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Stop Wishing And Start Optimizing Supply Chain Performance

Chris Durkin

In manufacturing supply chains, inherent mismatches in speed, or cadence, can seriously impact agility and performance. While the pace of modern commerce offers businesses little hope, CPG_BIBif any, for balancing those mismatches, there is significant opportunity for improving performance. It lies in adjusting some pivotal business processes to compensate for the mismatches, keeping supply chains – especially demand-driven supply chains of consumer products companies – from taking performance hits. In fact, some specific, well-targeted adjustments hold the promise of performance optimization.

Traditions and transitions in supply chains

IDC research points out that the demand side of manufacturing supply chains have traditionally operated at a faster cadence than the supply side. Not necessarily a bad thing, and manufacturers have found ways (like inventory buffers) to compensate for these mismatches.

But for consumer product companies, demand volatility far exceeds supply volatility, so they experience the greatest cadence mismatch between the demand and supply sides of their supply chains. The mismatch is too substantial for approaches like inventory buffering to compensate – at least not well.

Compounding the issue is the steady transition in supply chain dynamics: The demand side of the consumer products supply chain is becoming even more demand driven. This is due, in no small part, to external pressures triggered by mobile, social connectivity, and e-commerce technologies – not to mention modern consumers who want yesterday what they purchase today.

Without some process adjustments, the resulting cadence mismatches within the supply chain could be great enough to deteriorate inventory quality, cause out of stocks, and reduce service levels.

The ultimate goal: A resilient supply chain

IDC defines a resilient supply chain as one capable of ensuring and preserving continuous, consistent product supply in order to meet product delivery and customer service obligations despite short- or long-term disruption. But if you’re a demand-driven consumer products company, how can you reach this state of supply chain perfection?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question. It would differ from company to company. It all depends on core principles of the business, the processes supporting those principles, and which processes lend themselves to the kinds of improvements that would compensate substantially for mismatches in supply chain cadences.

Adjustment possibilities

Business process adjustments that ultimately result in a resilient supply chain – one capable of responding quickly to market opportunities – can take many forms. The key lies in adjusting for longer-term supply requirements in a way that efficiently and cost-effectively satisfies the dynamics of near-term demand.

Based on real-world instances of cadence mismatches in supply chains, IDC research suggests some adjustments that demand-driven consumer products companies can make to eliminate those mismatches. These include:

  • Shortening supply lead time through a more balanced approach to global sourcing
  • Improving supply planning though adoption of modern, faster planning tools
  • Consuming new supply chain capabilities faster through the cloud

Evaluating current performance

Of course, before making adjustments, you’d want to evaluate current performance in some key areas to determine if cadence mismatches are taking a toll. IDC suggests evaluating:

  • Supply network agility: Does your company have long lead times, inflexible factories, and locked-down contracts with key suppliers?
  • Demand planning and forecast accuracy: Are forecast errors reflective of typical volatility or of actual flaws in your planning process? And can changes in demand be built quickly into a new view of the forecast?
  • Inventory management efficiency: Does your company have the right overall inventory level but the wrong things in the wrong places? Can you adapt your inventory quickly to meet changing business requirements?
  • Cost consensus: Are all areas of your business working from the same set of numbers? Or is lack of cost consensus across business functions interrupting product supply?

Answers to these questions might indicate that it’s time for some adjustments.

Tools for achieving resiliency

Tools that offer or enhance functionalities in some key areas can make achieving supply chain resiliency a more reachable goal. IDC research suggests looking at tools that support:

  • Demand sensing to improve forecasting by improving the downstream capture of consumer demand data
  • Sales and operations planning to align demand and supply plans with financial goals by giving all stakeholders in cost planning a unified view of demand, supply, and financial data
  • Inventory management and optimization to help ensure that goods are consistently available at the right time and right place
  • Cost visibility to gain a full view of costs that would also reflect benefits gained from shorter lead times achieved through proximity sourcing

And certainly, tools capable of leveraging newer functionalities – courtesy of social media, Big Data analytics, cloud computing, and mobile technologies – stand to bring even more options to the table.

For references highlighting the principles and suggestions offered here, check out the IDC infographic and whitepaper Clock Speed in the Consumer Product Supply Chain.

future-of-business

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chrisdurkin

About chrisdurkin

Chris Durkin is the Director of Marketing at SAP responsible for marketing numerous SAP solutions in North America. Specialties include Strategic and Tactical Marketing, Branding, Lead Generation, Event Management, Public Relations, Analyst Relations, Partner Marketing, Direct/Email Marketing, Social Media and Cloud Solutions.

Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain.

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Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace 

John Hack, Sam Yen, and Elana Varon

SAP_Digital_Workplace_BRIEF_image2400x1600_2The process of designing a new product starts with a question: what problem is the product supposed to solve? To get the right answer, designers prototype more than one solution and refine their ideas based on feedback.

Similarly, the spaces where people work and the tools they use are shaped by the tasks they have to accomplish to execute the business strategy. But when the business strategy and employees’ jobs change, the traditional workspace, with fixed walls and furniture, isn’t so easy to adapt. Companies today, under pressure to innovate quickly and create digital business models, need to develop a more flexible work environment, one in which office employees have the ability to choose how they work.

SAP_Digital_Emotion_BRIEF_image175pxWithin an office building, flexibility may constitute a variety of public and private spaces, geared for collaboration or concentration, explains Amanda Schneider, a consultant and workplace trends blogger. Or, she adds, companies may opt for customizable spaces, with moveable furniture, walls, and lighting that can be adjusted to suit the person using an unassigned desk for the day.

Flexibility may also encompass the amount of physical space the company maintains. Business leaders want to be able to set up operations quickly in new markets or in places where they can attract top talent, without investing heavily in real estate, says Sande Golgart, senior vice president of corporate accounts with Regus.

Thinking about the workspace like a designer elevates decisions about the office environment to a strategic level, Golgart says. “Real estate is beginning to be an integral part of the strategy, whether that strategy is for collaborating and innovating, driving efficiencies, attracting talent, maintaining higher levels of productivity, or just giving people more amenities to create a better, cohesive workplace,” he says. “You will see companies start to distance themselves from their competition because they figured out the role that real estate needs to play within the business strategy.”

The SAP Center for Business Insight program supports the discovery and development of  new research-­based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.

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Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.

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Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Brews Sustainable Growth On Cloud ERP

David Trites

Recently I had the pleasure of hosting a podcast with Paula Muesse, COO and CFO of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, a small, organic, fair-trade tea company based in California, and Ursula Ringham from SAP. We talked about some of the business challenges Zhena’s faces and how the company’s ERP solution helped spur growth and digital transformation.

Small but complex business

~ERP helped Zhena’s sustain growthZhena’s has grown from one person (Zhena Muzyka) selling hand-packed tea from a cart, into a thriving small business that puts quality, sustainability, and fair trade first. And although the company is small its business is complex.

For starters, tea isn’t grown in the United States, so Zhena’s has to maintain and import inventory from multiple warehouses around the world. Some of their tea blends have up to 14 ingredients, and each one has a different lead time. That makes demand-planning difficult. In addition, the FDA and US Customs require designated ingredients be traced and treated a certain way to comply with regulations.

Being organic and fair trade also makes things more complicated. Zhena’s has to pass an annual organic compliance audit for all products and processing facilities. And all products need to be traceable back to the farms where the tea was grown and picked to ensure the workers (mostly women) are paid fair wages.

Sustainable growth

Prior to implementing its new ERP system, Zhena’s was using a mix of tools like QuickBooks, Excel, and paper to manage the business. But to sustain growth and ensure future success, the company had to make some changes. Zhena’s needed an integrated software solution that could handle all facets of the business. It needed a tool that could help with cost control and profitability analysis and facilitate complex reporting and regulatory requirements.

The SAP Business ByDesign solution was the perfect choice. The cloud-based ERP solution reduced both business and IT costs, simplified processes from demand planning to accounting, and enabled mobile access and real-time reporting.

Check out the podcast to hear more about how Zhena’s successfully transformed its business by moving to SAP Business ByDesign.

 This article originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Building a successful company is hard work. SAP’s affordable solutions for small and midsize companies are designed to make it easier. Simple to install and use, SAP SME Solutions help you automate and integrate your business processes to give real-time, actionable insights. So you can make decisions on the spot. Find out how Run Simple can work for you. Visit sap.com/sme.

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David Trites

About David Trites

David Trites is a Director of SAP Global Marketing. He is responsible for producing interesting and compelling customer stories that will humanize the SAP brand, support sales and marketing teams across SAP, and increase the awareness of SAP in key markets.

Haier Asia Builds A Digital Platform To Speed Innovation And Win Consumers’ Loyalty [VIDEO]

Dinesh Sharma

08 Apr 2013 --- Intersection, Germany. --- Image by © Markus Hanke/www.MarkusHanke.de/CorbisFew words scare the corporate world like the term “disruption.” No matter the language, disruption conjures the fear of dilution, alteration, and disturbance. And as the world becomes increasingly hyperconnected, disruption seems to be an ever-present threat.

Nevertheless, the C-suite is remaining vigilant by embracing the digital economy as the new reality. According to a recent study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 80% of executives view hyperconnectivity positively – indicating that it presents more opportunities than threats. All the while, they are carefully watching the competitive landscape and anticipating the arrival of overnight digital sensations and the inventiveness of long-time adversaries.

However, this is only one side of the transformational change hyperconnectivity is bringing. Disruption is not just happening on the corporate side of the consumer market – consumers are steadily disrupting everything a business touches.

The secret? Go beyond the competition to find disruptive opportunity

Not that long ago, most businesses followed a one-time transaction model. They would manufacture the product and ship it to the retailer, and consumers would purchase it. However, hyperconnectivity has changed the rules – making this experience a distant memory.

Consumers are more connected to information and no longer interested in listening corporate rhetoric. By drastically changing everything in our lives, the Internet is giving more power to the consumer, putting them in a position to guide the conversation and dictate product and service offerings. From this perspective, it is easy to see that hyperconnectivity and its impact on social behavior are the true disruptors.

Haier Asia, a top-ranking multinational consumer electronics and home appliances company, is one of those few companies that quickly recognized how hyperconnectivity is powering consumer-based disruption. “When you look around, no consumer life business is making money. Why is that? Margins are so slim,” cites Yoshiaki Ito, president and CEO of Haier Asia. “Consumers are far, far faster than manufacturers because they are getting new information on a daily basis. In the meantime, traditional companies produce their products – taking 24 months. So the gap is just widening every second.”

Instead of surrendering to these challenges, Haier decided to disrupt itself and the market it serves. With a two-prong approach to digital transformation, the company created a service-based model to seize the potential of new consumer behaviors and accelerate its product development cycles.

“My strategy for Haier Asia is to double up the digital platform. This is a great opportunity to bring us to the next level by becoming a services provider and gaining a steady stream of new revenue,” says Ito.

How did Haier take advantage of hyperconnectivity to gain the attention of stakeholders and consumers? Watch the video below to find out.

This article originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Want more insight on managing digital disruption? See Three Keys To Winning In A World Of Disruption.

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Dinesh Sharma

About Dinesh Sharma

Dinesh Sharma is the Vice President, Marketing, Internet of Things, at SAP. He is a GM-level technology executive with leadership, technical innovation, effective strategic planning, customer and partner engagement, turnaround management and focused operational execution experience at both large enterprise and startup companies.