Monday, February 24, 2014

Fear of the Black-box

imageAlmost a decade ago, I was involved in implementing a replenishment planning system for a large retailer. The new system used statistically projected demand forecasts, available and projected inventory, and dynamically computed lead-times to recommend the replenishments. It took care of order sizing to comply with vendor contract terms and pack-sizes, and rounded up/down using demand volume, frequency, and variability. The intent of  implementing such an advanced system was to relieve the inventory planners from the daily grind of reviewing and approving thousands of recommended replenishment suggestions. The idea was to automate the largest volume of regular replenishment decisions so that the human intervention could focus on the most difficult replenishment issues, which were kicked out for human attention by the system based on a custom criteria. This was obviously supposed to reduce the inventory in the network, reduce capital requirements and enhance profitability. Care to guess the reaction from the planners?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Next-shoring Now

imageSupply chains manage variability. Variability naturally exists in all processes. Specific to supply chains, you could quote variability in demand, supply, lead-times to replenish, and so on. So the corporate supply chains singular objective is to manage this variability profitably. If you can do it better than the next guy, you win! That is competitive advantage for you. Where do you see this most in action? Look around and you will see this principle in action in how global supply chains are emerging.

First there was off-shoring, the primary focus being cost. Then companies like Zara built their business models around being responsive to customer demand invented near-shoring. Now McKinsey says there is next-shoring and provides a blue-print for the companies to follow. But what is behind all this? The same old desire to reduce cots and increase the ability to quickly respond to emerging customer demand and preferences.