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Predict, Not Just Respond

A Supply Chain Planner and an Airplane Pilot Have a Lot in Common!

supply chain planner

Now a days, airplanes have a very accurate and complete model of the dynamics of flying and accurate digital representation of the air, wind and temperature in their flight path. With the use of sensors, the instruments constantly monitor the surrounding environment and make decisions to optimally operate the flight of the plane. The instruments can detect approaching objects, wind direction, estimate arrival times very accurately and be able to take off and smoothly land the plane. This is all possible because of accuracy of the digital model. So, what is the role of the pilot? Even though 95% of the time they are not needed, but for that remaining 5%, their presence can save many lives when instruments and the “intelligence” of the system fails to behave the right way.

In contrast, S&OP by itself is like the turbo plane of the 50’s requiring pilot interaction 95% of the time. With combined S&OP and S&OE modeling of the supply chain, we are in a position to do what today’s airplanes can accomplish. The system is perfectly capable of modeling the supply chain operations very accurately. Through this modeling, it can optimize the operation and more importantly predict the potential issues and create plans to mitigate risk. If and when a problem occurs (unexpected high demand, breakdown of equipment, disruptions in supply chain etc.), then it can sense the event and make decisions what the best course of action is. Just like pilots, planners can monitor the behavior of the system and its reaction to the events. Planners can add value by deciding the best course of “flight” by having a higher level of strategic direction of the company. They can monitor the trends that constantly disrupt the supply chain such as removing potential bottleneck causes and enabling the supply chain to operate at a shorter end to end leadtime. Planners, just like pilots, can be instrumental in saving the supply chain when unexpected events such as hurricanes and contagious disease occur. They can take over and use the system to deploy the best alternative available under the circumstances and re-configure the operations almost instantly.

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