Written by 10:00 pm New technologies, Supply chain excellence

In Search of Cool

 It happened yesterday. It happens at least once a day.   

When I travel, the most frequently asked question is “what do I see in the market that is cool?”  Yes, it seems that everyone is looking for the inside track on cool technologies. So, here I share my take.

Let me start with a disclaimer.  What is cool for me:  may not be what is cool for you.  And, my daughter will be quick to point out  that unlike Snoopy (portrayed on the left of this blog) that I am a far cry from a Joe Cool  type of person.   <Trust me. Don’t bother to call her.  I have gotten this feedback first hand for over twenty-five years. I have learned to accept it.) But, I do love cool technologies, early adopters of the technologies and the passion of the developers.

What is a cool technology?

For this blog, I have selected four supply chain technologies that I feel:

  • Solve a business problem in a new way.
  • Have passionate references.  <The kind of folks that just LOVE to talk about the usage of the product when you call them.  You cannot HELP but get excited with them on the other end of the phone.>
  • Are built by passionate developers.  The kind of guys that just love serving their clients.

My Q1 2010 Picks

 So, without further ado, my picks for cool technologies for the first quarter of 2010 are:

Applied Predictive Technologies (APT):  APT has brought science to demand sensing.  The technology allows retailers and suppliers to test market scenarios in near real-time.  The APT methodologies help companies to design tests–scientific definition of control and test stores– and track market acceptance of changes with the shopper (E.g. store formats, trade promotion effectiveness, display positioning, category lay-outs, etc).  I love the scientific approach of store testing and the ability to get REAL data on consumer acceptance in near-real time.  One retailer that I track evaluates the market baskets of store clusters every 15 minutes.    Talk about KNOWING your shopper!

ORTEC:  The Ortec technology fills the missing link between warehouse management (WMS) and order management (OMS). The software output is a floor plan for a truck– which pallets to put where in the truck, which pallets to turn, and which pallets to stack– to better enable truck utilization on loads that mix heavy and light products.  It reduces damage and improves truck utlization.  One client that I follow used Ortec to improve truck utilization by 10%.  (However, MUM is the word for them because they want to keep it SECRET. ) A great technology to help consumer products companies improve sustainability, reduce unsaleable/return products or drive cost reduction initiatives.

SAS Forecasting/APO Integration:  SAS has been quietly building a new approach to forecasting termed Demand-driven Forecasting.  The technology has five advantages for companies seeking technologies to improve forecast accuracy.

  1. Consensus Forecasting.  A disciplined approach to consensus forecasting to hold all partes accountable for bias and error.
  2. Improved Scalability. Accenture pilots in their Barcelona center of excellence indicate that SAS forecasting is 30-40X faster than SAP APO 7.0.  
  3. SAP APO Integration.  Tight integration into SAP APO for companies wanting to maximize their SAP APO investments.
  4. Depth of Optimization.  Depth of optimization for seasonal and causal forecasting (ARIMA and unobserved components)
  5. Ease of Use. Data cleansing and master data workbench capabilities to help business users maintain the data.

Terra Technology: Slowly, but surely, Terra Technology is making Distribution Requirements Planning (DRP) obsolete.  In 2005, it was the automation of demand sensing at the warehouse location level to improve inventory decision making. In 2008 it was the use of downstream data to build a pull-based signal from the retailer to the supplier in multi-enterprise demand sensing. In 2009, it was the introduction of transportation forecasting; and in 2010, it is logic to improve the distribution of open-code date products to reduce waste. Slowly, but surely, DRP is becoming less relavant for consumer products leaders like ConAgra, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever.

So, what technologies have you seen that you think are cool?  And, if you are a supply chain vendor that thinks that you have a cool technology, please send me an email at lora@altimetergroup.com. The Supply Chain Shaman is a tough cookie, but she is always looking for great ideas. 

I am currently packing my bags for Milan, Italy.  Look for my posts later this month from SAP’s European Insider Conference. I am writing a series on how to gain the greatest value from SAP APO investments.  Please share your secrets freely with the community.

<In the spirit of full disclosure.  Two of the companies listed have retainer relationships with Altimeter and two do not.  This is not a pay for play blog.>

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