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Tech Review:
Supply Chain Modeling – Case Ponsse

Background

Supply chain networks are complex systems in which numerous actors interact through information, money and material flows. Reboot IoT Factory is studying this research theme under one of its Grand Challenges called ‘Data Driven Supply Chain and Production Management’. Furthermore, this Grand Challenge consists of numerous research projects, Proof of Concepts (PoCs), and the research project of this Tech Review blog post is titled ‘Supply Chain Transparency and Agility’.

The project got started in January 2019. The goal of this research title is to improve the responsiveness and material flows of the companies that participate in the program. Ponsse’s supply chain and especially its inbound logistics with selected suppliers have been under the research lens from the very beginning of this project. From Ponsse’s perspective the main objectives of this project are to identify and evaluate means for and effects of more just-in-time and real-time planning and control of the supply chain. In practice, the aim is to consider how a pull-based rather than push-based supply chain and material flow control could be realized and what kind of effects this would have on, e.g., inventory levels and capacity requirements in the supply chain. The process and system mappings carried out in the research project are also expected to provide practical order-delivery process improvement opportunities, for example related to providing, handling and utilizing demand and supply information more efficiently and easily.

Based on the ongoing discussions, there is also an option and plan to continue with relatively similar kind of supply chain research approach at Rolls-Royce during the spring 2019.

Research approach

The concept and approach used in this Proof of Concept (PoC) called Supply Chain Transparency and Agility is based on relatively linear procedure including six (6) consecutive steps. However, all these steps have iterative characteristics during of which company representatives and researchers develop content together. The main characteristics of the steps in the approach are as follows:

  1. Mapping the current system in detail – creating a common understanding and illustrations of the current supply chain
  2. Identification of possible development areas of this system – marking the development areas in the illustrations developed during previous step
  3. Development of system improvement proposals – discussion about the development proposals within companies and research organizations
  4. Measurement system creation – developing measurement systems to understand the effects of a possible change
  5. Implementing the proposal in real environment (or modeling/simulating the proposals) – actualizing the development proposals (with or without the aid of computer simulation)
  6. Measuring the change – measuring the possible effects and outcomes

The starting point and the first step of these analyses is to improve the general understanding of the supply chain studied among the researchers and company representatives participating in the project. This goal can be reached by creating a shared illustration of the supply chain. As an example, a shared swim lane diagram describing the processes of the supply chain makes it possible for the participants of the development team to discuss about the specific characteristics of the supply chain through the figures and depictions. Simultaneously, this kind of approach makes it possible for all the participants to raise up questions and point out possible concerns in the supply chain by modifying the shared figures and making changes straight to these illustrations. The development proposals can be marked straight to these shared materials as well.

Another important topic is related to the development of the measuring system – it is important to develop a measurement system to identify the possible effects and outcomes of the possible changes prior modifying the supply chain in the real world. It has to be noticed that the implementation of the proposals may lead to various types of outcomes and even unexpected consequences are possible. From this perspective, computer simulations provide a good and relatively safe environment to test possible changes prior implementing the changes in the real factories and the actual supply chains.

Overall, supply chain networks and the processes within the supply chains are studied and analyzed in cooperation with company representatives and researchers by using selected tools and methods. The tools utilized can be chosen based on company requests, but there is a reason why the mapping of the supply chains is preferred to be conducted with commonly known and easy-to-approach methods and techniques, such as swim lane diagrams ; Easy-to-approach tools make it possible that all the researchers and company representatives participating in the project may discuss about the characteristics and possible problems of the supply chain by using these relatively straightforward tools as a common platform and support material for conversation.

– Mikko Koho, Ponsse Oyj (mikko.koho@ponsse.com)
– Henry Schwartz, Åbo Akademi (henry.schwartz@abo.fi)
– Kaisu Välikangas, University of Oulu (kaisu.valikangas@oulu.fi)

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