The Infosys global supply chain management blog enables leaner supply chains through process and IT related interventions. Discuss the latest trends and solutions across the supply chain management landscape.

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January 16, 2014

Social Media in Supply Chain....the new trend!

Guest Post by
Neha Barnawal, Senior Associate Consultant

"Stop Marketing, Start Engaging"... This line from Scott Stratten very well captures the essence of social media as applicable in business scenarios (Marketing here). One of the major advantage social media offers is engaging people and enabling them to communicate and collaborate. Apart from Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn; various Enterprise social software (as a part of Enterprise 2.0) are invariably providing platform to the enterprise stakeholders to connect, collaborate and communicate. Read entire blog here.

January 15, 2014

Maintenance Practice- A standard to be followed or adapted?

Preventive Maintenance? - The spine of maintenance philosophy, we all do it, don't we?

Predictive Maintenance? - hmm..gadgets, graphs, analysis etc. heard it's expensive, very expensive,  we don't even go near to it!

Reliability Centered Maintenance? -  Strategy, an engineering framework, failure mode analysis maybe..phew! Which fancy maintenance book are you reading these days by the way?

You might be wondering what is this all about, right? So let me tell you, this is an extract of conversation which I was having with one of my good friends, a Manager at the equipment bank of a leading construction company. Some candid responses which appeared contradictory to what I was thinking about the latest maintenance practices being followed in leading industries. Now what makes these evolving practices such as predictive maintenance and RCM dreadful names? Why is there an inhibition in leaping the boundaries and looking beyond practices such as corrective and preventive maintenance? 

Over the years, we have convinced ourselves about existence of some standards or should I say a propagated notion about a certain maintenance practice. We naturally start identifying these standards to be synonyms for the respective practices. For example, preventive maintenance are either time based or meter based and it appears that it has got nothing to do with equipment dynamics in itself.  Similarly condition based maintenance has to be something like an intertwined hi-tech device capturing some godly information and involving analysis which is so expensive that one would rather scrap the equipment and buy a new one instead! And RCM? Meant for strategists, the glass cabin folks, who are assumed to be Asset doctors with the knowledge of some magic formula to ensure a low cost maintenance with high operational reliability. The moment one realizes the current maintenance spend or the knowledge is unable to sustain these standards, they withdraw and assume that someone exist for whom these standards really work, the cryptic analysis do wonders and the hi-fi strategies get implemented seamlessly.

As a maintenance practioner, ones is in constant pursuit of a standard to convert cryptic and myriad information to meaningful maintenance output. They tend to seek help from external sources and expect these sources tell them  on what they could  do best .But the fact is, such standards is of less help and even best practices sometimes doesn't make a good sense of things.

Adaptation is the Key

The application of a maintenance practice in an enterprise is purely subjective. It depends a lot on factors such as type of Assets being used, the conditions under which it functions, the operational reliability expected and finally the financial sense which it should make for a business to sustain itself. Now if someone brings in a standard or a widely accepted best practice which does not find a parallel with the above factors, it's natural that the acceptance will be limited, rather, a simple mind would start questioning their own practices and start demeaning themselves in the whole process! Possible and very natural again, so how can we establish this parallel? While we know the maintenance practices have been evolving and there are some strong evidences of positive changes being brought about by these advanced ideologies, they need to be adapted rather than getting treated as rule books. There are ample information available about an equipment just by the virtue of its existence and all the maintenance history it had while working for years within the enterprise. There are heaps of operational data in the raw format and in some cases even well processed data such as vibration analysis, chemical analysis etc. exist. These information can be a valuable contributor to programs like Proactive maintenance and RCM.

 It is time for some serious introspection but definitely not through the prism of standards. Looking at your own strategies and seeing how you can revive them by adapting to evolving techniques would certainly help. Not suggesting any radical change nor asking you to completely lose sight of changes happening around you.However, It will be worthwhile so see how the external environment is shaping up without losing your current maintenance context. Word of caution to follow is not to get terrorized by the quantum of guidelines, methodologies etc. which come along with the broadcasted ideas, they are destined to be like that. You never know,  with this approach you could set your own standards which would be revered and something others would try to follow, and at that juncture advise them to adapt instead!


January 13, 2014

Why not WMS App?

The companies today need a Warehouse Management System (WMS) that can be implemented quickly, configured easily and which is cost effective.  Well imagine that you get a WMS solution and various functionality as and when it is required for business.  This implies - speedy implementation with no costly Upgrades! This blog explain into the benefits of new evolution in WMS adaptability i.e. WMS Apps which can help grow business by having immediate performance gains.

Today's WMS is a tightly integrated code between the intrinsic WMS functions like receiving, put away, inventory, picking, packing and shipping, which are the primary functionalities. Any industry related functionality which is acceptable widely gets added to the code base and developed as next version. This makes the code base huge and complicated. This also leads to more time to market for implementation and more number of tests has to be performed to validate everything.  Also it has another flip side - changes or customization in one functionality may break other functionalities.

A better approach would be to have more modular functionalities instead of having everything under one code roof. Although the primary functionalities like receiving, put away, inventory management, picking, packing, shipping has to be tightly coupled to get an effective WMS, the other functionalities like slotting, yard management can lie outside the core code and be called out from the main system. This would give flexibility and benefit to customers.  Effective integrations between them would be required which would facilitate real time transactions.

Taking this thought forward, the new revolution which has already started and benefitting customers is the WMS App Station. The concept is similar to downloading Apps i.e. applications to your iPhone from Apple Store. One of the leading WMS Software provider has pioneered this breakthrough, which is changing the market dynamics of Supply Chain Execution. Many customers who have implemented this software in their shop have benefitted from its architecture.  It gives the customers free hand for doing the configuration.  These Apps can be downloaded and implemented from a day to few minutes. It does away with difficult and costly upgrades, without any risk of source code modification. 

The configurable architecture provides more power to customers to run the software according to their business requirement and add required functionalities instead of doing complex upgrades. Certainly this WMS App has given new dimension in doing the business and implementation to it. The modifications are external to the core code, and hence upgrades and support are not compromised. This lowers total cost of ownership which further helps in supporting the bottom line.

The multiple Apps developed for WMS may benefit various industry segment.  A new functionality developed for existing customer can be developed as part of the App which may also benefit other industry segment customers. This is an interesting and innovative concept. In a way vendor can develop multiple functionalities in the form of App, and customers can select them based on their need.

Slotting, Yard Management, Labor management, transportation management, Returns Management, Reporting, Enhanced Task Interleaving, etc. could form WMS Apps. Could you suggest other tasks or functionality which can form WMS App?

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