Tracking and forecasting management within a supply chain often focuses on very complex operations that monitor all processes including: inventory, packaging, picking, replenishment, put-away, shipping and routing operations. Because there are so many different components that go into the logistics of a supply chain, it is imperative to examine each part separately, as well as the effects of each on one another and the supply chain as a whole.
With many different manufacturing facilities, parts and products, routes, transports, and resources that vary in their levels of interaction, it is often difficult to track and manage daily operations, let alone accurately forecast and plan for different scenarios in a complex and changing business environment. It can also be very costly, both in regards to time and money, to analyze the system and plan for improvements. Each component of the supply chain must be examined individually in order to make sensible changes to the supply chain as a whole.
The key to accurately tracking and forecasting the impact variability has on different business processes will be to identify a solution that maintains the relationship between each entity within the supply chain. Maintaining key components while increasing efficiency and forecasting different constraints will help the supply chain run most efficiently and profitably.
There are many features and capabilities to take into account when evaluating an optimization solution for tracking and forecasting purposes. The following are some key aspects that would be required in a robust solution:
What should your Real-time Visibility and Forecasting optimization solution be capable of?
- Identifying bottlenecks, areas of congestion and the contributing factors to these problems.
- Recommending inventory and slotting improvements.
- Determining optimal staffing levels and productivity, including the effects of different machinery and technologies.
- Provide analysis and optimization capabilities.
- Identify possible outcomes and how to proceed proactively.
- Generate optimal routes, including the best modes of transportation and timing.
- Present scenario comparison graphs, charts, and data.
- Work for you, not against you.
Consider a solution that allows for:
- Dynamic, “On-The-Fly” Interaction.
- Integrated Scenario Analysis.
- Connectivity to External Live Data.
- Forecasting Based on Past Data.
- No-Code Model Building.
Optimizing the Real-Time Visibility and Proactive Forecasting.
With multiple potential and competing goals to work towards, one must ensure that each individual action and goal contributes positively to the overall efficiency of the supply chain, while at the same time not shifting problems from one area to another. The following are potential improvement opportunities from an optimization perspective that a dynamic simulation® solution, such as SimTrack®, will provide analysis and recommendations for:
- Slotting analysis and recommendations.
- Resources and labor, along with the potential impact and productivity gains.
- Generating data from production, warehouses, transports, etc…
- Material flow, choke points, and congestion in the aisles, at picking and put-away locations and throughout transport.
- Live tracking feed on products, equipment, transports, etc…
- Capacity Analysis - Current State & Future State Forecast.
- View the process from a factory rather than production line standpoint.
- Live web updates and the ability to store and warehouse data.
- Revert back to a past time to analyze and inspect to ensure that past mistakes are not repeated.
Often times when working towards improving individual aspects of the operation, it is difficult to identify not only the impact on other areas of the operation, but also the net impact on overall efficiency gains. This is most prevalent in static analysis tools such as Excel; in other words, tools that fail to take into account the dynamics of the inter-related processes, people, materials, material handling equipment, and system variability.
Dynamic Simulation® allows not only for the relationship between entities to be maintained, but also for an immersive and interactive scenario development and opportunity testing environment. This allows the user to interact with the virtual environment and test, “on-the-fly,” any and all changes to layout, processes, people, material handling equipment, automation implementations, pick patterns, replenishment strategies, slotting, profiling, schedules, transportation options, shipping routes and virtually any change you can think of that may have a positive impact on the operation without the risk and cost of testing in a live environment. Dynamic Simulation® allows the user the flexibility to view changes in real-time, saving time and money. Proactive forecasting of future events allows users the freedom to experiment with different scenarios, allowing for proactive and economically advantageous decisions.
Typically a CAD layout, either in 2D or 3D, will be imported. Then processes and connections/conveyors, travel paths, and other defined data will be input into the model. Models are built graphically, without code. This is an important distinction between traditional and dynamic simulation® environments. Defining arrival times, pick sequences, shipment routes, modes of transportation, etc... can be imported through Simcad©’s ability to interact in real-time with external data sources to pull product mix, routing, BOM, order requirements, pick assignments, and any other relevant data to the model from existing WMS systems, bar code systems, GPS systems and voice driven systems. Utilizing historical data delivers upwards of 98% accuracy while at the same time delivering apples to apples comparisons of current and future states with the proposed changes. This proactive forecasting allows the user to see projected scenarios based on actual collected data rather than estimations. The user can then utilize this information to better understand possible outcomes, advantages and disadvantages to changes, and ultimately select the most logical, efficient, feasible and economically advantageous course of action. Integrated optimization, analysis, 2D and 3D visualization, along with the ability to create the model or virtual environment, all without writing code, make a dynamic simulation® environment, like Simcad Pro, the perfect solution for a company’s visibility and forecasting needs.
Dynamic simulation® instantly provides, through integrated reporting and scenario analysis, feedback on efficiency gains at the point of attack, as well as how the change propagates throughout the system. Users can strategize how the operation will react to changes in demand, respond to disruptions in supply, both planned and unplanned, and how changes in the transportation and routing will impact the operation. Additionally, dynamic simulation® benefits users in terms of allowing for a multitude of changes to the system in a virtual environment where users do not have the extensive costs associated with trial and error, or the lengthy time consuming process of utilizing excel sheets, for example. A dynamic simulation® allows users the opportunity to check and set optimal schedules, get live updates for increased control on productivity, as well as play out “what-if” scenarios to optimize resources, schedules, routing, equipment and production.
Dynamic simulation® is a viable and accurate tool used to understand current constraints, identify effects of process changes, and visualize and communicate the impact of moving from current to future states.
Limitations and Issues with Traditional Simulation
While there are numerous options for simulation tools on the market to evaluate, it is important to note that many simulation vendors are careful to present their solution as an easy to use implementation. Many simulations will promise the world and fail to deliver. This is a common experience in traditional tools due to the inherent limitations of the traditional technology and extensive c++, c#, or custom scripting requirements to achieve an accurate model of the operation. Pretty pictures look good but the time it takes to build an accurate model, optimize, and compare scenarios in most cases lend to long develop times, and projects that go on for months with no end in sight.
Advantages and Benefits of a Dynamic Simulation® Environment
- No-code model building.
- Real-time connectivity with external data sources.
- Interactive “on-the-fly” model changes.
- Live updates to the web.
- How can I analyze and compare between current and future states from the model?
- How do I go about making changes to the system?
- Do I have to stop the model every time I want to make a change? Can you show me how, with a fresh model?
- How can I integrate current information and tools we already use into the model?
- How can dynamic simulation® help to account for both planned and unplanned downtime and delays within the system?
- How can dynamic simulation® help to choose the most efficient and cost-effective mode of transportation?