Solving Real-World Supply Chain Problems: the Very Practical Application of Very Advanced Science
At Halo, our goal is to design, develop and support software tools that create data-driven organizations that are able to make fact-based decisions in near real time. That means constantly refining the science of supply chain analytics without losing sight of the ease of use and powerful visualizations that users rely on to uncover, diagnose and solve real business problems.
Now, no one should deny the thrill that consenting adults can have reveling in topics like kurtosis, standard deviation and bias trade-offs. And let’s not forget the majesty of the formula for mean absolute percentage error. However, in this post we’re going to focus on demonstrated business improvements gleaned from recent Halo customer engagements.
We’ve categorized these problem/solution vignettes by business impact: revenue, operations and customer satisfaction.
It’s not obvious to all that Halo, a platform for self-service supply chain planning, can boost sales force productivity. But that’s exactly what Halo did for a leading supplier of safety equipment, engineering supplies, uniforms and packaging with a 120-person field sales organization.
For more than two years the company has been providing its reps with a daily view that presents historical sales information sorted and filtered across a number of attributes, including rep, customer, location, time increment, product category and SKU.
According to Sales leadership, this reporting discipline has helped in two important ways. First, it standardizes the practice of call preparation and makes it much more logical, intentional and revealing. Second, it’s helped to reframe the company’s sales philosophy and move beyond What are we selling? to What should this customer be buying?
This is also a broad topic, so we’ll focus on using Halo to find and eliminate Slow Moving & Obsolete Inventory (also known as SLOB). This problem is more nuanced than it might appear. One of Halo’s multi-site industrial supplies customers discovered that the same SKU might turn slowly at one location but briskly at another, in some cases influenced by seasonality.
Using the customer’s custom business rules reproduced in Halo, operations executives easily identified the obsolete and overstocked products at the branch level. Inventory was then returned or reallocated to other branches for optimization and to reduce overall stocks across all 50 branches. The ongoing effort has resulted in significant savings.
Let’s focus on one aspect of customer satisfaction: DIFOT, or Delivery in Full, On Time. (Some companies have bravely added “and Accurately Invoiced” to this measurement, yielding DIFOTAI, but we will stick with DIFOT.)
Failure to achieve on-time delivery goals is often the result of many factors. In the case of one particular Halo customer with 42 physical branch locations, problems arose at its cross-dock facility. Suppliers could either ship direct to the branches or consolidate orders and ship to the cross-dock facility. This was creating issues, particularly when product was short-shipped. There was no easy way to distinguish stock orders from customer orders, and as a result the company often had to deal with unfulfilled customer orders and therefore unhappy customers. After implementing Halo, they solved the problem with real-time visibility of supplier performance and stock versus customer orders.
Another Halo customer was missing its DIFOT goals because of poor expectation-setting and because orders would simply “get stuck”. This customer used the platform to uncover order processing bottlenecks and reset customers’ expectations of on-time delivery. Result: in one year, DIFOT improved from 66% to 93%.
As an aside, note that all of these slice-of-life scenarios illustrate solutions to known or at the very least suspected supply chain problems. Halo enables rapid data discovery and fosters data insights; it doesn’t typically lead to the discovery of an entirely new species of supply chain problem. Customers often begin their victory stories with Oh, we always knew what the problem was...we just lacked empirical evidence/resources/buy-in/granular visibility... This should be comforting to platform users everywhere. Your instincts are sound. You just need the right supply chain analytics tools.