Supply chain concurrent planning technology provider Kinaxis conducted its annual Kinexions customer conference virtually this week for upwards of 2000 registered attendees.
Overall the conference was well organized and had few technical issues, which is an accomplishment in today’s high-bandwidth utilization of digital conference platforms at any time in a given day, especially this month. There was also one rather significant headline that came out this week’s conference.
This initial Supply Chain Matters blog commentary will focus primarily on the executive keynote and product strategy updates and announcements made at this week Kinexions. Like previous events of this type, the overall content was excellent and educational.
Having viewed many of the sessions this Editor would recommend readers who have the time, to especially view the following:
Kinaxis customer presentations: Clorox, Bell Helicopter and Merck.
Thought Leader Presentations given by futurist author Simon Sinek, and Dr. Nada Sanders, Northeastern University Distinguished Professor of Supply Chain Management.
In future Supply Chain Matters updates, we will be highlighting some of the rather important takeaways from these talks.
In the conference opening keynote, Kinaxis CEO John Sicard spoke to the state of shock that the COVID-19 pandemic has provided for global supply chains since its incurrence earlier this year. He observed that on the one hand, it has never been more important to be in supply chain management since the supply chain has never been more relevant. On the other hand, he indicated it is time to recognize new methods of planning. In his remarks on the state of the company, Sicard noted that Kinaxis continues to grow staff levels upwards of 40 percent this year due to increased customer activity, while the provider’s partner count has grown to 25 on a global basis.
The opening keynote also featured Kerry Liu, the provider’s new Executive Vice President, Strategic Innovation, who was one of the Co-Founders of Rubikloud, which Kinaxis acquired earlier this year. Liu explained the three core technology pillars of Rubikloud’s proprietary artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities specifically being applied to retail and consumer products industry sectors. He further indicated that distribution level planning is the goal for integration with Kinaxis Rapid Response capabilities.
Product Strategy Keynote
In the session co-anchored by Chief Product Officer, Andrew McDonald, joined by Vice President, Product Management Jesse Loudiadis, status was provided among four simultaneous product enhancement areas underway for the Kinaxis Rapid Response technology suite.
In the area of enhanced User Experience, by the end of this year the provider will release and entirely new user experience for Rapid Response, described as unparalleled in the industry. Noted was that this effort was essentially designed by planners for planners, the core input being a select group of deemed experienced users of the suite. One of the highlights was noted as a re-think of data visualization among three broad dimensions. Indicated was that when released, these improved visualization capabilities will be backward compatible with existing data residing in earlier and existing versions of Rapid Response.
The second area of Ecosystem Growth was included an update on last year’s announcement regarding the opening up of RapidResponse planning algorithms to outside developers for different industry application support areas for the technology. New application areas highlighted for this year included production scheduling, transport load building and optimization, materials recycling planning application, as well as an expanded digital supply chain twin.
The third area was Demand Management that includes new ways to manage demand volatility along with the initial leveraging of machine learning capabilities applied to demand forecasting that will include the addition of buyer sentiment information. Specifically mentioned was that this particular area will be initial focal point for collaboration with the Rubikloud data scientist team.
Significant New Product Announcement
The fourth area was billed as a rather significant product announcement, one that internal product development teams have been working on since July of 2019.
Announced was Kinaxis Command and Control Center, billed as providing more intelligent control of the supply chain, leveraging a combination of machine learning, network planning and supply chain risk management identification and mitigation capabilities. The application targets the role of a Network Operations Planner and was billed as: “The best of human intelligence married with technology.”
According to the released announcement:
“The Command & Control Center app gives companies instant visibility and actionable insights into the health of its business through an intuitive dashboard that combines traditional data with digital disruption detection signals. Companies can manage day-to-day variability and unexpected volatility in real-time by prioritizing and automating routine responses, thanks to prescriptive recommended actions based on KPIs.”
The focus is to broaden the capabilities of Supply Chain Control Tower in areas that were not able to be addressed before. That would include broader external backed impact analysis, risk assessment, scenario planning with financial modeling to determine the impact of a risk event on the income statement. Three layers of application coverage span planning, risk detection and response.
This application includes joint partnerships with external technology providers for the leveraging of external risk and response data. Mentioned were DHL Resilience360, a Cloud-based platform that helps companies to visualize, track and protect business operations, Genpact a professional services firm focused on creating resilient, more sustainable, business outcomes Other partners mentioned were Project 44 for transportation risks, and Accenture’s Intelligent Execution Program.
Availability for this application is noted as mid-2021.
Some Added Thoughts
Some readers may be aware that this supply chain technology analyst has been an observer of Kinaxis for quite a long time. Some might refer to me as the analyst historian, and I will proudly wear that title. Further in full disclosure, Kinaxis is both a client and one of our named sponsors of Supply Chain Matters.
That aside, I do want to stress the significance of the announcement of the Kinaxis Command and Control application because it represents the culmination of a lot of prior supply chain management decision-making thought leadership.
By my view, Kinaxis was one of the first supply chain technology providers to introduce the capabilities of Supply Chain Control Towers from the planning perspective. In a Supply Chain Matters blog penned back in 2013, Evaluating Technology Capabilities to Enable Supply Chain Control Towers, I had outlined four broad functionality areas, the last being support that no provider was able to support at that time. This week’s announcement does change that perspective.
What concerns me is the pre-announcement of this application which from my lens, in a bit uncharacteristic for Kinaxis. The company has previously taken a conservative approach to new product development, one which I believe customers have come to appreciate. Upon questioning Kinaxis executives of why the pre-announcement, the response indicated a desire to broaden the population of early adopters. That certainly has a purpose, and indeed I would anticipate considerable customer and market interest. The timing is indeed impeccable given the emerging lessons of the COVID-19 disruption on multi-industry supply chains along with their immediate needs for added agility and resiliency.
My concern is focused on the one that trips-up many a significant applications development efforts, that of scope creep or scope dominance. By my lens, this is application that may well have to factor the specific nuances of various industry settings, risk management needs as well as tolerances. As the partnership dimensions indicate, there is a lot of broader capability that can be incorporated or tuned.
Kinaxis may want to consider industry variants with specific product release timetables to ensure that industry prospects have proper context to time-to-value. The analogy I can best draw is that of Tesla, which characteristically pre-announces a new model with all of the features, and the pre-orders flood the system. Then came the challenge of adequate volume manufacturing capacity.
Food for thought.
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