re driving big business. Amazon estimates that more than 50% of its orders are now coming directly from Dash buttons, and Dash button orders have grown consistently by 70% per quarter.


However, this new way of ordering is fundamentally changing how supply chain planning and execution works. In order to fulfill Dash requests quickly and efficiently, manufacturers need to rely on a network of distribution and retail centers to meet the need.


That means before you jump into this new reality, make sure your supply chain planning is ready to handle IoT button orders. Downard suggests the following:


  • Choose low variability, high volume products with well-defined fulfillment pathways
  • Prepare for direct and indirect demand drivers across multiple channels
  • Use participation in IoT button programs to deepen the retailer relationship in other areas

With the advancement of IoT and digital business comes Downard’s final macro trend—algorithmic planning.


Algorithmic planning

Algorithmic business, powered by algorithmic planning, represents a future where supply chains can act and negotiate on their own. It’s the evolution of decision support levels, culminating in non-optional automation where smart machines and AI make the decisions and we abide by them.


Here are the levels of decision support as outlined by Downard:


  • General information—give me the facts (use historical data)
  • Specific information—give me a suggestion (statistical forecasting)
  • Advisory guidance—help me as I go (automated alerts)
  • Opt-in automation—Do this complex task for me (run multiple forecasting models and recommend the best fit)
  • Automation that can be over-ridden—take responsibility for this task until I tell you otherwise (automatic re-order points for replenishment)
  • Non-optional automation—take responsibility for this task and don’t let me or anyone else interfere

But we’re not ready for machines to take over supply chain planning entirely. There’s still a divide between machine-led algorithmic planning, which at this point in time centers on sensing, analyzing and responding, versus human-led consensus planning. In human-led consensus planning, it’s about testing, learning and experiment. Cause and effect isn’t already known. To further bring machine-led planning to the next level requires a different skillset among your supply chain.


IoT supply chain talent impact

All three of these macro trends—IoT, digital business and algorithmic planning—are causing a shift in supply chain talent. More emphasis is being placed on algorithmic skills. That means delegating manual and simpler tasks to robots or machines, and investing in talent with a better blend of supply chain, IT and analytical skills.


Downard suggests moving from having five demand planners to three demand planners, one data scientist and one data engineer. Your data scientist should have advanced analytics expertise and be able to solve data science problems. Your data engineer should help build data infrastructure and work to make data consistently accessible.


But be aware the demand for these data scientists and engineers is already on the rise. If you want to start prepping your supply chain for the impact of IoT, you’re going to need to start recruiting and training this new mix of talent now.



Downard ended his presentation with some recommendations to get you ready for IoT in supply chain planning. They are to:


  • Understand the fundamental changes required for digital maturity in supply chain planning
  • Ensure supply chain planning is a strong, recognized player in your company’s decision to build digital business partnerships
  • Identify data that you can leverage in supply chain planning algorithms
  • Balance the skill set of your team to match what’s needed for digital business and algorithmic planning

How has IoT influenced your supply chain planning? Let us know in the comments area below.


The post The rise of IoT in supply chain planning appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.


The rise of the digital supply network


Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at

by Melissa Clow

Headquartered in Yokohama, Japan, Nissan manufactures vehicles in 20 countries around the world. Nissan offers products and services in more than 160 countries and areas worldwide. As a leading global automotive manufacturer, Nissan Motor Co. operates in a complex and competitive environment.


Because of this, the company struggled with disconnected, manual planning processes, which required a concurrent planning platform to enable a more efficient operation. After a competitive evaluation process with multiple vendors, Nissan selected Kinaxis RapidResponse because of its concurrent planning capabilities.


“A robust supply and demand balancing system is critical for a global company to drive tangible business outcomes,” said Koichiro Sakakibara, Manufacturing and SCM System Department at Nissan. “As RapidResponse is deployed, we will remove supply chain planning functional boundaries to gain a consolidated view of our entire supply chain. We see this as a long term relationship between our two companies and are convinced of the flexibility and scalability of RapidResponse to support future plans.”


Learn more >>


The post Nissan Motor Co. to revolutionize S&OP appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.


The rise of the digital supply network


Originally posted by Melissa Clow at

by Bill DuBois

Sears supply chainThe other day I turned on the news to the headline of Sears Canada closing 59 stores. My thoughts went immediately to images of my mother passing around the Sears catalog as she asked us to mark pages with gift suggestions. That tradition continued with my own children as she would sit down with them and shift through the toy section for ideas. What happened to those “good ole days?”


Those days of bonding over the Sears catalog were over a decade ago and the strategy of mailing a catalog has long been left in the dust. In the meantime, Sears hasn’t turned an annual profit since 2010, with losses in the billions. The gut reaction for many would be to say Sears, or its Kmart brand, didn’t keep up with the growth of online shopping, but the store’s troubles started long before browser buying became the norm, and can be tied to the brand not planning for the future of their supply chain.


Doing things


For the most part during all those years of losing money, Sears didn’t change the way it did business. The company just went about the day doing things the way they’d always been done, like mailing catalogs. It did little to invest in its brand and tried to work its way back to profitability by cutting. There was also little done to attract new customers and the Sears clientele remained for the most part late baby boomers. One would have been hard pressed to find a millennial coming out of Sears and pulled aside for an interview on what they thought about the store’s demise.


Doing things better


By just doing things as is, Sears did little to set itself up to compete with new competitors like the low-priced Walmart or box stores like Home Depot and Costco. These companies built great brand recognition while Sears lost its place in the Dow Jones index of the nation’s most important companies in 1999. Yes, 1999. That’s pushing 20 years to turn things around and re-invent yourself after a huge red flag is thrown your way. Sears took a major punch to the mid-section from the companies doing better but were still in the fight. But is a knockout blow on its way?


Doing things differently


There’s no question Sears lost ground to the companies doing things better. But will companies doing things differently make it impossible for Sears to come back from the brink of bankruptcy? Amazon and Apple easily come to mind as companies doing things differently. These companies revolutionized how consumers can research, buy and take delivery of product. They know their customers. They figured out how to best service them, and made it easier for customers to buy. On top of that, the brand recognition of these companies dwarves that of Sears, especially with younger generations.


It seems the grave is dug and we’re just waiting for the plug to be pulled on Sears. Sears has had recent initiatives to change its course such as its strategy to mix online and in-person shopping, allowing customers to buy online with convenient store pickup, or chatting with in-store experts who have done little to course correct. But wait, is there still a heartbeat?


There is if you look at one more company that’s doing things differently, Best Buy. In Kevin O’Marah’s weekly insights, Beyond Supply Chain, ( ) O’Marah highlights how Best Buy, which was also on life support not so many years ago, is staying alive in the growing online economy. He called out the factors that brought Best Buy back from the brink.


Best Buy got closer to its manufacturing. Kevin states that “retail’s traditional merchant mentality has an operational flaw: it essentially ignores the supply chain.” Traditional operations are full of silos, with separate teams managing logistics, merchandising and store operations. In this case, it’s build product, ship, stock and wait for purchase. Amazon changed all of that by taking orders first. With that, came the collapse of supply chain silos to support this leaner mode. As a result of that shift in traditional operations, Best Buy now allows brands to operate within its stores, giving them direct links back to factories, new product launch plans and technical support. For Best Buy, the store is now an extension of the supply chain.


The other key thing Best Buy did was to view the store from a shipping and logistics standpoint. O’Marah quoted a Wall Street Journal article stating half of Best Buy’s online orders are shipped from a store. With so many stores, ship-to locations are only a few miles away from the majority of customers, making delivery times shorter. This model will only get stronger as in-store operations improves its shipping capabilities.


Sears is now trying the same approach Best Buy took with in-store experts and improving the face-to-face experience. But can it learn from the other lessons of investing in the brand and getting closer to the supply chain? Time will tell. There are some lessons learned for supply chains in both Sears and Best Buy’s cases. Are we just doing, or are we doing better, and are we looking at doing things differently?


Doing things differently in supply chain


It’s difficult for supply chain practitioners to catch their breath while keeping up with the planning and execution of their networks. It’s critical though to dedicate time to preparing for the future. Gartner talks about the bimodal supply chain. With supply chains, we have to keep executing (doing), but in parallel, we need to test for the future to see how we can do things better, and eventually do things differently. Key ingredients for the bimodal supply chain are the flexibility to fail, to test new ideas and quickly move on if they don’t achieve the desired results. To dive a little deeper into this concept of a bimodal supply chain, check out my colleague’s blog post on the topic.


There are a number of factors affecting successful bimodal supply chains, including leadership, talent and technology. At the top of the list will be supply chain analytics. Supply Chain Insights highlighted critical analytic techniques we should all be investigating.


The post How you doin’? Is your supply chain doing the right thing to prepare for the future? appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.


The rise of the digital supply network


Originally posted by Bill DuBois at

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