No matter how sophisticated your methods, or how intimate your knowledge of the field, no demand or sales forecast will ever be 100% accurate. Just as supply chain disruptions are simply a fact of life in the world of manufacturing, deviation from a your expected outcomes are unavoidable. Given this state of affairs, you may be wondering if it’s worth expending resources on improving forecast quality. This feeling is understandable, but while there will always be a gap between expectations and reality, the rise of Industry 4.0 has improved our ability to predict future outcomes. With modern IT solutions and business processes, it’s possible to escape the past-oriented planning models of yesteryear (which fail to account for future developments) and drive towards a more future-oriented approach.
In chess, players are taught to think at least three moves ahead. Every action in the game has a reaction, which can be predicted only to a certain extent, and each possible reaction must be planned for in order to efficiently execute a winning strategy. If each piece on the board represents mission critical resources and manpower, then your short- and mid-term planning must take a holistic account of the board and the structure of the game into account in order to be certain that time and resources are not wasted.
Every year, today’s manufacturing companies dedicate time, resources, and personnel to devising planning and production strategies designed to reduce the likelihood of disruptions across each touch point of the value chain. Whether we’re discussing integrated planning platforms, intelligent production sequences, or transport logistics, the ability to react and correct disruptions at the production, inventory, or transportation level depends largely on understanding the kinds of disruptions and how at-risk a manufacturing company is to experiencing each type. Given the interconnected nature of today’s global supply chain and expansive network of production facilities, warehouses, and transportation hubs, there is more opportunity than ever before for manufacturing companies to encounter disruptions or breakdowns at more touch points across their supply network.
However, this also means there is more information available for companies than ever before about the different breeds of supply chain disruptions and the methods companies can pursue to reduce the risk of these disruptions.
We’ve talked in a great length on this blog about the elements of effective global supply chain management and the implications thereof. But while these are important discussions to have as manufacturing companies work to expand their footprint and growth their customer base, at the end of the day the developments in supply chain management only really matter insofar as they add business value for these manufacturing companies. Advancements in procurement, production planning, job allocation, and transportation management must equal enhanced business value for each partner stage in a production network or else these aspects are simply window dressing designed to give the appearance of lean production principles.
One of the most valuable assets manufacturing companies can utilize to increase business value is the idea of sales and operations execution (S&OE). Though something of a recent concept in global supply chain logistics, S&OE is a powerful piece of planning capability planners and managers can deploy to increase the efficacy of their planning and production programs, as well as enhance a number of other critical functions across the value stream such as resource and material procurement, optimized inventory management, and even job shop scheduling and job allocation.
It’s a big concept both in terms of importance and how many elements of global supply chain management under which it encompasses. We’re talking about risk and the factors manufacturing companies must address and combat to ensure stability and reduce the amount of uncertainty in a globally-competitive, variant-rich landscape. No matter how diligently planners and managers work to curtail this uncertainty, risk in a variety of forms can plague companies across the entire value chain, everything from planning and procurement to production and transport logistics.
All this being said, there are a number of strategies, solutions, and principles manufacturing companies can deploy and integrate to reduce the level of risk in a cross-organizational manner that also helps to increase productivity and enhance efficiencies.
Today’s blog entry features a fascinating conversation with flexis AG Vice President of Manufacturing and Logistics Robert Recknagel. As a thought-leader in the supply chain landscape with more than 10 years of experience in operational supply chain management, software concepts and optimization design, Recknagel provided us a glimpse into the key conversations, discussions, and concerns manufacturing companies are addressing in today’s global manufacturing landscape. Recknagel’s work with flexis has largely focussed on helping companies administer their supply networks as efficiently and productivity as possible, which uniquely positions him to shed light on the challenges and opportunities today’s manufacturers see each and every day.
Nick Ostdick: There’s a lot of information in today’s supply chain about Industry 4.0. Can you clarify a little bit about what Industry 4.0 means for the manufacturing supply chain and how companies should be looking to implement this technology platform?
Understanding the relationship between S&OP and S&OE is akin to the novel versus the short story. With the novel, an author more often than not takes the long view of the narrative, spanning large swatches of time with a multitude of characters in order to tell a fully-realized, fleshed-out, and satisfying story. On the other hand, a short story is a much more compressed form of narrative where the author focuses on one, two, or maybe three characters in a more narrow window of time with a specific set of themes, tropes, or conceits in order to give the reader a mere glimpse into the lives of those inhabiting the story.
Both of these narrative modes rely on similar principles of storytelling, but they deploy those principles in slightly different ways for a desired impact - the novel a more long-term, wide-ranging look at a world, and the short story a more compact, micro view of characters, situations, and contexts. The similarities and differences between the novel and the short story mirrors essentially the relationship between S&OP and S&OE in today’s global manufacturing and supply chain. S&OP allows manufacturing companies to create integrated demand planning between sales and production teams for the short to mid-term (the novel game) while S&OE gives planners and managers the capacity to examine their supply situation on a more micro level (the short story).
In today’s global, interconnected supply chain, the technology and software solutions a manufacturer deploys are just as important as a company’s supply logistics and management strategies. Because so many of the critical actions and decisions in the supply stream take place in a digital environment, the right technology can either propel a manufacturer toward robust growth and productivity or relegate them to a static position of efficiency. In short, identifying the right supply chain technology for a specific supply network model can be a make or break decision for companies competing on a global stage.
The right people. The right time. The right resources. The right place.
In today’s global automotive industry, supply chains function most efficiently when all the major elements are integrated from end-to-end. Because so much of the modern supply stream consists of disparate production networks, complex partnerships, and markets and customer pools spread out across the globe, the ability to coordinate the people, processes, and products critical to effective supply chain management is key in such a variant-rich industry.
Whether it’s the sourcing of raw materials, assignment of planned production programs, transportation and warehousing, or delivery and customer management, companies in today’s automotive industry have realized the value-added proposition in integrating their supply chain across all touch points in order to fully control their overall supply situation and gain valuable insight into the functionality and efficiency of their value chain.