If you want an educational demo of our network design solution using our LogicNet Plus XE product, check our video on YouTube.
The video gives you an introduction to the concepts of network design and takes you through a case study. The focus of this video is on traditional network design-- locating the optimal number, location, size, and territories of warehouses.
We've recently written an educational book on network design. This book is aimed at both those who do network design projects for a living and for use in the classroom.
For those who do these studies, you will develop better intuition on how these models are solved and new ideas for modeling your supply chain. It can also be a good guide for people who are new to the discipline within your organization.
For those of you who teach, this book will introduce your students to the topic and provide them with a wide ranges of realistically sized models to work on. You can use with the IBM ILOG LogicNet Plus XE software from the academic initiative to allow your students to learn the topic with the use of commercial software.
If you’ve paid much
attention lately, the topic of “smart supply chains” is currently in vogue. But what is a smart
supply chain, exactly? And are you trying to build one at your
company?The idea of smart or
intelligent supply chains has been around for some time – more on that in just a
bit. However, part (but by no means all) of the recent reanimated discussion
about smart supply chains has come from the efforts of IBM, which has made
“smarter” supply chains one of its key marketing messages.
report IBM released last year summarizing surveys and interviews with hundreds
of senior supply chain executives (promoted in many venues since then, including
SCDigest), IBM said that “To deal effectively with risk and meet your business
objectives, we believe supply chains must become a lot smarter,” and called on
Chief Supply Chain Officers to start building to that new vision right
now. Read the full story online at SCDigest.com.
IBM recently came out with its annual "Next Five in Five" report highlighting five innovation predictions for the next five years. One article that picked up the story pointed out:
IBM, the world's largest provider of computer services, is one of the
few big corporations investing in long-range research projects and
invested $5.8 billion in research and development last year, accounting
for 6.1% of revenue, according to the company's financials.
This investment in research helps benefit our supply chain clients. For example, IBM recently came out with a new study and white paper, "New Rules for a New Decade: A Vision for Smarter Supply Chain Management." SupplyChainDigest picked up the story and provides a nice summary in addition to the IBM material. The study found that supply chain visionaries have significantly better financial returns by more quickly predicting demand and optimizing and analyzing their supply chain to take advantage of this in closer to real-time. The chart below summarizes the key capabilities of different types of supply chain organization. Of course, there are significant advantages to getting your supply chain to the "Planners" level.
It is increasingly important to have the analytics
that enable better decision-making, says Douglass. But an area where
supply chain managers need to improve is scenario planning— assessing
different alternatives based on risks.
“It’s like having different playbooks with different response profiles for different contingencies,” Douglass explains.
Overall, IBM is investing heavily in supply chain thought leadership to help our clients run better supply chains.
1. You can find savings with network modeling. The team quoted that they were able to find $10M in savings just in the initial modeling. In fact, the speakers stressed the tremendous value in just building a baseline model. This allows you to uncover savings, but to also challenge preconceived ideas.
2. Sensitivity analysis is valuable. After narrowing down choices, the team did analysis on the impact of higher oil prices and carbon emissions to rank the solutions.
Bob Ferrari noted that this work can be done with remote teams:
The combined project team performed this task over three months on a
virtual basis, without the need to meet face-to-face until just before
final recommendations. This was an important reinforcement that a
virtual team process can work, with selection of both the right
players, and a single point-of-contact for each constituency.
The speakers also mentioned that through the years they were able to build various models that focused on different parts of their supply chain from distribution to manufacturing.
The May 22, 2012 edition of the Wall Street Journal featured an article about manufacturing moving back to the US. (Click here for the article-- it may be restricted to subscribers). The article cited statistics from David Simchi-Levi of MIT stating that 39% of companies surveyed were considering moving production back to the US.
Of course, several factors were mentioned for this trend including changes in the relative cost of labor, the price of oil, and the ability to respond faster. Although not touched on in this article, making product closer to the demand can reduce the required inventory.
What is also interesting is that over the last 5 years, China has become a market where companies sell product. It used to be that companies just received product from China. Soon, firms found that their China plants were well-suited to cover the demand in China.
From a network design perspective, this brings up some interesting questions: should you make product for each region of the world in that region? Which products should you make in China and which ones in the US? And, what is the break-point for the price of labor and oil where it makes sense to move product from China to the US?
Correctly positioning and buffering inventory can help you create a more flexible supply chain with lower costs.
In the military, it is common practice to pay suppliers on a "cost plus" basis. Effectively, this makes all the suppliers a "make to order" location. That is, the suppliers can only make product when there is a firm order. There is no mechanism for the supplier to make product in advance, sit on safety stock, and provide faster service.
Keeping helicopters flying is not trivial. They are made up of many parts and operated in tough conditions. Many of the key parts(drive shafts, sycn shafts, blades) require many sub-components and must be made with specialized materials in a high-precision manufacturing environment.
The supply chain for these key parts can be very long (measured in many months), and it is expensive to keep enough of these items around as spare parts.
With the current system, each key part had to either be stored in inventory as safety stock (waiting to be needed) or the the military had to wait for the supply chain to produce another (creating a backlog of demand and a helicopter that was grounded). Neither alternative was great.
A better solution is to optimize the placement of strategic buffers in this supply chain. The chart below on the left shows the existing supply chain. The yellow box on the right represents the customer (the military) and a key part. The gray boxes to the left represent all the steps in the supply chain needed to make this particular part. You can see the complexity of the supply chain. In the baseline, the entire buffer is held by military, represented by the red bar.
In the optimal case, the suppliers hold buffers. These buffers are seen by the red bars. The inventory optimization identifies where and how big these buffers should be. Now, the military can keep the helicopters flying with much less money tied up in working capital (or worse, with many helicopters not being able to fly).
Of course, implementing this solution is not trivial. Contracts with the suppliers have to be re-worked to allow them to create and maintain the safety stock buffers.
Manufacturers are offering more and more products by changing the "sizes, brands, colors, fabrics and flavors."
But, "instead of improving profitability, these tactics often lead to
bloated product portfolios that raise a company's costs, reduce
supply-chain efficiency, confuse consumers and lead to shortages of
The article offers tips for reducing the number of SKUs. But, this problem is difficult to tackle-- it involves many different groups and decisions can impact the top line and ability to compete for shelf space. At IBM, our advanced analytics solutions can add to the analysis.
Cognos helps with the Business Intelligence, allowing you to understand the demand and sales price of each SKU in each market. SPSS allows to determine which SKU's actually sell together and estimate what would happen to overall demand if SKU's were reduced. That is, if you eliminate an SKU, what will be the likely uptick in the demand of the remaining products. ILOG can help determine the true landed cost, supply chain efficiencies, and safety stock impact of a reduced SKU count.
Combined, these technologies could help you make the correct decisions on how many SKU's to eliminate and which new varieties to the market.
Gartner RAS Core Research Note G00172071, Andrew White, 17 November 2009
"This research updates users on IBM’s overall supply chain management (SCM) product strategy, which has matured in terms of positioning and product management/strategy since its most recent Ilog acquisition in 2008. We highlight the finalized IBM SCM product portfolio, and highlight how this rationalized portfolio aligns with the SCM trends IBM exposed in its most recent Executive Survey, which also aligns closely with Gartner’s research."
To read the note visit: http://imagesrv.gartner.com/media-products/pdf/reprints/ibm/external/volume4/article31.pdf
As data becomes more available, firms are revisiting their S&OP process to add more analytics to the process. In fact, the lack of analytics and optimization is often a reason that firms do not get the full value from their S&OP process. That is, without optimization-based technology, the S&OP process can become just a demand planning exercise with minimal analysis of the operations and supply.
By combining the Cognos S&OP solution with integration to LogicNet Plus XE, firms can now create optimized plans. That is, Cognos provides the descriptive analytics, an S&OP dashboard, the detailed reporting, the platform for demand consensus, the ability to standardize data from multiple sources to create a single S&OP view, and the ability to tie it back to financial systems. Cognos becomes the enterprise level platform for S&OP. LogicNet Plus XE then receives data from Cognos, allows the planner to run multiple scenarios, and feed the operations plan back into Cognos.
The operational plan considers capacity of the facilities, starting inventory positions, the demand plan from the S&OP process, and alternatives for meeting demand. Using this capability, it creates integrity in the process by coming up with operational plans that match the demand plans.
We have a short video available for additional information.
A new case study is available highlighting how Johnson Controls uses LogicNet Plus to model and improve their closed-loop battery supply chain.
The following is a quote from Johnson Control's Supply Chain Network Strategy Manager, Chad Montgomery:
"I’m using LNP XE every week to perform modeling on a variety of projects from small capacity analysis/capital investment decisions to quarterly financial forecasting and annual budgeting for capacity utilization, plant manufacturing, and shipping territories. LNP XE has allowed us to create clear pictures of our network, starting with a best-case utopia state and then quantifying the impact of each constraint. This clarity can reveal hidden savings opportunities as well as gives complete insight into the main drivers of our supply chain”
Many S&OP processes stop with the sales planning. When you extend your S&OP process to include optimization through a tool like LogicNet Plus XE, you can reap many benefits.
The picture to the left is shows some highlights from an S&OP case from a beer company. On a monthly basis, as part of the S&OP process, the operations of this beer company are modeled and optimized in LogicNet Plus XE. The details below the map provide information on how much beer, by product by month, is shipped to each of warehouses and how much product is produced in each month. The graph shows the inventory build up in the supply chain by warehouses.
Besides providing insight into the operational cost and capacity implications of a given sales plan, the results also show the impact on total revenue, operational gross profit, and total pre-build inventory.
These results can also provide insight into the sales plan. For example, it can determine the cost and feasibility of promotions, it can suggest additional demand shaping activities by looking at under-utilized capacity.
In this case, the firm analyzed different demand plans around the implications of a marketing program to grow demand in a region, the implications of a promotion for a specialty product, and the implications of a price increase.
Today, we announced the release of a new version of our multi-echelon inventory optimization product, Inventory and Product Flow Analyst (IPFA) v7.6
We have put a lot of investment in IPFA so that it fits within the workflow of an organization. That is, it is important to be able to answer strategic inventory optimization questions, but it is even more important to maintain the right inventory targets. You maintain these targets with strong work flow capabilities.
By maintaining the right inventory targets at all levels in the supply chain, you can avoid lost sales, minimize late shipments, minimize expediting, and keep inventory to a minimum. And, since IPFA directly accounts for demand forecast error and supply variability, you get value even when your forecasting is not very robust. For more details on the strategic importance of inventory optimization, click here.
Highlights of this new release include:
Simulation capability: Inventory planners can now analyze inventory and service level performance against simulated customer demands.
More powerful Multi-Echelon optimization: Inventory and
supply chain planners can now optimize total inventory costs based on
variable committed service times or variable upstream service levels.
Forecast error and supplier performance analysis: Inventory
and supply chain planners can now analyze forecast error and take into
account forecast bias in the inventory optimization process. They can
also measure supplier performance with an automated calculation of lead
time variability and receipt period.
Ease-of-use enhancements: Enable inventory planners to perform their tasks more effectively.
Here is a description of the session from the registration site:
Managing a global supply chain is a constant balancing act. Making
sure you’re getting the best results means calculating thousands of
trade-offs. You need to consider every cost and constraint associated
with transportation, production, storage, and global trade, while
keeping service levels as high as possible. And when you consider how
unpredictable high-growth markets can be, the levels of complexity
Attend this IndustryWeek webinar featuring experts from IBM
and GE Healthcare to learn best practices for simplifying the complex.
Find out how your company can calculate the best possible supply chain
network design to meet rapidly expanding business needs.
You will learn:
Why leading companies are integrating ongoing network optimization
into every major supply chain planning activity -- and how you can
benefit from their insights
How major companies such as GE Healthcare are managing their
global supply chain structures in order to reduce costs, improve
customer service, and prevent disruptions
How solutions can help your company simplify the complex though all-in-one packaged network design and planning
Ryan Hahn Global Network Optimization Manager GE Healthcare
Last week, IBM hosted another Connect to Win event for business partners at it's northern California IBM Innovation Center. The event focused on business analytics and featured IBM Distinguished Engineer Jeff Jonas, a dynamic and highly sought after speaker. Among his many accomplishments, he is known for developing the technology used by the Las Vegas gaming industry featured in the book "Bringing Down the House", the recent movie "21", and numerous documentaries on the Discovery Channel, Learning Channel and the Travel Channel.
Following the keynote by Jeff Jonas, IBM hosted a panel discussion. Some 30+ partners came to learn how to leverage analytics in their offerings, and naturally a wide spectrum of analytics sophistication was represented, generating a vibrant discussion on everything from Smarter Planet to Artificial Intelligence to Decision Management.
The panel was made up of:
Jeff Jonas, IBM Distinguished Engineer, Chief Scientist, IBM Entity Analytics Group
Jeff Kreulen, Senior Manager, Senior Technical Staff Member, Services Oriented Technologies, IBM Almaden Research Center
Thomas Dong, Senior Product Marketing Manager, ILOG Optimization and Analytical Decision Support Solutions
Daniel Mannisto, CEO, Applied Analytix (IBM Business Partner)
During the panel discussion I had the opportunity to first share IBM's vision for business analytics, using an adaptation from Tom Davenport's book "Competing on Analytics", to explain why, how and where IBM has invested $14B since 2005 in business analytics. Several partners thanked me afterwards for presenting this visual, as it provided them with a blueprint for how they might evolve their own analytics capabilities.
In fact, this gave me an opportunity to define a new software category for many - Advanced Analytics, which applies statistical and mathematical techniques to provide forward-looking capabilities, beyond the insight commonly extracted from historical data and information. It can be viewed as a subset of Business Analytics, and provides an interesting convergence opportunity, between the IT-based "analytics" world, and this emerging world previously reserved for specialists in statistics and Operations Research-related disciplines (Management Science, Industrial Engineering, Financial Engineering, Systems Engineering, Applied Mathematics, etc.). As the business world evolves its analytics agenda beyond business intelligence and performance management capabilities, the desire to not only look back in time, but forward in time as well, is driving awareness for Advanced Analytics - and creating many opportunities for SPSS and ILOG Optimization at the point of business impact.
To learn more about Advanced Analytics for a Smarter Planet, start here:
While doing some research for an upcoming white paper, I came across a nice article from Nov 2009 from Dan Gilmore at the SupplyChainDigest, "The Real Value of (Less) Inventory." A key line from the article is:
reducing your level of inventories relative to sales and sales growth
can have a dramatic impact on a company’s share price."
The article quotes research and cases to back up this claim. This certainly fits with what our customers are telling us-- they are seeing significant inventory savings through inventory optimization.
The word "permanent" is a great choice of words. Inventory optimization technology, by itself, will not lead to a permanent reduction. As we noted in an earlier post, we have developed an inventory planning playbook to help firms make the right inventory decisions with the right cadence and considering important strategic factors.
This week’s Economist magazine has a special report on the
“the data deluge.”The report points out:
“According to one estimate, mankind
created 150 exabytes (billion gigabytes) of data in 2005.This year, it will create 1,2000
exabytes.Merely keeping up with this
flood, and storing the bits that might be useful, is difficult enough.Analysing it, to spot patterns and extract useful
information, is harder still.Even so,
the data deluge is already starting to transform business…”
The article notes that the retailers are one of the leaders
in amassing this data.For example:
“Wal-Mart, a retail giant, handles
more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at
more than 2.5 petabytes.”(A petabyte is
Of course, this article fits nicely within IBM’s Smarter
Planter.Smarter Planet’s big ideas are
that the world’s systems will be instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent.
In IBM, the group behind this blog works on solutions to
help firms make more intelligent decisions with this data.Often, due to the number of possible choices,
optimization-based technology is the only way to get value from the information
For example, for retailers we’ve worked with, they have
taken advantage of the data in a variety of ways:
items should be stocked at a store, how the store should be laid out, and where
the SKU’s should be on the shelf—this helps retailers increase store revenue
the warehouses and stores should best be replenished, how the workforce should
be scheduled, how products should flow through the supply chain, locating the
warehouses, and routing trucks--- this helps retailers take costs of their
In each of these cases, simply analyzing the data was not
going to be good enough to extract value from it to give the retailer a
The website highlights why the concepts from the book are important. For example, Jim Champy, the coauthor of Reengineering the Corporation says:
"Companies today are faced with an increasing number of choices in
operational and supply chain strategies. This book goes beyond just
showing how to make the right operational decisions. It makes the
critical link between operations and providing more value to customers.
It's a must read for anyone involved in operations and strategy."
Also, a key concept discussed is the fact that many companies offer different value propositions through different channels or brands. These different value propositions imply that the company may have different supply chains. However, the company cannot simply operate their supply chains separately. They need to take advantage of synergies where it makes sense. Click on the S&OP video in this link for more information
The article does a great job of explaining how firms need to embed mathematical optimization deep into their organizations to really take advantage of their investment in IT and data.
"One of his [Steve Shashihara] most interesting arguments is that a great deal of the effort
spent on information gathering and analysis is wasted — or, at least,
used sub-optimally — when it’s used to feed business intelligence
systems that produce reports that ultimately wind up with being fed into
spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides. Managers then sit around in a
conference room listening to presentations and debating what the data
means and what decisions should be made about it — when, in many cases,
good software could make the decision itself."
The article mentions that IBM and IBM's ILOG CPLEX have the ability to address the need for more automated optimization. This article confirms the value we've seen in Optimization:
A recent article in The Wall Street
Journal discusses the benefits of a foldable shipping container. This would be a big innovation in shipping.
Inbalances in supply and demand means that shipping companies must pay
to get their empty containers back to where customers want them.
importance of moving empty containers is simple:
a huge expense, a huge headache for the industry," says Neil Davidson
of London-based Drewry Shipping Consultants. The net cost of moving
empties is around $7 billion a year, say analysts.
foldable container would reduce the cost of shipping the empties.
However, these foldable containers cost around $4,000, or twice the cost
of the standard containers. And, the technology
has not yet proven robust enough for the realities of "heat, cold and
salt water of the high seas, and the rough handling of
Right now, the industry is not standing still.
IBM's ILOG Optimization solutions are being used to optimize the return
of the empty containers. The goal of the optimization is to get empty
containers to where they
are needed at the lowest cost. Of course, the containers do not have to
return from where they started and there are options for leasing or
buying new containers.
The problem can be difficult when you
start to consider such things as the different container types, the
capacities of ships, the costs of different modes of transportation, and
the long ocean shipping times.
Besides reducing costs, the
shipping companies using this technology
are seeing benefits in customer service by having the needed empty
containers in the right place at the right time and having the ability
to quickly re-plan when conditions change.
commitment to Analytics and Smarter Planet, provides additional benefits to this problem:
First, since there is variability in demand and supply, it is important
to correctly set the safety stock levels for empty containers at key
locations. Second, it is important to track and trace the containers so
you have better visibility but also to know when a container needs to
be replaced or repaired.
According to an article in Businessweek, "Companies from Tiffany & Co. to Home Depot Inc. are restocking
shelves in a move that will boost economic growth and may keep the
recovery on track through 2010."
The questions many retailers are asking is "what should I restock with?"
Today, we recorded an educational webinar with SC Digest on shelf space optimization-- a great way to answer the question about how to stock your stores. The objective is to keep customers happy at every single store with the right products and, in turn, drive up revenues and profits.
SC Digest will keep the Webinar available for 12 months for viewing. You just need to register to watch it. Click here for the link.
We had the privilege of speaking with MillerCoors at the annual CSCMP conference in San Diego earlier this year. In that talk, they discussed how a significant amount of the $750 million in synergies came from the combining of the Miller and Coors supply chain.
The press release reports on the progress of the supply chain transformation as well as the on-going efforts to improve the supply chain:
In the third quarter, MillerCoors successfully completed initial product
transitions within its national brewery network. The company will
continue to focus on further network optimization through peak/non-peak
season sourcing changes, as well as opportunities for increased
We see many firms relying on advanced analytical solutions, like LogicNet Plus XE, to help drive savings in the supply chain. The savings can come from combining distribution networks, optimizing production decisions across the supply chain, and reacting to the changes in demand patterns throughout the year.