Tag Archives: information systems

The Big Supply Chain Analytics Failure – Supply Chain Shaman

The Supply Chain Shaman, Lora Cecere, always has something interesting to say and valuable to think about.

Her numbers show that supply-chain related firms are right now simply making incremental improvements on existing systems, and are ignoring the need to go out there and find new ways of gathering and making use of supply chain data.

Systems people for years have known that you have to re-engineer the processes, the ways of doing business, and the software must support that. While it may turn out that the software is already right to support new processes, it’s much more likely that entirely new forms of software are required for the processes to work properly and fluidly.

That means analysts and business process participants together must spend the time needed to truly understand what they need to accomplish, and put in the up-front research and planning to get the system designed well. Few companies are willing to tolerate the time required. But that’s where the true value is realized.

I was just reading an article that tried to set forth a design strategy for a Port Communication System for ports in South Africa. Currently they don’t have them. But the article was at such a high-level that there was no insight into the new procedures and methods that would be needed to really bring these ports into the 21st Century. I’m afraid that much development of supply chain systems is done in that way. We look at existing processes instead of imagining how the processes and the whole scenario could be different. And once we’ve imagined the new world, we can see that the systems have to be different.

So the message to supply chain firms is to put on your imagining cap and plan systems that actually make quantum improvements; done just band-aid the old processes.


The Big Supply Chain Analytics Failure – Supply Chain Shaman

US exporters revolt over cost of changing earliest return dates

This story isn’t pretty. It details how shipping lines are not providing accurate information on earliest return dates, and in fact are often changing them at the last minute. Those changes often result in penalties charged to shippers.

It’s another example of how ocean carriers refuse to look out for their real customer’s well-being. This sort of business model would be doomed to failure in most industries. But the ocean carriers seem to get away with it.

No wonder they are in such disrepute.

I’m not saying such customer service is easy to provide. There are lots of barriers.

I’ll tell you a story about my days as an IT guy. It was the disk drive business, not ocean shipping, but the idea is similar. Our top management asked us to provide a system so customers could call in and find out the status of their orders– where they were in the build process, and when we expected they would ship. This was long ago when there was no text messaging or even an internet. We used modems and dumb terminals, not PCs.

We devised a text-to-voice phone system which would read our manufacturing data (specifically the MRP workorder system) to locate the customer’s order and read her the status over the phone. the system worked great– you could call in from any phone and the system would find your order and read its status to you. We expected the system would be wildly popular, and customers would love it.

It started with a splash. Customers and salespeople dialed and got the message. It was very busy. But in a couple of weeks no one called.

When we investigated why, we found that the system worked great. The problem was that manufacturing decided the only statuses were order received and order shipped, nothing in between, and no time prediction. so the system worked great, but people had decided not to provide good information.

Manufacturing didn’t want to reveal the estimated dates; they wanted the freedom to change schedules at will without notifying customers.

I think that’s the real problem here– ocean shippers don’t want to limit themselves by revealing ERDs to customers. They think it would constrain their operations too much. No commitment. And to boot, they are able to collect fees from customers who didn’t realize there was no commitment. The game is patently unfair– there’s no economic incentive to get the carriers to reveal valid info.

Without a fair game with incentives for cooperation, there won’t be any. Prepare for some attempts to gain that fairness. Perhaps a search for regulation of the information rules and standards by government.

By Alex Lennane 19/10/2020

US exporters in revolt over the cost of changing earliest return dates – The Loadstar

Felixstowe revamps VBS to stop ‘haulier abuse’

Here is an example of the adversarial approach to overbooking. Felixstowe has had serious problems handling cargo over the last several months. Port management is blaming it on everyone but themselves. Ocean carriers are avoiding the port or canceling visits, or cutting and running without fully unloading cargo; truckers can’t get slots to pick up or deliver; and customers are unhappy with the ability to get their cargoes delivered through this port.

I don’t know anything about the actual situation, except what I read. But when there’s poor performance, overbooking is one of the responses to expect from customers. YOu look to game the system to be able to get what you need when you need it, and rely on canceling to avoid payment. It happens everywhere. To me, it’s more a symptom of a broken system than a ‘crime’ to be punished.

I think it’s probable entirely too little time was invested in finding out what some of the customers (users) needed from the system, and when it was developed, not enough attention was paid to making sure the prospective users were able to see its advantages. When you don’t work with users closely and cooperatively, they won’t see how the system can help them.

I’d tell management, fix the problems with the system. Make it fair to all, and make sure you understand participant motivations so you can prevent gaming. Because if there’s a weakness, there will be gaming, for sure.

By Mike Wackett 12/10/2020

Link: https://theloadstar.com/felixstowe-revamps-vbs-to-stop-haulier-abuse-and-ease-congestion/