subscribe: Posts | Comments | Email

Information Technology Considerations for Supply Chain Wide Visibility

0 comments

This commentary represents the third of our ongoing Supply Chain Matters market education series directed at clarifying needs and requirements addressing supply chain wide visibility.

One of the most critical challenges cited by multi-industry supply chain teams is extended supply chain visibility. This challenge is becoming universal as industry supply and value-chain processes continue to become more complex with constant changes in needs for business support. It is consistently cited by many supply chain leaders as a continued perplexing challenge.

As noted in the first commentary of this educational series, supply chain wide visibility often stems from differing business process perspectives or different business priorities that can involve planning, customer fulfillment execution, analytics and business intelligence as well as other more informed and more-timely decision-making needs. Often, this visibility term is lumped into other challenges including supply chain wide traceability, transparency, capacity or inventory management. Thus it is rather important for teams to clarify specific short and long-term visibility capability needs and decision-support requirements from the ongoing distraction of day-to-day symptoms stemming from lack of needed information.

In our second commentary in this series we stated that creating a unified view of important data related to supply chain business processes is not a simple task without first considering foundational strategies. Supply chain data and information is typically spread among multiple systems in both structured transactional or unstructured data and information formats, supporting each of these different processes. Supply chain wide visibility, by our continued view, is not about a rip and replace technology strategy since that would be far too disruptive. That is especially pertinent to disruption of backbone transactional systems. We advocated that visibility should be viewed in the context of building-out enhanced decision-making support capabilities from more streamlined and better accessible sources of existing and future planning, execution and customer fulfillment information.

Within this commentary we address the information technology considerations for supply chain wide visibility. However, before we begin, we need to state up-front that we are advising a cross-functional and cross-business, as well as an IT support audience. Thus our citing of technology will be in the context of the supply chain wide process and business outcome impacts for certain information technology considerations.

To be perfectly frank, from the user lens, significant challenges in creating a unified view of all supply chain data and information remain as unfulfilled. However, new Cloud or on premise in-memory, data visualization and data cleansing information technology tools now coming to market continue to improve and will better assist in this effort. In particular, the combination of advanced in-memory coupled with data visualization and analytics will add augmented computing power and a more enhanced user-interface.

Let’s briefly reflect on the history of past challenges.

Supply chain related information is typically processed and collected among multiple supply-chain software applications. Many of these applications, whether product, planning, procurement or execution related, created their own data store within or directly integrated to the application itself.  The notions of information related to historic performance, current key performance indicators or future resource requirements invariably take on different meanings, especially if such applications were installed at different timeframes of the organization’s existence. They would typically include ERP applications, older legacy or specialty applications, centralized data warehouses or evolving more open standards data lakes. Whereas a newer supply chain planning system may have overcome some of these challenges, the context of other information would be lacking.

Thus, if a user or S&OP team member had to search for combinations of historic, current and future requirements information related to, for instance, planning and execution process needs, the search would invariably involve querying the specific applications as well as the information warehouse. A further challenge relates to making sure that the context for the data and information was framed properly. How many times have teams been frustrated in finally receiving the results of an IT enabled information request only to discover that the information was not appropriate or valid because of either improper context, lack of clean, consistent or complete data, the selection of an improper file or lack of synchronization of master data among different applications.

Is it no surprise that the fallback position was once again, the creation of multiple spreadsheets that end up to be an analysis at a certain point in time.

We continue to advocate that supply chain wide visibility, along with the information and insights garnered from such visibility, is best achieved in an architecture that includes a singular data and information utility. Readers should not interpret this to connote a large data warehouse. Too often in past efforts, such approaches have led to large and expensive data ‘monuments’ where all forms of information were collected without all-important context, and where such information could only be extracted without the direct assistance of IT based data administrators. This often created latency and time delays in retrieving such information.

As noted in our prior blog advisories, whereas in the past, IT teams and data administrators were the prime facilitators of integrated business process information and decision-making insights, today’s business demands require that appropriate line-of-business and supply chain wide functional teams serve as the generator of insights.

Consider the analogy of an information utility platform where key data is automatically ‘streaming’ (vs. statically housed) from various supply chain enterprise and internal software applications. The data is collected, validated, cleansed, normalized and modeled with other key internal and/or external data to form information insights. External reference data could relate to industry operational benchmarks, external transportation, production or inventory carrying costs as well as multi-industry benchmarks related to areas such as sustainability.

The information utility we are describing must be augmented by more user-friendly and user-centric information visualization, dashboard and analytics based tools to reflect more predictive or prescriptive insights relative to what the data and information implies in terms of operational, business, financial customer or strategic outcomes. With user-centric tools, augmented by automated routines once the data is validated, business users can overcome the need for direct IT assistance in specialized day-to-day information requests.

From an overall supply chain business strategy and support perspective, once a supply chain wide information utility we refer to is established, efforts directed at future initiatives related to supply chain control towers or Internet of Things (IoT) enabled process that bring together physical sensor and digital information can be better enabled by leveraging the same platform.

Here’s another caveat. Forget the vendor generated hype terminology of “Big Data’. That is not what supply chain wide visibility should be about. Rather think- ‘smarter data’.  The necessary data required to more intelligently manage and predict required supply chain outcomes.

Again, end-to-end supply chain visibility is a journey. Start with the vision of the end-state, build the foundational business process constructs and the information utility. Then proceed with the usual people and process maturity needs and learning that get your organization to the objective.

Bob Ferrari

© 2016 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.

Disclosure: This educational series related to supply chain wide visibility is being sponsored by Supply Chain Matters sponsor, LLamasoft.


Business Process Foundations for Supply Chain Wide Visibility

0 comments

This commentary represents the second of an ongoing Supply Chain Matters market education series directed at clarifying needs and requirements addressing supply chain wide visibility.

One of the most critical challenges cited by multi-industry supply chain teams is extended supply chain visibility. This challenge is becoming universal as industry supply and value-chain processes continue to become more complex with constant changes in needs for business support. It is consistently cited by many supply chain leaders as a continued perplexing challenge.

As noted in the first commentary of this educational series, supply chain wide visibility often stems from differing business process perspectives or different business priorities that can involve planning, customer fulfillment execution, analytics and business intelligence as well as other more informed and more-timely decision-making needs.

Creating a unified view of important data related to supply chain business processes is not a simple task without first considering foundational strategies. Supply chain data and information is typically spread among multiple systems in both structured transactional or unstructured data and information formats, supporting each of these different processes. Supply chain wide visibility, by our continued view, is not about a rip and replace technology strategy since that would be far too disruptive. That is especially pertinent to disruption of backbone transactional systems.

We believe it should be viewed in the context of building-out enhanced decision-making support capabilities from more streamlined and better accessible sources of existing and future planning, execution and customer fulfillment information.

A supply chain wide visibility initiative needs prioritization and context as to what are the most important near-term vs. longer-term decision making needs. Typically, not all of the vast amounts of enterprise data are similarly required for certain supply chain decision support needs. Key process pain points can be initially identified and over time, information can be expanded to cover broader supply chain business process decision support needs.

As an example, a pain point could include the near-term need for integrating end-to-end planning and customer fulfillment information. For many manufacturing firms, such a need is often described in the context of sales and operation planning (S&OP) process and the ability to connect supply chain wide planning with ongoing customer facing fulfillment execution. It is a challenge that is expressed more often because the overall pace of business is far more dynamic and the scope of the overall supply chain is far more complex.  Longer-term, the effort can be directed at incorporating broader descriptive, predictive or prescriptive analytics capabilities to bear on integrated and more timely supply chain planning and execution information to anticipate business changes, assess impacts to business goals and metrics via scenario or simulation capability, and to better manage business risk factors.

Another increasing need relates to a business digital transformation initiative where B2B or B2C operational fulfillment process synchronization needs to occur. Examples in this area relate to business models for online selling and fulfillment directly to customers or consumers, or being an Omni-channel fulfillment partner to another predominant online retailer, distributor or wholesaler. In this dimension, the need for value-chain visibility takes on multi-directional, multi-geographical data and information flows. Decision-making perspectives can be daily, hourly or near real-term dimensions. In this dimension, higher levels of visibility to channel product demand, resource and capacity and supplier responsiveness data and information become the prominent needs. Here again, building a foundation of visibility strategies addressing process, technology and indeed participants is critical in the near-term. Over time, the incorporation of analytics-based decision-making can augment such combined processes.

The literal glue that insures broader levels of visibility is a singular access to the most important supply chain-wide information. Notice that we again do not advocate all information because that often leads to information overload, lack of responsiveness and a derailed effort rather quickly. Today, too many supply chain organizations are trying to collect and monitor massive amounts of key performance data and information without proper mapping to the metrics that actually directly impact a required business outcome.  Here, the Supply Chain Operations Reference model (SCOR) from APICS Supply Chain Council can provide an effective framework.

Connectivity to various business process support systems, validation, cleaning and blending of appropriate data sources should be considered in any foundational effort along with the always important continual focus on master data accuracy.

Finally, today’s more advanced information visualization tools along with intuitive and more user-friendly technology interfaces are very important considerations in augmenting and supporting needs for broader and deeper supply chain wide visibility.  Whereas in the past, IT teams and data administrators were the prime facilitators of integrated business process information and decision-making insights, today’s business demands require that appropriate line-of-business and supply chain wide functional teams serve as the primary process participants.

In our next Supply Chain Matters market education commentary addressing supply chain visibility, we will further address more information technology considerations.

Bob Ferrari

© 2016 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.


Highlights of Supply Chain Matters Interview with Jabil

Comments Off on Highlights of Supply Chain Matters Interview with Jabil

Supply Chain Matters recently had the opportunity to speak with contract manufacturing services (CMS) firm Jabil’s, specifically Vice President of Supply Chain Solutions and Global Logistics, Fred Hartung.  If readers had any perceptions that certain CMS firms were laggards in advanced technology adoption, our interview led to quite the contrary perception.

Jabil has been featured in supply chain industry headlines these past two weeks. At the recent Gartner SCM Executive Conference, Jabil’s intelligent supply chain capabilities in real-time visualization and advanced analytics resulted in receiving an award as a “Supply Chaininnovator.” Hewlett Packard unveiled what it termed as the first production-ready commercial 3D printing system and Jabil participated in the press conference. At last week’s SAP Sapphire customer conference, SAP and UPS announced a partnership for services related to an on-demand 3D printing network which involves this CMS as well.

Hartung oversees multiple roles including responsibility for advanced supply chain technology, digital supply chain, advanced planning and trade compliance. He additionally heads a team overseeing Jabil’s supply chain global network.

Our discussion touched on a number of business and technology areas.

Regarding the current CMS industry landscape, Hartung described changing global transportation costs, foreign exchange rate volatility and changes in the “value density” of products as all dynamic industry forces.

More manufacturing focused OEM’s now see themselves as incorporating more and more software and technology as major parts of product design and functionality features and that impact spills over to contract manufacturers. OEM customers were further described as increasingly practicing near-shoring manufacturing sourcing practices aligned to major geographic product demand regions with Mexico and Vietnam really taking off along with resurgence towards manufacturing in Malaysia. Hartung indicated Jabil’s belief that 3-D printing will make a big difference in localized manufacturing tied to customer fulfillment. OEM’s are still experimenting with incorporating 3D printing concepts into product strategy and Jabil is assisting by maintaining various labs across Silicon Valley.

We discussed what is often described as the number one multi-industry supply chain decision-support challenge, that being gaining and enabling end-to-end planning and customer fulfillment visibility. Hartung described this challenge in the context of “actionable visibility”, a focus on the most pertinent information supporting business processes along with “in-control” digitized streaming information flow that is anchored in analytics-driven decision-making capabilities. Another Jabil consideration in its use of advanced analytics is directed at managing and mitigating supply chain risk. Nine separate categories of risk are continually tracked ranging from low to higher supply chain disruption and risk factors.

In the area of addressing Internet of Things, machine learning and cognitive computing opportunities, Hartung acknowledged that information security has got to be an area to be taken very seriously, and prominent in the early design process. Jabil views IoT as an enabler of new business models for customers and for Jabil, and here again, leveraging analytics, either prescriptive or predictive, is the important area of concentration. Responding to the question of whether customers ready for these types of initiatives, Hartung indicated that while Jabil is way ahead on the learning curve, customers indicate that they want to hear more.

Besides incorporating advanced supply chain technology and multi-tenancy practices across Jabil’s own extended supply chain, the CMS is increasingly being called upon to assist OEM customers themselves in deployment of such technologies across their extended supply chains as-well.  This has been a new area of technology services for some CMS providers.

As a key supply chain partner in many more multi-industry settings, a contract manufacturer must be knowledgeable of the business process and enabling technology competences that make a difference in meeting both customer and internal business and supply chain outcomes. This is an industry that moves in lock-step with its customers, and is constantly challenged with narrow margins to work with.

As a recognized supply chain industry analyst, this author has had the opportunity to view a number of Jabil industry presentations over past years as well as to speak with the firm’s executives. This CMS has consistently demonstrated a willingness to leverage and collaborate with customers on advanced technology use cases across its supply chain management processes.  After my recent interview, I am further impressed with the firm’s understanding and practice of leveraging areas where technology enablement can indeed be a facilitator of a more adaptive and resilient supply chain.

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2016. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.


Foundational Aspects of Supply Chain Wide Visibility

Comments Off on Foundational Aspects of Supply Chain Wide Visibility

This commentary represents the first of an ongoing Supply Chain Matters thought leadership and market education series directed at clarifying needs and requirements addressing supply chain wide visibility, which is being sponsored by LLamasoft.

More and more, one of the most critical challenges cited by multi-industry supply chain teams is extended supply chain visibility.  This challenge is becoming universal since industry supply and value-chains continue to become more complex with constant changes in needs for business support. It is consistently cited by many supply chain leaders as a continued perplexing challenge.

This industry analyst often hears teams describe their visibility challenge from differing business process perspectives that often include needs for end-to-end supply chain planning, customer fulfillment, supplier based process or overall decision-making synchronization.

Often, this visibility term is lumped into other challenges including supply chain wide traceability, transparency, capacity or inventory management. Thus it is rather important for teams to clarify specific short and long-term visibility capability needs and decision-support requirements from the ongoing distraction of day-to-day symptoms stemming from lack of needed information.

At a recent MIT sponsored supply chain event, Joel LaFrance of General Mills provided simple and powerful definitions.

He described supply chain visibility as a framework of digital informational connections with a long-term goal for the ability to leverage the convergence of digital and physical supply chain processes:

Supply chain traceability was described as a tracking need required to respond to business needs related to regulatory process requirements, product recalls, quality conformance and earning consumer trust.

Supply chain transparency was described in the context of building trust among internal and external organizations and stakeholders that make up the firm’s supply chain.

I’m sure, many of our readers have either similar of slightly different definitions, but what is important is the clarification of business process need and capability, both short and long-term.

A further insight is what organizations have learned in their journey or frustrations related to achieving overall visibility. In the case of General Mills, the learning was described as:

  • Connected data is critical- with the implication that data is channeled into an information utility that can be leveraged by multiple functions or organizations.
  • That such capability is architected and designed to support insights, needed actions, and to drive faster and more-informed decisions.
  • That broader visibility and decision-making changes the way organization’s work in terms of mindset, skills and process requirements leading to data-driven actions vs. bias or gut driven actions, and that supply chain wide visibility implies broader end-to-end ownership and goal-setting vs. any singular functional goal-setting.

The above learning was insightful. We can share other considerations as well.

Enabling end-to-end visibility is not about ripping out existing IT and software application investments.  That is often too disruptive, especially to mission critical supply chain processes. The reality is that supply chain data is indeed spread out among various internal and external systems in varied formats, syntax, and degrees of quality. Instead, it is about building-out enhanced information management, integration and decision-support capabilities from more streamlined sources of planning, execution, supplier based and customer fulfillment information.

From an informational architectural perspective, consolidating required or essential end-to-end supply chain data into a central access utility is rather important. That includes data integration capability supported by universal connectivity, data validation, cleansing and data visualization supported by dashboards and augmented by various forms of essential analytics.

From an organizational change management perspective, establishing a common vision and roadmap of required capabilities that differentiates the various components of required visibility is likewise essential. Like any other change effort, that roadmap should address the implications from people, process and augmented technology dimensions.

It requires a prioritization for which components of supply chain visibility have the initial priority. As an example, overall planning and execution synchronization may be the priority for one supply chain while traceability may be the priority for supply chains in consumer-facing or regulated environments. The ultimate end goal of end-to-end supply chain visibility remains the same, the roadmap and emphasis of approach may vary.

Finally, teams should not presume that universal visibility can be garnered under a single program or initiative.  Instead, it is a building block approach requiring a solid foundation, design principles and modular construction of capabilities that can be changed or modified as-needed without disruption.

In our next Supply Chain Matters market education commentary addressing supply chain visibility, we will address the various considerations related to business process foundational needs.

Bob Ferrari

© 2016 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.

Disclosure: LLamasoft is one of other sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog.


Apple and SAP Announce Joint Development Partnership for Mobile Applications

Comments Off on Apple and SAP Announce Joint Development Partnership for Mobile Applications

In our most recent Supply Chain Matters commentary related to Apple that noted the huge thud that rang across Silicon Valley, we explored potential areas of product management related areas that are now under enormous pressure to energize additional product volumes and consequent product and services revenues.  This week features an announcement of a new partnership directed at enhancing the business applications support applicability to Apple’s mobile devices.

Apple and SAP jointly announced a partnership directed at revolutionizing the mobile work experience for enterprise customers of all sizes, combining powerful native apps for iPhone and iPad with the capabilities of the SAP HANA platform. According to this announcement, this joint effort will further deliver a new iOS software development kit (SDK) and training academy so that developers, partners and customers can easily build native iOS apps tailored to their business needs, including forms of analytics.

This partnership for leveraging more business applications on Apple’s iOS come after prior joint-development announcements with both IBM and Cisco. In a related interview conducted with The Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Tim Cook re-iterated that leveraging enterprise business applications on Apple mobile devices is a key growth opportunity. However, he declined to share an update on any revenue numbers to-date related to prior joint-efforts this area. Cook further indicated that he view the SAP partnership as a “starting gun” for the development of workplace applications similar to the opening of the Apple App Store in 2008.

That obviously established some ongoing high expectations for all parties in this area.

The timing of this announcement is noteworthy, since he comes two weeks before SAP’s annual Sapphire customer conference, where no doubt, some keynote stage time will be dedicated to this new partnership.  Then again, we can all speculate as to why the announcement was moved this week, rather than during Sapphire.  Perhaps Apple needed to have some positive news streaming this week.

I suppose we can all look forward to more SAP supply chain, PLM and procurement applications and supporting analytics capabilities running on Apple mobile devices. The open question remains timeframe.

 


« Previous Entries