This article is an excerpt from the report Agile Demand-Supply Alignment — Part Three: ADSA Solution Assessments.
A copy of the full report can be downloaded here.
In the previous Part 3E, we examined Infor Nexus, a mature end-to-end global trade, logistics, and finance platform. Here we assess One Network.
One Network Enterprises: A Scalable Multi-Enterprise Platform with Substantial Supply Chain Application Functionality and Leading Architecture
Founded in 2002, One Network (aka ONE) was architected from the start to provide a flexible and scalable multi-enterprise platform, with a broad set of well-integrated supply chain application functionality under the overarching umbrella of intelligent control towers for autonomous supply chain management. Their multi-tier, multiparty digital platform is designed to help companies optimize and automate planning and execution across the entire supply network and all trading partners, from inbound supply to outbound order fulfillment and logistics. The platform and suite of applications were entirely developed organically within One Network (i.e., not brought in via acquisitions), hence the applications are tightly integrated with a consistent user experience, single data model, and unified transaction backbone. Their platform excels at complex, multi-enterprise and multi-functional optimization and automation such as optimizing transportation, inventory, and service levels together or optimizing upstream production, taking into account downstream inventory and consumption. In recent years, the company has also made substantial investments in machine learning and intelligent agent technology, called NEO, which provides real-time predictive and prescriptive analytics to help companies optimize for high service levels and product quality at the lowest cost.
In our assessment, ONE has the most sophisticated/elegant architecture among the solution providers in this report. Their unified architecture provides deep flexibility for customization; flexible multi-enterprise master data management; a distributed agent architecture providing highly scalable multi-enterprise constraint-based optimization; as well as configurable division of labor between their system and existing legacy systems. ONE calls the latter a ‘tunable system of control,’ which are essentially fine-grained microservices that enables ONE’s customers to do a gradual step-by-step migration from legacy systems — starting by implementing a specific contained set of functionality and then over time shifting more and more responsibility from legacy systems onto One Network’s Platform (called NEO) at a pace that suits the customer. This provides a systematic path to digital transformation for companies with complex, fragmented, and siloed legacy systems. ONE’s multi-level approach to customization also allows enterprise-specific customizations that are broadly useful across the network to be made available, over time, to a wider group of ONE’s customers, once those customizations are proven.
Target Customer Characteristics/Factors Driving Adoption
One Network implementations often start at the ‘anchor tenant’ in a supply chain — i.e., a large OEM or major retailer that drives the entire supply chain. These tend to be more advanced companies, often global, with multi-party challenges, complex siloed business units, and a vision for multi-tiered integration on the upstream and/or downstream side. The anchor tenant connects their suppliers, co-manufacturers and logistics providers to the network, and then a subset of those suppliers may also become One Network customers. One Network is often used to provide multi-enterprise integration that ERP cannot provide. For example, they can plan and optimize incrementally and continuously across multiple nodes, which may be important for big players in a supply chain.
The NEO Platform is also used to integrate the business and functional units of large complex organizations including vertically integrated companies whose divisions need better coordination and integration, as well as the DoD and various branches of the military integrating with each other and their joint supply base. ONE can be less compelling for a smaller company with simpler problems, such as when a company is just trying to solve a single function, without a broader vision for an integrated supply chain. One Network’s architecture supports ambitious long-term visions, while its ability to implement in small pieces lets people get started right away, capture value, and gain support for future projects.
While ONE has customers in many industries, the main industries they serve are grocery, CPG, defense, automotive, retail, manufacturing, and logistics. Some of their key customers in those industries include in Logistics: XPO; in Grocery: Albertsons, Coles, Tom Thumb, Safeway; in CPG: PepsiCo; in Defense: US DoD, Air Force, Marines, Navy; in Non-grocery Retail: Argos, Dollar General, Target; and in Automotive: Cummins, Dana.
Typical User Roles
The NEO Platform tends to be used mostly by supply chain planners, buyers/sourcing and procurement professionals, suppliers, customer service reps, transportation teams, and IT.
Broad Supply Chain Suite
One Network offers a broad range of supply chain planning and execution functionality including Logistics (TMS, Transportation Planning/Execution, Telematics, Dock Door, Yard Mgmt., Global Trade Mgmt., Freight Financial Reconciliation); Demand Management (Forecasting, Demand Sensing, Order Mgmt., Fulfillment, VMI, Multi-tier Replenishment and Inventory Mgmt.); Supply Management (Inbound Supply, Procure-to-Pay, Production Planning & Scheduling, Supplier Order Mgmt., Multi-tier Replenishment and Inventory Mgmt.); Integrated Business Planning+ (S&OP, Business Continuity and Risk, Sustainability); and Supply Chain Control Tower.
Strong Control Tower Functionality Especially for Multi-Tiered Supply Chains
One Network has a robust control tower with autonomous supply chain functionality that can provide multi-tier demand-supply alignment. NEO’s sophisticated architecture enables multi-party, constraint-based supply chain optimization and execution, with the ability to balance multiple competing objectives. Their agent technology, called NEO intelligent agents, allows real-time and near real-time monitoring across thousands of nodes in a supply chain to detect and predict supply/demand imbalance for every item at each node, including projected stockouts, and projected below mins and above maxes. A time-phased view of the demand and supply matching can be provided for every item at every node. Customers can see and link orders, inventory, and shipments throughout the entire process across multiple tiers. For example, the platform can track raw materials running late inbound to the supplier’s factory and highlight the impact on production and thereby which purchase orders will be impacted and by how much. It can show the original plan, the deviation, and the impact on the outbound side.
The control tower can absorb a customer’s forecast, the amounts required by location per day, and then monitor real-time consumption and predict the impact of deviations from plan, by day. For multi-tier distribution, it can leverage POS data and calculate the impact back upstream through the supply chain, taking into account existing inventory, orders, and production schedules throughout the supply chain. In a retail setting, store managers can input casual factors and local events or impediments such as nearby construction or a local street fair. The platform can also do ‘last minute allocation’ — i.e., if scarcity of supply arises, the platform can calculate where the biggest need and the biggest gain is, and the cost of shifting the supply there, and decide where limited supply should be used for the most value. This is done at the network level with advanced analytics to optimize service levels and costs overall, rather than resolving exceptions sub-optimally on a case-by-case basis one at a time.
Of course, all of this is dependent on getting accurate up-to-date data (e.g., inventory levels, production schedules, consumption data, etc.) from across the tiers of the supply chain. That can be a pretty big challenge, particularly for data from those trading partners that are not already integrated onto the network. The value of that data is an incentive for companies to convince upstream and downstream partners to join and integrate into the network. Once that initial integration work is done, it enables more of NEO’s powerful capabilities.
Automated Demand-Supply Imbalance Resolution
If all required data is available and a demand-supply imbalance can be fully resolved, NEO agents will recommend the best resolution action for that issue. Otherwise, it displays a partial resolution and waits for additional input to continue to address the imbalance issue. As NEO determines available resolutions, it can act on them or provide multiple choice options (e.g., expedite vs. transship vs. allow stockout). It shows the impact of the different choices, cost vs. gain of each one. If desired, the user can drill down to see the impact on service levels and other details and then decide which recommended action to execute.1
NEO can calculate the impact on holistic profitability for each recommended resolution, taking into account all costs (e.g., total landed cost, value-added service contracts) and other factors such as lead times or customer service level requirements. For example, it may consider the freight costs, carrier contracts, the pack out of the vehicle (to maximize profit when there is not enough room in a container or vehicle), and determining what quantities can be shipped. Supply chain constraints can be configured or inferred, such as vehicle capacity, warehouse labor availability, and service level thresholds/SLAs by customer.
With accurate real-time data, the platform can optimize globally2 across the supply chain. Knowing end demand, it can drive execution and optimize holistically across the network. It looks at what each subsystem must do to get to the top-level optimization. For example, it understands both WMS and TMS, and can look at all the transport and labor constraints to schedule arrivals optimally; looking at hundreds of trucks and doors, it can move things around to the best slot. The network can absorb each individual plan and optimize across them.
Multiparty Issue Resolution
Customers or the system can create a multiparty issue, aka as a ‘problem’ or ‘case.’ The alerting framework can also auto-generate a problem based on an alert, such as a shipment that is running late. Manual steps that need to be done can be configured for each specific problem type. All the relevant data needed for a specific problem type is aggregated and presented to the users by the system. For example, if a shipment is late, it could show what orders and items are on that shipment, which suppliers and carriers are involved, alternate inventory available, and so forth. Users can collaborate in real-time or via asynchronous messages. Resolution codes can be defined and tracked. All the data for these issues/cases flows into ONE’s analytics tool, enabling their customers to analyze what kinds of problems are occurring, how often, where, what the resolutions were, etc.
Prescriptive workbenches are available to resolve exceptions, using AI-based and other advanced algorithms. Instead of looking at exceptions one at a time on a first-come, first-served basis to identify resolutions, the NEO prescriptive analytics optimize choices and evaluate trade-offs at the network level, at each point in time, to maximize service levels and minimize costs for the network as a whole. The ability to find globally optimal solutions is a differentiated capability that should help firms find and deploy better resolutions. Prescriptive analytics helps them do so more quickly.
Pricing, ROI, Time-to-Value
One Network’s pricing has several components which, while making pricing a bit more complicated, helps align the ongoing fees paid with value derived and services used: 1) base platform fee, 2) transactional fee — # of shipments, # of orders, 3) user fee — number of users in the customer’s company (not counting users at their suppliers), 4) network services fees — there is a fee for each network services used, such as transportation management, order collaboration, etc. There are hundreds of fine-grained services, so this is a ‘pay only for what you use’ approach. There is also a nominal onboarding fee for each new supplier brought onto the network, but there is no onboarding charge if the supplier is already on ONE’s network for another customer.
According to ONE, their typical payback period is 10 to 14 months. Value is achieved in many different ways, depending on the customer and what they implement, but is typically realized in lower cost of goods sold (COGS) through transportation, staffing, and other cost savings and lower waste, improved revenue through higher service levels and on-shelf availability (plus less product switching by consumers), and an improved balance sheet through lower inventories, asset redeployment, and related costs. For example, by automating their scheduling function, one very large grocer customer redeployed about 80 people from their scheduling staff, reducing that function from 85 personnel down to 7. Another grocer cited how the platform enabled them to maintain service levels during the pandemic when demand rapidly surged to well over 50% above normal levels.
Time-to-value differs for each customer. For focused functionality and rollout, like say transportation management in North America, implementations are typically three to six months to go live.3 A total transformation project may be a multi-year effort, but ONE works with the customer to determine the long-hanging fruit with the fastest time to pay back to implement first. This way value is realized within a few months which helps justify and fund the rest of the rollout.
Who One Network is a Good Fit For
The ideal customer for One Network is one that is driving towards a vision of multi-tiered (upstream and/or downstream) integration and continuous optimization. This could include large complex multi-division or global organizations looking to integrate their own business and functional units in ways that ERP systems are unable to. ONE is a good fit for customers in grocery, CPG, defense, automotive, retail, and logistics industries.
In Part 3G, the final installment of this series, we assess Mercado (import management supply chain network) and Zencargo (digital freight forwarder with control tower).
1 Some customers let the system decide automatically, while others want the user to do a verify step, to accept or override the recommended action. Over time, they can loosen the thresholds that determine which actions get auto-approved (decided without verification). Thereby the customer can migrate to increasing levels of autonomous supply chain functionality, at their own pace, as their confidence in the system’s recommendations grows. — Return to article text above
2 Most optimization engines optimize within some local domain or functional area, such as the transportation or inventory needs of a single firm, without regard for the impact outside of its domain. However, a plan that is optimal for transportation may overrun the capacity of the DC, such as having too many arrivals at or near the same time. Similarly, a plan that optimizes inventory for one company may place an even greater inventory burden on a trading partner. Thus, global network-wide optimization can generate greater value and performance for the supply chain as a whole. One Network is the only solution we know of that does this level of global supply chain optimization. — Return to article text above
3 Some customers with limited scope have gone live in as little as a month or two. If integration mapping is needed, it takes more time. — Return to article text above
To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.