Category Archives: Supply Chain

Another Supply Chain Misconception That Should Be Cleared Up Now

Yesterday we discussed one supply chain misconception that should be cleared up now because, despite all of the misconceptions mentioned in an Inbound Logistics Article, it was not addressed. However, there is a second misconception that is almost as critical that was not addressed either, so today we will address it. And while, there are, dozens of common misconceptions (including the 22+ mentioned in the article), these are the two that are the most critical to understand, as they are two that pose the most risk in most of today’s Procurement organizations.

 

THE SECOND BIGGEST SUPPLY CHAIN MISCONCEPTION

Supply Chains Have Reached (A New) Normal

Supply chains have never been, and will never be, normal as they will always be in flux due to perturbations, delays, and disruptions that happen daily. You may not see all the trial and tribulations a third tier supplier goes through every day, but trust the doctor when he says they have just as much turmoil as you do. Nothing is predictable in supply chains. When you accept this misconception in conjunction with the first misconception, it’s easy to see how almost all of the others are also misconceptions (that highlight slices of the bigger misconceptions).

For example:

  • cost becomes much less important than supply assurance due to the unpredictable nature of supply chains
  • since it’s not a linear, closed, model, zero-sum doesn’t apply
  • we made up the stages of planning, buying, transportation, and warehousing silos to fit a theoretical definition of normal that doesn’t exist
  • there is at least a hand-off at every stage, so the process is not disconnected but linked, if not intertwined
  • etc. etc. etc.

When you accept the reality, Supply Chain Management, as well as Source-to-Pay, will become a lot easier to manage because you will realize that

  1. only human expertise can adapt to new situations and find real-world solutions to the new challenges that arise
  2. technology will allow you to automate the tactical / semi-normal operations and instead focus on the exceptions and challenges, making you more productive as you focus the majority of your effort on strategy and thinking vs (e-) paper pushing and thunking which is the only thing the machine is good at (and, based on current technological understanding, ever be good at — which is exactly why we can limit it to the thunking because it can do over 3 Billion calculations a second flawlessly [if we ditch the “AI”] while we struggle to do 3)

In other words, only intelligent, adaptable, humans can manage constantly changing supply chains. Good technology can alert them and give them the intelligence they need to make good decisions, but technology cannot make those decisions for them.

(And the doctor, who dreaded saying Bye, Bye to Monochrome UIs can’t wait for the day he can say bye, bye Gen-AI.)

One Supply Chain Misconception That Should Be Cleared Up Now

Not that long ago, Inbound Logistics ran a similarly titled article that quoted a large number of CXOs that made some really good observations on common misconceptions that included, and are not necessarily limited to (and you should check out the article in full as a number of the respondents made some very good points on the observations):

The misconceptions included statements that supply chains should:

  • reduce cost and/or track the most important metric of cost savings
  • accept negotiations as a zero-sum game
  • model supply chains as linear (progression from raw materials to finished goods)
  • … and made up of planning, buying, transportation, and warehousing silos
  • … and each step is independent of the one that proceeds and follows
  • accept they will continue to be male dominated
  • become more resilient by shifting production out of countries to friendly countries
  • expect major delays in transportation
  • … even though traditional networks are the best, even for last-mile delivery
  • accept truck driver shortage as a systemic issue
  • accept the blame when anything in them goes wrong
  • only involve supply chain experts
  • run on complex / resource intensive processes
  • … and only be optimal in big companies
  • … which can be optimized one aspect at a time
  • press pause on innovation or redesign or growth in a down market
  • be unique to a company and pose unique challenges only to that company
  • not be sustainable as that is still cost-prohibitive
  • see disruption as an aberration
  • return to (the new) normal
  • use technology to fix everything
  • digitalize as people will become less important with increasing automation and AI in the supply chain

And these are all very good points, as these are all common misconceptions that the doctor hears too much (and if you go through enough of the Sourcing Innovation archives, it should become clear as to why), but not the biggest, although the last one gets pretty close.

 

THE BIGGEST SUPPLY CHAIN MISCONCEPTION

We Can Use Technology to Do That!

the doctor DOES NOT care what “THAT” is, you cannot use technology to do “THAT” 100% of the time in a completely automated way. Never, ever, ever. This is regardless of what the technology is. No technology is perfect and every technology invented to date is governed by a set of parameters that define a state it can operate effectively in. When that state is invalidated, because one or more assumptions or requirements cannot be met, it fails. And a HUMAN has to take over.

Even though really advanced EDI/XML/e-Doc/PDF invoice processing can automate processing of the more-or-less 85% of invoices that come in complete and error free, and automate the completion and correction of the next 10% to 13%, the last 2% to 5% will have to be human corrected (and sometimes even human negotiated) with the supplier. And this is technology we’ve been working on for over three decades! So you can just imagine the typical automation rates you can expect from newer technology that hasn’t had as much development. Especially when you consider the next biggest misconception.

The Sourcing Innovation Source-to-Pay+ Mega Map!

Now slightly less useless than every other logo map that clogs your feeds!

1. Every vendor verified to still be operating as of 4 days ago!
Compare that to the maps that often have vendors / solutions that haven’t been in business / operating as a standalone entity in months on the day of release! (Or “best-of” lists that sometimes have vendors that haven’t existed in 4 years! the doctor has seen both — this year!)

2. Every vendor logo is clickable!
the doctor doesn’t know about you, but he finds it incredibly useless when all you get is a strange symbol with no explanation or a font so small that you would need an electron microscope to read it. So, to fix that, every logo is clickable so you can go to the site and at least figure out who the vendor is.

3. Every vendor is mapped to the closest standard category/categories!
Furthermore, every category has the standard definitions used by Sourcing Innovation and Spend Matters!
the doctor can’t make sense of random categories like “specialists” or “collaborative” or “innovative“, despises when maps follow this new age analyst/consultancy award trend and give you labels you just can’t use, and gets red in the face when two very distinct categories (like e-Sourcing and Marketplaces or Expenses and AP are merged into one). Now, the doctor will also readily admit that this means that not all vendors in a category are necessarily comparable on an apples-to-apples basis, but that was never the case anyway as most solutions in a category break down into subcategories and, for example, in Supplier Management (SXM) alone, you have a CORNED QUIP mash of solutions that could be focused on just a small subset of the (at least) ten different (primary) capabilities. (See the link on the sidebar that takes you to a post that indexes 90+ Supplier Management vendors across 10 key capabilities.)

Secure Download the PDF!  (or, use HTTP) [HTML]
(5.3M; Note that the Free Adobe Reader might choke on it; Preview on Mac or a Pro PDF application on Windows will work just fine)

You Need a Plan to Mitigate Supply Chain Risks. But You Also Need a Platform.

A recent article over on Supply & Demand Chain Executive on Navigating a Supply Chain Management Toolkit noted that with a plan in place, organizations can quickly respond to any changes and help mitigate any supply chain risks.

Which is true, but how much of the risk they can mitigate is the question.

The article, which is very good and definitely worth reading (so check out the link), noted that problems arose as a result of COVID and disruptions since because many organizations use just-in-time inventory management (which we’ve already noted should have ended by now along with seasonality). The article also noted that the problems were often exacerbated by the fact that order processes were often not documented effectively and, in general, most organizations don’t spend the time and resources to really manage their supply chain. All of this is correct, as is the observation that these challenges can be alleviated with wholly embracing the tried-and-true methods for effective supply chain management because effective processes, measurements and accountability are … key to a supply chain that works for an organization.

But, on their own, not the key. Today, you also need a platform that enables the organization to:

  • quickly detect a risk event has occurred
  • quickly analyze the impact
  • quickly initiate any pre-defined mitigation plan
  • quickly implement new decisions and processes where the mitigation plan isn’t sufficient and doesn’t exist
  • monitor the impact of the risk event and the response in near real time

Otherwise, your process could be too slow, your measurements inaccessible and/or unrecorded, and your accountability (under audit) non existent.

For example, the article indicates you should start by getting a better grip on inventory management (which is correct, no product, no business for most companies), and that involves a self-assessment, forecast accuracy review, and inventory segmentation. All correct. But that doesn’t help you when all of a sudden there’s a fire in the factory, a strike at the port, or a strait/border closing. What do you do then?

It also tells you that you should focus on better supplier relations, which is also extremely important, and focus on vetting suppliers before you onboard them and then measuring them and computing the total cost of ownership of keeping them, which is also very important as suppliers should improve over time and costs should not inch up faster than inflation. It also mentions the importance of proper strategic sourcing (matrices) to get the right products from the right suppliers. Another definite. But fails to tell you what you do when all of a sudden a key supplier can’t deliver or becomes unavailable.

The answer here is you use all of your good relationships and data to immediately identify the next best supplier. If you were splitting award, you try to shift to the other supplier (if they can handle the volume — if you were doing an 80/20 split and the 80% supplier suddenly became unavailable indefinitely, the 20% might not be able to support you, or at least not for very long, and you will have to add a new supplier to the mix. If you were doing proper sourcing, and proper supplier vetting before including them in an event, then you already have potential suppliers — the runners up from your last event. A good platform will let you immediately identify them and immediately start another sourcing event to onboard a new supplier as fast as possible.

If you have a good logistics (sourcing) platform, and your primary carrier / route becomes unavailable, you may be able to identify another carrier / route that will get you the products on time, or at least be able to accelerate an order from a secondary source of supply while you wait for the first source through a lengthier route.

The point is, while you need great processes, measurements (to indicate if something is taking too long, such as an order acknowledgement or a delivery, which can be a sign of a potential risk event materializing), and accountability (to show you made efforts to detect and mitigate risks in a reasonable time frame), you can’t measure, execute processes, or provide unquestionable audit trails of accountability without a proper platform. Never forget that. (And for help, you can see our Source-to-Pay series which helps you to identify where to start with your acquisitions and what vendors you might need to look at.)

And again, remember to read the article on Navigating a Supply Chain Management Toolkit as it will help you understand the basic processes you need to put in place.

Keep Your Procurement On PACA with FSMA with Procurant!

We don’t cover specialist Procurement providers much here on SI because many don’t have much in the way of domain specific product functionality (and differ primarily on domain knowledge, terminology customization, and service offerings), but some, like Procurant, go beyond the basics and offer domain specific functionality of relevance that the market needs to take note of. Especially when such functionality can help an organization be compliant with current and, most importantly, incoming regulations they are not ready for.

Procurant, marketing itself as a strategic platform for perishables that does Procurement AND Food Safety, offers the following core functionality:

  • P2P (Procure to Pay) for Perishables
  • Inspections (recording and auditing)
  • Traceabillity that is mobile-enabled and FSMA 204 compliant
  • Market Intelligence
  • Food Safety (workflow and remote sensor integration) (not covered in this article)

It’s the one-stop solution for retail grocers, especially those with US operations, that need to manage their perishable supply chain in a manner that is both PACA and FSMA compliant. (And if you’re a grocery retailer that does NOT know what those acronyms stand for … Uh-Oh! Better find out and give Procurant a call ASAP — because failure to comply can not only result in fines but [supply chain] shutdowns.)

Procurement/Procure-to-Pay wise there isn’t much that’s unique in core functionality (as the uniqueness is with the integrated support for the perishable space), but it’s all there, and we’ll start with the core so you can be confident the core is on par with other best-of-breed Procurement solutions.

With respect to quote management, the platform contains integrated RFQ / price request that makes it really easy to not only request (updated) quotes from suppliers, but get a commitment on that price (for a certain time or volume; i.e. one week or 100 pallets). When you get a commitment, the system tracks orders against that commitment, and then lets you know when the quote has expired because the commitment has been used up (and if you still need more product, you need a new quote with a new commitment).

With respect to order management, the solution makes it easy to select products for orders from the built-in catalog, from order templates (guides), or from demand forecasts (which can pulled in from the forecasting/demand management system OR created natively in Procurant using weighted average outbound for the last 12 weeks, with more forecasting algorithms coming in a future release). The platform even supports the definition of automatic (replenishment) orders, should the organization choose that functionality. Once the order is assembled, it’s very easy to send it to the supplier for fulfillment.

Moreover, as Procurant ‘s P2P also contains integrated support for carriers and logistics (due to the need to monitor the entire produce supply chain and ensure food safety every step of the way), in Procurant, you can also assemble orders by truckload, as you don’t want to be under-shipping if not absolutely necessary (as it takes the same amount of energy to maintain the temperature when refrigeration is necessary whether the truck is almost full or almost empty) and it’s easier to trace when you decide who is shipping what, when, and on which truck. One great feature of the platform is that it’s super easy to assemble an order for a carrier. It’s just a matter of dragging and dropping order line items until the platform notifies you that the last line won’t fit in the truck (as you can encode a max # pallets, weight, and volume by truck and as soon as one limit is reached, the platform lets you know). No complex training on a sophisticated TMS required.

As a result of this deep support for logistics and carriers, purchase orders can be incredibly detailed and include shipping dates, carrier, load reference number(s), and even cross docks.

Also, order management is multi-state and the system will track and notify if there is an:

  • order modification by the buyer
  • order modification by the supplier
  • order cancellation by the supplier
  • order reconciliation by the supplier (on being notified the goods received didn’t match the PO)

and all changes by any party are maintained in a secure, unalterable, audit log.

With regards to order management, the buyers can choose whether or not the supplier can split orders, remove items, or add substitute orders. Whether or not they can change prices (or just quantities to match availability), and even when modifications will be accepted. Similarly, the administrator can determine the order creation capability the buyers have access to … whether or not they have (to use) guides, whether they can create cross-dock orders, etc.

With respect to invoice management, it’s super easy for a supplier to flip a PO to an invoice. All they have to do is enter the actual quantity shipped by line item and submit. The invoice then goes into a wait state until a receipt is entered, at which point if there is a discrepancy, the invoice is sent back to the supplier for correction before it goes into the normal processing queue, where it would be held up until the discrepancy was resolved, which could delay payment considerably if the organization has long approval chains for corrections and exception processing.

The platform also tracks supplier fill rates, so you can quickly see which suppliers are fulfilling the POs they accept and living up to your expectations and which suppliers are not. It also has price watch capability, and can alert you whenever PO or quote prices exceed current (or historical) prices by a certain percentage.

And, of course, there’s a dashboard which summarizes current tasks and open orders and great search and filter functionality to find just the orders, invoices, or quotes you are looking for.

The platform also integrates the inspection reports from their inspection app and, for any fulfilled order, you can quickly bring up the full report that summarizes the inspection (packaging, appearance, condition, flavor, and quality) on each item delivered as well as the number of items rejected. Also integrated with the Procurement platform is the Inspection Module that contains the overall inspection summary dashboard, dill downs by supplier, scorecards by supplier, and other key reports and data points on inspections. The inspect application is a mobile app that workers can use at the warehouse on or the dock to inspect the quality of goods as they come in and, if necessary, reject them on the spot.

What’s really cool is the Track and Trace capability where, for any item, you can see the entire journey from the source lot to the warehouse or the store shelf, as appropriate. You just need a GTIN, lot number, order number, SKU, or product description and, optionally, a date range and you see the store shipments, receivings at your warehouses, vendor shipments, and base lots. And you can click into each store shipment, receiving, vendor shipment, or lot and see complete details (such as the ship to, date, and receiver for a store shipment; order #, sales order, Lot, shipper, shipment date, and cases for a vendor shipment; etc.). And with their next release, the (default) output report formats will be usable for FSMA compliance. (Again, if you do grocery retail and you don’t know why this is critical, you better find out soon!)

Finally, their Market Intelligence Capability in Procurant Connect provides Commodity Pricing, Weather, and Transportation analytics and tracking. The commodity pricing tracks price movements across all commodities by region; the weather pane integrates forecasts down to the county level; and the transportation analytics tracks average load fees by lane (defined by city pairings), as well as price changes and shipper / transportation availability (surplus, slight surplus, adequate, slight shortage, or shortage).

Procurant can integrate with your ERP and AP (payment) system, your TMS (or onboard carriers natively, which is something not many P2P systems can do as carrier management is critical in perishable supply chain management), and your supplier master (for supplier onboarding) if it’s not your ERP.

All-in all, Procurant is a fantastic solution for the perishable supply chain procurement and one that absolutely has to be on the short list of any grocery retailer that needs to get a handle on their perishable supply chain in a manner that will allow them to be fully PACA and FSMA compliant.