Over forty years ago, Smart Software consisted of three friends working to start a company in a church basement. Today, our team has expanded to operate from multiple locations across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Texas, with team members in England, Spain, Armenia and India. Like many of you in your jobs, we have found ways to make distributed teams work for us and for you.
This note is about a different kind of teamwork: the collaboration between you and our software that happens at your fingertips. I often write about the software itself and what goes on “under the hood”. This time, my subject is how you should best team up with the software.
Our software suite, Smart Inventory Planning and Optimization (Smart IP&O™) is capable of massively detailed calculations of future demand and the inventory control parameters (e.g., reorder points and order quantities) that would most effectively manage that demand. But your input is required to make the most of all that power. You need to team up with the algorithms.
That interaction can take several forms. You can start by simply assessing how you are doing now. The report writing functions in Smart IP&O (Smart Operational Analytics™) can collate and analyze all your transactional data to measure your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), both financial (e.g., inventory investment) and operational (e.g., fill rates).
The next step might be to use SIO (Smart Inventory Optimization™), the inventory analytics within SIP&O, to play “what-if” games with the software. For example, you might ask “What if we reduced the order quantity on item 1234 from 50 to 40?” The software grinds the numbers to let you know how that would play out, then you react. This can be useful, but what if you have 50,000 items to consider? You would want to do what-if games for a few critical items, but not all of them.
The real power comes with using the automatic optimization capability in SIO. Here you can team with the algorithms at scale. Using your business judgement, you can create “groups”, i.e., collections of items that share some critical features. For example, you might create a group for “critical spare parts for electric utility customers” consisting of 1,200 parts. Then again calling on your business judgement, you could specify what item availability standard should apply to all the items in that group (e.g., “at least 95% chance of not stocking out in a year”). Now the software can take over and automatically work out the best reorder points and order quantities for every one of those items to achieve your required item availability at the lowest possible total cost. And that, dear reader, is powerful teamwork.