Supply chains and their environments are constantly changing with accelerating speed. Customer needs, crop yields and prices, business conditions, regulations, quality and sustainability standards etc. are all in constant flux. To cope with this, supply chain managers need the right information and the right means to react to these changes. The more changes a supply chain can quickly and effectively respond to, the more likely a supply chain is able to compete and survive. This is what we call supply chain agility.
There are three important capabilities that are preconditions for supply chain agility:
- monitoring: the capability to recognise important changes in the supply chain and its environment;
- responding: the capability to react quickly and adequately to both sudden and evolving changes, possibly with high impact;
- learning: the capability to constantly improve the capabilities of monitoring and responding.
In fact, there are two reasons why learning is a prerequisite for supply chain agility. Firstly, if we know all the critical factors that determine the success or failure of a supply chain, and we are equipped to react to changes in these factors, we will of course have an important competitive advantage. Secondly, however, these factors may not persist. New factors will come into play, such as new norms or new technologies, whereas others will eventually lose their competitive edge. In other words, the critical success factors are highly adaptable over time.
Information and information systems play a key role in the whole cycle of monitoring, responding and learning, and the bearing this has on supply chain agility. Yet, especially larger information systems are not easily and quickly adapted to the changing information needs of supply chain managers. Often system requirements must be reconsidered, data structures redesigned and software programs rewritten, tested and rolled out, before managers can reap the benefits. This is in striking contrast to the definition of agility.
Since it is the raison d’être of our ChainPoint system to support supply chains in becoming more agile, we have adopted a technique called anchor modelling to make ChainPoint even more responsive to the needs of our customers.
How does agile modelling work?
As you can see from an earlier blog post, we develop a multidimensional data warehouse on top of the ChainPoint database and other data sources to supply users with all the reports, dashboard views and notifications they need. This year we will also introduce self-service BI so that managers can easily browse the data themselves and discover new perspectives on their business.
However, sooner or later a data warehouse requires modifications, for example because data sources have been added or changed, or information needs have altered due to new insights. Using this graphical modelling technique, which automatically generates the necessary templates and code, we are now able to enhance the data warehouse and generate new reports and views within hours, rather than days or weeks.
This is possible because anchor modelling does not change the data warehouse, but extends it with new data sources and connections. This also means that, in addition to the new reports and views, all the previous reports and views will still be available and the old data structures can still be queried.
Anchor modelling does not only strengthen supply chain agility, but also supports the iterative development of a new data warehouse, complemented with easy to use business views for self service BI. In collaborative sessions with one of our business developers the supply chain partners can investigate the supply chain and discover their information needs.
Within the cashew chain we have already run a successful pilot with this method and are now integrating the technique into the overall architecture of ChainPoint.
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