Category Archives: Product Management

3-D Printing Will Bring Changes to Direct Sourcing

But not overnight, at least not for the changes being touted as the future of direct sourcing.

Print a part on demand? Not likely. Not soon.

Print a sample part on demand for evaluation — you could have that tomorrow.

What’s the difference?

First of all, today’s 3-D printers can only work with very specific plastics. Generally speaking, these plastics will not be suitable for the vast majority of parts the organization needs.

Secondly, most 3-D printers cannot mass produce parts fast enough to be useful to an organization that needs the parts in quantity.

Thirdly, the economics of 3-D printing today are not nearly where they need to be for mass production compared to current production techniques.

It will be a while before each of these criteria are met, and until they are, 3-D printing won’t be the future of direct sourcing.

But they do have their uses. Let’s say you are collaborating with a supplier halfway around the world in the design and development of a new part. If it requires regular review of a physical part, and getting that part on a regular basis requires global expedited shipments that cost hundreds of dollars a shipment and take up to a week to arrive, then the organization will be spending thousands of dollars on shipments and losing weeks, if not months, of production time while it waits for a part to arrive.

But with 3-D printing, an almost exact replica of the part, down to at least 2mm, even if it’s a metal part, can be printed locally from the CAD/CAM design files. And this can be done for a few dollars in a few hours. This is a significant contribution to the NPD process. And a considerable change to direct sourcing as life-cycles, and costs, can be considerably compressed and quality improved before the first part is delivered.

This simple change alone is significant, and we don’t need to wait for the future to get results. As long as we go in with an understanding of what those results will be.

Per Angusta: End-to-End Cross-Platform Purchasing & Procurement Project Management

When we last discussed Per Angusta last year in our post on Purchasing CRM, they were a relatively new SaaS company focussing on the workflow that ties the entire Supply Management process together.

They were building a SaaS platform to manage sourcing pipelines, track savings for organizational validation, and make Procurement’s impact visible to the organization. And, more importantly, they were building a tool designed to manage the sourcing workflow by integrating (through APIs) with Sourcing, Procurement, and Supplier platforms … out-of-the-box. At the time, they were integrated, or building integrations with, Rosslyn Analytics, HICX, Market Dojo. Today, they are also integrated with Coupa, Dhatim, D&B, and Ecovadis and other integrations are in the way.

Back then, they were mainly workflow, budget management, and great project management. Since then, they’ve added (better) ERP integration; improved alerts with rule definitions that will, in the next release, also support approval management and “toll gates” for better project management capability; added better contract management and tracking support (with forthcoming DocuSign integration); added supplier (information) management capability (that can import data from existing systems); added opportunity identification and management (with some innovative capability for those that also use Dhatim); and added an overall progress management capability … with the ability to take reporting snapshots from any point in time (in the past). In this post we are going to focus on three key advancements: opportunity management, supplier management and the progress management capability.

Opportunity Management was designed as a “scratch-pad” based application that allows a sourcing and procurement team to track potential opportunities as they are identified. To start identifying an opportunity, all that is needed is a name, an opportunity type, and a category. A short description, stakeholder, scope, implementation difficulty, and expected start date can also be defined. Once an opportunity is accepted, a potential budget impact can be defined, and once the opportunity is implemented, the expected savings can be defined and then the actual savings tracked. And all of this is summarized on the dashboard that summarizes opportunities by status, type of impact, ease of implementation, and project duration. But the great thing is that if a customer also has Dhatim, they can use Dhatim’s AI to identify the likely best opportunities that can be attacked and then feed them right into the Per Angusta platform.

Supplier Management, which can take data from the ERP, organizational Sourcing / ERP / Supply Management systems, and third party systems (D&B, Ecovadis, etc.), can be use to provide a basic Supplier snapshot independent of any given Sourcing system that can merge all the relevant data and provide consistent information to all Supply Management personnel. If they integrate a supplier discovery platform, it will be quick and easy to identify the best current and new suppliers to invite to your next Sourcing or Procurement project.

The Progress Management capability is essentially a pair of operational and financial dashboards that summarize target, forecast, and actual results for the year on top of the opportunity management and tracking capability. It’s trivially simple, but when data from all the platforms is integrated, extremely powerful and useful to the Procurement and Finance organizations.

Per Angusta has come a long way in a short time and SI looks forward to see what they do next year, especially as they are now working on “finding ways to use AI to make sourcing and procurement professionals much more productive and effective”.

The More Things Change … Global Product Development

This week we’re going to revisit posts from ten years ago and demonstrate that, to date, the more things change in Procurement, the more they have, unfortunately, stayed essentially the same.

We’re starting with a piece we published a decade ago on the benefits and risks of global product development. In this piece we noted that while the risks of global product development are many, so are the benefits as outsourcing can often open the organization to talent pools it wouldn’t have otherwise.

However, as we pointed out, the benefits won’t materialize if the risks aren’t mitigated, as any risk can destroy an entire sourcing and new product development plan. And the strategies for mitigating risk, as identified in the original article, are as relevant today as they were then.

NPD (New Product Development) still requires product road-mapping and portfolio management, iterative design and validation, product architecture and system design across the value chain, knowledge management so nothing gets lost, IP management, talent management, and, most importantly the right Product Lifecycle Management platform.

Without an integrated platform to track what is coming from where in the supply chain, who is doing what, what events are occurring, which of those impacts could cause a disruption, and what the potential (cost) impact could be, the organization is literally flying blind.

However, we still don’t have one platform for NPD that also manages end-to-end supply chain risk. And this is risky business. We have great platforms for NPD and product costing (including, but not limited to, Apriori, I-Cubed, and Supply Dynamics) and great platforms for risk identification and management (Achilles, Resilinc, and Risk Methods) — but not an integrated risk-centric new product design platform.

The missing strategy is still missing. Will it finally materialize ten years from now?

Procurement Produces Platinum when Engaged Early

We all know the statistic that 80% of the cost is defined the first 20% of product design, and that engaging Procurement early can significantly attack and reduce these costs considerably. But leading organizations are learning that engaging Procurement during New Product Design (NPD) is not early enough. Real success comes from engaging procurement during the Market Needs Analysis and New Product Definition phase.

Engaging Procurement after the product specs and initial design has been more or less determined limits Procurement’s capability to add value and extract cost. Once you’ve decided on a 9.7″ tablet with 64 GB of memory and a 5.1 MP camera limits Procurement to going to market for 9.7″ casing, 64 GB of memory. and 5.1 MP cameras and boards that support processors that can stay cool in a 9.7″ tablet. You’ve already limited the universe of potential. Moreover, you haven’t really defined what the real value is from a customer point of view (specs, reliability, brand value, sizzle), why, and how Procurement could add to
it.

Procurement really needs to be involved from the inception of a new product introduction project. It needs to be both a sounding board and the voice of reason to help the organization zero in on the right mix of what will sell and keep the costs in line with market expectations (or at least market acceptance). Value to the organization is maximized when profit is maximized — which is maximized when profit per unit times number of units is maximized. This requires balancing cost with consumer values, not just optimizing cost, which is all that can be done if Procurement is not engaged until the final design / pre-manufacturing stage of the product lifecycle.

So, for real results and greater success, engage Procurement early and engage Procurement often. Sometimes the perceived market requirement isn’t worth the cost, and other times it is.

For more information on the product lifecycle, as well as some of the results Procurement can deliver not only early, but at each phase, you can check out Source One’s latest paper on Strategic Sourcing Throughout the Product Lifecycle. It’s a quick read, and if you want to go deeper, they have hundreds of projects they can draw on if you reach out to them.

Societal Sustentation 52: Project Management

Good project management is the key to success. After all, without good management, the chances of a project over-running its resource allocation (of time, people, and money), if not failing, increase significantly. So, despite the fact that project management is a sustentation, it can also be a damnation. Especially if you can not manage the project.

One has to remember that project management has evolved over the last six decades or so to manage traditional types of projects that produce structures and goods against well-understood designs and project plans, starting with the need to effectively manage complex engineering projects in areas that include construction, defence, aviation, and shipbuilding.

When project management was being defined, the ENIAC was still in operation, Procurement was placing an order against a printed catalogue, and a company imported a small number of commodities in which they had contacts and expertise. There were no complex software projects, no complex Just-in-Time supply chain projects, and no automated factory mega-projects (which resulted in some of the biggest supply chain failures in history).

Where software development is concerned, there is a rough definition of what is desired, but the beginning and end is a best estimate that is no more accurate than a wild guess in some cases, the resources required (while defined as software architect, developer, network specialist, etc.) are not well understood (as a non-skilled software architect cannot define what makes, or identifies, a good software architect), and the amount of money required is relatively unknown (due to uncertain work effort requirements, unknown support requirements, etc.).

And that’s just software. When it comes to supply chain, the difficulty is intensified. There’s the management of the sourcing, the management of the negotiation and contracting cycle, and the management of the procurement. But before that, there’s identifying the right supplier, which requires detailed understanding of the product technical requirements and the supplier production capabilities. There’s identifying the expected costs, based upon understanding material costs, labour costs, energy costs, tariffs, and overhead. There’s managing the supplier relationship. There’s dealing with disruptions and disasters. And taking corrective actions.
In other words, supply chain projects don’t have well-defined beginnings. Don’t have well-defined endings. Don’t have well-defined workflows. Aren’t limited to a fix set of resources. Don’t always have a well-defined team. And don’t always have a well-known cost (even if there is a target one).

But that doesn’t mean there is no hope. There are steps you can take to maximize project success.

1. Document all the steps.

For example, if it’s a sourcing project, outline a detailed process from needs identification, through sourcing plan, supplier identification, sourcing, contracting, and supplier management. Each of these steps have been done before, and, on a step-by-step basis, the complexity, necessary timeframes, and risks can be fairly well estimated. If the expected time-frame is more time than you have, then you have to either simplify the project, or increase the risk.

2. Crystallize and clarify all the risks — and mitigations.

What are the risks in the project from a supply disruption point of view? Liability point of view? Supplier point of view? Contract point of view? Make sure the risks are clear, the potential repercussions clearer, and the mitigations the organization can, is, and will take perfectly comprehensible.

3. Implement Effective Change Management

Document all the hiccups that occur (for future learning), and when something happens that requires a change in process or timeline, be sure to document it, the change, and work out the updates to the plan. Don’t play it by ear or wing it, because it’s easy to mis a beat against background noise or get caught on a wire. Make the effort to manage the project, and your project management skills will improve.

4. Get Training

There is a very big Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) offered, and certified, through PMI and a lot of organizations that are expert in project management, including a few niche consultancies well versed in best practice in best practice supply chain management in the areas of sourcing, procurement, contract management, etc. Engage one and get the knowledge your organization needs to manage better software projects.

5. Use a Tool

Some modern suites offer integrated supply management project management capability and if your suite, or custom assembled best-of-breed platform doesn’t, there are best of breed providers focussed purely on sourcing and procurement project management, like Per Angusta. Get a solution, and use it.