On his popular TV show “The Profit,” entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis repeats this mantra frequently: successful businesses are built on the three P’s; people, product, and process. The concept has its origins in lean manufacturing, but it has since taken hold across a broader spectrum of industries.
Today’s companies continue to expand to reach global markets, but this has made control of supply chains more and more complex. Companies recognize that developing and executing successful supply chain strategies can be key to gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace. A key to managing a global supply chain is having strong visibility. This has in turn prompted companies to use technologies such as ERP/MRP systems, warehouse management systems and transportation management systems. Additionally, companies are utilizing hardware technologies, hand-held scanners, GPS, tracking devices, cameras, microphones, RFID readers, wireless networks and automated warehouse systems (AGVs, Robots). Adoption of these technological tools allows more visibility than ever before. But having the data, alone is not enough; managers now have millions and billions of bits of data to decipher and sort through. Having piles of data is not enough, supply chain managers are now faced with how to best use the data to obtain the right information to track performance, diagnose bottlenecks and uncover opportunities for continuous improvement.
October 12th, 2019 was a red letter day for every athletics fan. That day, for the first time in history a human completed the marathon in under two hours! Eliud Kipchoge the current world record holder did the unbelievable and shaved off a good 2 minutes from his best time. It wasn’t just a triumph of human doughtiness and perseverance. The run was also emblematic of technology and analytics aiding humans in pushing the envelope. Specially made shoes and pacing lasers ensured energy efficiency. The chosen route and formation of pacemakers minimized wind resistance. The location was picked because of its closeness to Kipchoge’s time zone… a number of sagacious data driven decisions contributed to the feat.
As the year entered its final quarter, I was revisiting some predictions pundits had made for 2019. It’s an interesting exercise I go through every year. Estimating soothsayer accuracy is not the objective. Some predictions will be right, a few wrong and in majority of the cases it will be difficult to say – either the data isn’t there or it’s too early for any decipherable trend. Regardless of their chances of coming true, the ideas are inspiring and make a good segue to predictions for the coming year.
Even if you live in a cave, chances are you haven’t missed the noise around ‘Supply Chain Visibility.’ The terms are many: “Control Tower”, “Operational Intelligence”, “Situation Room”, “Supply Chain Cockpit”, “Predictive ETA”, and so on. From software vendors to analysts to users, each group has coined its own terminology.
It was the penultimate day of my trip to our San Jose office. In the evening Vikas, Dinesh & I went for a short hike at the Alviso Marina County Park. It was a beautiful trail and the hike was uneventful except for Vikas’ narration of his past exploits with a mountain lion. After the hike Dinesh said that we should grab a quick drink and I suggested a nearby Mexican joint. “The place serves amazing guacamole. You should have that with tortilla,” I tried to tempt Vikas’ mostly vegetarian palate.
L: Dick Fosbury doing the “Fosbury Flop” to win the high jump gold medal at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics (Source: International Olympic Committee)
R: Illustration showing path of center of gravity in the Fosbury Flop (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Author: AlanSiegrist)