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.
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.
In 2008, after undergoing a grueling third-party logistics provider
(3PL) selection process, Navistar chose San Mateo, Calif.-based Menlo
Worldwide Logistics, the global supply chain management subsidiary of
Con-way Inc., to support it in improving its global logistics network,
including managing global transportation providers and regional
warehouses, planning lead times, and modeling net landed costs.
He reports that one of their goals was a 25% reduction in supply chain costs. He reports that at "the end of the partnership’s second year, we will have achieved
11-percent cost savings, out of the 25-percent goal we set for the next
When discussing the reasons Navistar selected Menlo, he mentioned their "global coverage, cross-network planning, and optimization capabilities."
This is a very interesting article discussing the challenges of building a new global supply chain from the ground up. It is also interesting that modeling net landed cost and optimization capabilities were mentioned as key factors in the transformation of the supply chain. This mirrors some other findings that leading supply chains are relying on optimization-based technology to help drive improvements.
An article in DCVelocity provides some great insight into how Whirlpool and Maytag combined their supply chains. Whirlpool purchased Maytag in 2006 and promised the investment community $400M in savings over the first 3 years.
According to the article, $40M of savings per year was going to come from logistics-- freight and warehousing costs. This reminds us how important it is to get these decisions right. And, in Whirlpool's case, the article reported that they were able to overachieve and hit a savings of $66M in the current year.
How they got off to a fast start:
One of the first steps was to determine what inventory was on hand in
both operations so that Whirlpool could determine what to do with it.
The company acquired ILOG's LogicNet Plus suite of network design and
planning software so it would have a tool in place that
could import and crunch data once the deal was finalized (regulations
did not permit the managers to have access to Maytag-specific data until
the acquisition closed).
"When the deal was completed on March 31, 2006, we were in the
starting blocks ready to go. We had our tools in place and people in
place, and we had our own data. We were then prepared to bring in the
The network optimization with LogicNet Plus allowed Whirlpool to determine which distribution centers to close, which new sites should be built, and what the local cross dock network should look like.
We have seen this type of result many times over the years. When a firm grows through an acquisition, having a high-quality network optimization tool allows it develop solid plans for the new network. This creates a foundation for additional improvements and helps a company meet the goals of the acquisition.
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
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.
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.
Yesterday, IBM published its 2009 annual report. In the Letter From the Chairman, IBM lays out its growth opportunities for 2010. It lists fours strategic areas for investment. Analytics and Smarter Planet are two of those four areas.
For Analytics, there is great amount of data available and organizations who take advantage of this information will unlock tremendous value. The letter notes:
IBM is moving quickly to capitalize on this promise. We have built the industry’s premier analytics practice, with 4,000 consultants, mathematicians and researchers, as well as leading-edge software capabilities
Of course, this fits with the opportunity IBM sees with its Smarter Planet initiative. In fact, the letter points out some benefits retailers have seen.
Four leading retailers have reduced supply chain costs by up to 30 percent, reduced inventory levels by up to 25 percent, and increased sales up to 10 percent. They’ve done so by analyzing customer buying behaviors, aligning merchandising assortments with demand and building end-to-end visibility across their entire supply chain.
A good example of how this IBM strategy comes together is through our shelf space optimization solution. In this solution, we help retailers place their products in the right place in the store-- from how the store should be laid out, how much space should be given to each products, and where the products should be on the shelf (for example, determining which products are at eye-level). This solution leverages our advanced optimization capability (to determine the placement), our advanced statistical capability (to predict and analyze detailed sales data), and our rules technology (to maintain the system since different regions and stores may be unique in their requirements).
Memories of having to take unexpected markdowns of up to 70 percent on
leftover holiday merchandise during the recession prompted retailers to
keep inventories low during the critical months of November and
December. The strategy has helped retailers better manage their
businesses, but it also means clearance racks are expected to be thin.
Good inventory optimization are critical to a firm's success. Only by optimizing inventory across the supply chain can you truly optimize inventory within the stores. This often can involve both the retailer and the suppliers jointly optimizing inventory. Proper inventory optimization can give your supply chain the flexibility to meet unexpected high demand with a minimal amount of inventory invested in the system.
As retailers try to continue the momentum of this holiday season, inventory optimization will play a critical role--- too much inventory creates a financial risk if sales do not materialize and too little inventory creates a risk of losing revenue or market share.
ILOG Supply Chain applications for network design, inventory optimization, and transportation optimization
ILOG Optimization solutions for unique scheduling and planning applications
Sterling TMS for SaaS for transportation management
Sterling Order Management and Supply Chain Visibility for distributed order management and visibility. This, for example, enables retailers to better handle their multiple channels and gain control of their supply chain
Emptoris for strategic supply and contract management
DemandTec for trade and promotion management and optimization
Cognos and SPSS for supply chain descriptive and predictive analytics. For example, Cognos and SPSS have been deployed for value added S&OP.
Earlier, we recorded a session with SupplyChainDigest on strategic sourcing. This session covers how firms can better use their manufacturing network. For example, where should a product be made and at how many of the plants. These decisions can impact manufacturing costs, transportation costs, and the ability of your supply chain to meet its objectives.
This use of LogicNet Plus XE (LNP XE) is part of a larger trend. More firms are using LNP XE on an on-going basis to gain a competitive advantage in the market. This can range from strategic sourcing to budgeting to contingency planning. This is a way to leverage your supply chain data and bring advanced analytics to your supply chain.
Click on this link for a video on strategic sourcing. You will need to submit your email to register and you will be all set.
Bajaj, Head – Solutions and SCM Strategy at AFL’s Logistics Division
said: “AFL chose IBM’s iLOG software for several reasons, chief among
them – robustness, post-purchase support and a clever user interface
that makes data modelling both simple and secure. This unique
combination of AFL’s domain expertise in logistics and iLOG’s superior
design and modelling capabilities, have helped us unlock significant
value in our clients’ supply chain metrics.”
This map shows a classic network design case. This client was producing most of its product in northwest Mexico with some product coming from the Virginia plant.
Like many firms, they were just distributing product from the plant where the product was made. The baseline map shows the current situation.
They wanted to do an analysis to determine a better distribution strategy. The result on the right shows the optimal distribution strategy. Thy shipped full trucks loads from the plant in Mexico to the warehouse in Virginia and then on to the customer.
This solution has much more expense in transportation from the plant to the warehouse. However, this is more than offset by the savings on shipments to customers. The optimal solution resulted in $5MM in savings (about a 25% reduction in transportation costs).
Although this case looks rather simple, it wasn't clear at the start whether the best solution would have one warehouse in the center of the country, two warehouses not located at the plants, or a third warehouse. And, it wasn't clear how the country should be split. And, finally, with a lot at stake in terms of savings, and moving capabilities, it is important to do a robust study to make sure you have covered all the angles.