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Supply Chain Business Intelligence for SAP Environments and our Latest Supply Chain Matters Sponsor


In early January, Supply Chain Matters provided our positive review of the book SAP Nation by Vinnie Mirchandani. We felt that although this book may be considered controversial by some vested in SAP’s success, the book’s observations are for the most part objective, insightful and written in a context for what SAP as a global technology provider needs to address to make its customers’ successful in their business and technology deployment goals.

The book describes SAP’s ongoing efforts of strategic pivoting, efforts to become more nimble, cloud-focused and more simple for customers to do business with. Yet, as witnessed by the messaging delivered at the recent SAP Sapphire conference, the rate and complexity of ongoing changes being introduced to the SAP customer base is dizzying, and perhaps overwhelming. As users are well aware, while SAP applications have bullet-proof design and rigor, end-user productivity and simplicity have not been the strong point to-date. Thus the continued skepticism associated with the tag line: SAP Run Simple.

The now four-year effort for convincing customers to deploy the HANA in-memory based technology platform (including upgrades to major ERP business suite applications and other associated cloud-based applications supporting end-to-end supply chain business process needs) has customers in a predominately wait and see mode. A recent posting by Information Age has the headline, SAP users struggling to keep pace, citing research from the UK and Ireland SAP User Groups indicating: “74 percent of members indicating that SAP is bringing innovations to market quicker than their organizational ability to adopt.”

As supply chain business processes become ever more complex, teams try to fill the gaps with downloads of static reports and ancillary spreadsheets to provide more meaningful operational analysis. We feel and sense that this is indeed representative of the broader SAP community.

IT support teams need to sort out the various cost, data and technology platform tradeoffs as well as the risks to added business disruption. Meanwhile, supply chain functional and operations teams continue to be challenged with increasing business fulfillment needs related to global markets and rapidly changing business events. The development and rollout timetable of SAP is not correlated to the current needs for increased predictability, broader supply chain business intelligence and more-timely decision-making.

This line-of-business and functional frustration is described in SAP Nation, specifically why existing best-of-breed and other cloud-based competitors are gaining increased attention and consideration. The  consequence is increased momentum of the “ring fence” of cloud-based applications that surround SAP applications. The strategies and purposes may have different motivations and timetables. Those committed to SAP will perhaps continue with their wait and see approach, but at the same time, will consider the deployment of augmented cloud-based applications to enhance extended supply chain focused decision-making and other line-of-business needs.

In an effort to assist our SAP installed base readers, Supply Chain Matters has called attention to various technology providers who possess deep knowledge of the SAP information landscape and understand the current business and functional needs for quicker time-to-benefit. We have called attention to planning and B2B business network support needs, but have not dived deeply into on-demand business intelligence until now.

We call reader attention to Netherlands based Every Angle Software , a self-service operationally focused business intelligence tool providing an extensive list of installed base customers with SAP backbones. We are further very pleased to announce to our readers that Every Angle will be a new Named sponsor of Supply Chain Matters, as this provider expands its footprint into North America from successful implementations and market presence across Europe and other regions.

Founded in 1996, Every Angle provides insights into the operational progress, status and performance of the entire supply chain along with a transparent overview of current and future supply chain focused bottlenecks, including root causes. They describe their value-add as transforming SAP data into simple actionable information in the language of supply chain.

In product briefings thus far, we have been impressed with their inherent in-depth knowledge of the SAP applications landscape applied to supply chain business process and decision-making needs, along with a clear user-interface. A glance of customer testimonials listed on the Every Angle web site have consistent themes of providing a powerful yet simple insights tool, offering end-user friendliness flexibility and impressive response times. Every Angle is quick to point out that rather than being characterized as traditional business intelligence (BI) that has a vertical information perspective, an Operational BI application is more horizontally focused on real-time operational analysis which is critical to extended supply chain decision-making and synchronization needs.

In the coming weeks Supply Chain Matters will provide added perspectives of ring fence strategies applied in supplier relationship and supply chain management environments, easier methods in tackling master data rationalization in SAP environments and other topics related to enhanced business intelligence time-to-value in SAP environments.

In the meantime, have a look at Every Angle Software. Readers can obtain additional information by clicking on the logo that appears on our blog sponsorship panel.

Bob Ferrari

Disclosure: Every Angle Software is one of other sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog.

APICS and APICS SCC Announce Revised Engagement Programs

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It has been a little over a year since the Supply Chain Council (SCC) announced that it would be merged into APICS  The SCC provided corporate and public sector members access to supply chain research and the well-recognized Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model methodology APICS- professional association for supply chain and operations managementand benchmarks for evaluating supply chain metrics and performance. Upon its merger with APICS, the organization was renamed APICS Supply Chain Council (APICS SCC).

Today, APICS announced an important milestone related to this merger, namely three different engagement programs that should allow organizations to take advantage and leverage both APICS and APICS SCC benefits. As our readers may be aware, APICS has catered to individual supply chain and operational professionals in their needs for education, certification and career advancement.  APICS SCC caters to corporations and service providers in their needs for research, supply chain frameworks and educational requirements.

The three programs announced today, in-capsule, consist of the following:

APICS SCC Affiliate – according to APICS this program offers tiered level benefits depending on an organization’s level of needed participation. Current affiliates are comprised of more than 400 globally based organizations that actively encourage individual APICS memberships for their employees. With today’s announcement, employees gain access to APICS SCC research projects while corporate affiliates are able to sit on the APICS Corporate Advisory Board. Affiliates have the opportunity to take advantage of group training programs or receive discounts to APICS SCC training including SCOR. Premier Corporate, Corporate and Public Sector affiliates gain access to SCORmark Benchmarking consisting of 20 years of accumulated SCOR data. A specific APICS web page describes the Affiliate Program.

APICS One- members are eligible to provide up to 500 employees with APICS enterprise memberships to support individual development needs and the organizational improvement opportunities supported through the APICS SCC premier corporate affiliate category.

APICS Sponsor- companies are provided with a license to utilize and incorporate APICS SCC frameworks and other APICS published material into products, services or marketing materials.  The program is further described as offering opportunities for engagements with APICS SCC affiliates, access to benchmark reports, publications and research, as well as tailored marketing opportunities. There are three different tiers of available sponsor participation which are outlined at this APICS web page link.

In a previous Supply Chain Matters commentary we questioned what we felt was the slow progress of the overall merger and combined benefits for both APICS and APICS SCC. Today, the APICS web site has been completely revised and features a new design and feel.  These newly designed program offerings should help organizations to be able to take advantage of the combined body of knowledge for both organizations, as well as the ability to provide needed education for different audiences.

This is an important milestone.

We encourage organizations that are engaged with either of these new programs, or are contemplating taking advantage of such programs to let us know your thoughts and impressions.  You can email us at: info <at> supply-chain-matters <dot> com.

Bob Ferrari



The Competitive Race Within Aerospace is Manufacturing and Supply Chain Execution

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Supply Chain Matters calls special attention to readers who are involved in either commercial aerospace or engineer-to-order focused internal and supply chain environments. Today’s printed edition of The Wall Street Journal features a front-page article, Airbus-Boeing Speed Race Increasingly Takes Place on the Ground. (Paid subscription or metered view) By our lens, this article should be mandatory reading.

The article itself is well written and very insightful in pointing out how two rival commercial aerospace OEM’s are learning important lessons in consistent manufacturing and supply chain execution.

We cite two opening excerpts:

After years of racing to develop and market new models, both have clear product lines for the next decade. Their order backlogs stretch as long.

Now, the world’s two biggest jet makers are squaring off on execution. Each aims to grab market share by building its planes faster and more efficiently than the other—a gambit both have struggled with in the past.”

Specific examples are provided on how Airbus and Boeing have addressed inter-organizational and supplier cooperation, more streamlined and focused processes, and a reoriented focus towards how aircraft will be built vs. what they would look like.  It is a focus toward design for manufacturability as well as supply chain. In the specific example of the new Airbus A350 program, insights are brought forward in organizational design, workforce selection and manufacturing process design.

Included is a powerful quote from Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney:

It is not just about building more airplanes but also building them more efficiently, with higher first-time quality, greater component reliability and improved employee safety.”

Well stated and an important reference for both internal and supplier based teams.

Bob Ferrari

Supply Chain Related Fraud is a Growing Problem Requiring Attention

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Supply chain fraud has become a significant challenge for industry supply chains. According to a study conducted by Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP, supply chain professionals still appear to be ill-equipped to tackle instances of fraud.

Supply Chain Matters recently had to opportunity to speak with Deloitte partner Larry Kivett about the background, results and implications of this recent study.

The Deloitte findings involving over 2000 professionals across varied industries highlighted key concerns related to supply chain fraud. The study reported that more than one-quarter of professionals (28.9 percent) indicate that their organizations experienced supply chain related fraud, waste or abuse during the past 12 months, yet nearly as many (26.8 percent) indicated no program currently in-place to detect or prevent such risks.  These findings alone are significant, considering that many firms are not comfortable with admitting or acknowledging instances of fraud, and thus occurrences are probably far larger. As to sources of fraud incidents, respondents pointed to employees as the top identified source (22.9 percent) when compared to suppliers (17.4 percent) and other third parties, subcontractors or vendors (20.1 percent). The study authors noted that internal employees can leverage transactions involving vendors and/or third parties for fraud purposes, and when collusion is involved, detection and prevention is difficult.

Our conversation with Larry Kivett reinforced that while many firms recognize reputational, litigation and regulatory repercussions of fraud, internal budgetary constraints remain a significant challenge. The size of a company is a further variant. We touched upon the overall implications of more globally dispersed supply chains that add challenges in introducing different business practices further away from corporate based internal controls, compliance and oversight adding to instances of supply chain related fraud.

We explored the specific question of who owns or is directly accountable for fraud.  Kivett indicated that fraud is indeed a shared responsibility that has to involve first-line people at the operational level.  It is not just the responsibility of finance or audit control teams. He further acknowledged that there is no perfect system to prevent fraud.  It requires constant diligence.

Other significant Deloitte findings were that nearly two-thirds (65.3 percent) of respondents reporting that their company conducts at least some due-diligence on third-parties. However, incidents of fraud continue. While the Deloitte study did not specifically address cyber theft and fraud focused from vendor, subcontractor or supplier access to a company’s operational systems, such as the data breach incident that impacted Target Stores last year, Kivett indicated that cyber theft has indeed become a significant topic in current boardroom discussions. That should be no surprise.

If readers are seeking more detail related to the Deloitte supply chain fraud survey, a February recorded webcast is available for replay. (Sign-up information required)

Supply chain fraud is indeed a growing problem that has many internal and external dimensions.  A June 2014 study conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) quantified that as much as 5 percent of revenues are lost each year due to fraud, amounting to $3.7 trillion annually. Supply chain teams cannot afford to ignore this challenge.

Bob Ferrari

American Society of Transportation and Logistics to Merge with APICS

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APICS and American Society of Transportation and Logistics (AST&L) announced today that the boards of directors of both organizations have approved an agreement under which AST&L will merge with APICS upon ratification by an AST&L member vote. Following the close of the transaction, APICS intends to integrate AST&L within its existing operations.

Laurie Hein Denham, current AST&L president will join APICS as a senior director.

The announcement itself outlines three strategic rationales for this combination and essentially adds more logistics and transportation depth to the APICS body of knowledge. AST&L offered various certification programs including certification in transportation and logistics as well as distinguished logistics professional.

This announcement follows the April 2014 merger of the Supply Chain Council (SCC) with APICS. Thus far, the distinctiveness of SCC’s distinctive different corporate focused education and certification activities related to the SCOR Framework and high-level supply chain process and measurement metrics have, by our lens, been laggard since that merger. APICS has yet to sponsor a separate and distinctive conference related to Supply Chain Council’s unique body of knowledge and expertise. Similarly, local APICS chapters for the most part not adopted training and/or certification efforts related to SCOR. Current SCOR training is delivered by former SCOR certified instructors.

No doubt, with today’s announcement, APICS continues efforts to position itself as a prime supply chain certification and body of knowledge resource for global-wide supply chains. To sustain these efforts, APICS needs to keep pace with the clock speed of changes being placed on multiple industry supply chain teams today. Supply chain talent development and retention is constantly being identified as a significant challenge today and professional organizations, academic institutions and community colleges need to up their game in the offering of timely and pertinent training and professional development. Consolidation and/or mergers of professional organizations are a valid strategy if the sum of the parts is far more efficient, effective and timely to current needs.

Bob Ferrari


Andrew Liveris Shares Winning Formula for Manufacturers

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Supply Chain Matters has in the past cited Andrew Liveris, Chairmen and CEO of Dow Chemical Company for his understanding and appreciation for the value and contribution of manufacturing and supply chain capability to business outcomes. Besides his current leadership of Dow, Mr. Liveris is an author and U.S. Presidential advisor on manufacturing competitiveness. In a September 2013 commentary, we highlighted his keynote delivered to the MIT Production in the Innovation Economy (PIE) Conference which unveiled results of MIT’s study on U.S. manufacturing competiveness.

Thus we were pleased to be alerted to a commentary appearing in the online version of Chief Executive Magazine where  Mr. Liveris shares his winning formula for manufacturing success with other chief executives. His prime messages was for manufacturers to rethink the role in evolving global supply chains and actively address workforce training and development needs for today and the future.

One of the more powerful statements brought out in this interview article deserves highlighting:

Entrepreneurial action and its ability to pivot, according to the world we face, is one of America’s greatest attributes. Manufacturers, for far too long, did not really display agility when global competition disrupted supply chains. We are in a different world. We’re traveling at the speed of flight. We are so connected to the information age without realizing that we’re still at the dawn of it. The smarter companies have figured out their place in the global supply chain and have adjusted their service and product models accordingly.”

Those statements are rather powerful when considering that they come from a CEO.  They reflect the new awareness to supply chain’s contribution.  Within his own industry, Mr. Liveris points out that of the top 20 global chemical manufacturers in 1990, 17 disappeared by 2010. Dow prevailed because of its ability to pivot to dramatic market changes.

A further pearl of wisdom:

Manufacturing today means you’ve got to innovate faster than they commoditize you.

On the all-important skills challenge:

The biggest issue we have is training a new skilled workforce to deploy against that value add, and for me, that is the key topic in manufacturing today. We need technically trained people at the German skill level, in automation, robotics and fine-precision manufacturing. This is the world that we’re in today and we’ve got to adjust to it, and frankly that’s what I spend my time on.”

From our lens, there needs to be many more global manufacturing firm CEO’s possessing the wisdom of Andrew Liveris, one’s that understand that supply chains and manufacturing capabilities do matter.

Bob Ferrari

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