Monthly Archives: July 2013

Concrete – Before It Was For Houseboats

It was for oil barges. Ninety-Five (95) years ago today the Socony 200, the very first concrete barge, was launched into Flushing Bay, NY. Commissioned by the Standard Oil Company of New York. It was 98 feet long, 31 feet wide, and 9 1/2 feet deep. This wasn’t the first time a concrete reinforced ship was built, but the first time it was used purely for commercial shipping. In the 1860’s, ferrocement watercraft (concrete ships) wer built in Europe for use on canals. In the early 1900’s, a few barges were built in the UK, Europe, and California. Near the end of World War I, the US commissioned 24 ships for the war, but none were completed before the end of the war. Very little happened between World War I and World War II, but when steel and metal started getting short in World War II, 24 self-propelled concrete ships were commissioned in 1942. At the same time, ferrocement barges played a crucial role in World War II operations in Europe. However, this was the last time they were used regularly for military or commercial purposes. Now they are just used for houseboats. Not that concrete is a good choice for barges, but it shows how innovative we can be when one raw material is in short supply.

Kinaxis – A New Paradigm for Real-Time End-to-End Supply Chain Management! Part I

Kinaxis, which was first reviewed on SI by the Sourcing Maniacs in their classic
2008 Vendor Tour, is one of the most interesting companies in the entire Supply Management space. Billing themselves as a RapidResponse solution, which was initially designed to be a demand management platform (available on-demand) to assist supply chain professionals in managing their change-ready supply chains, it is actually a very extensive, but deftly integrated, platform that also does:

  • Demand Order Analysis,
  • S&OP (Sales and Operation Planning),
  • Supply & Capacity (Constraint) Planning,
  • Master Production Benchmarking & Scheduling,
  • Inventory Management,
  • New Product Introduction,
  • Order Analysis & Planning,
  • Supply Management,
  • Profitability Management,
  • Supplier Collaboration,
  • Integrated Project Management,
  • Process Orchestration,
  • Change Management,
  • and

  • Cross-Functional Supply Chain Management.

And it’s used by customers to do all of this, and more. It’s the next level of Supply Management. Once you’ve implemented e-Procurement and put your Spend Under Management, e-Sourcing and Strategic Sourcing Decision Optimization and established processes that keep your costs down and value up, e-Transportation and Trade Management to optimize your distribution and global trade (import/export processes), e-Visibility to manage your risk, and e-Supply Chain Network Optimization to manage your network design, it’s what you do next.

Why? Because each of these solutions only get you so far on their own. e-Procurement eliminates the time-consuming, value-less tactical buying functions that waste time and money, but doesn’t deliver much beyond manpower savings and doesn’t generate value on its own. That’s where e-Sourcing comes in. e-Sourcing takes the spend the organization has under management, analyzes it, and runs strategic sourcing events (such as auctions and optimization driven negotiations) to execute buys and delivery schedules that save the organization time and money, but doesn’t actually manage the distribution or global trade aspects, which can cost time and money if the right documents aren’t executed in the right way at the right time to streamline imports and exports. e-Transportation and Trade Management optimizes the logistics and distribution and ensures everything runs efficiently and smoothly in a non-loss generating manner, but doesn’t optimize the entire transportation and inventory/warehouse management network. When the organization has the opportunity to change its production locations, 3PLs (Third Party Logistics carriers), and/or warehouse and distribution locations, an e-Supply Chain Network Optimization solution will, given current demand and contracts, optimize the entire production, storage, and distribution network to the extent permissible, but will not be able to do anything about change, order analysis and demand generation, optimization of new product development and introduction processes, sales and operations planning around new and upcoming products, production benchmarking and scheduling, cross-functional supply-chain process orchestration, or change management when an unexpected event (such as a material shortage, natural disaster, or supplier bankruptcy) forces a rapid, real-time change to the plan.

This is where Kinaxis comes in. Starting from the premise that what product, risk, and change managers need are answers to common questions like the following in real-time:

  • what is the impact of a supplier shutdown due to a fire in the plant?
  • how can I launch a new product a quarter early?
  • what if a user mistakenly changes an inventory parameter?
  • what would happen to our ability to fulfill demand to our other customers if we accelerate fulfilment of an emergency order for a preferred customer?
  • how can we effectively reengineer our planning processes?

Kinaxis has built a solution that supports very complex, but easily generated, what-if scenarios that will allow a user to ask these questions and get an answer in a few hours, as compared to the days, or weeks, it would have taken them in the past. How? Come back for Part II!

FieldGlass: Adapting to Every Contingency, Part III

In Parts I and II we discussed all of the improvements FieldGlass has made to its contingent workforce management platform since SI first covered FieldGlass back in 2010, including its improved rate guidance, rate structure, job posting process and it’s new ask-an-expert recommendation engine and powerful timesheet module. Today we’re going to dive into FieldGlass’ new Statement of Work (SoW) module.

You’re probably wondering why SoW gets its own post, because, after all, isn’t a Statement of Work just a formal document that captures and defines the work activities, deliverables, and timeline of a project that can be attached as a PDF? Well, technically, yes, but from a usefulness point of view, no. The problem with SoWs is that they are not a static contract attachment but a living, breathing document, and process, that needs to change and adapt as circumstances change. Every time new information is discovered, resource availability changes, external events introduce delays, unexpected regulatory changes require new approvals or different materials, or requirements change for business reasons, the SoW needs to change. Moreover, in order to effectively manage a project governed by a SoW, hours and resource usage has to be tracked against the SoW, which has to be updated as needed for the tracking to be relevant.

To this end, FieldGlass has built a very powerful, and flexible, SoW that supports the entire project lifecycle from a worker and resource perspective because you can’t just manage the resources, you also have to manage the resources they need to do their jobs. Take construction projects for example, in addition to the digger, he will need a Digger Truck. The workers putting up the frame will need a crane. And so on. And, more importantly, this equipment will have to be inspected on a regular basis, typically every six months, to comply with safety regulations. The ability to track the resources, and their last inspection date, is not only important, but critical to minimizing costs. For example, one customer, that was unable to effectively track and access this inspection data on a project basis, was inspecting a machine every time it was assigned to a new project on a new site. Because some machines are only needed for a few months, it was doing almost three times as many inspections as it needed to, and for one machine which cost 25K an inspection, spending 125K to 150K a year when it only needed to spend 50K. These costs added up and this savings on its own more than paid for the FieldGlass solution.

The SOW is full-featured and supports not only a project description and a list of approved workers but also rates, fees, schedules, milestones, deliverables, resources, roles, and management events. Each worker can be associated with the appropriate rate structure, payment schedule, location, onboarding, and offboarding process. Each resource can be associated with it’s own schedule (for usage, maintenance, inspection, onboarding, and offboarding), fee structure, and payments. Deliverables can be added and modified as required, and reports can be set up to report on the amount paid to date, budget amount, etc. It’s quite powerful and quite useful as the full lifecycle of the project, worker, and resource has been taken into account, made fully visible to the reporting engine, and integrated in such a way that the appropriate information can be used in timesheets, job postings, etc.

The new FieldGlass Statement of Work functionality has the potential to transform the way you manage outsourced projects.

FieldGlass: Adapting to Every Contingency, Part II

Yesterday, in Part I, we outlined all of the improvements FieldGlass has made to its contingent workforce management platform since SI first covered FieldGlass back in 2010, and discussed in detail its improved rate guidance, rate structure, and job posting process. Today, in Part II, we will cover e-mail approvals, FieldGlass’ new Ask-an-Expert recommendation engine and its powerful timesheet module. Then, tomorrow, in Part III we’ll cover its new Statement of Work (SoW) support.

E-mail Approvals
While this is an “old-news” capability for many supply management platforms, what is surprising is just how much e-mail approvals accelerate the worker selection and approval process. Customers who implement e-mail approvals reduce their cycle time, on average, by 66%! A manager who may not log into the system every day is in her email (every working hour of) every day.

“Ask an Expert” Recommendation Engine
This is a powerful tool for customers who want to take the time to customize the default workflow templates for their organization. By defining the appropriate questions and responses, a manager can be directed to the appropriate labour category for any position and the appropriate process. Is this a temporary position? Contingent? Outsourced to a service provider under contract? Or should it be a full time position that should go through a non-contingent process? And are there appropriate contingent labour providers who can staff the position, or will an RFP need to be issued? (For example, let’s say it’s a one-time integration of a new back-office Supply Management system and no currently approved provider has an expert on staff.) Depending on the need, the system will direct the user to the appropriate course of action, which could be as simple as creating a new instance of an archived job-posting for a 6-month temporary labour position to issuing an RFP to find a new provider for an 18 month systems integration project.

New Timesheet Module
Just like e-mail approvals, timesheet solutions are “old-news” too, except when they are expertly integrated into the contingent workforce solution in such a way that usage for both employees and managers is almost effortless. In the average situation, an employee will just have to enter the number of hours they worked each day during the week because the system will automatically retrieve the projects they are working on and the associated billing codes, and automatically classify overtime. For an average worker on one project, they will have to enter five numbers each week. The system automatically validates each timesheet against statements of work; daily, weekly, monthly and SOW hour limits; and employee work hour/day/month restrictions and generates warnings where manager review/approval is required. A manager can then one-click approve all timesheets without warnings, and, through check-box selection, approve all timesheets with warnings that are expected and acceptable (which will happen if a manager approves overtime on a given project to get it done). This greatly reduces the number of timesheets that require individual review and attention and makes managers much more efficient.

In other words, while a number of these improvements were evolutionary and to-be expected, what is unexpected is how well some of these improvements were integrated. The bulk of the FieldGlass platform is incredibly easy to use for the average manager and approver once initial configuration is done.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss the new Statement of Work functionality.

Fieldglass: Adapting to Every Contingency, Part I

FieldGlass, which was first covered on SI back in 2008 by the Sourcing Maniacs* in their historic vendor tour, was originally founded in 1999 to provide technology solutions for staffing and contingent workforce management. As per the Maniacs’ historic post and our review in 2010 (on how FieldGlass is Determined to Take Off In the Tens), they built a great solution to solve this problem. But the problem was not a static one, it continued to evolve as organizations shifted more and more work into the contingent domain and outsourced more and more projects to outsource providers who would provide temporary labour. As a result, FieldGlass needed to continue to evolve its platform as well. And it did. Since our last review in 2010 it has

  • improved its rate guidance,
  • extended its rate structure capability,
  • streamlined it’s job posting (which can be as quick as two-clicks),
  • implemented easy e-mail approvals,
  • developed an “Ask An Expert” recommendation engine to help managers determine the right classification and labour providers for a position,
  • built a powerful timesheet manager in conjunction with Google, and
  • added extensive Statement of Work support.

Today we’ll cover the first three improvements to the FieldGlass platform and tomorrow, in Part II, we’ll address the next three. Then, in Part III, we’ll address the new Statement of Work module which is a revolutionary improvement to the platform.

Improved Rate Guidance
The rate guidance application uses current benchmark data and current spending history to display to the user the low, median, and high-end rates paid for the contingent or service position over the last 6 or 12 months in the service so the manager has up to date insight on the rate they should be expecting to pay.

Rate Structure
When it comes to contingent, temporary, and service worker rates and taxes, it’s never easy, especially if you support customers in 80 different countries. In addition to base hourly rates, you can also have per diems, special bonuses, hazard and isolation pay, vacation pay, etc., and it’s often the case that only some of these are taxed, and sometimes they are taxed using different tax structures. For example, the base hourly rate could be subject to a government employment tax and the per diem could be subject to a government value added tax, etc. The application supports just about any rate structure you can imagine, and each component can be associated with zero or more taxes.

Job Posting Process
From a manager’s point of view, the posting process, can be as simple as a three-click requisition. If (a template for) the position has already been defined in the system, all the manager has to do is select (the template for) the position, select a desired starting date, select an expected ending date, and submit the requisition for approval. Once the approver has approved the position, it is automatically posted and distributed. (Then, once the initial posting time has passed, the program office will be notified to shortlist job seekers for the requestor, who will review, and make his [rank ordered] selections. When a candidate, or the temporary/contingent labour provider, has indicated a willingness to accept the position, a work order will be created, the approver will accept, the supplier will accept, and the onboarding process will begin.)

Tomorrow we’ll discuss the next three improvements to the FieldGlass platform: e-mail approvals, the “As an Expert” recommendation engine, and the new Timesheet module.

*Here at SI we sure hope the Sourcing Maniacs are okay as we haven’t heard a peep from them since they took off for their European vacation on January 1, 2010 (over 3 years ago) by ship (as Wakko is on the No Fly list). The were supposed to be doing a European tour in the summer of 2010, but they seem to have fallen off the map!