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.
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.
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.
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
Customer expectations have grown for not only what they are buying
and how they are buying it, but how it is fulfilled and when they will
receive it. They want to buy online and pick up in the store, or have it
shipped direct to their home or office -- and they don't want to wait.
This shift has supply chain professionals moving beyond transactional
enterprise systems and operational rules of thumb to a more advanced
value chain. The value chain takes advantage of all this new granular
customer data to enable organizations to respond to demand variability
at the point of consumption -- connecting the supply chain directly to
customer demand, orchestrating seamlessly between trading partners and
suppliers. This is an inherently multi-enterprise, cross-functional
collaborative process that requires bringing together a vast amount of
data from disparate sources to make the right strategic, tactical and
In this webinar, we will discuss the strategic requirement to creating a successful value chain:
Real time analytics to balance supply and demand and optimize inventory levels and postponement strategies.
Visibility to address disruptions and detect patterns of supply chain behavior
B2B connectivity to optimize the inbound and outbound flow of materials
Evolution of the trading partner eco-system to reduce errors and speed fulfillment
Adrienne Selko Online Editor IndustryWeek
Adrienne Selko manages the editorial content of IndustryWeek's
award-winning Web site. Before joining the staff in 2004, Selko was
managing editor of corporate publications at a large regional financial
institution. She was also an editor for the U.S. based publication of a
medical manufacturing company. Prior to that she ran a public relations
and marketing company that published a best-selling healthcare book.
Selko received a bachelor's of business administration from the
University of Michigan.
Richard Douglass Worldwide Industry Director, Manufacturing IBM
Richard Douglass is the Worldwide Industry Director, Manufacturing,
Smarter Commerce within the software group of IBM, where he is
responsible for industry marketing and key industry account support. He
has over twenty-five years of experience in supply chain management
consulting and solutions development in a variety of manufacturing
sectors ranging from chemicals to high tech. Prior to joining,
Douglass had similar responsibilities at Sterling Commerce and
webMethods, integration and application software providers, and prior to
that he was an associate partner at Accenture, a global consulting
He received a bachelor's in computer science from Michigan State
University and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at
Northwestern University. He is certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt. He
is a senior fellow at the University of Maryland.
At Smarter Supply Chains – Atlanta Regional Conference, David Simchi-Levi talked about Combating Volatility through Flexibility. I talked about this in greater detail here.
One point that David raised at the outset was the increased level of volatility surrounding the supply chain. His point was that companies need to be careful in thinking about the "best practices" that they apply to managing their supply chains. In such a dynamic environment, the best practices that applied before the recession - or before oil prices spiked, or before they crashed again - are not necessarily applicable today. It's a call to action for all supply chain executives to step back and reassess their processes to see if they are still "best in class," or whether there might be benefit to adjusting to the "New Normal."
Supply Chain authority Andrew Reese is Editor of Supply & Demand Chain Executive. He has been invited by IBM PR to attend this show as a blogger and speaker. Like all other speakers, Andrew will receive all speaker benefits including travel and board.
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”
The article shows how the techniques are being applied in a non-discrete manufacturing environment.
We are seeing a similar trend.
However, many firms struggle with translating the lean system developed by Toyota for their environments. This can be especially difficult in long supply chains or in a environment where there is inherent batch or tank processes.
The excellent book by Hopp and Spearmen, Factory Physics, helps translate Toyota's system to other environments by defining lean as:
A manufacturing supply chain is lean if it accomplishes its fundamental objective with minimal buffering costs.
They define three types of buffers a firm can have: inventory, time, or capacity. In short, if you can make your product with a minimum of inventory, short cycle times, and excess capacity, you are getting closer to lean.
We are finding that optimization can be a great way to minimize these buffers and evaluate the trade-offs between them.
With inventory optimization, firms realize that the may not be able to eliminate inventory completely or that they have removed it from the wrong location. In these cases, optimizing inventory is important to achieving a lean operation.
In process manufacturing plants, these firms are relying on high-end optimization to better schedule the plants. They realize that they cannot get around batch and tank production, set-ups, cleaning operations, and other realities in the process industry. Optimization-based scheduling allows them to reduce manufacturing costs, improve inventory, and achieve lean operations.
This releases enhances LogicNet Plus XE's leadership position in the supply chain network design market. It includes many cutting edge and innovate features that will allow you run new types of optimization , and gain deeper analytical insight. Highlights of the new release include:
Ability to run the optimization with multiple user-defined objectives and automatically build detailed trade-off curves. Traditional network design limits you to one objective. This innovative feature allows you to make better supply chain decisions by weighing multiple objectives.
Detailed Landed Cost reporting and analysis
Lane visualization for easy model building, visual understanding of the structure of your supply chain, and detailed analysis of the output
New interface for improved ease-of-use
Center of Gravity modelling
Stochastic inventory planning
This is the third major release of LogicNet Plus XE since 2009 and shows IBM's continued investment in the product.
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
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.
Join our monthly IBM ILOG Supply Chain Management Virtual User Group (VUG) sessions.
These 1-hour meetings are
a quick way to brush up on your IBM ILOG supply chain modeling skills, meet
other people using the products, ask questions to the community, and learn
about what's new. These sessions will be led by our experts and have plenty
of time for discussions and Q&A.
May 4th 2001: Topic: "Applying Supply Chain Analytics: Benefits of
a Central Group" This talk addresses the value firms can achieve by
deploying advanced supply chain analytics and how a group should be structured.
We will use case studies and recent events to highlight the value from
business analytics such as network and inventory optimization. We will discuss
how 3M Corporation is organized to deploy this capability.
Join our LinkedIn Community to receive updates, more detailed information, and Dial-up/Web Meeting access. Schedule-at-a-Glance: May 4th -
Wednesday June 1st -
Wednesday August 2nd -
Tuesday September 1st
- Thursday October 7th -
Friday November 2nd
- Wednesday December 2nd - Friday
This live complimentary event will show you how IBM, through its ILOG® Optimization and SPSS portfolio and Business Analytics & Optimization service line, enables organizations to quickly and confidently answer fundamental business questions, from: Who will be our most profitable customers tomorrow? to What price will maximize profit from sales?
Highlights: • Advanced Analytics – Unifying the Worlds of Statistics and Operations Research • Demo – Illustrating the combination of IBM ILOG CPLEX® and the IBM SPSS Modeler • IBM ILOG Optimization Workshop • IBM SPSS Data Mining Workshop
Learn and share best practices in implementing advanced analytics to your most critical business decisions.
The Dec 2010 issue of Inbound Logistics reported that McKesson Corporation is using "IBM's Supply Chain Sustainability Management Solution to aggregate supply chain, sales, and geographic data to create "what-if" scenarios that enable distribution network modeling, supply planning, inventory positioning, vehicle routing, and sustainability management."
When optimization and analytics are applied to a firm's supply chain, you can often see significant returns on your investment. When you make this capability part of an overall framework, like McKesson did, you create a repeatable process to continually drive improvements in your supply chain.