A Supply Chain Digital Twin is No Twin without Attributes

Building a digital twin of your supply chain simply means building a digital model of your supply chain. S&OP solutions do that by making approximations of what the physical supply chain looks like. It gives the appearance of a twin but a fraternal one at best. With S&OE you make the twin an identical one; modeling not just the look but also the behavior of the supply chain. Looks are important but behavior, or character, is critical. Behavior shows how your supply chain can tolerate stress, how it responds, and how it predicts potential issues.

Objects in the supply chain all have certain properties. By object, we mean an equipment, a customer, a supplier, a region, a product, a WIP product, a DC. These properties define the behavior of the object. For example, temperature of a DC or a storage unit defines what kind of products can be held in that DC: fresh food, electronics, or fabrics. A region can be unstable due to geopolitical regions, or because of weather related issues in certain seasons. These properties are called attributes. Using these attributes, the behavior of object is defined so that we can accurately and precisely understand how the supply chain operates, predicts and responds. A delivery truck in Ohio might take longer to deliver in winter than in summer, a supplier might be “greener’ in Mexico than Vietnam and a product can have a range of electronic properties that can fit the end customer specifications.

By the use of these properties or attributes, we can mimic the look and behavior of the supply chain digitally resulting in much better and smother operation of the supply chain, we can predict delivery dates far more accurately, we can keep the right amount of inventory at the right place and avoid excessive cost of operations.

Having the capability to be an exact model of the supply chain, mimicking its behavior, provides much better visibility into the operations. It shows where the weak points are in the supply chain. By addressing these exposures, we can make the supply chain more resilient and avoid unnecessary risks.

Attribute based planning (ABP) implies using these properties in order to ensure accuracy of the plans. For example, pegging the right WIP to the right customer, assuming the right capacity for an equipment with the appropriate quality and speed, or selecting the supplier that can deliver the quantity needed reliably and best price in winter.

It also means taking into account all the constraints exhibited by different objects. Some examples of these constraints are: an equipment having certain quality specification may not be used for a precision product requested by a high priority customer, only one supplier is qualified for a particular order, or a product with certain type of material built in a region, that uses child labor cannot be sold in certain countries. These are essentially the behavioral character or business rules used in accurately planning of the supply chain.

The business benefits of ABP are far too many to be discussed here in detail. For more information on how they can benefit your operations, including reduction of SKUs, click Here.

Where Do the Attributes Come From?

Attributes are everywhere and can be present in your MES system, CRM system, local databases, your planners’ heads or an excel spreadsheet. You may not see them or even think as if you are not using them or need them. But you do!

As part of your effort to digitalization and automation, the relevant attributes can be identified, just like any other data, and maintained. Many of which are already available and used such as suppliers’ lead-times or customer order specifications. The challenge is to have a SCP system that can handle them and extract them to intelligently plan according to these properties so that plans are executable. As you may have noticed, attributes are not just a column in your data base or spreadsheet; they are intelligent constraints that drive your business and their presence is vital to form plans that are credible, reliable and executable.

Supply Chain digital twin

“Digital Twin Behavior shows how your supply chain can tolerate stress, how it responds, and how it predicts potential issues.”