Let’s take a second to compare two hypothetical World Cup forecasts. Both forecasts are trying to determine who the likely winner of the contest will be, but their methods differ fairly radically. The first forecast starts out with team rosters, facts and figures, and all manner of statistics pertaining to the various players and teams. Based on those facts and figures, a statistician begins to derive and weight a set of probable outcomes. Those outcomes are sent on to a human prognosticator (an expert in the sport, perhaps a former player or coach or a newspaper commentator) who uses his experience and judgment to tweak the probabilities handed down to him by the statistician. The stats think that a particular player on the French team will age poorly, but the prognosticator thinks otherwise, and changes the predictions accordingly. After this first round of edits, the predictions are passed on to the next editor, who brings her own experience to bear, changing the projected outcomes yet again.
Let’s say you’re a freelance writer. You’re trying to grow out your list of clients and get some more work, but you don’t want to commit to doing more work than you can actually handle. So, you sit down to analyze your previous work habits. How many words did you write per hour on average? Did the number of words vary by project type or industry? How many hours are you willing to work each week? How much overtime can you work before you become burned out? With these considerations, you’re able to figure out roughly how much demand you can meet. In this way, you optimize your earning potential and utilize your work hours in the most efficient way.
Topics: Demand Capacity Planning
Let’s say you’re moving into a new home. After a long day of loading boxes and furniture into your car and driving them to your new place of residence you’ve finally transported everything into your new house and you’re almost ready to start unpacking and get the place settled. Before you get down to the work of opening up all of your packed boxes, you realize that you haven’t eaten all day, and should probably whip something up before you do any more manual labor. It should be pretty easy to find your kitchen supplies and snack foods, because you made a list of what was in each box before you moved them. One problem: you don’t know which box the list is in.
As the worlds of manufacturing and retail evolve to meet the unique challenges of the 21st century, logistics (including shipping and freight forwarding) will have to evolve with them. This will likely mean not just a push towards increased digitization, but a continued reimagining of how logistics operates and provides value. Though many of these changes will no doubt seem daunting, they will also present new opportunities for businesses to grow and gain competitive advantages. Here are a few of the most interesting emerging trends to watch out for:
Imagine you’re at the grocery buying cooking supplies for the coming week. You see that tomatoes are on sale if you buy them in quantities of ten. Hoping to make use of the savings, you do some quick calculations in your head: the ripe tomatoes will remain fresh for about a week; you cook roughly one meal a day; your favorite dish requires two tomatoes. You determine that you could easily utilize ten tomatoes before they go bad, but you would have to commit to making the same dish five nights out of seven, and you might not be in the mood for it later in the week.
If there’s one thing today’s planners and managers wish they had to ensure their planning and production strategies, it would be a crystal ball. A magical ability to glimpse into the future in order cut the complexity and uncertainty of modern manufacturing and provide a path of stability and certainty in a variant-rich value stream. While a crystal ball is obviously an impossibility, planners and managers do have a critical tool to help predict future planning and production needs while at the same time managing inventory levels and job allocation strategies for maximum efficiency and productivity.
We discuss in great detail on this blog how integrated processes and optimized models result in enhanced operations, increased productivity, and more effective strategic vision. While these are certainly critical and worthy elements of discussion, they are part and parcel to a much larger concern we devote little conversation to: How these various planning and production techniques actually result in a more innovative way of doing business. Because, at the end of the day, a manufacturing company is a business, and a software solution or platform is only as valuable insofar as it helps a business develop and grow.
For example, take the idea of integrated production planning. Such a planning method is a core driver in helping today’s manufacturing companies (especially those in variant-rich industries such as automotive or packaging) not only reduce costs, but also create inroads for revenue generation and growth across the value stream.
Imagine trying to walk a tightrope. You must have incredible balance, be extraordinary nimble, and understand the nuances of each step as you complete your journey from one side to other. You also have to account for the context in which you’re walking the tightrope: weather or climate conditions, barriers or impediments along the wire, or other significant hurdles along the way. In short, to successfully negotiate such a challenge, the tightrope walker has to execute a number of tasks in quick succession (or sometimes simultaneously) to make it from Point A to Point B.
The same is true for demand capacity planning in today’s manufacturing and logistics landscape. Particularly in variant-rich industries, the proposition of balancing demand and capacity - the amount of product or component parts needed to successfully fill orders and maintain efficient production schedules versus the sheer volume of components and parts required on-hand at all times - is intricate and complex. Many supply chain analysts and manufacturing industry insiders believe, even given today’s technology via integrated planning systems, that this issue is at the core of supply network logistics, especially given expansion and growth into emerging markets in new parts of the world.
To understand the importance of aligning planning and execution, think about the task of writing a memo or some kind of office communication. What’s the best strategy for effectively communicating ideas to peers? Do you compose the email in one session without filtering what you want to say or the information you want to convey, only then to go back and reread and edit the email at some later date? Or (and perhaps mostly likely, at least for many people), do you compose the email and edit as you go, deleting phrases, substituting words, or changing ideas and adapting the information in the moment as necessary for the best possible communication?
Odds are the most common method of emailing is the latter where edits and alterations are made in real-time as thoughts, ideas, and information hits you during the composing process. Where the first example may be a relic of the past when typewriters or handwritten correspondence was the norm, digital communication and the capacity to edit, rewrite, and revise in the moment means greater maneuverability in creating moments for effective, streamlined, and more productive communication. Where writing and editing/revising were at one time two distinct processes, today these functions are more or less integrated into one function with a greater level of process efficacy.
Take a television set from the 1980’s and one from 2017. Sure, both devices will function appropriately and allow you to view your favorite television show or movie, but the set from the 1980’s will clearly have a very limited set of capabilities compared with the one from 2017. The 1980’s set may not even have a remote. The picture will likely be much less clear, more grainy, and ultimately compromised. It may take a few minutes of running before the set functions properly. And odds are the set will be much more prone to malfunctions or breakdowns. On the other hand, the television from 2017 will have a much cleaner, crisper picture, allow for synergy with other applications such as a streaming device, and likely have a much longer lifespan.
In short, the 2017 television set will operate at a much higher level with a more streamlined operational platform for a much longer amount of time. The probability for error will be quite low and the 2017 will work in conjunction with other modern technology.