Building the Business Case for Digital Transformation of Supply Chain Planning

It seems like the phrase “digital transformation” is everywhere these days. There are as many definitions for digital transformation and articles on the subject. I like the definition provided in i-scoop’s online guide to digital transformation.

“Digital transformation is the profound transformation of business and organisational activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of a mix of digital technologies and their accelerating impact across society in a strategic and prioritised way, with present and future shifts in mind.”

The digitisation of a supply chain involves creating a detailed data model that mirrors the intricacies of an actual end-to-end supply chain network. (Learn more in Technology Evaluation Center’s report, The Impact of Digital Transformation on the Supply Chain.) Done right, a digital twin will have enough detail to model the information, money, and product flow from acquisition of components, through production, distribution and fulfilment to the customer. Model element include forecasts, capacities, inventory positions, lead-times, resource availability, costs, revenues, and profits. Finally, the model needs constant updates of customer, production, purchase, and distribution order status to ensure analysis and resulting actions reflect what is currently happening in the physical supply chain.

The benefits of digital transformation are plentiful. Below are three tangible benefits of digitally transforming your supply chain:

Process Automation:

A very visible benefit of building a digital twin of your supply chain is the ability to use the information to automate routine process steps and free up resources to work on more value-added activities. Advanced supply chain systems have exception-based workflow and active alerts that when used in conjunction with user-defined limits can automatically process purchase, manufacturing, distribution and customer orders. Human intervention only takes place when plans, transactions, orders, etc. fall outside of defined limits.

Continuous Planning & Optimal Response:

Digitization of the supply chain unleashes the full capabilities of today’s powerful supply chain solutions leading to game changing competitive breakthroughs in customer service and value creation. One such capability is the application of algorithmic optimization in the areas of demand, inventory, supply, manufacturing, and transportation planning. The rich supply chain data available through a digital twin provides the foundation and inputs required for effective algorithmic optimization.

Another advanced supply chain capability is continuous planning. A supply chain digital twin contains up-to-date information on capacities and transactions. As new events take place (for example a new customer order, or a delayed replenishment) a planner can quickly determine an optimal response. Continuous planning and optimal response capabilities often lead to reduction in costs (manufacturing, inventory, transportation) and improvements in customer service (fill-rates, cycle-times).

Advanced Analytics:

Often the largest benefits from digitizing the supply chain come from new insights gained from the ability to conduct in-depth end-to-end analysis. The ability to analyze expected demand versus capacitated supply and determine financial impacts of multiple “what-if” scenarios provides the information needed to head off potential risks and fully embrace opportunities. A digital twin of the supply chain provides the information needed to make smart decisions on when to enter new markets, where to introduce new products, when and where to increase production capacity, and how to effectively compete. A digital twin provides a rich environment for running “what-if” scenarios of likely disruptions to determine the appropriate response before they happen. When the disruption does take place, a pre-established plan can be executed beating competitors to market.

How might a digital supply chain transformation change your daily life?

  • You have real-time, accurate information, eliminating the need for data manipulationPicture1blog
  • Collaboration on actual supply chain activities is online and in real-time
  • “What-If” scenarios and simulations are automatic, intelligent and include sufficient data to make informed decisions
  • Supply chain decisions move from calendar driven to continuous optimal response

A digital transformation of your supply chain can help you harness visibility, velocity and value and allow you to compete and win in today’s competitive marketplace.

To learn more about digital transformation, read Technology Evaluation Center’s report, The Impact of Digital Transformation on the Supply Chain.

 

About the author 

Hank Canitz PictureHenry Canitz is The Product Marketing & Business Development Director at Logility. To read more of Henry’s insights visit www.logility.com/blog.

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Supply Chain Planning & Optimisation Projections for 2018 – Back to the Future

By Henry Canitz, Director of Product Marketing and Business DevelopmentPicture1

I get a kick reading “prediction” articles both prior to the year start and then again after the year is complete. When it comes to predicting the very dynamic supply chain management industry, those after year reviews can be quite amusing. For even more fun look back 10 or more years to see where we all thought the industry would be. Therefore, it is with a bit of trepidation that I toss my hat in the arena and make my 2018 supply chain planning and optimization predictions.

From all indications, 2018 should be a very interesting year for supply chains and supply chain practitioners. I think there are a few advanced capabilities that will grow in importance but I also believe there is a growing awareness that to benefit from advanced planning and optimization capabilities a company needs to build a firm foundation. Companies need a robust integrated and highly functional supply chain platform that is operated by highly trained supply chain professionals. In a way, we need to go back to fundamentals to move forward to the future.

The Rise of Cloud Deployment and Heightened Security

The large number of major data breaches in 2017 has been the focus of many C-level meetings. In an interesting reversal, SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions are now viewed by most as the least risky deployment option and this will increase in the year ahead. 2018 will bring a renewed emphasis on security for supply chain facilities due to the growing awareness that data breaches can originate through almost any type of connected system and the fact that more facilities are being opened in unstable geographies.

The Shift to Continuous Planning

The pace of the supply chain is increasingly driven by ever-growing customer expectations (Amazon Effect) making end of the day, week, or month periodic planning processes, while still important, no longer sufficient for today’s operations. The concept of continuous planning where planners address opportunities and disruptions as they happen will continue to gain ground in 2018. These efforts could be part of a Sales and Operations Execution (S&OE) process or tightly tied to building more robust digital planning and optimization capabilities. To facilitate continuous planning process companies will start to move towards cross-functional teams working in a control-room type environment to address global disruptions and opportunities using advanced planning and optimization capabilities.

Digitisation

You can’t open a recent supply chain periodical today without seeing something about artificial intelligence (AI). Advanced analytics, machine learning, algorithmic planning, and AI will all continue to capture a significant slice of attention in 2018. In the year ahead, this will require supply chains to shift how they operate. With digitization of the supply chain, the role of the planner will become one of solving problems using advanced analytics to make business decisions not just supply chain decisions.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to drive supply chain execution innovation as companies find new opportunities in the wealth of data available. For many, the current state includes difficulties interfacing IoT data in a high quality, repeatable fashion. Most companies just aren’t at the point where consuming this firehose of data is feasible.

Supply Chain Data Quality and Ownership

Supply Chain Master Data Management (MDM) is quickly becoming a critical foundational requirement and I expect to see more interest in this area in 2018. Much of the data used for supply chain planning and execution comes from outside of a company’s ERP systems. Ask yourself, where is supply chain data maintained at your company today? The answer might surprise you. Effective supply chain planning and optimization requires high quality and consistent data and the ability to easily and quickly maintain and update that data. Inconsistent and poor quality data will degrade confidence in recommendations. One of my mentors once told me that, “One awe S#?* wipes out 1000 Attaboys (or Girls)”. One piece of bad data that tarnishes a recommendation will be difficult to overcome. To take full advantage of IoT data, supply chain organizations will need to invest in their Supply Chain Master Data Management capabilities and platforms.

Talent GapPicture12

You continually hear from hiring managers that there is a “War for Talent” driving increased salaries, benefits, and turnover rates for supply chain professionals. This will not change anytime soon. Actually, with a shrinking baby-boomer workforce the war for talent is only going to heat up in 2018 (read more here: The Talent Gap and here: Imagine 2030: Supply Chain Talent). Companies will need to find additional ways to attract and retain talent like rotational programs, clear-cut career paths, advanced degree support, and support for professional training. Another way is to provide advanced supply chain platforms that allow team members to work on more value-added activities. Yes, the ability to hire and retain talent could be another way to justify an investment in new supply chain planning and optimization capabilities.

Taking S&OP to the Next Level

I have personally seen the significant benefits of a well-run S&OP process and I know other practitioners have as well. I may be going out on a limb here but I think 2018 will be the year of renewed efforts around putting advanced S&OP capabilities in place including the ability to;

  • Optimize the end-to-end supply chain based on constraints and business objectives (minimize cost, maximize profits, meet customer service levels, etc.)
  • Analyze the impacts of product-lifecycle decisions, especially new product introductions
  • Align and synchronise strategic, tactical and operational planning
  • Collaboratively plan with partners and customers

A year from now I am sure we will all get a good laugh by revisiting this piece, but I am hopeful that a least of few of my predictions will hold true. Here’s to a happy and successful 2018.

About the author 

Hank Canitz PictureHenry Canitz is The Product Marketing & Business Development Director at Logility. To read more of Henry’s insights visit www.logility.com/blog.