Technology Leaders Share Bright Ideas

Demand sensing, business intelligence solutions use data in a whole new light.


BI permits us to improve our decision-making processes because we now have the ability to work off fact-based data, rather than having to rely on the insight of our individuals. BI measures all our activities against financial information. For example, like many 3PLs, we utilize multiple warehouse management systems. Now data from all those systems is collected and consolidated.

That consolidated data then enters our BI system where it is reconciled against our financials. So now our financial information is the measure of truth, both internally and with our clients and serves as a common reporting tool.

Based on the data available from BI, we are able to make swift changes in our operations and create efficiencies and service improvements for our clients.

Virtualization is a proven software technology that, in essence, permits you to transform hardware into software. Multiple virtual machines share hardware resources without interfering with each other so that you can safely run several operating systems and applications at the same time on a single computer.

This brings significant reliability improvements to our clients. Because virtualization permits instantaneous recoverability, when there is a problem with one server-a power spike for example-we can stream data back and forth across other servers with no interruption of information. As a supply chain management company with many food and beverage clients, we know it is critical to keep perishable, regulated products moving according to plan.

Virtualization is also bringing new efficiencies to our IT services. We have been able to reduce our number of servers from 70 to seven and we achieved a 104 percent return on investment on software implementation costs.

Symens: CPG companies like Jamak Fabrication, which makes wiper blades for automobiles, are having great success in improving their in-stock and sell-thru by taking into account weather data when forecasting sales and on-hand activity. Jamak has long known weather impacted their sales, but until recently it was nearly impossible to conduct the analysis necessary to match daily weather data to over 3,000 retail stores for a half dozen products.

By taking advantage of new database and forecasting technologies, Jamak is now able to instantly access inventory and sales forecast reports by store for each of their items including a 15-day forecast using AccuWeather data and Rainmaker Group's Accelerated Analytics services.

Tell us about the results.

Symens: After a few months in the program, the results have been impressive, sales are up and out of stocks are down. Jamak's retail buyer is also taking note and getting actively involved in expanding and improving upon the program. Weather data is just the start, even if a business is not influenced by weather. A more complete forecasting model can be constructed using new technology to take into account factors like average income, age, location, etc.

What new technology do you plan to deploy in 2008 and what are your expectations for benefits or advantages?

LaBelle: We are deploying new reporting capabilities out to our trading partners so they can manage their business with IPC more efficiently and cost effectively. We are focused on spend intelligence throughout the supply chain. By enabling our manufacturers and distributors to see and understand how our product is moving throughout the SUBWAY chain, they can focus on areas of improvement and bring us new ideas for better service and product quality. This makes everyone a true partner with IPC and our franchisees.

Mueller: P&G will continue to invest in consumer-driven initiatives in 2008 and beyond. Among other initiatives, we are currently piloting a transportation forecasting solution that will enable P&G to more accurately predict how many trucks we need and where they should be. By reducing last minute tendering we will cut transportation costs. We are also testing an enhancement to Demand Sensing by adding a large retailer's POS data into the demand planning process.

Cooper: An exciting new IT advance that will officially launch in 2008 is the creation of global visibility across all our systems. Today, we have the data in separate systems. The Global Visibility system will integrate the data allowing clients to view their products via one system as they move throughout the supply chain.

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