Supply Chain Planning Blog

Supply Chain Risk and How to Mitigate

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Tue, Aug 15, 2017

60-Day-Overpay.jpg.daijpg.380.jpg

Planning is all about risk mitigation. Risks come in many forms: too much inventory, too little inventory, not enough to meet the demand, delivery interruptions because of weather, supplier issues, Acts of God, sanctions, labor disputes and so on. We also plan because we cannot react fast enough when the need arises. The more reactive we are the less planning is needed. How far in advance we plan has to do with how fast we can get what we want. Not every little detail needs to be planned. For example, when you plan for a road trip there is no need to plan for all the bumps on the road. The shock absorbers take care of that. Because they can react a lot faster and therefore remove the need for that level of planning. Furthermore, there is very little “cost” associated with running into small bumps on the road. However, if there is a potential snow storm on the day of travel then the cost might be a lot higher and re-planning needs to be done unless you have already accounted for this risk!

How can we do that? When the original plan was made, because of the season there was a chance of winter storm on that day of travel. We should have sufficient data (in our head for this situation) that indicates snow could be an issue during the winter season in certain parts of the country. Therefore, a risk factor needed to be attached to the plan for that reason. If the risk factor is high enough then a plan B is devised.  The latter could be acquiring snow tires or taking the train amongst others. A summer travel would not have that risk factor but it might have other potential risks. Thus, plans and risks go hand in hand. With every plan, the associated risk needs to be taken into account to ensure that when and if the plan cannot be executed what the potential cost would be. Is there an alternative plan? Is it more expensive? And is the cost high enough to pay the premium to avoid the potential cost?

In supply chains, we are constantly facing these situations. However, we are not necessarily aware of all the underlying trends and moving parts that change the risk factors.  For example, if the product mix changes, then our reliance on some suppliers become more than before. And if these suppliers are single-sourced and/or in earthquake zones then we could be facing a much higher risk than before the product mix was changed. If a new product is introduced and demand is much higher than expected, then do we have the additional capacity needed by the subcontractors to meet the surge in demand?

This is where planning systems become extremely valuable. A planning system has to be able to perform two tasks: Look for underlying changes in risk factors as plans are made for the future and identify the areas of brittleness. Secondly, when and if the risks are too high and the cost is justified, recommend alternative plans as to what can be done when and if the inevitable but unexpected occurs!

Performing such tasks is beyond the capability of human mind especially when it is done in an almost real-time manner. A note of caution, what we are describing here is not just a “what-if” analysis. This is having a system that is intelligent enough to evaluate the future risks and make changes to the plan and/or recommendation as to what needs to be done, based on the severity of the risks.

The interested reader is referred to Self-Improving Supply Chain Systems  and Risk Resiliency for related topics.

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

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

Risk Management: Run Your Supply Chain Like An Insurance Company

Posted by Cyrus Hadavi on Thu, Apr 14, 2011

Supply Chain RiskEveryone is aware of potential risks in running a supply chain but what is the process by which you evaluate that risk? And, figure out the alternative solutions to lessen or eliminate it?

I bet most companies, if not all, have no real objective risk management process in their supply chains. At best, they have processes in place for different organizational pockets within which risk is mitigated. Some examples are evaluation of suppliers by the Purchasing Department to ensure supply continuity, or redundancies in capacity, and even building too much, or too little, inventory—which proves more costly.

The fundamental question: what is the damage, when something goes wrong? And, what price are you paying to avoid such inevitable risks? Payment of an insurance premium is exactly that. You pay for a service that allows you to recover from a financial disaster or lawsuit. Insurance companies do their risk assessment very well and ask for a premium that makes them profitable even though every now and then they have to cough up the cost.   Are you doing the same with your supply chain? What is the premium you are currently paying (within your own supply chain) to avoid a potential disaster? What is the potential cost of that disaster? And, is it worth the premium?

A common example of this is delivery performance vs. inventory (mix) at hand. I am sure you are familiar with the exponential operational curves that imply doubling your inventory for a 5% improvement in your delivery performance, from 92% to 97%. Does this make sense? How much is really enough? And, what is the actual cost of missing delivery rather than cost of holding inventory?

Management teams are encouraged to avoid risk. In other words, their incentive is to deliver rather than miss delivery. So, the employees will go out of their way to ensure delivery at company's cost! Again, does this make sense? Example: “sand-bagging” the forecast and “padding” the supply to avoid shortages are steps taken by two different organizations and processes, Sales vs. Production. Furthermore, supplier selection, cost turbulence, and delivery issues are also padded in an isolated way, adding to the overall inefficiency of risk management.   How do you really assess the risk of one supplier over the other, especially as it impacts your bottom line and customer service?  Consider the recent unfortunate disasters in Japan, as many of the car makers are struggling for alternate resources to get their parts delivered;  earthquakes in Taiwan, SARS epidemic in China, dock worker strikes at Los Angeles ports are all other examples of supply risk.

Some element of risk avoidance is built into the jobs of each person, or department.  However,  if each person avoided risk in all the steps to deliver the goods, it would create too much cumulative redundancy--which would cause much higher additional cost in the final product.  This can be avoided with a more holistic approach.

We believe that objective risk assessment must be part of the supply chain planning process and systems, so that objective decisions are made based on financial consequences rather than protecting select customers, or individual employees. To this end, a holistic approach offers more than just  a simple spreadsheet-based S&OP process, but a Financial Sales and Operations Planning solution. The key word is “Financial”, that is integrated into the rest of the enterprise’s operations. Cost, revenue, profit, and risk become part of the supply chain equation, along with customer delivery and supplier management.

When was the last time you took a risk in your supply chain? What was the consequence? How much did the company benefit from it or lost because of it? Would you have liked to have a better optimization and analysis tool to evaluate your options? We invite you to join us in creation of the next generation of supply chain tools, integrating Financials with Sales and Operation Planning (FS&OP).

 

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

 

Topics: Supply Chain Planning, Risk Management, Supplier Management, Inventory Planning, S&OP