Piece Parts

by Lora Cecere on February 7, 2014 · 0 comments

You have brains in your head, and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own and know what you know. And, you are the only one that will decide where to go.

Dr. Seuss

In this blog we are going to focus on the word part.
By definition it is one of the pieces, sections, qualities, etc., that make or form something.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I love Dr. Seuss. When my daughter was six, I would beg her to let me read her another whimsical Dr. Seuss story before she went to bed. It was fun. The words from Seuss would flow from the pages as I held a promising young girl full of life and energy. We laughed at the illustrations. The sing-song words rang through the night air as we turned out the light and said good-night.

Tonight, as I return from a client, I thought that I would start with Seuss to lighten up a bad story.  It is a story of parts. It is a tale of pieces that do not assemble to build the whole. It is 2014. Leaders tell me the real story of monies spent and pennies saved. The consultants and technology vendors tell the stories of small dollars invested and large value gained. The advertisements in the airports boast of great gains. There is a disconnect. I do not see value when I am visiting clients. So I ask myself, “Why?” These leaders are well-equipped. They have brains in their heads and feet in their shoes. They can steer themselves any direction they choose. Why are we not making more progress?

Let’s start with history. We have been at this for at least thirty years. This is not a new topic. ERP was designed to deliver transactional efficiency. It accomplished this goal. It was not designed to be a planning architecture.

At the beginning of the last decade, the promise of the tightly-integrated enterprise was born. Companies invested in tight integration of ERP with supply chain planning (APS). It was a mistake. ERP vendors rushed to provide planning solutions that were less robust than best-of-breed providers. Consultants touted that 80% was good enough. Today, ERP investments have consumed IT budgets. The monies have flowed to the consultants. Today, only 8% of companies are satisfied with their “what-if” capabilities and only 22% of companies can get to cost data in making planning decisions.

Figure 1.

We are stuck. We have not been able to build the planning architectures that effectively let manufacturers plan from the customer’s customer to the supplier’s supplier. As shown in figure 1, the gaps in the value chain network are large. In this blog, let me share some insights based on work with clients and augmented with data from two recent studies that we have just completed at Supply Chain Insights. (We will also be sharing more insight on this topic on our webinar next week.)

The Problem

The goal was to automate the process of planning from the customer’s customer to the supplier’s supplier. However, today, we have pieces that do not fit together to make a whole. Sadly, our architectures are a compilation of piece parts. Most companies have defined enterprise architectures that are inside-out, but lack the ability to take them outside-in. The focus is on the enterprise not the value network.

With the investment in transactional systems for order-to-cash and procure-to-plan, many have lost focus on planning. As a result, they are not effectively able to connect to customers and suppliers. We have talked about it for a long time, but we are not making much progress.

The Dilemma. How We Got Here.

-Outsourcing Is Growing. It Is Here to Stay. It Is Growing More Important. In the study of 63 manufacturers, the average company has outsourced 49% of logistics and 30% of manufacturing. Physically, the supply chain is becoming a network. Logically it is not. Companies are more dependent on each other and there is less excess capacity. It is more brittle and less flexible. Upstream companies have systemically pushed costs and waste backwards on suppliers. While EDI is used to share transactional data, and progress has been made in this area, the software of choice to share plans is an excel spreadsheets. Yes, we have brains in our heads and feet in our shoes, but we communicate most of the important information about the supply chain in an Excel spreadsheet? Does this make sense? I do not think so. I spoke to one client last week that gets 13,000 spreadsheets from one customer that has 72 manufacturing plants with changes two to three times a day. After these discussions, I am amazed that we have made as much progress as we have.

-Nine out of Ten Companies are Stuck at the Intersection of Operating Margin and Inventory Turns. We have automated the enterprise, and 90% of companies have a supply chain organization, and have implemented supply chain planning. Most have multiple systems, but lack a clear understanding of planning architectures. New forms of analytics and cloud-based solutions are emerging, but companies are not clear how to use them. There are a number of science projects. Current investments are enterprise focused. They do not focus on automating the value network.

I am convinced that the greatest opportunity to unstick the supply chain lies in the value network. We have got to break the cycle of pushing costs and waste backwards in the supply chain and paying a higher price for materials. Modern procurement practices have lengthened payables by 30 days and made it almost impossible to have a true relationship. 

-ERP Was to Be the  Solution. We have naively gone down this path. ERP vendors were to build the architectures to extend the enterprise to their trading partners. It has not happened. As shown in Figure 2, connectivity of planning information with trading partners for third-party logistics, transportation and material suppliers is important to companies, and supply chain leaders have lost confidence that this gap can be closed by an ERP vendor. The investment in supply chain planning is growing by 55% in 2014, yet 56% of supply chain leaders report that it is focused on the work with their strategic vendors which are most often the ERP provider.  The selection of IT solutions is typically a joint decision where IT is involved 80% of the time and the line of business leaders are involved 85% of the time. This just does not make sense to me.

-Supply Chain Business Networks Are New and Promising; Yet Only Represent 7% of the Flow. Today, there are a number of cloud-based supply chain planning solutions and new forms of business networks that offer both applications and communities to facilitate these planning flows; however, the awareness of these by line-of-business supply chain leaders is low and the ability to get funding for these projects is tough because most of the corporate funding is locked into ERP programs.

Where Do We Go from Here? What Do We Do About It?

Supply chain leaders have brains in their heads and feet in their shoes. Only they can direct what they do. They need to act. Ownership of the extended value chain is more important to drive differentiation and improve Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. What steps to take?

1) Get clear on a planning road map. Put the parts together to make the whole. Build a multi-year road map.

2) Recognize the reality. Stabilize ERP investments. Recognize them for what they are. You need them as a planning system of record and to automate transactions. The gap in current state to automate the value network is real.

3) Take ownership for the signal that you are sending your suppliers.

4) Partner with emerging cloud-based solutions and business network technologies to connect the extended value chain.

Today, there is no perfect solution. However, the path that we are going down is not closing the gap. It reminds me of the old saying of “no matter how far you have gone down the wrong road, that when you realize that it is the wrong road, turn back.”

I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you think?

For additional writing on ERP and supply chain planning check out the blog posts:
End of the Fairy Tale, Part I

End of the Fairy Tale, Part II 

Dancing with a White Elephant

Learning to Speak the Language of Demand

by Lora Cecere on January 21, 2014 · 9 comments

New shoes feel awkward. Blisters appear. Feet hurt. The shoes are worn for short periods. Often we shelve them to allow our feet to recover. However, over time, they slowly feel comfortable. They become a part of our wardrobe.

Learning to speak a new language is similar. Conversations are strained. Mistakes are made. Pauses are awkward. Confusion reigns. Communication is stilted. It takes time. Slowly the words take definition in everyday speech.

Nine out of ten supply chains are stuck. Growth has slowed. Complexity has increased. Companies are stuck at the intersection of inventory turns and operating margin. They are unable to drive improvements in both. The secret to unsticking the supply chain is to redesign processes to be outside-in. The supply chain processes need to be designed from the market back.

This a step change, not an evolution. Why? Most companies have designed supply-centric processes from the inside-out. The first step to making the shift is learning a new language.

Step Up and Learn the Language of Demand

In companies, there is no standard model for demand processes. It is evolving. New forms of analytics make new capabilities possible. In the traditional organization, some demand processes are sales-driven. Others are marketing-driven. However, sales-driven and marketing-driven processes are quite different from market-driven processes. <In fact, so much so that I wrote a book about it.>

Unfortunately, companies have invested money in traditional forecasting processes believing that if they make the forecast better that corporate performance will improve. Improving forecasting is not sufficient. It is about much more than conventional forecasting. While we need forecasting and we need to improve the processes, we also need to teach teams how to use new forms of demand data and adopt demand processes.

Why is this important? Supply chain leaders are fluent in the language of supply. They don’t know the language of demand. To become demand driven (or market driven), they need to learn how to speak a new language. In this process, they slowly learn that the customer order is a poor representation of demand.

Tonight, I am stuck at a New York airport in a snow storm. I have been at client’s for the last two days helping them to make this transition. So tonight, instead of making snow angels, I thought I would help readers to get started in speaking the language of demand.

New Terms to Know

The concepts of demand driven are now vogue. Many supply chain consultants will quickly rattle off case studies and proof points, but the smart supply chain leader will ground the discussion with clear definitions. Let’s start with these:

  • Demand Sensing: The reduction of time to sense purchase and channel takeaway. Demand sensing is a process, automated by technology, that reduces demand latency.
  • Demand Latency: The latency of demand signal due to demand translation of a customer purchase through the supply chain to an order for a trading partner. The time is different in each supply chain based on product sales velocity and the technologies used. For example, in a hospital, it is the translation of usage in a procedure to hospital order to a distributor and the translation of that usage to an order for a manufacturer. This time lapse varies by product and by channel. For the purchase of Tide at Walmart to translate to an order at P&G, the time is 5-7 days. For the translation of a purchase of Aleve at a retail outlet store to Bayer, the manufacturer is 60 days. As the long tail (small orders shipped with low-frequency) of the supply chain grows, demand latency increases and there is a greater need for demand sensing technologies.
  • Independent Demand. The purchase of a product by a customer in the channel.
  • Dependent Demand. The translation of this demand signal from a channel demand signal to a manufacturer or a distributor through a bill of material or a transportation or manufacturing routing.
  • Demand Translation. The translation of demand by role within the organization. Each role–customer service, sales, procurement, manufacturing–have a different need/definition for the demand signal.
  • Demand Shaping. The use of demand tactics –price, sales incentives, marketing programs, new product launch, promotions, and assortment– to increase baseline forecasting.
  • Demand Shifting. The shifting of demand from one period to another (examples include pre-shipments at the end of the quarter, stuffing the channel to get rid of stock, or shipping early) increases supply chain costs and distorts the demand signal. Try to minimize demand shifting and maximize the value of demand shaping. Get clear on the difference.
  • Forecastability. The mathematical determination of ease of forecasting (the determination of the probability of demand).  Many technologies include this in the base software package.
  • Forecast Value-Add (FVA): A methodology for continuous improvement of the demand plan where steps of the process are evaluated and the question is asked, “Did this change improve the forecast (bias and error) as compared to the naive forecast?” (For more on this topic check out the book, The Business Forecasting Deal.)
  • Naive Forecast. The historic forecast using prior month shipments.
  • Downstream Data: Use of channel data (Point of Sale (POS) and Warehouse Withdrawal) to sense channel demand.
  • Demand Synchronization. The demand signal must be connected from node to node in the supply chain and then synchronized and mapped. The most frequently mapped data elements are product hierarchies, time/calendars, and locations. In this mapping, the data granularity and frequency must be harmonized.
  • Demand Visibility. The translation of demand by role across the organization and across tiers and nodes of the supply chain.
  • Demand Consumption. The translation of the demand signal across planning horizons. In early planning products this was accomplished through rules-based consumption. New and more advanced technologies are using optimization and cognitive learning techniques to consume the forecast across planning horizons.
  • Integration. Close coupling of the data elements to use the data into software. Integration without synchronization and harmonization does little for the demand signal.
  • Harmonization. Data harmonization enables data of differing granularity and data structures to be harmonized into a common database.


Did I miss any? Just let me know.
And, please let me know if you have any great tips to share for the application of these concepts.
Also, if you want to practice speaking the language of demand face-to-face, it looks like I may be at the Marriott Airport Hotel in LaGuardia for a loooong time.  Flights are canceled for at least 48 hours. Look for me at the bar….