Zara’s Agile Project Management Advantage

Zara is a fast fashion retailer that has achieved staggering success since its inception in 1975. Compared to its Zara peers in retail, Zara has one practice that helps contribute to its competitive advantage: an agile project management oriented supply chain.

Agile Project Management
Broadly, agile project management is based on the 12 principles brought forth by the agile manifesto. This manifesto forms the basis for a project management theory that focuses on iterations, adaptations, collaboration, and constant improvement. As opposed to many other project management designs, agile project management is a non-linear approach to problem solving that hopes to provide flexibility and adaptability, without having to go back to the start with each iteration undertaken.

While originally developed for software and technology problem solving, agile project management has gained acceptance in the supply chain industry for its ability to help companies adapt to market dynamics. In the same way agile project management helps a software company develop non-linear solutions to problems, agile project management allows a supply chain to creatively adapt to market evolutions without having to disrupt supply chains from start to finish. Zara has used this agile supply chain to earn a distinct and unmatched advantage in retail.

Read more at Zara’s Agile Project Management Advantage

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Supply Chain Management in QlikView / Qlik Sense

With complicated structure in a supply chain, it has been a challenge for executives to see and understand the associated changes and movements in a supply chain. Examples are raw materials, inventory, products, marketing campaigns, promotions, and other supply chain activities.

As brands and products proliferate, are spun off, and re-consolidated, supply chain companies find themselves struggling to understand what they have, what they need, and where they’re going. Doing so requires a tremendous amount of data, drawn from both external sources (suppliers, partners, customers) and internal ones (marketers, production managers, supply chain groups). The ability to see all of the data surrounding a brand at a glance is a tall order, one only made harder by the proliferation of systems and processes designed to support it. Before companies can profit from efficiencies of scale, they need to consolidate these systems. This is an area where business intelligence (BI) can help them.

However, melding disparate data sources through business intelligence turns out to be a disaster, when companies are using multiple technologies under one roof. These technologies could be from Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM, Teradata, and others. People are struggling before BI implementation, and people are struggling even more after it. As a result, instead of placing information in the hands of the managers who needed it, they are now locked inside those data and technologies, where they could barely get to the real BI they desperately need. On the other hand, IT departments are struggling with questions like: “how many people I needed to build reports”, “how long it is going to build reports”, and “what those reports should look like”.

To meet the challenges of data and technologies, a possible solution is QlikView or Qlik Sense from Qlik. Compared to other BI vendors, the most unique feature of QlikView / Qlik Sense is that people don’t have to think about the joins of tables; people don’t even have to think about which tables to pull out of their ERP. The appliance just bolts onto the side and sucks the whole thing out. People, or even non-IT people, can spent a week extracting the relevant data tables from the central data warehouse, then loading them into QlikView / Qlik Sense as individual data sets — one for sales, one for materials management, and so forth. And, suddenly, they can gaze across a total landscape of its supply chain before drilling down by product or brand or segment or market — or any combination it liked.

With QlikView / Qlik Sense, companies can train or hire a handful of savvy managers who in time became the trainers for their respective divisions. When the need arises for a report, they’ll point you to an existing report or enhance it or build a new one if need be, if everyone agrees it’s the right thing to do. People are taking reports into their own hands and customizing them to suit their needs.

In addition to this special feature, people can also implement their supply chain management BI by using one of the following templates in Qlik Demo site:

  • Executive Insights
  • Production Insights
  • Forecasting and Planning
  • Sourcing and Supplier
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • IT Management
  • Warehousing and Distribution
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Merchandise Management

In addition, people can find other supply chain solutions provided by Qlik vendors at the Qlik Market. A screenshot of the Order and Inventory Management Dashboard is enclosed below. You can go to its interactive demo site here.

Order and Inventory Management.qvw

In summary, supply chain management is implemented in QlikView / Qlik Sense as applications or reports in all areas of the supply chain management, which can come from one of a reports template Qlik provides, custom made to match what you have today, or created by one of its vendors. The applications and reports do not need specialized IT departments to create and can be created by your very own people in the field.



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Cloud-Based Supply Chain Faces Scrutiny

Cloud-Based Supply Chain Faces Scrutiny

As the supply chain looks for new tools to manage increasing complexity, as well as a need to manage risk and other variables quickly and proactively, cloud-based solutions, which are relatively underutilized today, will become more common.

What are some of the common misconceptions around cloud computing and supply chain applications?

Supply chain has generally been a very slow adaptor to new technologies, and cloud computing is no exception. Besides data security and ownership, other factors come into play around how the infrastructure would behave in terms of excess volumes and concerns the in-house IT team may have with feeling helpless when it comes to issues around performance, managing downtime, and handling end customer pressures.

Often, lack of management support is cited as a reason for not adopting cloud technology. Why do you think the corner office is reluctant to support these sorts of initiatives?

Not all senior managers have yet to fully understand the implications of moving into cloud. They still look it as a pure cost saving initiative vis a vis the risks and the litigations they may end up facing in case they encounter issues around their data. Managers would like to hear success stories that [demonstrate that the concerns about] data security are all addressed by big product vendors, which are now moving over to cloud.

What are the best ways that supply chain managers can “speak the language” of business leaders to quantify the potential benefit of cloud-based apps for the supply chain?

The ROI of moving to a cloud-based service is very fast. Customers need not invest in capex for their expensive infrastructure, licenses, and upgrades. This can be very easily worked out. Another factor is that often, companies invest in large IT teams and have to constantly manage them – thereby deviating and investing in a division that is not their core business. By moving to the cloud, they can overcome this by maintaining a lean IT team.

Do you have any personal views about utilizing cloud-based system? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages?

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Step by Step Supply Chain Risk Management

Supply Chain Risk Management Step by Step

Managing risk in the supply chain can be a daunting task. Supply chain managers increasingly realize that protecting their supply chains from serious and costly disruptions. But often they don’t take action, because they are paralyzed by not really knowing how to start.

Zurich’s 2014 Supply Chain Resilience Survey puts some figures on the problem:

  • 73.5% of organizations surveyed said they do not have full visibility into their supply chains.
  • 76% of respondents reported at least one instance of supply chain disruption last year.
  • 44.4% of disruptions originate below Tier 1 suppliers.
  • Loss of productivity (58.5%), increased cost of working (47.5%), and loss of revenue (44.7%) were the most commonly reported consequences of supply chain disruptions.
  • 28.6% reported low mangement commitment to the issue of supply chain resilience.

Taking a step-by-step approach can help. Solid planning, carefully planned and executed, not only reduces risk but also can increase supply chain efficiency, enhancing the organization’s bottom line.

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5 Solutions For Supply Chain EHS Performance Neglect

5 Solutions For Supply Chain EHS Performance Neglect

The need to manage environment, health and safety (EHS) performance across our organizations and throughout our global plants has never been more apparent. While considerations of EHS performance were once limited to one organization’s performance within its four walls, things have changed. The increased reliance on supply chains extending across the globe, the visibility and traction afforded by online communications and social media, and the growing need to improve and report on end-to-end sustainability performance are compelling businesses to account for EHS performance across their supply chain.

As EHS regulations and best practices become more comprehensive and expansive, we’re seeing a new imperative in managing EHS supply chain performance. No longer is it acceptable to simply manage EHS performance within your own organization. And a number of high-profile examples in recent years have helped illustrate this trend. However, many global manufacturers are still grappling with how to extend EHS performance visibility beyond their organization and across their supply chain.

Five Ways to Improve and Integrate Supplier Performance

So, how do we proactively account for the possibility such adverse events will arise? We need to extend EHS capabilities across our supply chains.

1. Implement progressive policies that extend across the supply chain

As a global manufacturer, you may be dealing with a wide range of different levels of EHS regulations across various regions and jurisdictions around the globe.

2. Appoint an EHS and/or sustainability champion

Just as an internal EHS executive would champion exemplary EHS and sustainability performance within his or her own organization, this individual also ought to be afforded the power to apply similar requirements and accountability mechanisms across the supply chain.

3. Build a robust supplier EHS review process

Reviewing supplier EHS performance is not a new thing, but it tends to take a back seat to managing EHS performance internally.

4. Extend risk management capabilities across the supply chain

If you have risk-based capabilities built into your internal EHS performance programs, consider extending the risk frameworks you apply internally across your supply chain.

5. Drop suppliers that underperform

It’s tough medicine, but just as executives boot key members of their leadership team when a scandal arises or when systematic deficiencies persist, making an example of suppliers that underperform on the EHS front will show you’re serious about EHS

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Unleash Pixar-like Creativity in Your Supply Chain Management Organization

Unleash Pixar-like Creativity in Your Supply Chain Management Organization

I recently read “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” and it got me wondering about creativity within supply chain management organizations. There’s obviously a level of ‘magic’ at Pixar, for them to be able to create 14 No. 1 movies in a row. Evidence that the principles they’ve developed has merit is easy to see as Disney Animation Studios, led by Pixar’s Ed Catmull (President) and John Lasseter (Chief Creative Officer), has now started producing blockbusters again (e.g. Frozen, the top-grossing animated film of all time, surpassing the $1.063 billion earned by Toy Story 3) after a long period of so-so animation movies.

I’m always curious if success in one area/industry can be translated to generate similar success in other areas/industries. In this case I do believe there are learnings that can be applied to supply chain management.

So what makes Pixar so creatively successful? How do they get from a movie that “sucks” to a blockbuster? And more importantly, can supply chain management leverage these learnings?

What do you think about cross-industries strategy? Do you have other example? Share with us in the comment box.

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Is Your Supply Chain Ready for the Holidays?

Is Your Supply Chain Ready for the Holidays?

Doug Pasquale, senior vice president of supply chain solutions for Ingram Micro Mobility, shared with Apparel magazine his insights on supply-chain strategies ahead of the crucial holiday season.

1. What are your top three best practices for pre-holiday logistics planning?
First and foremost, have a dedicated holiday supply chain strategy put in place at least six months before the holidays. It’s always a good idea to begin planning immediately following the previous year’s season and engage manufacturers and logistics partners as soon as possible.

2. Holiday supply chain disruptions are inevitable – whether it’s a natural disaster or a sudden shift in consumer demand. In your opinion, how much stock should retailers put in demand forecasting and planning?
There will always be situations that arise causing disruptions in a supply chain — you cannot plan for every possible scenario. I am a big advocate for sophisticated demand forecasting and planning, but retailers should also bear in mind they don’t have a crystal ball.

3. What advice could you give apparel retailers at the holidays based on your experience working with mobile device retailers?
The mobile device retail industry isn’t as removed from the apparel industry as it might seem at first. Both industries are at the mercy of quickly changing consumer demand, and overseas production is common. However, the mobile device industry tends to move at a faster pace – while most retailers change their stock of clothes by season, mobile device retailers are flooded with new technology weekly.

4. With only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas this year, how does this affect supply chain planning and strategy?
The peak season always puts a crunch on supply chain planning and strategy, but when faced with less time to orchestrate all the activity happening between manufacturers, suppliers and logistics providers, a shortened season leaves little room for error. Even one or two fewer selling days during the peak season can have a potentially negative financial impact in retail if not prepared, so it’s imperative for retailers to open early, clear lines of communication with manufacturers and logistics providers for demand forecasting, inventory needs and delivery dates. Timely communication and information flow is absolutely critical.

5. Where should retailers be on their planning trajectory at this point in the year, and what should the next step be?
Ideally, retailers should have begun their peak season supply chain preparations back in January when cycles were set for the remainder of the year. That is the time to start forecasting demand and working with manufacturers to strategize product portfolio, market demand, stocking, and returns preparation. By this point in the season, retailers should be fine-tuning any adjustments to that strategy and should be well under way with executing it. Retailers currently should be firming up delivery schedules and finalizing promotional packaging designs, special deals, and production schedules to ensure they are ready for the coming busy peak season.

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How Do You Turn Supply Chain Data into Actionable Information?

How Do You Turn Supply Chain Data into Actionable Information?

There is a continuum in terms of presentation of data that allows for continuous sophistication in understanding and interpreting data. There are lots of ways to view data, but three that are particularly useful in supply-chain analytics are –Reporting, Scorecarding, and Benchmarking.

The simplest form of looking at data is what we have all seen dozens of times, we call it “Reporting”. Back in the day, reporting was numbers printed out on green bar paper, but today’s business intelligence reports are far more detailed and dynamic than in the past. For instance, a BI report of today displays all the data about transportation providers as usable information, in a scorecard format. Factors such as on-time delivery, freight cost per unit shipped, and transit time are assigned metrics and weighted averages to help users determine how well carriers are performing overall.

Operation managers and executives who want a quick, daily overview of what is happening in their transportation or supply chain network use dashboards to provide information in near real-time to help users understand what is happening within their network, and allows them to make proactive decisions to remedy problems as they occur. Where reporting is really like looking in the rearview mirror, dashboards are used to see what’s going on now, and makes it easier for users to identify trends and exceptions, and to intervene before something goes wrong.

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Five factors of supply chain sustainability

The five factors of supply chain sustainability

Leadership, empowerment and sharing success stories are among the attributes required to implement sustainable procurement.

That’s according to a panel of experts who shared their top tips at the Institute for Supply Management annual conference in Las Vegas, US last week. The advice included:

  1. Sustainability champions : “Find out who’s passionate about this in your organisation and ask them to be champions.”
  2. Leadership : “You are all leaders to your supply chain, they’re looking to you and your actions and expectations.”
  3. Empowerment : “If you give people a ladder to execute in their own fashion they will take ownership of it.”
  4. Success : “Nothing sells better than success, so we recognise and reward success.”
  5. Metrics : “If you can communicate what you [have done], it is really a powerful story.”

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80 per cent of supply chain managers don’t believe their supply chain enables business strategy

80 per cent of supply chain managers don’t believe their supply chain enables business strategy

Some eight out of 10 supply chain managers do not see their supply chain as an “enabler of business strategies” within their organisation, according to a survey.

The poll, conducted by Hitachi Consulting, also found 55 per cent do not regard their business’s supply chain as a “fundamental source of business value and competitive advantage” and 29 per cent see it as “purely an operational function”.

Cathy Johnson, vice president at Hitachi Consulting, said: “These figures are far from reassuring. For the most part, it seems that senior executives understand the strategic importance of the supply chain, yet the managers who deal with the supply chain on a day-to-day basis do not.

“A supply chain that doesn’t support the overarching business strategy, and which doesn’t deliver competitive edge – and which isn’t going to deliver a material change in performance over the next five years – is clearly not a desirable asset.”

The survey, involving 100 supply chain managers and directors from nine European countries, revealed almost half did not believe their organisation’s supply chain would deliver increased profitability over the next five years, just a third believed it would deliver an improved customer experience over the same period, and half did not think it would deliver a “reduced working capital requirement”.

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