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This posting continues highlights of the Kinexions 2011 conference being held this week in Scottsdale Arizona.  Readers can also reference our prior Day One dispatch which highlighted remarks from Kinaxis President/CEO Doug Colbeth.

Day one featured a full agenda of customer and partner presentations along with the first ever briefing session for industry analysts, partners and key market influencers.  Customer presentations included Barnes and Noble, specifically the Nook Division, who’s implementation pioneers a an entirely new area of support for Kinaxis RapidResponse, namely the incorporation of actual point-of-sales demand data into overall supply chain planning and visibility.  When implemented, this effort has the potential to be the largest deployment in terms of scope and user count of RapidResponse to date.  Matthew Red, Vice President, Supply and Demand Planning, took leave of the upcoming planned go-live to share his organization’s goal to have product demand visibility among 13,000 point-of-sales outlets implemented to support the upcoming 2011 holiday buying season. The clear focus for B&N is to focus on “sell-through”, namely where customers are buying and how the supply chain should best respond to outlet level demand.  Even though the go-live will occur in the coming weeks, Matthew was able to share lessons learned, which identified access to data as the biggest challenge along with the need to scale-back on original project scope because of implementation timing needs.

Another customer presentation included one by Lockheed Martin on managing its supply chain performance-based logistics need by utilization of RapidResponse.  The morning concluded with a presentation and demonstration of the new RapidResponse Control Tower from Kinaxis’s new vice-president of marketing, Kirk Munroe.  One of the highlights of this presentation was the articulation of the three design pillars for control tower functionality:

  • Supply and demand balancing to responsive and predictable customer fulfillment.
  • Planning, monitoring and responding only works if they are performed from one platform.
  • Business problems are complex, but IT systems need not be as complex.

The pillars are simply stated but the meanings are all important.  We would hasten to add that business rule context is another very important consideration for any decision platform.

For Supply Chain Matters, and for others, one of the most talked about presentations during day one was delivered by McKinsey partner Paul Carbonneau. Readers should note that McKinsey’s reputation lies in consulting on C-level corporate strategy, direction and problem-solving, and to have a McKinsey partner talk to the importance of supply chain capabilities is a significant affirmation of how important global supply chain capabilities have become in C-level perspectives and concerns.  In that light, Paul communicated that the most expensive problems for McKinsey clients often are reflected in supply chain capabilities. Another significant reinforcement came from Paul’s comments relative to the March earthquake that occurred in Japan and the high-level awareness of the impacts of supply chain disruption and risk that has occurred across the C-suite right now.  My hallway conversations reinforced the fact that many manufacturers are re-visiting or initiating supply chain risk identification and mitigation.  An added takeaway shared by Paul was that McKinsey is advising clients to re-visit previous thinking and specifically three myths surrounding business process and technology implementation efforts. These include:

  • Rather than linear rollouts of functional initiatives, pilot initiatives with the required cross-functional behaviors needed to sustain the new process.
  • Rather than people first, process next, and technology last, with the implication of multi-year technology implementation calendars, frame the initiative with a defined narrower scope but with all three components required in the new or changed business process.
  • Rather than getting the CEO on-board first, and risking a perceived colossal waste of time by that executive, bring C-level sponsorship on-board when definite pilot steps indicate meaningful benefits.

McKinsey further advocates starting with small ecosystem initiatives that include all required capabilities. Rather than spending enormous amounts of time getting organizational-wide consensus on a theoretical future end-state, launch “live-fire” exercises and iterative pilots that emulate what end-state could be. Accept the notion and provide support mechanisms that anticipate frequent failures, with constant learning and forward movement.  Finally, once pilots have provided valid benefits, scale quickly with serious investments in talent, disciplines, and required tools.

A final message reflected on future supply chain challenges that lie ahead and the need for, what Paul described as,  ‘maestros’ of supply chain planning and decision-making.  These are people who can think cross-functionally and cross-organizationalyl, who know where the right information resides, and how to leverage that information into various predictive options and scenarios to which  that the supply chain needs to respond.

It was a rather thought-provoking presentation and well slotted to kickoff a supply chain response management oriented conference. Supply Chain Matters will provide additional context and commentary in our summary impressions of this year’s Kinexions.

In our subsequent dispatches, we will provide highlights of day two of Kinexions 2011, along with summary impressions, so stay tuned.

Bob Ferrari

Added Note: Kinaxis is one of other named sponsors of the the Supply Chain Matters blog and the author provides services to this vendor.