Category archives: AIMMS
Something struck me after spending a few days in Phoenix at Gartner’s Supply Chain Executive Conference. Supply Chain Network Optimization is key to running an efficient and profitable operation today. But while the market has changed, network optimization hasn’t actually advanced much since the 1990s. Yes, there are lots more features and a big increase in computing power. Yet, network optimization is still just a richer version of the 90’s experience.
Analyzing the software market
Network optimization software has become a big business that’s experienced exponential growth. There has been strong adoption of boxed solutions that are feature rich with many bells and whistles. What I heard at the Gartner conference is growing frustration with these large packages that have become cumbersome to use, too difficult for the average supply chain expert, lack flexibility and have high price tags. Sound familiar?
So what is the alternative? First, we need to go back to the original purpose. Supply Chain teams shouldn’t be overly focused on technology. Instead, they should have their eyes set on the desired outcome. Supply Chain teams want a supply chain network that runs in an optimized fashion, with signals that indicate when and where to invest in future infrastructure. The network optimization tool should just be a means to an end.
So why hasn’t it become easier and cheaper to have an optimized network? Why are companies investing more and more in this focused discipline?
My takeaways from Gartner’s Supply Chain Executive Conference 2016
Apps have come to define the way we work and live in many ways. We have cars with Apps, watches running Apps, TVs that operate with Apps…as the phrase goes “There’s an App for That.” There are Apps out there for just about anything, it’s hard to imagine a world without them. Why do we love Apps so much? We get the information we need upfront, they can be used anytime, anywhere, they help us connect, and they serve a specific purpose.
When it comes to Supply Chain Analytics, an “Apps approach” can have just as many benefits. Gartner’s Noha Tohamy offered a great presentation about this at their recent Supply Chain Executive Conference. But what exactly is a Supply Chain Analytics app? Noha defines it as “a solution developed in-house or by a service provider, targeted at a specific use case.” By taking an Apps approach, companies can build an app library with solutions. Think for instance of a Source Optimization app for your retail company – a custom solution that helps you understand how and when to source your supplies, foresee possible supplier issues and adapt your plans accordingly. Another example, this time in the oil industry, would be an oil blending app. Oil blending is not easy. Blending rules are always in development and are considered to be extremely proprietary. A custom Optimization or Prescriptive Analytics app can be adapted quickly as the rules change, it can empower people in your organization, be readily accessible for end users and help you create better blends.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Norm Jerome, a longtime AIMMS customer. It was great to learn about how AIMMS is used in the BP Petrochemical businesses and how it has been adopted by more and more end-users across the business. Here is a summary of that interview.
Hi Norm, Tell me a little about your background.
My formal training was in Chemical Engineering with emphasis on Process Control, and for the first 10 years of my career I worked as a Process Control Engineer, initially at Eastman Kodak, and then at Amoco. In the mid-90’s I moved over to Amoco Oil’s planning & scheduling department, and started working on refinery LP’s and scheduling systems. It was in that role that I first started working with AIMMS. At the end of the 90’s Amoco was acquired by BP, and around the same time I transferred over to what was now BP-Amoco’s Aromatics department within Petrochemicals, where I have been ever since.
‘‘I want highly automated systems, a value chain network that optimizes my service and costs, the best talent available and the necessary predictability so that I can smartly invest in physical infrastructure.’’
It’s becoming clear that supply chain executives aren’t going to get all that they want. Traditionally it takes at the very least 2 years to realize investments in technology and physical infrastructure. Consider that 2 years ago oil was trading at more than twice the current rate, China wage rates were 20% less than today and 40% of supply chain talent with deep analytical expertise was paid by a different employer.
For most enterprise companies, ERP has become a foundational infrastructure technology and a cost of doing business. However, many are finding that it is not the optimal technology for Supply Chain Planning and Optimization. This has led to usage of spreadsheets to help fill in the gaps. But spreadsheets come with new challenges. Leading companies are overcoming these obstacles and finding success with an alternative that is quickly gaining adoption.
A recent report by the ACE European Group identifies supply chains as of the biggest sources of concern for European businesses today. On the one hand, companies are facing growing uncertainty due to volatile exchange rates, rising oil prices and economic and geopolitical events, such as Greece’s financial crisis and the conflict in Ukraine. On the other hand, there is a rising need for smarter and more flexible tools as well as more staff with analytical capabilities. This post will explore these and other challenges as well as the key innovations defining European supply chains.
The European Supply Chain and Logistics Summit has established itself as one of the largest conferences in the industry. This year, lots of leading companies shared best practices and learnings from their supply chain projects and innovations. The summit offered an impressive speaker lineup, featuring Nestle, Ikea, Samsung, AIMMS clients like Merck, BP, Nampak, BASF, and Philips and our partner Oliver Wight. It was a pleasure to meet several of our customers and share our insights on supply chain analytics at the event.
My Twenty years of Supply Chain Operations, Consulting and Business Management drew to a close in the Spring of 2014 as I elected to take a break from my career and invest 100% of my time into family. It’s been a fairly wild journey which consisted of operational roles in warehousing and logistics across Europe followed by a consulting and business management career that had me employed by companies headquartered in London, Paris, Virginia and Bangalore.