It’s Sooo 20th Century!
If there is one word that typifies the 21st-century supply chain, it would be speed. 7×24, same day, always on, real-time processing/decision making, real-time, location-aware, hyper-scale, connected! So it was fitting that Allan Dow, President of Logility, challenged the audience to think about getting a 10X improvement in their supply chains.
Allan provided us with an amusing but quintessential example — the race car pit stop1 where races can be won or lost due to clock speed. A goal of car designers and sponsors has been to improve the time and safety of the pit stop. In fact, Ferrari achieved a much greater than 10x improvement. How this was achieved is highly relevant to supply chain: They improved and simplified product design, improved the pit process and added more specialized people.2 They could easily afford to add more people to the model in order to win. – Source CR
However, as Allan pointed out, and you can see (video in the footnote) to get any further improvements, adding people could not be part of the game. Why? Space — and expense — were maxed out. Sound familiar?
In our supply chains we can look around and see that more speed is critical. It’s always been part of the game. Yes, we have done better in the last few decades. And, yes, there are still inhibitors to more gains. But sometimes our competitors have done better, so we have to be relentless to gain more speed.
In another race we are familiar with, the Olympic relays, teams can sometimes drop the baton, causing delays and losses. Again, there is relevancy to supply chain.
Allan pointed out that we are often stymied by incongruent data between trading partners and within the enterprise. We know that data — information — is a key differentiator for competitive advantage, yet the methods used are so 20th century. Lack of advanced Master Data Management tools and methods and failure to leverage the supply chain solution provider’s assets to keep your company data in sync with trading partners causes the “manual scramble to look things up and correct them,” costing precious time. In fact, information cycle time is a chief inhibitor, and, thus, should be a key KPI for any organization that wants to reduce that supply chain clock speed.
Allan pointed out that today’s customer is very informed about products, competitive pricing, and end-to-end supply chains — source markets, suppliers of ingredients, components, and so on. It all has to be there — right data, right time — providing real-time promising (and, of course, precision follow through). In addition, our research continues to reveal that many companies have not implemented advanced integration between trading partners and rich visibility systems to keep them aware of and in synch with market dynamics.
The clock-speed race — with accuracy — drives the technology strategy for Logility today: Master Data Management, AI/Machine Learning and analytics, collaboration across multiple functions (Demand Collaboration, Supplier Collaboration, Social Responsibility), and visibility are core to their platform today.
Supply Chain Race Today
Logility, like many in the industry, has made some important acquisitions in the last few years, transforming Logility into an end-to-end planning platform for all size companies.
Consumer demand is many miles from manufacturing and procurement, and for industrial companies, design is at an even greater distance. In talking to many traditional and fast-fashion companies, the distance between design and releasing a new collection is fast for all of them. Thus, the need to reduce clock speed, not just between a demand signal and manufacturing, but across all the supply chain functions.
This end-to-end intelligence is not just achieved by a race of discordant B2B signals by a rationalized application platform. For technology providers, this can be a journey to provide a cohesive platform. Most supply chain (and ERP) providers have gaping holes in the application stack and/or the integration platform. Logility is working to close those gaps. The acquisition of intelligent applications in Procurement, PLM,3 and Retail Merchandising4 has been enhanced by acquisitions in AI/Machine Learning5 and tools for platform integration and Master Data Management.6
Analytics and Machine Learning Drive Better Data
If conference-tracks attendance is any indication of where users’ heads (and wallets) are at, then AI/Machine Learning is the topic of the year. The benefits of getting AI/ML from your supply chain provider is that their methods, analytics, and algorithms are geared to solving supply chain problems; but of equal or more importance is the virtuosity of dealing with — and having — supply chain data.
As I speak to the data scientists, they frequently tell me that in the end, the analytics are often becoming commoditized. The data is the competitive weapon.
Not only do we need data (lots of data), but it has to be pretty good if we expect to take the advice of our AI systems. And if we ever expect to go on autopilot,7 it had better be very good data.
One innovative and unique contribution Logility/Halo/AdapChain has made is to apply ML to the actual inbound data feeds. Before data is even ingested into the process (potentially creating erroneous outcomes), assessments can be made and adjustments or alerts sent to users about the state of the data.
Data is constantly changing due to the dynamics of our world. And, believe it or not, it can be just plain faulty or incomplete. It is a thankless and tedious job for users to clean this up. ML can learn from the data and the users, who know best what good data is, for cleansing and then providing meaning to this data.
The implications of this are profound. Supply chain pros need to constantly expand their view of the world, make sense of it, and leverage information for any business opportunity. On our own there is no way we can keep our finger on the pulse of so many dynamics and learn to take advantage of what we discover without the aid of technology.
The Cheers Supply Chain Strategy
One-number planning, centralized business management, and consolidation of planning and procurement were common themes at the conference, across industries. Another well-attended track had a common theme for the Supplier Management, Supply Chain, Quality Management, PLM and Corporate Social Responsibly functions.
Managing and dealing with all the dynamics due to globalization, outsourcing, virtual structures, constantly changing manufacturers, and increasing compliance pressures from retailers, OEMs, government trade regulations and savvy customers to create that cohesive product view — from planning through delivery — is one tough challenge.
Firms like Randa Accessories, Dickies, DXL, Canada Goose, Follett, and others are juggling these challenges, while continuing to expand, enter new markets, and introduce new brands and product lines.
The title of one of the sessions, Failure is Not an Option, typified the sense of urgency to get this right. Little understood, unless you are in these industries, is that for each and every brand and for each and every product there are unique testing requirements for product safety, import requirements, and brand quality standards. Get that wrong by doing poor testing, picking the wrong manufacturer, missing the proper reporting with visibility through the chain and you can be fired from the customer or worse, damage the “brand.”
In this track, customers consistently communicated the excitement, as well as the “soft benefits” they are deriving from consolidating their efforts cross-functionally and improving communication in their organization by deploying NCG’s Andromeda platform.8 I couldn’t help but think of the Cheers tag line, “where everyone knows your name.” Here, it’s where everyone knows what’s going on!
In general, at a lot of conferences, analysts can get pretty antsy. When you have “heard it all before,” it becomes real work to sit through sessions. The hype machines that often typify software conferences do not mitigate that sensation. However, certain events are exceptions. Cultures which are open and very focused on their customers — not just as customers, but as human beings — are rare. As such, Logility deserves credit for creating such an atmosphere. I attended sessions where there was real warmth between vendors and customers and when I commented to customers about this I heard remarks like “they really care.” Oh, yes, there were the usual “you should, you didn’t,” but the dominant theme was a real openness.
End-user excitement was contagious.
In a world of cut-throat competition, and where the stakes are so high for the software adopter — often career making or breaking — having a partner who cares, yet is progressive, is what this should all be about.
7 Autonomous, though a buzzword, is really a misnomer. Don’t you think all systems, whether robots, driverless cars, or supply chain planning and execution systems are totally reliant on many integrations and connections to get data and insights? And people are the lead trainers to these AI systems. — Return to article text above
8 Capabilities include PLM, quality, supplier management, PIM, inventory optimization, and more. (Please note these terms do not correspond to the actual Andromeda module names.) — Return to article text above
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