This Editor had the opportunity to view our Supply Chain Matters readership analytics (thanks to Google Analytics) for all of 2015 and can now share our ten most popular 2015 commentaries during the year.
In reverse order:
Highlights of the APICS Annual 2015 Conference held in Las Vegas in October, and specifically ex-GE CEO Jack Welch’s keynote interview. Welch expressed a number of insights on the topic of leadership, and more specifically, supply chain management, and the professionals who manage today’s supply chains. We are very pleased that this commentary made our top ten.
Our September commentary related to Tesla Motors contracting of strategic supply of lithium for its new gigafactory. Our commentary addressed the broader strategy unfolding, one that extends beyond automotive supply chain needs, including the power storage needs of homes and businesses. The site was chosen because of its close proximity to supplies of the all-important raw material of lithium as well as to the Tesla factory in California.
It seems that our readers were quite interested in all news related to Tesla since the auto manufacturer appears twice in our Top Ten.
Our July commentary addressing the needs of supply chain business intelligence for SAP environments, specifically that 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 felt and sense that this is indeed representative of the broader SAP community, and brought awareness to other options. Our commentary brought wider attention to Supply Chain Matters Named sponsor Every Angle Software who’s self-service operationally focused business intelligence tool includes an extensive list of European installed base customers with SAP backbones.
Our January commentary, “Extended supply chain” is the new supply chain, a guest contribution by Prashant Mendki, Director Alliances and Business Development for supply chain systems integrator Bristlecone. The commentary called for a holistic “integrated extended supply chain” rather than independent business processes where the entire ecosystem would be treated as part of the supply chain, and where suppliers would have complete visibility into key customer demand and have their response plan ready.
Our September market education commentary bringing visibility to Xerox’s new more cost affordable smart labeling technology and the availability of two printed electronic labels that can collect and store information about either the authenticity or condition of products flowing across the supply chain. From our lens, the availability of such advanced labeling technology will foster new, more affordable dimensions of item level tracking, security and authenticity specifically related to products. This author characterized the development as the dawning of item-level tracking technology that industry supply chain teams have versioned for quite some time.
The highlights of our Supply Chain Matters interview with Irfan Khan, CEO of Bristlecone while attending the Gartner Supply Chain Executive conference. Our interview touched upon a number of areas including predictive analytics applied to supply chain decision-making needs. Irfan opined that mainstream acceptance of the full spectrum of smarter analytics (Descriptive, Prescriptive and Cognitive) applied to supply chain and manufacturing capabilities will take additional time for most organizations to be fully prepared to leverage. He confirmed organizational change management readiness and client skill impacts that take time to work through
Oracle’s July announcement of expansion of public cloud capabilities applied to order fulfillment, specifically Oracle Order Management Cloud and Oracle Global Order Promising Cloud. Out takeaway for readers was that Oracle remained committed toward a broader development and release plan surrounding SCM applications in the public cloud platform than perhaps other competitors such as SAP.
Later in 2015, in conjunction with Oracle Open World, the full Oracle SCM Cloud suite was announced by Larry Ellison in his opening keynote. From our lens, Oracle had developed one of the broadest cross-functional supply chain management, public cloud based applications currently available in the marketplace. That stated, there are qualifiers in that this public cloud suite provides standard functionality as opposed to the ability to support customized customer business needs. Its strength resides in faster time-to-value and potentially lower IT infrastructure deployment costs.
Our highlights and impressions regarding the FedEx acquisition of both Genco and Bongo International. Genco was one of the largest 3PL’s in North America and Bongo International provides an e-commerce platform that facilitates international customers purchasing items from domestic websites. We were intrigued by the low price paid for Genco which as less than current earnings.
Our February commentary reflecting on Tesla’s operating results reflecting some supply chain strains. Our observation was that while showing some supply chain strains at the end of 2014, even more challenges remained for Tesla’s supply chain in 2015. Tesla has often demonstrated the effective use of advanced technology applied to manufacturing and supply chain business processes, and that 2015 will be no exception to that trend.
We just published a follow-on commentary reflecting on Tesla’s 2015 delivery performance leaving some Model X customers rather frustrated.
Finally, our Number One most read 2015 content was:
Our unveiling of the full listing of 2016 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains published on December 15th. We interpret that to mean that our readers are keenly focused on what lies ahead in the New Year, and that’s OK with us.
We trust that all of our line-of-business, IT and cross-functional supply chain readers have gained value and insight from our independent lens on supply chain focused business developments, business process and technology challenges among various industry and global perspectives. We believe we have accumulated a truly in-depth library of industry-specific and functional content.
Once again, as we enter our ninth year and remaining as a top ten or top twenty-five presence among supply chain blogs, we again thank our loyal global based readers and our sponsors for their continuing support.
Bob Ferrari, Founder and Executive Editor
© 2016 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog.
Content appearing on Supply Chain Matters® may not be used by any third party without written permission of the author and/or our parent, The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC.
In what is being reported as a first-of-its kind settlement with U.S. federal regulators, Boeing has agreed to pay $12 million in penalties as part of a settlement mandating tighter oversight of suppliers and tighter quality controls inside its own production facilities.
This settlement resolves 13 pending or potential civil enforcement cases with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). According to reports, the settlement subjects Boeing to as much as $24 million in additional penalties if manufacturing, auditing and regulatory reporting improvements are not implemented in the coming five years.
In its announcement, the FAA stressed the importance of internal corporate controls to insure that the design-to-manufacturing to maintenance processes are “operating according to the highest standards.” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta stated:
“Compliance requires all certificate holders to develop and implement internal controls that ensure they’re operating according to the highest standards. “Boeing has agreed to implement improvements in its design, planning, production and maintenance planning processes, and has already implemented several of these improvements.”
Process areas cited for attention include, among others:
- Improved management and accountability systems including a requirement that Boeing managers review regulatory compliance performance.
- Improvement in internal audit processes across designated processes with audit teams reporting directly to Boeing’s Vice President of Quality.
- Enhanced supplier management to determine whether incomplete work is being accepted.
- Review and simplify at least 15 process specifications used to design, build, deliver and support Boeing products.
- Report to the FAA at least on an annual basis on the effectiveness of Boeing’s regulatory compliance activities including a final comprehensive report after the fifth year of the agreement.
According to the FAA statement, prior issues involved installation of fuel tank flammability reduction equipment on Boeing 747 and 757 aircraft and insufficient corrective action after discovering that a supplier was providing incorrectly shaped fasteners. Details related to other specific enforcement matters were not released by the FAA.
Supply Chain Matters readers might recall that in March of 2014, after the FAA initiated a thorough formal joint review of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft program, a subsequent report indicated that Boeing had placed too much reliance on suppliers for the overall quality of 787 components and systems. It further stated that Boeing’s sometimes ambiguity in stating what was required of partners led suppliers to believe that they had met requirements.
Certain suppliers within Boeing’s supply chain will likely feel the effects of this new announced compliance agreement with the FAA. It comes as Boeing continues to ramp-up its production cadence for delivery of booked customer orders involving newly designed aircraft that stretch out over the enhanced conformance period.
This development is yet another reinforcement of the importance of effectively integrating product lifecycle management, manufacturing and quality management systems together in a continuous information and decision-making flow.
This author has penned another in my series of guest postings on the 21st Century Supply Chain blog, hosted by supply chain planning and response management technology provider Kinaxis.
Kinexions 2015, the annual Kinaxis training and user conference, featured some fascinating speakers that delivered timely messages and themes for the supply chain management community regarding important competencies. As we enter 2016, such messages will take on a special meaning, and in this guest contribution, I touched upon some of the key takeaways that stood out for this author and how they relate to our 2016 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains.
To view this commentary, click on: Kinexions 2015 Key Themes and How They Relate to the Coming Year. The themes on innovation, supply chain change, skills development and integrated business planning will indeed manifest themselves in the coming year.
Disclosure: Kinaxis is one of other sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog.
This Supply Chain Matters commentary continues our market education series to helping readers to differentiate the nuances of traditional vs. operational supply chain business intelligence needs in SAP environments. In our last posting in early September, we pointed out that supply chain business and operational intelligence is not solely about business reporting, but increasingly focused on analysis of ongoing performance, uncovering hidden risk factors and synchronizing performance of the entire supply chain.
Supply chain teams require intelligence capabilities appropriately configured and tuned for analysis of bottlenecks or supply and demand shortfalls. The design principle of this approach is root cause analysis, to tap important data and information existing in specific applications. The premise is to identify bottlenecks and provide early warning to operational process outliers and exceptions.
This Editor recently had the opportunity to interview Every Angle Software executive Richard den Ouden, Managing Director for North America. In our interview, we explored specific examples of how operational intelligence challenges are manifested in typical SAP environments.
Question: Richard- In your travels across North America, what forms of supply chain operational complexity or information challenges do SAP ERP or SAP SCM customers typically describe?
We find that in many SAP environments, users view their system more as a black box. The frustrations they communicate are in the inability to extract needed information in a timely manner and in a user-friendly way. Because of these limitations, often, two routes are taken:
- Asking IT to build operational or custom reports, which result in added time constraints or miscommunication as to information requirements.
- Users themselves downloading raw data into Excel spreadsheets for analysis but risking the timeliness and context of that data.
If SAP users do have information, the challenge is often in the context of lots of statistics as to what has happened vs. operational intelligence indicating what needs to change, or where operational bottlenecks will occur. Some users do not take the current situation as acceptance and instead go with the limited information they have been able to gather.
Typically, when we demonstrate the capabilities of a true operational business intelligence application, it is viewed as a breakthrough in effectively mining needed information or being alerted to operational bottlenecks.
We often approach SAP backbone customers with a three day live demo session utilizing that customer’s actual SAP data extract. On day one, we load all of data and demonstrate the capabilities of a true operational intelligence application. On day two, we interactively allow the customer to describe current business process, financial, supply chain or business operational challenges. In day three, we demonstrate the full capabilities of the application with live data, identifying bottlenecks and improvement areas including pending imbalances in supply or demand, inventory mismatches caused by MRP driven order changes, order entry or master data mismatches. That day often results in uncovering data quality or in laughing and crying at the same time.
In one typical operational example, when product demand changes upward, MRP creates a purchase requisition for more material. When demand changes down, MRP creates Exception Notices in MD04, and here is the problem. Unless users mine MD04, then manually calculate the impact and convert that to a specific action (like reduce the open purchase order), the now unneeded material flows in. An executive would ask, why would a procurement team place orders for materials we do not need? In most cases they would not, unless it was a spot order for a great price, a typically constrained material, or some other special case.
But in the usual scenario, MRP produces purchase requisitions that Procurement teams then convert to purchase orders among specific suppliers. MRP created these purchase requisitions as a result of a calculation that considered inventory on hand and due in, and an expected demand profile .Real cash money is spent to pay the supplier, the freight, the receiving dock workers, and locations in the warehouse are taken up. It is not uncommon to find several million in unneeded procurement. In Food and Pharma, where many raw materials have a shelf-life, this condition is more acute than in repetitive discrete where the material could eventually be used.
Question: Can you describe a few industry or supply chain specific examples?
Typically we address four specific use cases related to improved operational business intelligence within SAP environments.
- Analysis of data quality which is the foundation of any effective business process. Here we help customers with the importance of master data. A proliferation of products and product changes contribute to master data inaccuracies but the transactional data errors are where the money is lost. What makes Every Angle unique here is that we automatically read the master data, like BOM’s, (Bills of Material) and use this in our calculations. If a BOM changes, as they frequently do, no one has to fix Every Angle. We automatically read the new BOM each time we load data from SAP.
- Analyze historic performance to uncover operational trends.
- Execute open order management processes to uncover mismatches in back orders or delivery commitments.
- Identify any mismatches in supply and demand.
Every Angle’s operational business intelligence capabilities are applied to many industry settings. For instance:
Food and Beverage: What is sales demand vs. what production is making?
High Tech: What is component availability and have purchase orders changed as a result of frequent bill of material changes?
Pharmaceutical: Will the current backlog of batch production releases fulfill the right demand?
Retail: Here, master data is key. Do we have the right planning profile and replenishment data? Does current operational planning data reflect on-time delivery of supplies?
Wholesale Distribution: Do we have the right balance of quantities purchased with sales order demands?
Question: How do you view the key differences between business intelligence vs. supply chain focused operational intelligence?
The key difference relates to what information needs to be delivered to what specific target audience. In essence, it is targeted intelligence and more informed decision-making.
Business intelligence is essentially an analysis of past performance, for example sales volumes or financial data. This serves the purpose for a great presentation of management information related to business performance.
Supply chain operational intelligence is more focused; Is the supply chain able to effectively and profitably fulfill product demand? Where are the specific gap areas or negative effects on profitability? Operational intelligence is more focused on the predictive aspects of what is about to happen.
Business intelligence provides great statistical information related to historic performance but operational intelligence is where firms uncover data and process mismatches and reduce unnecessary costs.
Question: What role do forms of prescriptive analytics play in these types of challenges?
A typical business intelligence application provides limited predictive capabilities and as noted previously, reflects more on past performance. To be predictive, information is needed as to what is occurring across business operations and across the supply chain. Operational intelligence takes into account all existing planning and fulfillment information, for instance, what sales order will not be delivered in two weeks because of an operational constraint.
Planning and smart algorithms designed within Every Angle predict what specific exceptions will occur and when. For example, there may be huge lot sizes defined in SAP master data that are a mismatch to specific customer needs, resulting in excessive production costs.
Question: What other observations or wisdoms can you share with our reader audience regarding these capabilities?
There are great technologies available in the market today. However, firms often forget that operational effectiveness comes down to people and their day-to-day needs in accurate information, easier to use applications that contribute to more informed decision-making. It is about helping people in their daily work routines and getting in-control, trusting systems as opposed to questioning the information provided.
Firms have invested in the basics such as deployment of an SAP ERP backbone or SAP SCM but it is ‘just’ the data and process foundation, which is great. But, this does not provide operational transparency about data quality and process performance to the business users in a fast and flexible, self-service way. Every Angle provides this, with a native and certified integration with SAP SCC, and it therefore is a “no-brainer” complementary solution for SAP customers.
People instead will invest more time in not trusting the system and instead in trying to gather and assess needed information vs. making timely and better informed decisions related to operations and supply chain.
SAP business users and IT support teams may well be frustrated in understanding the timetable and implications of where SAP is headed in its Integrated Business Planning vision, data and operational intelligence milestones. An SAP implementation of ten years ago cannot keep-up with the today’s more rapid speed of business change and requires that people have tools that can mine more predictive information much quicker, and in operational context.
Take the responsibility to fix and address these needs today.
We would like to thank Richard Den Ouden for his specific observations related to solving operational business intelligence challenges within operational SAP backbone ERP environments.
For further information, readers can visit this Every Angle Software web site.
Disclosure: Every Angle Software is one of other sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog.
Report Card for Supply Chain Matters 2015 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains- Part Four
While industry supply chain teams wrap-up their various 2015 strategic, tactical, and operational line-of-business and supply chain focused performance objectives, we continue with our series of Supply Chain Matters postings looking back on our 2015 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains that we published in December of 2014.
Our research arm, The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group has published annual predictions since our founding in 2008. Our approach is to view predictions as an important resource for our clients and readers, thus we do not view them as a light, one-time exercise. Thus, not only do we publish our annualized predictions, but every year in November, look-back and score the predictions that we published for the year. After we conclude the self-rating process, we will then unveil our 2016 predictions for the upcoming year.
As has been our custom, our scoring process will be based on a four point scale. Four will be the highest score, an indicator that we totally nailed the prediction. One is the lowest score, an indicator of, what on earth were we thinking? Ratings in the 2-3 range reflect that we probably had the right intent but events turned out different. Admittedly, our self-rating is subjective and readers are welcomed to add their own assessment of our predictions concerning this year.
In the initial posting of this Predictions Score Card series, we looked back at both Prediction One– global supply chain activity during the year, and Prediction Two– trends in overall commodity and supply chain inbound costs.
In our Part Two posting, we revisited Prediction Three– the momentum in U.S. and North America based production and supply chain activity, as well as Prediction Four– wide multi-industry interest in Internet of Things.
In Part Three, we revisited our supply chain industry-specific predictions.
We focus this commentary on predictions six through eight.
2015 Prediction Six: A Stalling of Big Data and Predictive Analytics in Favor of Alternative Application Focused Strategies
Self-Rating: 2.5 (Max Score 4.0)
We predicted that the promise of Big Data and Predictive Analytics technology in enabling more insightful and predictive decision-making at the enterprise level would stall in 2015, mainly because of certain technology and organizational constraints. The promises in capabilities to analyze terabyte streams of enterprise structured and unstructured data related to customers, products, suppliers and equipment are dependent on software and database capabilities that can accommodate large data streams and simultaneous user inquiries. We felt that the term Big Data itself was a symptom of a far more perplexing problem, namely that enterprises, organizations and industry supply chains are currently overwhelmed by collecting too much extraneous data. The challenge at-hand was collecting and harvesting “smarter data”.
We are actually pleased that from the technology side, vendors provided special attention towards helping customers to narrow the scope of analytics initiatives, helping organizations to initially pilot both the technology as well as the organizational skills and change management perspectives. Thus, this proactive attention muted our prediction.
A further concern we raised was the organizational challenges in addressing security and governance of mission critical data. Here again, our polling of both vendors and end-users across multiple industry settings indicates that a lot more attention was focused in this area. While legitimate concerns remain, especially in the light of even more cyber-security and hacker information attacks, IT and line-of-business teams seem to taking proactive and balanced approaches. The need to be more predictive and be far more agile to business change seems too prominent.
We further predicted that more supply chain, procurement and S&OP focused applications would be augmented with embedded predictive analytics and machine learning capabilities. We felt that supply chain planning applications that include predictive analytics and/or augmented simulation will continue to lead in this effort. For the most part, supply chain planning vendors such as JDA Software, Kinaxis, Oracle and others are indeed developing and releasing more predictive analytics capabilities. Specialized supply chain operational and financial intelligence vendors such as River Logic and Every Angle are concentrating specifically in the need for more predictive and prescriptive capabilities across cross-functional and enterprise environments.
Interest levels in enabling more predictive capabilities remains high among industry supply chains, and organizations are taking a balanced and risk-aware approach. Thus our self-rating reflects a lower score relative to our original prediction.
2015 Prediction Seven: A Turbulent Year in Global Transportation
Self-Rating: 3.5 (Max Score 4.0)
We obviously for the most part, nailed this prediction, but then again, as we entered 2015, the signs were obvious. Our one misreading of turbulence was that of the U.S. rail industry.
We predicted a continuing shake-out of excess capacity among ocean container shipping lines leading the re-sizing of global transportation fleets. That trend continues in earnest, with more ocean container ships being idled. For the most part, shipping rates collapsed for most of 2015 leading to a buyer’s market, despite multiple attempts among carriers to influence higher rates. By October, industry watcher Drewry predicted upwards of another three years of industry overcapacity while the CEO of industry leader Maersk Lines, openly called for further industry consolidation. In November, China’s two ocean container lines announced their intention to merge while speculation continued that Neptune Orient Line was seeking a buyer.
We predicted that the “perfect storm” of dysfunction among U.S. west coast ports in the latter half of 2014 would have implications in how shippers, exporters and retailers route future shipments destined for the United States and global markets. That trend indeed manifested itself with ongoing reports indicating that this year’s traditional holiday seasonal surge in shipping really never occurred. Retail and other industry supply chains suffered a sizable inventory overhang as 2014 holiday inventories arrived in the early part of 2015. While 2015 data relative to a volume shift among U.S. West Coast, Gulf and East Coast port activity is still to be determined, current trending numbers to-date point to supply chain teams indeed exercising a more balanced inbound routing. We pointed to the issues uncovered in 2014 labor contract negotiations, and work stoppages involving independent trucking’s driver contracts, the leasing and 3rd party deployment of tractor-trailer carriages to transport containers as needing to be addressed by transportation industry and labor union players to avoid a repeat of what occurred in 2014. Those issues remain at-odds, especially among independent truckers without full-time labor agreements that account for idle and delay time.
One of the most prominent turbulence areas was increased merger and acquisition activity in the third-party logistics sector. We predicted that the added complexities and service needs related to Omni-channel and industry-specific logistics would continue to spur more service and technology requirements by customers on third-party logistics providers (3PL’s), forcing them to invest in broader technological and systems capabilities along with broader scale, or risk losing business to larger more versatile providers. The acquisition announcement by FedEx of GENCO at the end of 2014 portended this dynamic in 2015. Indeed that came to pass with continuous announcements of M&A activity involving both larger and smaller industry players. Among the most prominent, in April, FedEx announced its intent to acquire TNT Express for $4.8 billion. That announcement came in the wake of UPS’s previous failed attempt to acquire TNT after encountering stiff regulatory resistance. In September, XPO Logistics announced its intent to acquire Con-Way for an estimated $3 billion raising the specter of further industry consolidation. In October, Denmark based DSV announced its intent to acquire U.S. based UTi Worldwide.
We predicted that the plunging cost of crude oil prices would further add to turbulence involving existing fuel surcharges affixed to transport rate structures. Carriers and parcel shipment firms will likely attempt to drag out the suspension of fuel surcharges to protect or sustain ongoing margins. That turned out to be the case and the most visible attempts were from FedEx and UPS who each announced added fuel surcharges for both 2015 and 2016.
Turning to railroads, we predicted that Canadian and U.S. based railroads would encounter turbulence in accommodating higher volumes of crude oil shipments as well as increased regulatory pressures for upgrading sub-standard tank cars to new safety standards. The opposite occurred. The continuous decline of world crude oil prices triggered a noteworthy reduction in U.S. domestic crude production leading to lower oil train volumes. With lower volume, regulatory pressures for tank car upgrading seemed to have eased but there was a crisis involving the December 2015 deadline for railroads to have implemented positive train control technology. That deadline was extended over an additional three year horizon.
2015 Prediction Eight: Sales and Operations Planning Transitions to Broader Scope Information Management Augmented by What-If and Simulation Activities.
Self-Rating: 3.5 (Max Score 4.0)
We have long advocated that today’s more globally based supply chains require end-to-end business network technology support in supply chain execution, customer fulfillment and more integrated business planning dimensions. With that perspective, we predicted that select industry sales and operations planning (S&OP) processes will begin efforts to transition toward inclusion of broader aspects of internal and external business planning, response management and predictive decision-making capabilities. We believed that this would most likely include deeper, cross-application information connections to product demand pipelines, augmented with traditional and social media based demand sensing. We further anticipated more-timely information connections with external or outsourced suppliers along with key customers, leveraging cloud-based planning and fulfillment synchronization networks.
Because of these needs, we expected B2B supply chain business network providers, including ERP players, to deepen their support for broader integrated business planning needs by leveraging cloud-based platforms or networks.
Our polling of technology vendors including where specific market interest occurred in 2015 reinforced that industry supply chain and line-of-business teams indeed expressed desires for integrating broader information streams and more contextual-based decision-making capabilities. Also on the vendor side, briefings on product strategy pointed to consistent themes for augmenting S&OP process support with broader aspects of network-wide information and with more prescriptive and predictive decision-making capabilities.
When we made our prediction, we had in-mind that certain existing B2B business network technology providers would become more attractive in M&A activity. In February, private equity firm Insight Venture Partners announced its intent to take E2open Inc. private. In June, best-of-breed supply chain planning provider JDA Software announced a strategic partnership with Google directed at deployment of a supply chain wide public cloud capability. In August, ERP provider Infor announced its acquisition of GT Nexus declaring the advent of the “first global commerce cloud” for small and large enterprises. Infor’s stated objectives are to implement broader supply chain business network support capabilities including S&OP processes. And at its annual customer conference in late October, Oracle announced its public SCM Cloud offering with the ability to integrate a broader B2B business network. Meanwhile, SAP continued with its efforts to broaden its Ariba B2B platform for broader support of direct materials procurement and integrated business planning.
In our next and final posting, we will look back on our final two predictions for 2015.
In the meantime, feel free to add to our dialogue by sharing your own impressions and insights regarding these specific industry challenges in 2015.
©2015 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and the Supply Chain Matters blog. All rights reserved.