Build a True Digital Twin using Attribute Based Planning

A digital twin of your supply chain or your factories is more than just a representation of resources, suppliers, and manufacturing data. A digital twin does that and more. It must look and behave the same as your physical resources and facilities. It is a digital avatar of your supply chain. It needs to be both the body and soul of your supply chain. the use of attributes and attribute-based planning (ABP) provides the soul for your supply chain. It enables replicating your policies, business rules, and constantly adapts itself to the on-going changes in the supply chain. As your supply chain is not a constant, your digital twin must change with it. In the absence of ABP you are left with a skeleton representing the structure only.

All the elements of your supply chain have certain properties that we call attributes. Attributes are used to identify the potential and limitation of each element in the supply chain. Some examples of attributes follow.

  • A resource may have a grade or precision that is required for some, but not all, orders.
  • An intermittent product or WIP may demonstrate lower than expected (say) speed or wavelength.
  • A certain supplier may be the only one qualified for certain customers’ orders.
  • A region may have high tariffs or high carbon footprint.

Most supply chain planning systems, use attributes only for finished goods and matching supply and demand. This is trivial but not really using attributes as intelligent constraints. In ABP, attributes and their limitations are respected at every stage of planning from sourcing to making to distribution and delivery. Even the method of delivery has attributes such as price, carbon emission, probability of on-time delivery and so on.

In ABP, Boolean expressions such as “AND/OR” are used to define the way the supply chain behaves. For example, a high priority customer’s order from EU may ask for the following attributes:

From Vietnam OR Mexico AND wavelength between 1.2 AND 3.1 AND assembled in USA

Given the above example we have to make sure that suppliers, WIP, assembly regions etc. are all respected when a plan is generated. ABP does this readily by attaching these constraints to the customer order, and how it should be made considering supplier attributes, resources, material, WIP status to ensure it meets the order requirements. For example, while in WIP status, test may show that the speed is not in the specified range, in which case ABP will peg the intermediate part to another order that meets the current property of the work order.

Now, most S&OP vendors try to accommodate for such gigantic number of combinations by the use of substitution and creating additional BOMs and routings! When you consider the potential number of combinations of attributes and properties in various stages of the supply chain, the number of SKUs would grow exponentially large and the system would not be able to scale. With attribute-based planning however, simply a generic product is defined and then attributes can be attached as needed. The earlier example above shows that attributes are not just in finished goods but at every stage of the supply chain and they must be respected to generate accurate plans with a true digital of the supply chain.

To learn more about ABP and how it can reduce number of SKUs and truly represent your supply chain digitally, please visit True Digital Twin.

Digital Twin

As your supply chain is not a constant, your digital twin must change with it. In the absence of ABP you are left with a skeleton representing only the structure, not the behavior.