At Smarter Supply Chains – Atlanta Regional Conference, Ronan O'Donovan, product manager with IBM ILOG Supply Chain Applications, spoke about "smarter" inventory and product flow optimization.
Key findings: The challenges around inventory management and product flow are not getting any less. Retail and distribution clients, for example, are requiring a product that optimizes both safety stocks and the flow of products to minimize total supply chain costs.
To juggle all the factors impacting inventory and product flow, companies must make inventory and product flow optimization a formal business process within organizations, front and center and part of the regular monthly planning process, e.g., Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) or Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning (SI&OP). "Making up the numbers" is no longer acceptable as a planning method.
In addition, processes are moving from "strategic" to "tactical," meaning that planning is becoming an increasingly frequent exercise as companies look to be more responsive to the evolving environment. Companies need to understand, at any given moment, what's the best plan for me right now, given the current set of constraints we're facing.
Ronan discussed typical user workflows and roles for Inventory Optimization, breaking down the separate approaches used by typical Super Users (collecting/managing data), Business Analysts (running what-if scenarios, setting new inventory targets) and Manager Reviewers (reviewing exceptions/alerts, approving/overriding recommendations, tracking planned vs. actual and other KPIs, and reporting). The key to a successful process is not necessarily how each of these classes of users performs their job, but how these users interact through a consistent, closely aligned process.
Where organizations put optimization at the heart of the process, the technology tends to follow to enable that process. Note that this process will evolve and mature over time within a company, as the company learns which factors to incorporate and how best to incorporate them. Ultimately, optimization will never be an "easy button" that will make everything work automagically, but it's a necessary and critical process.
|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.|