Does Scenario Planning Trump Location in Supply Chain Friendly Network Formation

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A recent Industry Week article on how to develop a supply chain-friendly network stated that scenario planning considerations can be just as important as location. The rationale is that, in response to the 2008 fuel spikes and recession, many companies are repositioning their logistics locations closer to end users and increasing inventory levels to insure full truckload shipments in a knee-jerk reaction. As a result, inventory overhead costs are climbing to unacceptable levels and product obsolescence is becoming an even greater risk than before. And the article makes a valid point.

But is real estate scenario planning, that addresses the likely results of adding to or changing your network sites, the answer, or is it full fledged network optimization backed by decision optimization technologies? While, as the article suggests, you need to look at and collect labor availability and rate, government incentive, required inventory level, transportation mode and rate, and warehouse operating cost data for each location under consideration, the only way you’re going to truly be able to understand the total cost of each potential decision and select the best, lowest-cost, network design that meets your service level requirements is with a network optimization tool as there’s just no way your spreadsheet calculations are going to capture all the costs, constraints, and business rules you’re going to identify in your scenario analysis. So while scenario planning is important, ultimately, the answer is selecting the best locations, and I would submit that can only be done with the aid of good network optimization tools.