Supply Chain Planning Blog

Supply Chain Risk Resiliency

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Tue, Oct 04, 2016

risk-dice.pngThere is risk in almost everything we do. It is unavoidable. Supply chains are no exception facing all kinds of unexpected but inevitable surprises. Some can be very costly to the company. It is imperative that the management are prepared to deal with unfavorable issues when they occur without building too much redundancy increasing the cost of operations. In a typical supply chain, having thousands of SKU’s and suppliers as well as other factors such as geopolitical issues, labor related issues and demand volatility, makes the supply chain operation very complex and in the absence of appropriate tools almost impossible to manage in an efficient manner. The key is to identify the potential risks before they happen so that adequate measures can be put in place.

There are many ways to assess risk vs cost and reward. As an example, one can use Multi Echelon Inventory Optimization (MEIO) to assess risk of on-time delivery vs cost. This can be done by SKU and customer. For certain customers, the desired delivery performance must remain at 98% or higher. Obviously this can be accomplished at a higher cost of inventory at different stages of the supply chains. On the other hand, for many other customers, a delivery performance of 90% might be acceptable at much lower cost of operations. As the demand patterns change, MEIO behaves as an almost perfect postponement strategy, to show where and when inventory is needed for a desired delivery performance and cost by customer and SKU. This algorithmic approach, based on probability distribution and queuing theory, is by far superior to the traditional methods of historical data such as moving averages and/or min-max types of approach.

Having visibility into meeting the financial goals of the company is critical. Any risks associated with that must be detected as early as possible and addressed. Likewise, meeting delivery performance for certain key customers, making sure that the right mix of inventory is available to keep the production running, knowing what options are available in case of capacity shortage, or material running out (or not delivered in time) are all factors that may increase delivery risks, increase cost and even cause loss of market share. Optimization models of systems designed to assess the impact of risks can act as a crystal ball to provide visibility to the end users and furthermore provide guidelines and advise end users as to what the best course of action would be. It is a proactive way of responding to potential risks than reactive.

One other critical use of systems is to perform what-if stress tests on the entire supply chain. By either overloading the supply chain model or trying to break certain links in the chain, one can observe the consequences of such events and what can go wrong, what the financial impact would be and what can be done from the convenience of your desk, before it happens! Preventing such potential disasters are how modern heroes are made of in the world of leading companies!  Learn more about Supply Chain Risk Resiliency by clicking this link.

Topics: Supply Chain, Risk Management, MEIO, Enterprise Risk Management, Risk Planning

Run Your Supply Chain without a Bullwhip!

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Thu, Feb 26, 2015
bullwhip

Bullwhip or Forrester effect is result of uncertainty and changes in demand that magnify as we move upstream in the supply chain. The farther upstream the supplier is, in the supply chain, the more variations in inventory levels.  Unfortunately this behavior is taken for granted for most industries. Some advocates of Kanban and JIT believe that using these techniques would eliminate such behavior and makes the supply chain more predictable to the extent that large variations are avoided. This is not a true assumption for the following reason. Kanban and JIT are not planning tools, they are execution methods. Hence they cannot be used to dynamically plan ahead of time when there are inevitable variations in demand. When you design your supply chains with a certain demand in mind, then as the demand goes down, Kanban would react accordingly unless your buffers are too large such that much of the inventory will remain unused between stages resulting in excess inventory. If the buffers are NOT big enough to avoid the excess inventory problem, then it is likely that shortages will occur when there is a surge in demand? The buffers are all used up and the pipeline will sit empty resulting in shortages and loss in revenue etc.

Here are some observations and reasons why we no longer have to run our supply chain under the assumption of bullwhip phenomena. We all know that plans are not perfect however re-planning is the key and doing it fast and in parallel is the reason why we can avoid BW effect. This is explained in more detail below. 

From Serial to Parallel

Bullwhip happens because of the serial behavior of the supply chains. In other words each downstream stage tells the stage before it until it gets to the first stage. This delay is one of the reasons for the rise in the amplitude of the inventory. However this behavior can be changed by providing multiple levels of visibility upstream using collaboration tools. Such tools can be set up to send signals to suppliers as far back as needed in order to share with them the trends in demand that are observed in the consumer behavior. Using point of sale information as well as demand signaling and demand planning technologies, the information shared can save suppliers much cost as well as make them a better and more reliable supplier.

Whole vs Segments

Another notion related to parallel analysis of the supply chain has to do with how the buffers are set up at various stages of the supply chain. In contrast to the traditional techniques of each stage deciding on their own inventory levels before, during and after that stage, Multi Echelon Inventory Optimization (MEIO) technology looks at the entire supply chain and each layer thereof in parallel, not in an isolated and serial manner. Using probability and queuing theory it can make fairly accurate predictions as to how much inventory of each item should be at every stage of the supply chain to avoid shortages and/or excesses yielding unprecedented delivery performance while minimizing cost. Such a parallel treatment of the supply chain would eliminate the BW effect and change it to a “stick effect.” MEIO takes into account both the cost and service levels at every stage given the lead-times and interactions between stages to produce a holistic solution not an isolated serial solution. 

Responsive vs Predictive

The more responsive we are the less predictive we need to be. Widespread use of cell phones have made all of us a lot more responsive. As a result we do a lot less planning. How many times have you heard someone saying “I will call you when I get there.”  In the past you had to specify exact time and location to meet up with someone! Today’s S&OP technology allows real-time planning to be more responsive. In other words within hours a new plan can be generated if and when there is a change in demand or supply. Obviously faster planning does not eliminate the time it take to physically build and transfer goods, however it does significantly shorten the cycle time to delivery. Hence it can reduce the potential amount of inventory quite considerably resulting in a more stable supply chain rather than a BW supply chain. This is more of a responsive planning in contrast to predictive planning. 

Risk Factor

The value of an item at the most downstream point in the supply chain is several times higher than the cost of an item at the most upstream location! So if you look at the weighted variation of inventory taking into account cost factors, then the variation in value is fairly constant and not as variable as the quantity depicted in the BW. This is a key issue in balancing the supply chain and risk management. In order to ensure the availability of parts, the upstream locations can take higher risks than the downstream locations. However, the way the supply chains are set up today, the reward/risk ratio is a lot higher for the downstream companies than the upstream suppliers. By making this ratio more equitable, much better and more efficient supply chains can result in terms of adaptability and responsiveness. One way to do this is a commitment to buy a minimum amount within a defined window of time. With this level of confidence, suppliers can assess their own risk and not only ensure delivery of what is needed but take additional risk knowing that they have some level of downside protection.

Although BW effect may not be completely eliminated however the size of the waves can be significantly reduced resulting in a much more stable and predictable supply chain.

Topics: Multi Echelon Inventory Optimization, Supply Chain, Supply Chain Planning, Supply Chain Performance Management, MEIO, Inventory Management Software, Inventory Management, Sales & Operations Planning, S&OP

Inventory Optimization is like Baseball's Moneyball

Posted by kameron hadavi on Wed, Oct 10, 2012

iStock Baseball Money XSmall resized 600

How do the Oakland A’s achieve results like this at a fraction of cost of a team like the Yankee’s?

2002 New York Yankees: Team Salary $126 million; 103 Wins 59 Losses; Division Winner
2002 Oakland Athletics: Team Salary $ 40 million;   103 Wins, 59 Losses; Division Winner
2012 New York Yankees: Team Salary $198 million; 94 Wins 68 Losses; Division Winner
2012 Oakland Athletics: Team Salary $ 55 million;   93 Wins, 69 Losses; Division Winner

You have most likely seen or heard of the story behind the movie “Moneyball”.  In 2002 the Oakland Athletics had a very limited budget to “carry” their team roster through the season, and they still had to compete with topnotch teams in their league.  Some of the teams they had to compete with, like the Yankees, spent up to four times (4x) as much as they did on their “inventory” of ball players (i.e. “products” in baseball).   The A’s turned away from traditional thinking on how to allocate their budget to field a team, which meant relying on the gut feel of managers and buying the highest priced players.  Instead, they started to rely on “Sabermetrics”, the use of statistical analysis to determine the most cost-efficient baseball players based on measure of in-game activity/history.  Hence, based on mathematical models, the A’s figured out how to best optimize the team at every position on the field.  The result was that Oakland won 103 games in 2002, made it to the playoffs, and tied with the Yankees for most wins that season. Again, Yankees spent more than three times (3x) of what Oakland paid for its team, in the same year.

 
Coming back to the manufacturing world, in the same manner that Sabermetrics can help optimize the baseball players on a team, Multi Echelon Inventory Optimization (MEIO) can optimize your inventory that is deployed throughout your supply chain, in order to achieve target customer service levels, and maximize profit.  There are obvious parallels in taking the Moneyball philosophy to the optimization of inventories.  Instead of the General Manager in baseball using statistics to determine the best players to have on a baseball team, the Supply Chain Manager can use statistics and mathematical models in a MEIO system in order come up with the highest profitable scenarios.  By examining these scenarios, the Supply Chain Manager can decide how to right-size the inventory levels at different locations, and achieve targeted customer service levels, at the highest margins.


Of course, instead of baseball metrics (e.g. RBI’s, on base%, ERA, salary), there are statistical supply chain metrics (e.g. Demand variability, supply variability, BOM, Inventory value, etc.) that can be used to objectively calculate the value of each unit of inventory that you plan to place at a given “position” in your supply chain (e.g. Raw Materials, WIP, Finished Goods, etc.).  This would make it possible to optimize inventory deployment for meeting certain customer service objectives, and squeeze the most profit out of your supply chain, while not exceeding the budget allocated for working capital. 

 
The Oakland A’s are back in the playoffs again this year, with a budget that is one-third of the Bronx Bombers.  Not surprisingly, the use of statistics (i.e. the right system) is helping them get the most out of their small budget.  


Adexa has the equivalent of Moneyball’s Sabermetrics for your Supply Chain, it’s called the Inventory Optimizer to ensure each dollar of inventory is spent in the best possible way.

 

About the Author:  Bill Green is the Vice President of Solutions at Adexa, for more information about him please visit William Green profile link.    

Topics: Multi Echelon Inventory Optimization, Supply Chain Planning, Inventory Planning, MEIO, Inventory Management System, Manufacturing Software, Inventory Optimization, Inventory

Not Your Father’s Inventory Management System

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Fri, Apr 30, 2010

Inventory Management SoftwareWhen it comes to an Inventory Management system, we have moved to a whole new level of solutions called Multi-Echelon Inventory Optimization systems (see previous posting on Supply Chain Planning Blog).  This technology brought about a big change to the all-critical inventory planning function.  To that end, it has evolved quickly like anything else in technology today. So in this posting, I want to touch on some of the major differences between the MEIO solutions that were initially introduced into the market, and the ones that are available today.
 
Operations research and mathematical programming techniques are great at finding answers but fail to explain why.  This is like your boss telling you what to do without telling you why you are doing it, what the consequences are, and how the decision was arrived at.  As wise as your boss might be, he may fail to see all the different angles, and his "good" decisions are only relative to what he is trying to optimize.  For example, your boss may ask you to increase production of XYZ Widgets since the demand is high.  In his mind he is meeting the customer service goals, increasing revenue, and keeping the production line fully utilized.  So what's wrong with that?  He is optimizing for all of the above criteria, except that XYZ is not a high-margin product.  In fact based on competitive pricing, it is losing money in certain regions, meaning that the more you produce the more you lose!  So by doing this, not only he's hurting the profit levels, but also taking away opportunity to make and sell other high-margin products.  Another simple example, a new line of product is launched and you are wondering how many should be made based on current market demand?  The strategy is to make as many as possible based on supply capacity, in order to capture market share. However, by selling the new line you are cannibalizing the sales of the old inventory-- wrong timing and inventory policy, costing you millions!
 
This process has some deficiencies:
 
1- How do we know that the boss has looked at every criterion that is relevant?
2- What are the alternatives and consequences that may lead to better results for all, rather than a few.
3- Unless you know why a decision is made how can you justify it, and not put the company at risk?
 
First generation MEIO systems were kind of like your boss. They would just say what to do without telling you why you are doing it and what the repercussions are.  Many of Today's MEIO systems have the capability to go much further to explain the results, allow "what-if" analysis, show you alternatives, and most importantly tradeoffs-all at your finger tips, in real-time!
 
When designing an inventory strategy, transparency is needed to evaluate the different alternatives and to examine the impact of the decisions on your enterprise, as a whole.  For every gain that is expected, there might be a sacrifice of other products, as well as customer delivery performance tradeoffs.  The new MEIO systems are no longer that "black-box" that tells you here are your two choices-take it or leave it.  Just like a brilliant analyst, your MEIO system should tell you what happens when you increase production of one line vs. another, show why you need to make more of this and less of that, and explain how you can set your inventory targets to make the best of both customer service levels and reduce cost, at the same time.  But more importantly, it should walk you through your decision scenarios and its financial consequences.  Now this does not sound like an inventory planning system that our father's used...does it?  Don't even get me started on spreadsheet-based systems.    
 
By the way, I am very interested to get some feedback on what you are using in your enterprise for Inventory Planning, today?  And how it's working for you?  So feel free to comment on this posting and I am sure others will share too.
 
If you are interested to follow up on in this topic, there is an informative ePaper called Demystifying MEIO that I highly recommend, at: http://web.adexa.com/multi-echelon-inventory-planning-epaper/ .  Feel free to click and read it at anytime.

 

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, Inventory Planning, MEIO, Inventory Management Software

Multi Echelon Inventory Planning Demystified!

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Fri, Apr 16, 2010
 

Inventory PlanningInventory is a very interesting phenomenon! You never know exactly how much you need until you actually need it or you know you have excess until it is too late! The major problem, or should I say opportunity, is that inventory is a function of both time and randomness. Randomness has to do with your competitors pricing, quality, weather, economy, acts of God, contagious disease, strikes, etc.  All of these factors and many others have an impact on your demand. For example Toyota's quality problems lead to increase in demand for other auto makers, warm weather increases demand on beer, N1H1 outbreak increased the demand for certain type of medication.

So you ask yourself, how often do we have such events and should I care? The answer is Yes! Because the weather maybe more predictable than your competitor and your customers' forecast!  In other words, it is very hard to tell how your competitors are going to change the game and take market share from you, or how your customers can change the demand based on how they feel and market conditions. So it is a constant game of balance between Supply and Demand. If you play the game long enough then you should become an expert.   Just like chess you can develop strategies to make the right move and be prepared no matter what your competitor does or what the changes in demand are. Being prepared is what the science of inventory planning is all about. We refer to this as Inventory Optimization. It allows you to decide how much inventory is enough, where and when. The two factors that you need to be concerned about are Cost and Service Level. On one hand you can have every possible item available in Finished Goods which is inconceivable. Or keep no inventory, another unlikely scenario. People talk about "zero" inventory; I am not sure what this means?  Does it imply that every time I want to buy a note book, somebody needs to go out and chop a small tree down and put it through the paper mill?  But one thing is for sure, your optimized inventory level is some place between those two points.

Inventory planners, like any other type of planners, need to have their slide rule (some of you may not be as old as me to know what these are!) or their calculators, to figure out where and when they should keep inventory up and down the supply chain. This is a very complex problem even without the randomness that we talked about. There are many different products each with their own Bill-of-Material and different production routings and capacity requirements. Shared resources and inventory buffers, as well as raw materials, are needed to build and store intermediate products at different stages of production. Very often subcontractors, distribution centers, consignment locations, and hubs are also part of the equation. I think you all agree that spreadsheets are too simple and rigid to do the job even-though it is of the most widespread tools. Now let's add randomness and seasonality to this. Are we having fun or what?

Here is the good news, an MEIO (Multi echelon Inventory Optimization) system is designed to be the tool that inventory planners need to deal with exactly the kind of problems that we just talked about. It has the capability to model different layers of supply chain, take randomness into account at every stage, look at the cost and service level requirements, and then come up with how much of what needs to be kept at every critical point of the supply chain. And if you don't like what it proposes, you can change the parameters and run it again and it will give you other alternatives so that you can make a wise decision. Think of it like what a structural engineer does when she designs a high-rise. The load at every floor can be different, the structure may have to be resistant to winds of up to 60 miles an hour, and there might be earthquake and fire hazards to consider.  Given all these potential "random" events the structure needs to deliver certain level of safety (i.e. service level) to its residents. The optimization programs that Structural engineers use resembles very much the MEIO system that we described above. It shows you how to build a supply chain that can be resistant to changes at lowest cost. The only difference is that in our building analogy you do it once, hoping that it will last forever.  However, using an MEIO system, you have the opportunity to re-design your inventory plan on weekly or monthly basis so that your supply chain can withstand new conditions. That is the beauty of a system which allows you to have enough flexibility to change with your demand, business conditions, management objectives, and moves of your competitors!

Multi Echelon Inventory Optimization systems are fairly new in the market but picking up a lot of momentum by helping to solve a common and complex supply chain problem--as Demand Planning systems did starting a decade ago.  The right MEIO solution can make your supply chain a lot more efficient, save a bunch of money, and most important of all make your customers very happy.

We have a comperhensive ePaper on this topic, just click on: Demystifying MEIO.

 

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, Inventory Management System, Finished Goods, Inventory Optimization

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