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.
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)
Recently I overheard a conversation between two of my colleagues. One was requesting inputs for a task assigned, while the other was protesting that he didn’t have the time to prepare detailed documentation. The term “detailed documentation” appeared to send a shudder down the requestor’s spine. He promptly replied, “Please don’t give me anything lengthy… A half page document with ALL the details is what I need.”
Since the advent of BI, organizations of all sizes have pushed to broaden their spectrum of analytical insights. Of course, a key motivator for this effort was to improve operational efficiency. In many organizations, these efforts did not deliver to the management’s expectation. The root causes for the failure in most cases are information latency and lack of cross-functional linkage.
Over the last 2-3 years, a lot has been written about data growing faster than hardware capabilities. Computing power has largely progressed along what Gordon Moore had predicted half a century back, and that was enough to handle the increase in data volumes. But, with the advent of Internet of Things (IoT) that has changed. The numerous clicks, touches and sensors on pretty much every "thing" has been pumping out data at a pace that puts Moore's law to notice. Frequently cited examples include size of Facebook's daily log (~60 TB), data generated by a transatlantic flight (~ 650 TB) etc.
"An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed & direction unless acted on by an external force". No, this is not going to be a blog on the Basic Sciences... I mentioned Newton's first law of motion only to highlight an interesting parallel between the inertia of physical objects and human behavior. The latter is difficult to measure, but all of us have come across umpteen situations where we have modified our natural behavior in response to an event. And mostly these are changes for the good... improved driving habits when cops/cameras are in the vicinity, hitting the gym few days before a health check-up, quarter-end scramble by sales people etc. are examples of these. In the mentioned situations, cops, health-check up, and limited time have taken the role of Newton's "external force".