This posting is a continuation of our attendance at the Kinaxis 2012 Kinexions conference held in Scottsdale Arizona.  Readers can view previous commentaries by clicking on the web links below:

Commentary One

Commentary Two


Day two of Kinexions 2012 continued with attendee education and two additional Kinaxis customer presentations.

Tim Payne, Research Director at Gartner, delivered a presentation on how leaders will leverage supply chain management technology.  Regarding overall supply chain business priorities, Gartner has a rather helpful method of presenting the priority rankings over a multi-year horizon which allows the audience to easily pick-up on where goals have shifted.  In 2012, respondents ranked the following as the top three goals for supply chains:

  1. Improving customer service
  2. Targeting supply chain contribution to drive business growth
  3. Fostering innovation

What is noteworthy is that reducing overall supply chain costs, which has often appeared as one of the top three goals in previous years, does not.  Gartner’s takeaway is that supply chain teams are shifting from defense to offense focused strategies directed at business outcomes.  That, in our view, is very good news.

The number one ranked obstacle among supply chain organizations remains assuring forecast accuracy and overcoming demand variability.  Payne stated a rather important observation, which this author and others echoed on our Twitter feeds.  With the millions invested in demand planning and forecasting applications thus far, why does forecast accuracy remain a top challenge?  In our Supply Chain Matters view, the reasons seem obvious. Moving from a forecast-driven to a response-focused supply chain remains a challenge for many.  Perhaps our readers can chime in here with some added commentary.

From the Kinaxis end, Trevor Miles, Vice President of Thought Leadership provided perspectives on what lies beyond classical supply chain planning.  He includes deeper analytics, simulation, scenario comparison and event detection.  Trevor also delivered a second presentation educating on the building blocks of a supply chain control tower.  An important message delivered is that the traditional plan then execute model management model is fast becoming non-effective, and the two processes need to come together in a converged supply chain control tower capability.

One other important takeaway from Gartner survey data is that the primary differentiator among supply chain leaders and laggards is that leaders deploy technology in significantly broader and somewhat deeper dimensions of capability.  Leaders are not reluctant to mix and match various aspects of best of breed technology directed at solving a key business challenge.

There were two interesting Kinaxis customer presentations, each representing entirely different supply chain objectives and business outcomes.

Lieu Yoke Sun, Head of Supply Chain Engineering for Agilent Technologies, outlined the challenges of managing a complex, high-mix, low-volume supply chain producing precision scientific measurement instrumentation. As a prior spinoff from Hewlett Packard, Agilent operates different supply chain configurations for different products. Lieu described Agilent as a more mature user of RapidResponse software having moved through a series of maturity phases and broader deployment milestones, all of which have undergone rigorous testing on data integrity and accuracy.

Don Gaspari, Director of Global Materials at NCR Corp., delivered a colorful, and delightfully humorous perspective, not only on his history at NCR, but on his organization’s experiences with deployment of RapidResponse which today supports the majority of supply chain planning, scheduling and material allocation capabilities. Kinaxis technology co-exists and interrelates with designated demand-sensing, demand analytics and other in-house developed technology. NCR has also deployed a rather unique Clear-to-Build / Clear-to-Release capability with Kinaxis RapidResponse to support unique supply chain wide inventory management, allocation and capacity scheduling needs.

This author was pleased to once again be a participant on the featured Influencer’s Panel.  On the panel, I shared some of my observations and insights relative to how the normal, faster clock speed  of business has implications on accelerating supply chain maturity efforts.  In the spirit of never waste a crisis, empowered teams quickly learn how clear communications, proper decision context and the need to access required information quickly play important roles.  Also important is leadership, and the ability to assess implications for desired business outcomes coupled to the required decisions needing to be made.  It should be little surprise that crisis teams can sometimes blow through multiple stages of maturity given the right leadership and proper tools.

My final takeaway to the audience which I share in this commentary concerns norms of communication. In this new era of constant change and uncertainty, it is the time to perhaps change the way supply chain teams communicate goal measurements to senior management. Instead of the former collection of termed key performance indicators (KPI’s), consider using the nomenclature of key responsive indicators (KRR’s).  Language is a powerful tool.

Stay tuned for further commentary related to Kinexions 2012.

Bob Ferrari

Disclosure: Kinaxis is one of other named sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog and has a business services relationship with The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC. The views expressed on this blog are the sole views of the author and not Kinaxis.