Discrete manufacturing companies operating with highly complex supply chains in today's volatile business
world need collaborative planning and the ability to quickly respond to variances in those plans. They often
want to model 'what-if' scenarios to better prepare them for those inevitable hiccups – or new business.
Kinaxis designed its RapidResponse solution to help companies with demand and supply balancing, optimized
forecasting, and improved supply chain performance. Recently it debuted an enhanced version called
RapidResponse Control Tower.
To get a better understanding of the product and responsiveness, SupplyChainBrain met with some Kinaxis
representatives and customers at the company's annual user conference.
Participants included Kinaxis CEO Doug Colbeth; COO John Sicard; Kevin O'Marah, senior research fellow at
the Stanford Global Supply Chain Forum; Joe McBeth, vice president, supply chain, at Jabil; Erwin Hermans,
vice president of supply chain solutions at Celestica; Tom Tael, Qualcomm's senior manager for business
processes; Thomas LeBlanc, master scheduler at Varian Semiconductor; Mike Keltz, IT integrator at Lockheed
Martin Aeronautics; and Lalit Panda, at that time CIO at D&M Holdings. Separate interviews with each person
can be accessed at www.SupplyChainBrain.com.
Q: It’s a volatile world out there. What do you think is the biggest
challenge facing your customers today?
Colbeth: I would say for three out of four of them, their
biggest challenge is demand volatility.
Q: So what’s the tool they need to overcome that and gain competitive advantage?
Colbeth: In a very simple sense, we have customers where
demand is greater than their ability to meet that demand. So being
able to model demand in advance and secure the supply lines is
critical. It’s essential to customer satisfaction. Because for many of
our customers, if they lose their top customer, it’s just devastating.
Q: How can they acquire the capability to meet the demand?
Colbeth: While there’s been a lot of progress in lean manufacturing and in other areas, where there has not been much headway
is in tools. What I noticed when I got involved in this industry was
that everything was disconnected. Demand planning people had
not even met the supply chain planning people. You would hear
the term ‘sales and operations planning,’ but they had not necessarily talked with anybody at the factory level where you’re doing your
dynamic element of demand and supply. That’s why Kinaxis set
forth on a long and heavy investment in creating what I call a control tower where all of these capabilities are essentially a part of this
Q: Elaborate on what this control tower concept means.
Colbeth: We no longer think of the supply chain in a bubble.
What happens in the supply chain has a dramatic impact on other
areas of the business. For example, when there’s a major event in
the supply chain, managers want to take that info and model the
impact on cash flow. So the idea of a control tower is to think
beyond the supply chain and be able to simulate anything anywhere at any time. That’s what the control tower enables a large
enterprise to do.
Q: So, you’ve enhanced visibility. What else?
Colbeth: Obviously, you have to have visibility to a problem.
And then the next thing is you have to be able to measure impact,
and most companies aren’t very good at that because quite often
the data is scattered.
Collapsing the time to respond, that’s where you create your
scenario. That’s absolutely critical. That’s where you differentiate
yourself from a competitor. So if you’re not proficient at collapsing
that time to respond, you could potentially lose your top customer,
and that’s just devastating.
Q: John, you say that planning by itself isn’t enough today. What
do you mean?
Sicard: For the last 25 years or so, people focused on planning
better because it gives some degree of control over where you’re