Guaranteed Delivery?

James Marland

Guaranteed Delivery?I need to renew my passport: we UK citizens are not in the EU Schengen agreements, so need a passport each time we leave our rainy island to visit Brussels, Paris or Amsterdam. The whole process is a little stressful, and there are two separate things to worry about:

  • Will the Post Office send it safely to the Passport Office ?
  • Did I fill the form in correctly? As any small mistake will likely incur a large delay.

In order to solve the first issue I chose Guaranteed Delivery rather than the regular Mail . It is quite a lot more expensive but comes with the eponymous guarantee. I know I will be able to track the package with fancy barcodes and web pages, and that they will meet their service levels.

But what about the second worry? A passport application form has many ways to be wrong: you can sign in the wrong place, use an American format date by mistake (yep, did that once), the photograph can be wrong (my daughter once had hers returned for smiling, bless!), you can forget to include the cheque.

Up to one third of applications are delayed due to basic errors.

In order to solve this the Post Office came up with the Check-and-send service. The website lists the benefits as:

  • Peace of mind: from the form to the photos we’ll make sure everything meets the approved standard
  • Secure: we’ll send your application by Special Delivery™
  • Save time: Up to one third of applications sent to the Identity and Passport Service directly are delayed due to basic errors.

It works well, you go to the Post Office, they open the envelope and go through their long checklist. And if a mistake is made, you can immediately correct it before it leaves your possession.

So what does this mean for Business Networks?

Many networks focus exclusively on the first of my two passport worries: getting an electronic document delivered correctly. But an Invoice is also likely to be rejected “due to basic errors”. And delays to your invoice will cost you time and money. A Business Network needs to include a “Check and Send” service, just like the Post Office. The kind of errors that can be screened out could be:

  • Is the Purchase Order correct and still open?
  • Is the VAT rate correct for this country?
  • Does the price match the requested price, or is it within the tolerance specified by the buyer for this commodity?
  • If the material is flagged as hazardous, did the supplier included an MSDS sheet?

All of these errors should be screened out before the invoice leaves my possession. There is significant value to both parties in this “Check and Send”

  • Sellers can correct mistakes immediately, significantly increasing their likelihood of being paid on time
  • Buyers can get much better visibility into their cash position as invoices are not lost in a morass of paper and phone calls
  • Both parties save on significant administration costs

As noted at the start of this post, Guaranteed Delivery is a necessary condition for an effective network, but it is not sufficient. Without a comprehensive screening processes, you are merely moving bad invoices faster. A true Business Network “opens the envelope”, and checks the contents.


About James Marland

James is responsible for defining and rolling out strategies for the Network with particular focus on Europe. He joined Ariba at the launch of the Ariba Network in 1998 after previously being a Solution Consultant at SAP America. In addition he has held the position of Director of Algorithms at Vendavo, an SAP Partner in the area of Pricing. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Southampton University. Follow James's twitter feed at @JamesMarland



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.


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.


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.


How 3D Printing Is Transforming The Supply Chain: A Q&A With Hans Thalbauer [VIDEO]

Warren Miller

If you think 3D printing has no bearing on the supply chain, think again. Given the technology’s enormous impact on production processes, organizations today must adapt, completely transforming their existing supply chain operations.

Dan Gilmore, editor at Supply Chain Digest (SCD), recently chatted with Hans Thalbauer, senior vice president of extended supply chain at SAP, to discuss the current state of 3D printing, product customization, and more.

Here are several highlights, edited for length, from the fascinating Q&A:

Dan Gilmore (DG): What’s your assessment of where we’re at with [3D printing]? Is this really something that’s out there in the future, or is it something that’s really starting to gain some critical mass now?

Hans Thalbauer (HT): I see so many companies around the world who adopt 3D printing in their manufacturing process or distributed manufacturing environment. In different industries, of course, 3D printing is being used for different purposes. If you look in aerospace and defense, for example, it’s a part of the manufacturing process. When it comes to retail, it’s about providing a product that’s individualized for an end consumer.

DG: New Balance is using this technology as part of their customization process. I think you have some insight into what they’re doing. What can you share with us today?

HT: Think about getting on a treadmill. You start running. Your feet are being measured, and in the back of the store, a 3D printer is printing the insole for your shoe. That’s an amazing thing. It’s individualized. It’s personalized. All with the goal to provide the perfect shoe for the end consumer.

DG: Does [3D printing] put some different requirements on the capabilities or functionalities a software provider needs to provide?

HT: Absolutely. It’s not good enough anymore to think about the traditional way of producing and delivering goods. We need to have an environment which allows companies to get end-to-end visibility. You need to have an environment which allows you to manage these processes in real time.

Watch the entire segment, part of SCD’s Supply Chain News Makers Video Series, below:

Want more insight on 3D printing? See Why UPS Believes 3D Printing Will Shake Up The Supply Chain.



3D printing

Planning For High-Tech In The Digital Age: The Customer Wants It All On Short Notice

Andrew Boyle

Of course it’s happened again.

Supervisor with digital tablet at production line in circuit board manufacturing plant --- Image by © Adrian Brockwell/Juice Images/CorbisYour new “next big thing” is ready to launch, and the supply chain planning team spent inordinate amounts of time over the past few months refining a forecast and collaborating with suppliers and contract manufacturers. All components were purchased, and most were even delivered at the assembly houses when they were supposed to be.

But now your most important customer needs twice as much product this week than they had previously forecast. No apologies – only demands. How do you reallocate components and finished goods inventory to your new high-priority order without missing dates you’ve already promised to other customers?  Is it even possible?  What components might you need to resolve the shortage?

We have seen such issues with just about any successful product launch in recent history, from smartphones and tablets to gaming systems and even integrated circuits or components. End-to-end planning and order promising in high-tech is all about facing these kinds of dynamic situations. With the proliferation of the digital economy, the good news is that you have more data points than ever to help you plan and respond. The challenge is that you need to find a way to manage all that data and put it in a meaningful business context. Therefore, it cannot be done in a silo; these new plans and customer allocations must be integrated into your core operations to be effective.

This is where a digital supply chain and modern tools enable a different way of integrated execution.

Plans can now consider production constraints and supplier commitments. This enables, for example, the modelling of assembly house capacity from production line to complete packaging of finished goods.

When you consider the entire value chain and the entire planning horizon, the magnitude of data that needs to be processed increases exponentially. Planning systems need to work through these massive amounts of data quickly to support a data model that includes demand, supply, and financial factors. To be effective, these plans must be supported by strong collaboration between both internal stakeholders and external business partners. And of course, these tools need to be easy to use. No matter how powerful, a system that is not user-friendly will be passed over in favor of spreadsheets and guesswork.

How can a modern high-tech organization use these new tools to meet their goals of lower inventory levels and reduced time to market? Sales and operations planning can now consider demand, supply, and financial factors and simultaneously optimize inventory carrying costs. The limitations identified in strategic planning can now be used to drive customer inventory allocations, considering priorities that you set. Order promising can be more than a simple check against stock on hand; it can now include what-if scenarios to solve problems, like that new large customer order. Collaboration with suppliers and contract manufacturers is made easier with business networks rather than traditional EDI and supplier portal onboarding. All of this can now be monitored by a central control tower, which oversees the entire value chain and alerts planners when things need fixing.

So what about your favorite customer with that big order—how do we resolve the shortage? With effective internal and external collaboration, planning across demand, supply, and financial factors, and fast what-if response scenarios, we will be able to quickly identify gating parts, adjust plans and component orders, and meet the new customer deadline without impacting existing customer commitments.

This blog is the first in a series. Upcoming blogs will provide a more in-depth look at OEMs and how they can use digitalization to help plan and determine when to send clear-to-build signals. We will also look at semiconductor organizations and how they can plan, for example, wafer starts and optimize diebank stocks.

For more on how digital transformation is impacting all aspects of high-tech business, please visit here.