Brewing up a Smooth Supply Chain

Innovative solutions for diagnosing and fixing supply chain processes gone awry


The proximate cause of the disparity between Guinness' figures and those of its customer was quickly evident, says Cullen. "We had a very simplistic view of the supply chain, which was that if it left our facility on time, then surely it turned up in the States on time. But the supply chain between here and the States is reasonably complicated, and it turns out that there's a fair amount of things that can go wrong." [See sidebar "My Goodness, My Supply Chain."] As Cullen learned, the complexity introduced by the multiple steps in the beer's journey to the U.S. market — with numerous handoffs between different responsible parties — was compounded by the inherently unpredictable nature of ocean transport: Certain shipping lines performed better than others, the price of oil affected how fast the vessels moved across the Atlantic, weather could help or hinder vessel movement, and even the time of year caused variability in crossing times. In addition, things could simply go wrong: a container might not get down to the quay in time to meet the feeder vessel sailing; the feeder vessel could be delayed or canceled due to bad weather, or arrive at the deep sea port in time but not get in and offloaded in time to meet the deep sea vessel; or the deep sea vessel might be running late itself or do a "port skip," missing a port to get back on schedule, so that the beer literally missed the boat.


Switching from Guinness' "on time in full on dispatch" metric to "on time in full on arrival" ("OTIF on arrival") to match the customers' figures was an easy fix, but the greater challenge for the planning and export team was identifying a solution that would let the brewer accurately track the new metric as well as manage its inventory all the way across the Atlantic. Diageo uses SAP globally for ERP, and Guinness also uses Manugistics (acquired this year by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based JDA Software Group) for supply and demand planning. But Cullen says that he was looking for "something a little bit different, a little bit leading-edge" to help the company solve this particular problem.

In casting his eye around at the various software packages available, Cullen came across a company called SeeWhy, a Windsor, U.K.-based provider of what it calls a "real-time business intelligence platform." SeeWhy CEO Charles Nicholls previously had worked at Business Objects, but he says that he founded SeeWhy with a vision for a new approach to business intelligence. "The traditional way of extracting data out of operational systems, transforming it and loading it into databases, and then, once it's in the database, querying, analyzing and reporting, all that was problematic once you moved to become process-oriented and real-time," Nicholls says. Instead, SeeWhy takes an "event stream processing" approach to BI, meaning that a customer can feed transactional data into the solution on a continuous basis, and the software analyzes the data in real time, streams the results back to the customer and provides alerts when it detects anomalous events. In a sense, the software aims to take the place of the analyst who would be querying the BI database, providing reports and firing off an e-mail to the boss when something amiss turned up in the data.

SeeWhy's "always-on" capability attracted Cullen, who was looking to adopt a more predictive and proactive approach to how his team managed the movement of the company's beer. After initial meetings with SeeWhy during which the solution provider worked with Guinness to map out the complexity of the trans-Atlantic supply chain, the brewer elected to move ahead with an implementation of the SeeWhy platform, with the solution provider hosting the software for Diageo. SeeWhy worked with Diageo to configure the solution so that it would record each event along the supply chain for each shipment, and then continuously calculate for each shipment whether it would reach its destination on time. Many of the data feeds are automated, although Diageo staff do get shipment updates from carriers' Web sites and key that information into SAP. At present, Diageo sends data from its ERP system to SeeWhy at the close of every business day, and Cullen then reviews the reports coming back from the system each day to get updates on shipments en route or to check for alerts on late shipments.

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