Supply Chain Blog

Supply Chain – regular IT to Supply Chain Analytics

Posted by Dave Jordan on Thu, Aug 11, 2016

I am an App-free zone. I have to admit I am not a big App fan but at least I now know what an App is after a lengthy period of ignorant denial. Originally used only by cutting edge, bearded techies (sorry Steve), Apps have become a major part of routine as life seems to revolve around getting more out of mobile phones.

Some of these telephones are more powerful than desktop PC’s and the cameras are certainly as good as mid-range stand-alone versions. In fact, why is a mobile phone called a telephone anymore? The functionality is such a long way from the house brick sized “hand” sets you see on old shows like The Sweeney that another moniker seems appropriate.

Supply_Chain_Analytics_FMCG_PLANNING_PHARMA_IT.jpgWe do not call a modern car a wheel simply because that’s what started things rolling in that technology, do we? Nor do we call our curved, slimline HDTVs cathode ray tubes. Find a new name people!

Apps in industry and supply chain in particular tend to be rather larger in size and far more expensive but do they all do what it says on the tin? Largely, yes.

  • ERPs do bring a high degree of rigour, data collation and transactional integrity to complicated manufacturing and distributive supply chains.
  • WMS systems do provide you with inventory control, performance measurement and stock surety as a basis for excellent customer service.
  • DRP helps you plan the efficient distribution of your finished product.
  • TRP works to ensure your stock is on the move to clients in good time and with efficient fuel and time consumption.
  • APO can certainly help a company improve planning across the extended supply chain.

These and more apps or IT packages are certainly good news for people running complicated regional or global supply chains. While they all have a value and a role to play there is something they do not provide. 

Despite spending millions of Euros in sophisticated and not so sophisticated systems, are there any significant new opportunities to improve supply chain performance? Yes, and here is why:

  • All those increasingly complex IT-led projects have automated ways of working whether they are optimum or not. Generally, this provides incremental improvement at best and with significantly increased variability and caution in the planning processes.
  • The sales forecast is often blamed as the cause of whatever problem is current. In reality the issue lies within the supply chain processes, the set-up of the IT and/or how the various tools are being used in parallel and in tandem.
  • Managing this never ending supply chain complexity becomes the real challenge. Faced with this complexity and increasing uncertainty, planners buffer their supply chains with inventory and lead-times. Inventory becomes that large eared elephant in the room. Everyone knows it reduces free cash and adds unnecessary cost but nobody knows exactly what to do about it and even fewer are brave enough to propose anything.

There really is nothing positive about unnecessary inventory in the supply chain.

The answer? What is needed is better and more accessible data analysis to drive decision making across the supply chain and not in one stand-alone sub function. Decisions need to be taken based on facts and without the emotion or gut feel that is often the default motivation for immediate action.  This is where the App and half that is Supply Chain Analytics can contribute to your business success.

SC Analytics Apps or IT can sit above your existing transactional IT to overcome these challenges and help you ensure all the individual sub-functions are working seamlessly and synergistically. You do not write off your existing systems or put them in a box on a shelf; they all have a major part to play but they would benefit from supply chain analytics help.

Thinking about it, the term “supply chain” actually does reflect the reality for companies yet to operate with some sort of Supply Chain Analytics. Think of a heavy stainless steel chain draped across the desk. Yes, all the functions are indeed joined together but some links are not fully aligned, some lie at odd angles and overlap with others while others are stretched out and only just connect at the extremes. Doesn’t that sound like something that can be further improved?

Maybe the supply chain should actually be the “supply artery” without all the spatial confusion of a chain. The artery would continually supply the precise amount of product required at any time to any location as demand dictates and taking all environmental factors into account. Now, that is an App I would buy!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

Tagss: Performance Improvement, ERP/SAP, Forecasting & Demand Planning, Supply Chain Analytics