Which Comes First? The Supply Chain Process or the Technology?

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The chicken or the egg? The supply chain process or the technology? Supply chain process then technology? Technology then supply chain process? The consensus of opinion is process and technology simultaneously. That was the unanimous response from customers at Kinexions, Kinaxis’ user and training conference. Technology is of equal consideration to process and both are required to drive transformation. How do you implement a new supply chain process without understanding the art of the possible with technology? Customers and speakers at Kinexions talked about turning their supply chain on its head, innovation beyond customer expectation, thinking differently, transparency, demand driven supply chains, embracing their complexity, and all learning is developmental. There was recognition that you will not benefit by trying to implement new processes without the right technology. Supply chain is not dead, it is not dormant and it has changed significantly in the past 10 years. This was a supply chain software vendor’s conference and I do believe that the supply chain industry has finally caught up with Kinaxis. The value that Kinaxis provides is a necessity and not just a nice to have. I have to admit that I am biased. I was a Kinaxis customer, I worked for them, and I will always be an evangelist. The concurrent planning, in-memory computing, simulation and speed will cause you to stop, think, rip up your old processes and drive exciting and necessary change in your supply chain. Cisco stated that they chose Kinaxis for its flexibility, agility, operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. Merck put an abrupt halt on their supply chain process re-engineering efforts once they understood the ‘art of the possible’ with Kinaxis. They knew that they were only going to add a slightly new twist to the same old process. Using an iterative agile approach with the Kinaxis selection, they are now designing processes based on the advanced capabilities of the software. Prior to selecting Kinaxis, those interviewed stated:

  • They didn’t know that their monthly S&OP process does not have to take a month.
  • They didn’t know that their processes could think like millennials, using collaborative tools with a social media context.
  • They didn’t know that technology valued human judgment and not just the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain with their optimization engine.
  • They didn’t know that they didn’t need to ‘batch’ anything and create linear queues.
  • They didn’t know that they could be alerted to the consequence of their decisions before it is too late.
  • They didn’t know that the most critical aspect of supply chain decision making – decision tradeoffs – COULD be performed using technology.

Kinaxis customers agreed that the change management could be challenging. Executive support is required to manage this properly. Many customers have created COE’s (Centers of Excellence). The Excel spreadsheets have to be gradually turned off. The users need to know ‘how will this make my life easier?’ Someone from Genzyme told me that he always looks for the biggest supporter and the biggest naysayer when engaging in a new project. By understanding their position, addressing any concerns and getting them on board, the rest of the users will be more comfortable and will typically follow.

Companies that have adopted disruptive technology, re-engineered processes and roles and are willing to support their organization through the change management stand out in the crowd. At Kinexions, they were the crowd.

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