Monthly Archives: April 2008

It’s Time for Procurement to Take the Helm

The recent issue of CPO Agenda has a few good articles in it, including At the Helm or All at Sea by Dick Russill that starts off by noting that to steer into more strategic business waters, CPOs must abandon the cost savings myopia and service mentality that tarnish procurement’s image.

The article has a number of good points, which include the following:

  1. success at managing external costs must be measured relative to the cost and cash-flow forecasts in the financial plan, not by isolated savings
  2. purchasers must change – if they don’t, then emphasis will be shifted to legal (to cut better contracts) and finance (to help the company make better investments)
  3. it’s a self-harming paradox for procurement to define it’s importance by the huge percentage of the budget it consumes and to define its success by how much it can reduce that spend
  4. the businesses that fail are those where the principles of the business are to make money; the businesses that succeed are those where the principles set out to deliver outstanding quality of goods and services to their customers
  5. suppliers need to be regarded as a source of value and goodwill, not as a source of cost and overpriced material goods
  6. ultimately procurement’s business role is to contribute strategy, distill out its supply implications, and then act to make the strategy happen

Why is this important? Let’s take it point by point.

  1. if savings are isolated, then they are the exception and not the rule; furthermore, companies that tout isolated savings are usually those that have just started to implement strategic sourcing and do not realize that negotiated savings are not realized savings (as this requires tactical follow-through to capture the strategically negotiated savings)
  2. Purchasing’s time to shine is now … if you let the opportunity pass you by, then the CEO will look elsewhere
  3. It’s not total savings, or even total cost of ownership, but total value
  4. a business focussed on making money is focused primarily on sales and secondarily on cost cutting – neither is a formula for success
  5. not all innovation comes from within – your suppliers are an excellent source of innovation
  6. again, it’s about total value management, and this starts with a strategy that guides procurement throughout their sourcing and procurement activities

Procurement needs to move up the value chain – and the article has a great table that outlines the evolution of procurement from tactical cost reduction to strategic value creation, that it defines as Route 42, presumably after the M42 Motorway.

The Route 42 roadmap is the following:

Cost Savings
1. Push harder on existing deals
2. Aggregate similar deals
3. Acquire approval for more profound changes
4. Standardize and go after larger deals

Cost Management
5. Improve contract management
6. Evaluate deals against total lifetime cost
7. Develop supply strategies
8. Enhance the view of procurement
9. Improve specifications

Value Creation
10. Create a cross-functional team
11. Develop collaborative supply relationships
12. Increase influence over monopolies
13. Penetrate non-traditional purchasing areas
14. Develop strategies, including ‘forensic’ procurement

MCA Solutions – A Strategic Service Parts Management Platform

MCA Solutions, a Philadelphia, PA company, is not only one of the few companies I know of that has an advanced strategic service parts management solution, but one of the very few that only does service parts management. Recognizing that many large manufacturing, semiconductor, high-tech, aerospace and defense companies often have tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars tied up in inventory, and that an inventory planning and optimization solution that is off even by a few percentage points can cost these companies millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars annually, the founder of MCA Solutions, Dr. Morris Cohen, who has worked with IBM, Cisco, Applied Materials, Intel, GM, Saturn, Teradyne, and the U.S. Navy, decided to focus the company on this problem alone.

Why? Because the problem is a lot harder than you think. Just like a product has a life-cycle, so does a service part. Not only do you have to accurately forecast how many replacement parts you’re going to need in your network (as well as where they need to be), you have to manage the return, repair, and re-introduction of the repaired part into your inventory. (Remember, many parts are sub-assemblies because it can be too time consuming to replace an individual part – so it needs to be repaired once it is replaced; just like your IT department doesn’t throw out the desktop they just replaced when only the hard-drive needs to be replaced.)

To accurately solve the problem, MCA Solutions allows you to model your entire multi-echelon parts demand network. What does this mean? You can model all of your primary (warehouse) locations, forward locations, forward-forward locations, etc. to as many levels as you need; you can define all of the production lines, aircraft, or other equipment at each location; define the required replacement parts and desired availability and / or target stock levels for each part; define any and all (performance-based) contractual commitments if you are in the business of servicing lines, aircraft, or other commitments for your customer; define historical demand, service requirements, or maintenance plans; and specify the best type of statistical model for the part in question (poisson, normal, or negative binomial – as low volume, high-volume, and sporadic demand parts need to be modeled differently), as well as any location or usage-specific criteria that influences demand.

Furthermore, MCA Solutions’ platform not only allows you to strategically plan cost-optimal inventory levels for target stock and availability levels, but also takes into account current network stock levels and will give you an executable tactical implementation plan which will tell you what needs to be shifted between locations, what needs to be ordered – and when, and which parts should be repaired (and when) and which parts should be retired. In other words, not only does their solution understand product life-cycles, but it also allows understands the entire part life-cycle.

How well does it work? For their target industries, very well. It was chosen by the Navy, who spent almost a year exhaustively evaluating COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) solutions against their own in-house solution, it’s used by KLA-TencorĀ and Cisco – who have some of the most extensive parts supply chains in the IT world, and their solution has been chosen by SAP as their preferred parts planning solution. Furthermore, it’s very well designed. You can work at the aggregate network, network (as it allows you to define different part networks if you have to meet different geographies, different environmental regulations, or just want to separate your internal service networks from those of your customers), forward location, location, equipment / contract, or part level, depending on your need; you can compare the current plan to various “what-if” plans that let you see how your altered stock levels / availability levels affect cost or how shifting forward locations (central warehouses) changes stock levels and affected costs; and you can do extensive reporting, graphing, and, if required, data export to Excel (and Power Point). Plus, you can export orders to your external procurement / ERP / MRP systems and import supplier response data. If the lead-times in the responses differ from what the plan expects, the system will automatically update and re-balance the plan.

If you’re in one of their target industries, it’s certainly worth an investigation. Not only is it designed well, but it appears to be very efficient. The average response time for an update even in a fairly sophisticated what-if network model (with hundreds of locations and thousands of parts) is under two seconds. That’s impressive where optimization is involved given the complexity of a multi-echelon network model.

Strategic Service Parts Management

Last year in my posts on Strategic Service Management and Tomorrow’s Strategic Service Management Today, I introduced you to service management, which is more than just outsourced services management. At a holistic level, it’s really a form of customer service management (where “customer” means your internal customers as well as your organization’s external customers) with the goals of making the customer efficient and satisfied while making a profit.

One possible definition of this, which I gave in my posts, was through a union of parts management, price management, and workforce management with the ultimate goal of optimizing the workforce to deliver the right part at the right time at the right price. If we analyze this closely, we see that the key is to first optimize the parts management. If the part is not there, it doesn’t matter what it costs, because either your customer is going to go to someone else, or you’re going to violate a performance contract, and whatever additional profit you might make through price optimization is going to disappear in lost sales or penalties. Furthermore, there’s no way to optimize a workforce if you don’t have the parts they need to do their jobs.

So what is service parts management? In my posts I originally defined it as the process of ensuring the right part is available at the right place at the right time. It is the alignment of planning, forecasting, and inventories to make sure you can respond to a customer need as it arises, without costly expedited shipping, unnecessary wait times, or financial losses (that can result from service level guarantees). And I think that’s still a good definition, but it doesn’t convey the complexity that is involved in certain industrial and medical equipment manufacturing, semiconductor, automotive, aerospace & defense operations. Nor does it convey the extremely high costs of doing parts planning poorly in these industries.

Consider aerospace. New commercial aircraft cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and it’s critical that a plane spend as many hours in the air as possible to recover that cost, and even more critical that it not miss a scheduled flight and that all maintenance and repairs are able to be completed during scheduled downtime. Without extremely good parts planning, a plane can be grounded for days and cost a company millions of dollars in losses.

Furthermore, not only are the planes expensive, but so are the parts. Many parts can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Therefore, you don’t want to be stocking more parts in inventory than you need to because, in a squadron of 15 fighter jets or a fleet of 25 commercial airliners, excess inventory can lock up sufficient funds to literally buy another plane!

Now consider automotive. Production lines cost hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, and an unscheduled line shutdown can easily cost a few million in lost labour, sales, and man-time required to get the line up again. More importantly, some of the equipment is very complicated and in order to get the line up again quickly when it does fail, you have to replace entire assemblies, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Therefore, it’s important that you not only carefully control your inventory levels, to avoid locking up tens of millions of dollars that could be part of the cash flow, but that you have a good process for servicing and repairing the replaced assembly so that it can be re-used next time the same type of sub-assembly, either in the same line or in a different line, breaks down.

In these industries, the importance of a solution that can model the expected need for each replacement part that may be required over the expected life of each major production line, vehicle, aircraft, or sophisticated high-tech system that has to be kept up and running, as well as the required inventory to statistically meet the target up-time requirements at any point in time, starts to become very clear. Furthermore, since you usually have multiple plants, and storage locations, some of which can quickly service other locations (and if you only expect to replace, on average, one instance of a $50,000 part each year, it’s much cheaper to spend $500 on an express delivery from a central warehouse than to stock the part at each location), you also need a solution that can look at these needs holistically, factor in lead times, and give you an optimal inventory level across your network. This is the only way to design a strategic service parts management plan that will give you a target up-time and / or part availability level at a minimum cost of ownership.

Tomorrow we’ll explore a solution that, depending on your industry, just might help you achieve this goal. Stay tuned.

Supply & Demand Chain Executive: Mapping the Global Enabled Supply & Demand Chain with One Eye Closed

A month or so ago, Supply & Demand Chain Executive released version 12 of its Global Enabled Supply & Demand Chain, accompanied by it’s interactive version, which for some reason has an accompanying version number of 14.

Since they are proclaiming themselves as the go-to-source for complete knowledge and information on end-to-end supply and demand chain solutions, I thought I should check it out. And if you don’t mind missing out on 95% of the space, they sure are!

At first glance, the map looks just as impressive as always, breaking companies down into procurement, sourcing, order demand capture (which is really part of procurement), decision support circles (which scares me … do you really want to be using circular logic in your souring and procurement decisions?), PLM, fulfillment & logistics, supply chain integration & technology, payment, and CRM (huh?). Each group (except for CRM) appears to have at least 10 companies. But looks can be deceiving, and in this case, they are! If you take the intersection of each of the groups, you find there are only 28 unique solution providers – and most of them DON’T offer as many solutions as the map would lead you to believe (or at least not to the depth that I think is required to qualify as a solution provider in a given category). Furthermore, there appears to be a one-to-one match between the 28 unique solution providers and the index of advertisers on the back. Disturbing to some, no doubt — including yours truly.

Needless to say I’m even less impressed than I was with the fact that their Pros-To-Know candidate list is largely based on self nomination. I completely understand their need to give their advertisers their due – they’re a traditional publication with traditional costs and they need large amount of traditional dollars to pay those costs.

But you can’t eliminate at least 95% of the supply chain (let’s face it – there are at least 540 companies out there that can help you: I’m currently tracking over 450 on the resource site, and I can guarantee that the consulting, logistics, PLM, SCM, and inventory & warehousing categories are only a sampling of what’s out there) and still be the go-to-source for complete knowledge and information on end-to-end supply and demand chain solutions. Either you’re there for the readership, or you’re there for the advertisers. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, but you should be 100% clear if you are.

But maybe I’m expecting too much.

Actions for Big Supply Chain Improvements

Supply Chain Digest recently ran their top 10 list of the easiest actions for big supply chain improvement. Leave off the “easy” and I’ll agree, since some of the actions they recommended weren’t that “easy” and they left off a couple that were.

Their list was the following:

  • Centralize Transportation Management
    (At least they admit this isn’t easy!) As the author notes, the potential freight and overhead savings are huge – and you can make better informed sourcing decisions.
  • Take Control of Inbound Freight
    There is money to be saved on both inbound and outbound freight and all freight should be looked at objectively. Although it’s true that sometimes a large supplier can get you the best deal, it’s often true that often they can’t. Remember, you can leverage freight across your suppliers. They can only leverage freight across the customers they handle freight for. This means that often you’ll have the leverage with the freight provider – so you should use it.
  • Enforce Routing Guide Compliance
    You only save money from a good plan that was carefully constructed from a detailed analysis if it is implemented. Make sure that your sourcing and logistics professionals understand that when it comes to approved plans, it’s the company’s way or the highway for them.
  • Use Labour Management in Distribution Centers
    It’s important you have the staff you need when you need them. Not enough staff when a truck arrives causes delays that could lead to lost sales – too much staff when there are no trucks to load or unload costs you money!
  • Profile SKUs and Orders to Reslot the DC
    A simple analysis of this data can lead to simple improvement opportunities in slotting and warehouse layout that can drive big productivity improvements. Be lean.
  • Revisit Safety Stock Levels and Policies
    Too much inventory leads to markdowns and losses – not enough leads to missed sales and even more losses. Monitor stock levels regularly and update levels and policies as needed.
  • Analyze Supplier Lead Time Variability
    Find the variability, develop corrective action plans to reduce it, and implement them.
  • Use E-Auctions
    Many companies are leaving huge amounts of money on the table by not utilizing this technology when it makes sense to do so.
  • Constantly Compare Actual Total Landed Costs with Forecasted Costs
    If you want to realize your savings, you have to insure you get the savings you negotiated.
  • Start a Lean or Six Sigma Initiative
    … but be smart about it! Don’t go overboard, especially at first, as all you’ll end up with is Sick Sigma, and that won’t help at all.

To that I’d add the following:

  • Invoice Analysis
    Get a real spend analysis tool, mine your invoices, and see if you’re paying what you’re supposed to be. SKU analysis is good, but in many categories, like office supplies, computers, and electronics, you’re probably overpaying – and it won’t take much effort to find savings. If you need help, there are a number of consultancies that specialize in these efforts.
  • Enforce Supplier Contracts
    Route adherence is important, but buying off the contract your sourcing team painstakingly researched and negotiated to get you the best buy is even more so. Many organizations have maverick spend of 40% or more. That’s 40% of your negotiated savings gone … before the product is even shipped!
  • Use Decision Optimization!
    Not only is this the best way to optimize your freight spend, but it’s the best way to optimize your total spend – especially if you select a solution that allows you to optimize all of the aspects of the buy at the same time. e-Auction is good … but it’s not always appropriate, and not always going to net you the best buy from a total value management perspective.

Basically, there’s a lot more to supply chain optimization than just Inventory, Warehouse, and Distribution optimization – which, with the exception of e-Auctions, this article focusses on. If you truly want to see a big improvement, you have to start at the time a need is first identified and analyze the sourcing, procurement, and distribution cycles from the time the first requisition is placed to the time the last unit is delivered to the customer. You don’t know where your largest inefficiencies are or which single improvement is going to have the greatest impact – and often the largest impact comes from aligning your processes to insure the optimized award is received and delivered at the right time and at the right price. There’s no silver bullet – but a continual process of analysis and improvement will do wonders.