In my last post I introduced a vision for the Smart Trash that would automatically identify the items you are throwing away. What would you do with the data collected? The waste management company may not have much use for the data, but manufacturers and retailers who are trying to predict what consumers are going to buy next would find it very valuable.
These days everyone is talking about how the Internet of Things, RFID and Smart appliances will revolutionize our day-to-day lives. Smart refrigerators promise to someday soon be able to identify the items inside them. Your refrigerator could identify that you have a gallon of milk that is past its expiration date then submit a request to a nearby retailer to deliver a new jug to your house. The goal is a completely optimized supply chain that senses when you are about to be “out of stock” in a household item and auto-magically replenishes it.
One year from today (December 18, 2015) the seventh episode of the Star Wars saga will be released into movie theaters around the world. The movie will only last two hours, but kids will relive the movie for years afterwards with the Star Wars action figures and other new toys that will accompany the film. Forecasting demand for toys and merchandise associated with a major movie release can be quite challenging. When the original Star Wars action figures were released in late 1977 there was a huge supply shortage the following Christmas.
Robots have inhabited manufacturing plants for decades now performing tasks such as welding, painting, assembly, inspection and testing. Working side-by-side with humans, robots tackle tasks that can be performed much more efficiently or quickly by machines than humans. In some plants, the robots perform the end-to-end manufacturing process with no people involved. Both Philips and Fanuc have been able to create “lights out” peopleless plants. But what about other parts of the supply chain like warehouses? Will we ever have a “lights out” peopleless distribution center?
The title of this post will invariably offend some readers as they will associate Mars with men and Venus with women. Maybe instead I should have said direct materials are from Jupiter and indirect materials are from Saturn. But the point of this post is not to associate a gender-bias with either category. Instead, the point of the planet metaphor is that direct and indirect materials are two very different worlds. Both involve the procure-to-pay cycles for products, but for very different kinds of products.
If you have ever used a personal finance package such as Intuit’s Quicken then you already have a good understanding of the concept of spend analysis. With Quicken you can download all of your purchases made with checks, credit or debit cards from the banks which provide you the accounts. You can also key in expenses directly for purchases made with cash.
In my last post, I raised the issue of how product teardowns are making it harder and harder for high tech device manufacturers to create sustainable differentiation in their product offerings. Within 24 hours of every major new gadget launch, the full bill of materials, component costs and high resolution photographs are published on the Internet for anyone to see. In this post, I will explore who these companies which perform product teardowns are and what their motivations are. Continue reading