I am a supply chain guy. All I can think of is to make sure any product is available to customers when they want it and how they want it. No pressure but admit it, in this digital age, customers have more power and more options.
So, how can we service customers at the speed of their changing preferences and demands? Sales and marketing people live by the mission of keeping the customer engaged. But what can we do as supply chain people? I lead with the principle of “promise to deliver and deliver to promise”. Let’s break that down –
Promise to deliver – a commitment to ensure that our products and services will always be available when customers want them.
Deliver to promise – a commitment to deliver the right quantity at the right time, and to ensure best quality in our products and services.
In order to fulfill this promise, companies have been focusing on right people, right processes and right technology. With the new era of big data and social media, companies now need right information as well. It’s the integration of these four components that have helped them to satisfy their customers better. However the buck doesn’t stop here. We live in a world of information chaos. There is data all around us and predictive analytics is playing a big role in harnessing this data to develop a competitive advantage. You would think that by balancing the 4 components with the envelope of analytics, one would have achieved the nirvana of being a top player in the market. Sorry to disappoint but the world is moving faster than we think.
You have the data and you are applying the analytics to make meaningful business decisions to retain or attract customers. In this race, time is of essence. Usain Bolt is the fastest athlete in the world. He runs 100m in less than 10sec and holds several records.
Imagine this. Bolt is at the starting line when people start tweeting about what he is wearing and what are his chances to win. In the next 5 sec, when he is at the 50m marker, there are thousands of tweets, facebook messages etc. about his speed, performance gear he is wearing and more. And by the time he finishes the race (<10sec), people are already ordering his shoes, socks, shorts, wristband, the drink in his hand and there is chatter all over the web. How would you like to have a marketing campaign in the next few seconds targeted by age, gender, region, income range, marital status, etc.?
In a traditional supply chain, it would have taken days to launch such a campaign. However, in today’s world there is a groundbreaking technology that can actually help perform such an analysis faster and drive agility and flexibility in your supply chain operations. Meet Hana by SAP!
In simple words Hana is an in-memory database, something like Macbook Air but more robust and powerful at an enterprise level. As SAP says in its publication “Frequently Asked Questions – SAP Business Suite Powered by SAP HANA” – “It provides a modern platform for real-time applications and real-time analytics, while simplifying existing IT landscapes. With SAP HANA, customers also have a choice of deployment models and partners, providing lower cost and faster innovation from an open ecosystem.”
Hana Drivers (source: SAP)
Hana is the Usain Bolt of the technical world. It speeds up computing power to new levels such that processes that used to take hours on traditional databases can now be run in a matter of minutes. Think of how much time you could gain in your order to cash cycle and how responsive your supply chain could become with faster analysis and decision capability.
Lets narrow this down to Supply Chain Logistics – SAP Extended Warehouse Management and SAP Transportation Management. In January 2013 SAP announced that SAP Business Suite is now available on Hana but we haven’t seen the details for EWM and TM yet. So I have been going around and asking people what improvements they would like to see with EWM and TM on a Hana platform.
Here is a wish list –
- Labor Management Performance Analytics – Hana enabled real time performance reporting so that warehouse managers can run dynamic operations enabling flexibility to manage order variations. Capability to match volume mix to labor skills would help taking any type of orders at any time and balancing operations to ship orders as promised to customers.
- Wave Management and Order Allocation – one of the longest processes in EWM that sometimes takes hours for large order volumes. Hana could reduce wave planning time to a few seconds or minutes so that orders can be released for pick/pack/ship quicker and more frequently, thereby improving throughput and reducing order cycle time.
- Slotting and Rearrangement – Slotting simulations for a warehouse can take up a lot of time hence resulting in passive operations, i.e. warehouse profile adjustments usually lag the order mix, and more often end up being inefficient. How about Hana enabled slotting recommendations in real time so that the warehouse profile could be adjusted dynamically according to the order mix?
- Freight Planning and Optimization – This could be a nightmare sometimes. Long durations to plan hundreds or thousands of shipments through selection of the right mode of transportation and determination of the best route to minimize the cost of transportation while maintaining faster delivery times forces transportation managers to dedicate labor and perform these activities well in advance. This reduces the flexibility to make adjustments without incurring huge costs. Hana should drive significant reduction in planning cycle and should support “what-if” scenario based real time planning. Transportation should not be a bottleneck but in fact a seamless transition from warehouse operations to the end customer.
- Event Management – any supply chain is prone to disruptions, changes or unknown events that require supply chain managers to make significant adjustments. Most of the times, these adjustments either result in customer disappointment due to service issues or result in increased supply chain cost to meet customer standards. Event Management triggered adjustments should allow real time re-planning of transportation schedules and warehouse operations that Hana should be able to support.
Many of us have great expectations from Hana for EWM and TM because it could help build a true “real-time, responsive and agile” supply chain, and we can truly Wow our customers at the speed of change – enabled by Hana!