Engineering to Order at Kratos Space – Making Parts Availability a Strategic Advantage

Introduction

The Kratos Space group within National Security technology innovator Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc., produces COTS software and component products for space communications, tailored products for individual customers, as well as complete satellite and terrestrial ground segment solutions.  Theirs is a highly demanding market often requiring engineered-to-order systems with exceptional performance and rapid delivery cycles.  Kirk Smith, Vice President of Business Systems Innovation, sat down with us to explain how parts management and planning has become central to their operational excellence, supporting numerous custom projects per year.

The Challenge:  

Engineering-to-order in Kratos’ world means that traditional finished goods forecasting won’t help you plan for the future.  In the tailored marketplace, the past does not provide a usable forecast for the future, even within the Space group’s focused technology areas. You just don’t know ahead of time everything your next tailored system customer is going to request.  This is problematic for the company’s contract manufacturers (CMs) that produce key lower level assemblies – they can’t know what to expect, and without some advice will have no ability to pre-order and stock requisite component parts.  Short forecast horizons and long component lead times makes competitive bidding for new projects difficult, where time to delivery is crucial.

 

Leveraging a competitive advantage

“With tailored and custom solutions, the Number 1 reason we win is that we solve very challenging problems for our customers,” says Smith.  But a close second is a strategic advantage – the ability to deliver those tailored systems quickly.  Kratos has an array of previously designed and engineered building blocks (chassis and board level assemblies) that can be applied to newly designed solutions.  This speeds design, but because these building blocks are tailored for each customer, stocking them for future sales is problematic – there are many variants.  If Kratos could find a way to effectively forecast their board and component level requirements, they would be able to reduce end-to-end production time, minimize part shortages that delay delivery, and prevent excesses that create obsolete inventory.

 

The Solution: 

Kratos pursued a hybrid planning approach, combining sales planning by its business development team with statistical forecasting from Smart Software.  Smith explained the process:

Part 1 – Annual forecast at the CM built assembly level:

  • Use Smart to produce a rolling 12-month assembly level forecast for the CM.
  • Compare this with the Business Development Opportunity Forecast
  • Merge the insights from Smart with the Opportunity Forecast
  • Provide resulting adjusted assembly forecast to the CM for revenue and capacity planning.

Part 2 – Provide component level forecasts to Contract Manufacturers:

  • Feed assembly level forecast into the ERP Bill of Material function, exploding component level demand for all parts.
  • Aggregating demand by part number, generate component level forecasts.
  • Provide forecasts to CM procurement to enable them to determine when to buy ahead or increase orders to capture volume price breaks. When they see an opportunity, they contact Kratos, get permission, and increase buys – with the effect of driving down material cost and lead times.
  • Also, providing annual forecasts reduces buy-back pressure from the CMs – Kratos is obligated to buy back unused components, but now the CMs can see opportunity at the component level and the value of retaining stocks.

 

Results: 

Over the past three years this approach has allowed Kratos to reduce material cost. Moreover, Kratos is able to work with its Contract Manufacturers to reduce stockout risk and achieve shorter delivery commitments.  While dealing with components with up to six month lead times, they are able to confidently propose and achieve customer delivery dates.

Jon Good, General Manager at contract manufacturer NeoTech, shared their experience.  “We use the Smart forecast provided by Kratos’ Space group to assist in taking advantage of price breaks on material at higher quantities that wouldn’t otherwise be visible in our current business model.  This enables us to reduce material cost which translates into reduced pricing to Kratos in the long run.”

Good added that another use is to predict probable material consumption over a longer period of time than would be visible only on open orders.  “This enables us to more realistically understand our inventory on hand position in terms of excess.  These two benefits allow NEOTech to make smarter decisions related to purchasing and inventory management while at the same time saving days and weeks in the front end of the process and delivering the end product to Kratos as rapidly as possible.”

Looking forward, Smith sees even greater opportunity to team with Kratos Space CMs to streamline their supply chain and associated costs.  “The bottom line,” says Smith, “is that we are now able to more effectively communicate with our CM partners, despite the lack of forecastability in our business, and simultaneously reduce material cost and shorten lead times.”

 

 

 

Smart Software and V-LINE GROUP Establish Strategic Partnership

Pictured are Smart’s VP Business Development Jeff Scott and V-LINE’s founder and Chairman Detlef Daues.

 

V-LINE to offer Smart Inventory Planning & Operations Software as part of total MRO supply chain solution.

Belmont, Massachusetts.  February 17, 2020.  Smart Software, Inventory optimization, demand planning, and forecasting software leader, has entered into a strategic reseller relationship with global MRO procurement services company V-LINE GROUP.  V-LINE will offer Smart Inventory Planning & Optimization (IP&O) software as an extension of its MRO and spare parts procurement services solution, with particular focus on customers within the Gulf Cooperation Council.  V-LINE will present the combined offering at the Sabic Conference 2020 in Jubail, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, February 17 – 20, 2020.

V-LINE’s customers operate large industrial plants and manufacturing facilities that rely upon highly effective Maintenance and Repair Operations (MRO) to ensure non-stop production.  V-LINE provides end to end MRO supply chain services, managing spare part logistics from order to delivery.  The addition of Smart IP&O extends the V-LINE solution beyond the physical supply chain, to facilitate data-driven decisions and policy design that address total MRO procurement cost and performance.

Detlef Daues, V-LINE GROUP Founder and Chairman explains, “With Smart IP&O, we can harness our clients’ data to model spare parts demand and establish stocking policies that optimize inventory performance – to reduce costs, improve service levels, and manage stockout risk.  This represents enormous value add for our customers – putting inventory policy decision support into the hands of local managers who can use it best.”

Smart IP&O is Smart Software’s integrated suite of web applications for collaborative demand planning, inventory optimization and supply chain analytics.  It operates as a transparent extension of the customer’s ERP system of choice, receiving daily transaction data and returning forecasts and inventory policy drivers (Min, Max, Safety) to drive replenishment and production planning.  Smart’s unique approach to intermittent demand is especially impactful when planning for items that experience highly sporadic, seemingly unforecastable demand most common with spares and service parts.

Greg Hartunian, CEO of Smart Software, notes that “V-LINE’s end to end MRO supply chain presents the ideal operational platform for Smart IP&O.  Our probabilistic modeling enables MRO and procurement managers to utilize the V-LINE supply chain to their greatest advantage, finding the optimal balance between inventory investment and stockout risk.  We are delighted to be working together.”

About V-LINE GROUP:  V-LINE GROUP, headquartered near Hannover in Germany, offers end-to-end supply chain solutions in 20 different countries primarily in the Middle East through its branch in Saudi Arabia, and also via its customer service centers in other GCC countries, Mexico and Brazil. V-LINE sourcing and procurement centers in the USA, China, Japan and Korea offer industrial plants in all its markets an integrated set of services tailored to lowering their total cost of ownership for their foreign maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) spare parts while meeting the highest global standards of supply performance. V-LINE’s tailor-made portfolio of procurement services facilitates the spare parts flow from order until delivery by managing its complexity using modern IT and allowing for systems integration with suppliers, logistics providers and the receiving customer plants. V-LINE is constantly adapting to new market demands in the context of digital transformation, thus offering its customers new data-driven options. Find more on: www.v-line.com

About Smart Software:  Smart Software has been a leading provider of demand planning, forecasting, supply chain analytics and inventory optimization solutions since its founding in 1984.  Smart Inventory Planning & Optimization (Smart IP&O) is the company’s next generation suite of native web applications, helping inventory carrying organizations reduce inventory, improve service levels and streamline Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning.  The company is headquartered in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Learn more:  www.smartcorp.com


For more information, please contact Smart Software, Inc., Four Hill Road, Belmont, MA 02478.
Phone: 1-800-SMART-99 (800-762-7899); FAX: 1-617-489-2748; E-mail: info@smartcorp.com

 

V-LINE marks anniversary with conference and Smart keynote.

V-LINE marks anniversary with conference and Smart keynote.

During the “User Conference: Spare Parts Inventory Planning and Optimization,” topics like vested outsourcing and digital MRO supply chain orchestration were discussed with the participation of Jeff Scott, our vice president of business development at Smart Software.

Jeff discussed the practical process of optimizing spares inventory policies, particularly the challenge of addressing seemingly unforecastable intermittent demand.  He reviewed common approaches, their failings, and the value of taking a different approach with probabilistic modeling and improved statistical methods.  If you would like to learn more, a good place to start is Smart Software’s recent webinar on Intermittent Demand – click here to view the replay.

Jeff Scott

To the right Jeff Scott vice president of business development at Smart Software.

About Smart Software, Inc.

Founded in 1984, Smart Software, Inc. is a leader in providing businesses with enterprise-wide demand forecasting, planning and inventory optimization solutions.  Smart Software’s demand forecasting and inventory optimization solutions have helped thousands of users worldwide, including customers at mid-market enterprises and Fortune 500 companies, such as Otis Elevator, Mitsubishi, Siemens, Disney, FedEx, MARS, and The Home Depot.  Smart Inventory Planning & Optimization gives demand planners the tools to handle sales seasonality, promotions, new and aging products, multi-dimensional hierarchies, and intermittently demanded service parts and capital goods items.  It also provides inventory managers with accurate estimates of the optimal inventory and safety stock required to meet future orders and achieve desired service levels.  Smart Software is headquartered in Belmont, Massachusetts and can be found on the World Wide Web at www.smartcorp.com.

SmartForecasts and Smart IP&O are registered trademarks of Smart Software, Inc.  All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


For more information, please contact Smart Software, Inc., Four Hill Road, Belmont, MA 02478.
Phone: 1-800-SMART-99 (800-762-7899); FAX: 1-617-489-2748; E-mail: info@smartcorp.com