Supply Chain Planning Blog

Cyrus Hadavi

Recent Posts

Supply Chain Inventory: Good or Evil?

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Mon, Mar 15, 2010
Inventory Planning What do all manufacturing companies, regardless of industry, have in common? Inventory! It's the lifeline of every company that sells goods. How can it be evil?

Inventory to a supply chain is like water to people. Too much of it would drown you. Too little makes you dysfunctional. So how much is enough? Just as in people, the real question is how fast are you running? Hence, the amount of inventory you need has to do with how fast you can move it. In addition to knowing how much is needed, you also need to know when and where you need the inventory. The fact is that, just like energy, inventory does not get destroyed but transforms from one type to another. And the decision is yours as when you want to transform it from Raw inventory to Work-in-Progress, to Finished-goods; or to decide when to bring it to your site, or move it to another location. These are tough decisions to make, with potentially big impacts on your supply chain. You see, inventory planning is based on a very large number of potential configurations of product types, locations, and timing based on demand and supply factors. So making good decisions about what to do with your inventory can be very complicated! But wait I am not done yet! On top of all these factors, you also have to worry about Acts-of-God, Mother-Nature and even "luck". Yes, luck! In our customer base, we have a major brewery with demand that swings heavily based on weather during the holiday weekends. We also know of a major food processing company in South Africa that is already planning for spikes in demand for "chicken" during the 2010 World Cup. Other examples, SARS in Asia caused shortages of high-tech semiconductor components, and H1N1 Vaccine was in serious shortage, just recently. .

So back to the question: How much, where and when? Most supply chains have many different layers of inventory or echelons. Examples are raw material, buffers in between sites, WIP, finished-goods, distribution centers, consignment locations and more. At any given time, for each layer of the supply chain, decisions need to be made regarding how much, and what type of inventory is needed to maximize your service levels, and minimize your cost. A simple question like that for even a few products can be complex, for hundreds or thousands of products can be mind-boggling, especially when you bring in chance and probability.

OK, here is the good news: MEIO. Multi Echelon Inventory Optimization is designed to do precisely what we have talked about, i.e. minimize your cost of reaching targeted service levels. MEIO deals with the elements of chance and probability at every layer of the supply chain and keeps a tight-eye on cost factors. It knows that Raw material costs a lot less than Finished-goods and has the potential to transform to what the market needs. In other words, MEIO takes into account postponement strategies and the potential to deliver a certain level of service. As the user specifies higher service levels, the system shows the potential increases in cost and recommends what to get, and where to keep it, in order to protect against surprises. It is really cool. And the good thing is that it will save you a significant amount of money in a short period of time.

So you owe it to your company to ask: Do we have enough of what it takes to deliver what we need? Are we losing money for keeping too much or losing opportunities, and market share, because we don't have enough? If you know the answer to these questions, do nothing and you are in great shape. If not, take a look at what MEIO can do for your company.

Inventory is GOOD only if there is the right amount, in the right place, at the right time! MEIO shows you what the "right" is for you.

Cyrus HadaviDr. K. Cyrus Hadavi is the president and CEO of Adexa, for more information about the author please click here.



For more information about different types of Supply Chain Planning systems visit: Demand Planning, Inventory Planning, or Sales and Operations Planning.


Topics: Multi Echelon Inventory Optimization, Demand Planning, Inventory Planning, MEIO, WIP, Finished Goods, Inventory Optimization

Run Your Supply Chain Like You Are Selling Diamonds!

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Tue, Mar 02, 2010

Demand Planning with AttributesI want to encourage you to plan and sell your products like Diamonds!

Allow me to elaborate. Diamonds are sold based on attributes, not product-ID (i.e. SKU-number). Nobody goes to a jeweler asking for a piece of rock, spends lots of money, and walks out of the store with a smile. Instead they ask for a diamond based on the 4C's (Carat, Color, Clarity, and Cut). So the bigger, brighter, cleaner and nicer cuts get priced higher and higher. As logical as this may seem, it amazes me to see how many manufacturers still sell their products like a commodity--giving away valuable things for free. And the root cause is usually the fact that their supply chain planning systems are not capable of handling attributes, in the first place. We see many manufacturers that don't utilize attributes when it comes to planning their supply chain and inventories, and yet work with a mind-boggling number of SKU's. Most of them also complain about high inventory costs, and poor customer service, too. Let's see why that is the case, and how attributes can apply to your products and supply chain-unless you manufacturer the first generation Model-T cars.

The fact is that just about everything has attributes, people do (e.g. kind, tall, smart), Products do (e.g. red, non-combustible, fast), machines do (e.g. speed, efficiency, precision), customers do (e.g. VIP, International, new), materials do (e.g. high surface tension, low grade, hazardous), countries do (e.g. tariffs, sanctioned, no-child labor), Logistics do (e.g. Rail only, Air Express, hazardous route), etc. etc. Adding attributes to all of these objects is not too hard; just add new fields to your data base.

What is important is the ability to plan with these attributes for your entire supply chain, beginning with demand planning, to operations and inventory planning. The ability to have an algebra by which attributes are used and planned with is critical in supply chain planning systems. Imagine having an inventory of sweaters without knowing how many of them are Large, Med, or Small, and how many of them are Red, Yellow, or Green. Clearly you could not make efficient use of this inventory, or forecast and build the right products. As mentioned, there are a lot more attributes than just style, size and color. The following is a typical scenario for a top-retailer:

"A NEW customer is interested in a NON-COMBUSTIBLE product made using a HIGH PRECISION machine, from SOUTHEAST ASIA region. Also, it can not be built in any country with CHILD LABOR, and can only be transported using RAIL or SEA."

Can you imagine having hundreds of customers, with thousands of products, and then trying to forecast and commit with so many different attributes involved. Don't forget, raw material and inventories also need to be planned with just as many attributes. In its full sense, Attribute-Based planning means the ability to take all the relevant product parameters into account when forecasting, planning, sourcing, selecting, pricing, promoting, differentiating, allocating, building, storing, committing, transporting, pegging and more. Without a planning system that considers the attributes, it would be impossible to do the math, plan the supply chain, and commit orders accurately. In fact, lack of attributes in the planning process causes some level of "commoditization," which reflects a company's inability to correctly distinguish its products from the others. In turn, customer requests are undermined, and products' costs and prices are not represented accurately. In most cases, this hurts the profitability of the enterprise in the long run, even if it has a monopoly over the market.

There are a lot more benefits to Attribute-Based planning. I highly recommend reading the more comprehensive ePaper that we just published on this topic: Attribute-Based Planning: How to Avoid Commoditization. Also, Feel free to comment on how you use attributes in your supply chain, or if you are looking for any ideas on how to make better use of attributes specific to your environment.

 

Dr. Cyrus HadaviDr. K. Cyrus Hadavi is the president and CEO of Adexa, for more information about the author please click here

 

 

For more information about different types of Supply Chain Planning systems visit: Demand Planning, Inventory Planning, or Sales and Operations Planning.

 


Topics: Supply Chain Planning, Demand Planning, Inventory Planning, Attribute Based Planning, Manufacturing Planning, Operations Planning, Differentiate

Retune your supply chain planning from JIT to Available-on-Demand

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Thu, Nov 12, 2009
demand planningHere is a question for you, is JIT a push-system or a pull-system? For decades you have been lead to believe that it is a "pull" system, but in fact you are "pushing" to make parts available, thinking that the resource will need it or use it. Just because the resource used the previous supply does not mean that it will use the next. In other words, the past is not necessarily an indication of the future. You may have already known that, and may argue that just filling buffer-zones is the best way to minimize inventory, especially if the buffers are not owned by your company.  However, you are just passing the responsibility of holding the supply to some other point in the supply chain, along with the associated cost-of-capital that goes with it. Naturally, the buffers need to be able to handle the largest tolerable demand surge.  So, if the past demand is more than the future, then inventory will sit there until it is needed or written-off. 

With that in mind, I think it's logical to say that a JIT system that looks at historical demand is really a push-system, but we want to do better than that.  We want to be able to look to the future in order to have a real pull-system.  At the end of the day, JIT is a cost-reduction system to keep up utilization and reduce inventory levels in a supply chain that has fairly steady demand.  What happens if the demand changes all of a sudden? What if red-widgets are more popular than green ones, today? How fast can you propagate the changes by resetting all of the buffers?  Undoing the buffers is like pushing the proverbial tooth paste back into the tube!  It will stay out until you finally use it, or wash it down the sink.  Of course as long as the supply chain is simple, with a linear flow, flat demand, and just a few constraints, fixed buffer-based inventory planning will still work well.  But it will also come down crashing if you have tens of different products sharing resources, constant changes in demand patterns, or supply lead-times.  These factors, and many others, change the production "rhythm" to the market.  Should the supply rhythm on a certain product be bang-bang-bang-bang, or would it be bang-----bang-----bang---.bang?  Which rhythm would generate the most revenue and profit while satisfying your customers?  

In the final analysis, JIT is a system of Available-on-Supply and it pushes based on a fixed rhythm associated to the speed of a machine or inventory availability. In that case, you better prey the historical demand does not change.  Why would you want to be held hostage by your supply?!  So what should we do if we want a system that is Available-on-Demand, that is more responsive to changes in the market place.  A system like this would change the "beat" and buffer-allocations based on the actual demand, and would be more attuned to the market-whether it be bang-bang--bang, or bang-bang...bang-bang-bang---bangbangbangbangbangbang--------bang.   For each product you would have a different "bang" profile.  The combination of all the profiles sets the rhythm for your entire supply chain.  Hence, when you put it all together, the result is a beautiful orchestration of drum-beats harmonized to the tune of the market demand.

To dynamically re-tune and reallocate material, capacity, and buffers is not easy but it's being done by many best-in-class companies out there.  You basically need two critical components, visibility and control of your supply chain.  That means visibility into your demand, inventory levels, and the ability to quickly control your production capacity, and suppliers' capabilities.  It is not a near sighted system that only looks at one level down the stream.  You must understand what needs to be done in all areas of the supply chain as the demand conditions change. To have this kind of control over your supply chain, it takes some reexamination of your processes and advanced technologies in the areas of Demand Planning, Multi-Echelon Inventory Optimization, Production Planning, and Performance Management.  Demand Planning will focus on making sure you are getting accurate demand signals from the market, MEIO will help you manage the right buffers for the expected demand, Production Planning will control your supply flow to those buffers, and Performance Management will give you dashboard like visibility over all of these critical points in your supply chain.  Again, I have said this many time before, but it's very hard to do this with spreadsheets and pure experience.  So take a little time to see how advanced technology can help you in one or more of these areas and you maybe surprised how quickly you can retune your supply chain from JIT to Available-on-Demand.  

If you are interested in this topic, I also suggest reading: How-to-Guide: Justify A Supply Chain Planning System, or feel free to contact us at any time.  

Cyrus HadaviDr. K. Cyrus Hadavi is the president and CEO of Adexa, for more information about the author please click here.

Topics: Supply Chain, Supply Chain Planning, Demand Planning, Supply Chain Performance Management, Inventory Planning, JIT, Adexa, Multi-Echelon Inventory Planning

What is a Profit-Driven Supply Chain?

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Tue, Oct 27, 2009
Profit Driven Supply ChainsSupply chain decisions impact internal operations, customers, suppliers and, at the end, revenue levels and profits.  The complexities of all the interactions in the supply chain makes it very difficult to understand the true impact of your decisions even if the decisions made are consistent with your previous ones. How would you know what the consequences are under today's circumstances? How would you measure the impact in different areas?  

A Supply chain is really one big inter-linking Jigsaw puzzle.  Let's say demand is going through the roof for red iWidgets, then should you build more of them at the expense of green iWidgets? If so, which key customers are now going to receive their green ones late, as a result?  How much effort should you make to avoid the lateness?  Should you reallocate your inventories going to the distributors? Or should you add a shift at the plant to increase production capacity? If so, can you count on your current raw-material inventories at the production sites, or can the suppliers get the components to you fast enough? And so on.  I am sure you know what I am talking about here.  Operational managers have to make tough decisions like these on daily basis to preserve the flow of the supply chain.  But can they make the right decisions consistently, time after time, especially when it come to what is best for the Company's bottom-line?  Usually these complex supply chain decisions are made based on which customer is screaming the loudest, the experience of an "old timer," or sometimes a person who is only worried about his or her own bottom-line.  But can you blame them?  Since in many cases, their planning capabilities are based on disparate spreadsheets and their visibility is limited to separate organizations with different incentives. Sales people want to increase customer service and have abundant Just-in-Case inventory, Production people want to decrease inventory and reduce cost, but the financial Side of the business wants to increase profit and decrease working capital. How do we resolve these conflicts and make a decision which is right for the Company?

Supply chain planning technologies have evolved a great deal in the past decade.  The right planning system can now model and define competing objectives, such as higher efficiency vs. higher customer service, and calculate the impact of specific decisions in terms of cost, revenue, and profits.   In that way, every major supply chain decision becomes "optimized" for all the interrelated pieces that it touches, rather than just one.  In Adexa, we call this a Profit-Driven Supply Chain©.  In PDSC's, you have the visibility to see the problem, capability to analyze your decision's impact, and then take the best course of action, knowing for certain how it affects the entire picture.  Keep in mind, the "best" course of action may not always be the one with the highest short-term profit, but at least you will know how your profit levels were affected by keeping your best customers happy.    

Profit Driven Supply Chain is more than a concept! It's defining the future of planning technology, since in most progressive enterprises, the finance people are becoming more and more involved with sales and operational decisions, rather than dealing with its aftermath.  For the past two years Adexa has focused its direction on developing PSDC-based planning solutions to marry critical supply chain processes such as Demand Planning, Operational Planning, and Inventory Planning, with full financial visibility.  So we have a number of resources available to you if you would like to learn more about this topic.   I highly recommend to start by reading an important S&OP benchmark study of 214 companies, by Aberdeen Group, entitled Sales and Operation Planning: Integrate with Finance and Improve Revenue.  We also have a great paper entitled: Demand Planning for Profit Driven Supply Chains.  Enjoy the reading, and feel free to comment on this blog with any questions, as I will personally answer you back.  

Cyrus HadaviDr. K. Cyrus Hadavi is the president and CEO of Adexa, for more information about the author please click here.

Topics: Supply Chain, Demand Planning, Inventory Planning, Supply Chain Planning; Profit, Operations Planning, S&OP

How to Justify a Supply Chain Planning System?

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Wed, Sep 30, 2009
SCP SelectionAlmost everyone understands the role that people, processes and systems play in running a modern day enterprise.  What they might disagree on is the importance of the role each one of these legs plays to holdup and grow the enterprise. The role of people and processes are given.  The Systems' role is the least understood aspect of the three. There are many managers who believe systems are all the same and as long as the basics are covered any additional sophistication does not add any value. We disagree! And here is why:
  • Systems enforce good practices and processes: Companies spend a lot of time and money to design business processes only to see them deteriorate very quickly as people and organization, as well as processes change.  Systems are capable of cross checking millions of variables in the business and point out inconsistencies, lack of proper data and information, or point out who has not done their part. They can check and monitor what we should be doing and how we are doing it!
  • Unlike people, systems are fast, very fast! How can you check across 3 continents, to provide reliable delivery information to an end customer when you have thousands of products, suppliers, customers?  In addition, systems are capable of analysis across millions of variables.  An example is a system for Multi-Echelon Inventory Planning where it can calculate the right level of inventories across multiple layers of the supply chain to ensure the desired service level.  It does not matter how many people you throw at this and how often they meet, they will not be able to optimize nearly as well or as fast! So how is that done now in most companies? Well just using their gut feeling and experience which might be good but it can be done better, and in most cases, a lot better. The right system for inventory planning can easily save millions of capital dollars and facilitate for much better customer service.
  • System tie processes together, for exmpale planning to execution, sales to operations, and forecasting to financials. Generally disparate spreadsheets are incapable of integrating these processes resulting in waste, delay and sub-optimal results.
  • Systems allow you to plan more frequently which results less inventories.  Systems can help us plan what to build, where to build, where to keep, what to keep and when to do it all-accurately.  And they can plan the entire supply chain in minutes, allowing multiple planning runs per day as the demand and supply conditions change. In the absence of the right system, inaccurate plans are done based on spreadsheets, once a week or month, resulting in excess inventory and lower customer service levels.
  • Systems keep people accountable, e.g. forecast accuracy by sales or customers, commit vs. actual in production, and supplier delivery performance. They also play an active role to point out where the excesses are and where the deficiencies lie.

Given the above, would you trust millions of dollars of your assets to just a spreadsheet?

There is a comprehensive eBook on this topic with a lot more detailed information.  To download please click on "How-to-Guide: Justify a Supply Chain Planning System".

Topics: Supply Chain, Supply Chain Planning, Inventory Planning, SCP System, Multi-Echelon Inventory Planning

From The CEO: Adaptable Supply Chain Management Software

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Thu, Jul 16, 2009

 

Enterprises are subject to a constantly changing world.  Survival and growth depends on their ability to adapt to the new environment. As witnessed recently, the state of the economy can have a drastic impact on the business and its survival. Competition, new products, strikes, and government regulations are a few of the influencing factors. However, changes to an enterprises' supply chain can be even more erratic and frequent: Shortages of supply, changes in demand parameters, such as color and style, and changes in suppliers' cost and quality, etc.

Given that almost all companies and their supply chains have to change and adapt, there is a great deal of  emphasis on their ability to implement and communicate the change. This involves design of the business processes, the new rules, and the ability to enforce these rules, while constantly monitoring the status of the business in an almost real-time fashion.  The main challenges are:

1- Define the best rules for the company?e.g. where, what and when to build and allocate

2- Communicate and enforce these rules-monitor and adjust

3- Make sure that rules are compatible-to avoid conflict

In order to know what is the best for the company, one needs to define what the "best" is. There are often conflicting objectives and difficult to have a universal set of guiding indices. Even profitability of the company may not be appropriate depending if you are taking a short term or long term view. In certain cases cash flow may prove to be more important than profitability. Many companies build predictive models that can show the future and the outcome of their options.  Spreadsheets are amongst the most popular model building tools. However, such spreadsheets are "back of the envelope" calculations based on some static criteria and fail to show the interaction of all the different factors including suppliers, capacity, inventory, mix of products, demand and, more importantly, the link between operational decisions and financial outcomes. Today, the planning technology is moving toward a new breed of modeling tools called adaptable SCM (ASCM) solutions that can help the management in making the right decisions. Adaptable SCM solutions are a parametric and attribute-driven approach to development of Supply Chain Management Software. They take into account the new business rules and present the users with optimized alternatives. They are capable of presenting multiple scenarios that have different merits and trade-offs so that the management can make an intelligent choice.  When and if something goes wrong, ASCM solutions can almost immediately make corrections to the plan.

The second point that was raised above has to do with communicating and enforcing the new business rules by monitoring the real-time status of the supply chain. Every system by itself can be very intelligent and adaptable, however it requires to collaborate and monitor progress or else all the intelligence in the world would be of no consequence.  The collaborative aspect of ASCM is a necessary and critical part of the solution. In a collaborative environment, the system obtains information from shop floor, suppliers, people, and other systems. Systems may also revise their decisions as new information becomes available. The key here is to recognize that the system has to do it in a time-critical manner and inform the right entities based on exception. In other words ASCM solutions have the intelligence of who should be informed and when based on the nature of the exception.

Any real organization faces many conflicting rules and opinions. Consider the following two objectives: "make sure the order is delivered on time" and "minimize transportation cost". What do we do when air transportation becomes necessary because of late production? In the absence of more information, systems and people may make a decision one way or the other. But what if we called the customer and it was OK to deliver late? Detection of such conflicts imply exceptions that can be flagged. In this example, exceptions are "late delivery" and "premium transportation. An intelligent system would bring such instances to the attention of the right person(s). In our example, Sales VP, Finance and Logistics Manager need to be notified of what the conflict is and decide on a resolution. The final outcome may not necessarily the best for the company.  However, Adaptable SCM systems remember such instances and look for trends. The system would detect the number of air shipments and how it is correlated with cost of transportation as well as late delivery of orders. So one conclusion is: production is the cause. The next question is why is production late? Is it a trend? Is it because of lack of capacity, late material, certain product quality issues, seasonal variations, or a surge in demand? All such possible causes can be analyzed by the system and users can be notified of the outcome.

ASCM solutions are the next generation of supply chain management software that combine supply chain planning with Business Intelligence and Causal reasoning.  This is an exciting area of research and development for planning technology today and we'll be posting more related information about this topic in the future.  

Dr. K. Cyrus Hadavi is the president and CEO of Adexa, for more information about the author please click here.

 

Topics: Supply Chain Planning, Attribute Based Planning