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Winning through Better Supply Chain Design

Supply Chain Design is an oft overlooked field of specialty because of the “math” involved. While several providers have come up with nice interfaces to hide that math – the truth of the matter is that without the math, you’re slipping constants into GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) mode.

Supply Chain Management Review and Logistics Management have made this free webcast available on this topic : Winning through Better Supply Chain Design.

Starting the New Year by design

Happy New Year to all of you…

Start designing you life is an article by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO which is an interesting way to start off the year. I’m a great believer and user of mind mapping tools

- As a way of brainstorming

- Documentation and sharing

The tools that I tend to use are also free and open source, Freemind and Freeplane (which is a fork of the former). There are a lot more cloud based mind mappers too these days.

Enterprise Architecture

A couple of posts ago, I had intimated that I was broadening my blogging horizons a bit. And finally, I can throw a bit of the covers off. I just blogged about The Zachmann Framework at my other blog. So gander over, wander or hover over that post of mine.

Pachy Data {Big Data in the Enterprise} is my new blog venture.

The New Economics of Semiconductor Manufacturing – Part 3 (Final)

In this final part of my review of The New Economics of Semiconductor Manufacturing, an article that you can find at the IEEE Spectrum site, I mean to go over the capabilities of Fab PowerOps (FPO) and contrast it with the essence/framework that Toyota Production System (TPS) offers. In the earlier two parts, The New Economics of Semiconductor Manufacturing – Part 1: I looked at the core outline of the consulting experience that the researchers (Clayton M. Christensen, Steven King, Matt Verlinden, and Woodward Yang) and in The New Economics of Semiconductor Manufacturing – Part 2: I delved further into the essence of earlier research that identified a few rules distilled from TPS that those researchers (Spear and H. Kent Bowen) claimed describe essential parts of the system that is internalized within the organization primarily as an outcome of iterative growth over the last five decades.
A brief about FPO – What is FPO? FPO is a scheduler for a wafer fab (but it can be extended to other industries as well) – pure and simple. It is a first generation scheduler in its class – the class being (near-)real time optimization (MIP: Mixed Integer Programming) based scheduling. It is rapidly customizable (aren’t they all? No, Seriously!) – it is so customizable that you can swing from one extreme of weighing it down by the whims of those who don’t know any better to direct it to the other extreme of it being light and flexible for those who mean to get certain scheduling behaviors realized and every other point in between. Fast! Now, while some solutions can achieve this as well, for example: "Do activity A if condition B for tool-space C", there are two immediate problems with this approach:
  1. It doesn’t scale very well – multiple statements and overlapping tool-spaces lead to conflicts that must be resolved and accounted for. Otherwise, you’d default to FIFO (First in, first out) or some other simple rule.
  2. Is it the best solution available? Is it a really good solution, good solution, solution, workable solution, bad solution, very bad solution?
It is also highly extensible in the sense that while there is a product architecture, layered on top of it is an customizable interface that a client can write pretty much whatever he wants (i.e in Java) and since the bulk of the product is in Java, it is cross platform compatible as well.

For some of us who might be aware of an SAP or like system that plans out a day in advance, week in advance or maybe even a month in advance, FPO is a breath of fresh air, it generates schedules every five minutes. No, that is not a typo. Every five minutes, FPO accesses the state of the wafer fab (from an MES (Manufacturing Execution System) – it is flexible enough to be hooked up to several MES-es) and computes a schedule for all tools that it is in charge of scheduling. What type of tools? Batch tools, single chamber tools, multi-chamber tools, parallel chamber tools and so on. When things change on the floor within a five minute interval, it becomes a state change that figures into the next computation run or iteration (five minutes later) and the schedules update accordingly taking the event(s) into account – however many events there are. The last piece of this powerful scheduler is access to the data it uses in several transformational states and forms for monitoring, information, review, investigation and continuous improvement.
Now, back to the TPS story, the connection between the consultants and the earlier researchers (Spear and Kent) is that the four rules distilled by Spear and Kent informs some of the questions that are used in the exercise. From, the examples listed in the article:
The first rule, on activities, states that

Time to go for a boutique?

T’is time to go for a boutique? I’d like to draw your attention to this list of articles by Steve Banker of Arc Advisory Group:

Top SCM Boutique Consulting Firms: Part 1, The Logistics Boutiques

Leading SCM Boutiques – Part 2, Supply Chain Planning Vendors

10 Coolest SCM Boutique Consultants

Most of the firms listed in the lists above span from small consultancies to behemoths who make the industry and in some cases is the industry. So what is it that these small fish are thinking when they play in the playground of the behemoths? By the way, why are there small fish anyways? Are the big fish listening?

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Free download of Six Sigma guide

Manufacturing Trends is making available a free download of an "experts" guide to Six Sigma . I quickly perused it and it looks fine but as always as far as statistical symbols go, a little due diligence is always a good measure. You have to register in order to obtain the download but I think its worth it.

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ASDN Logistics Analysis Software

While surfing the web for logistics related software, I came across the site hosted by the International Centre for Innovation and Industrial Logistics (ICIIL).
ICIIL has some information about an open source logistics analysis software that is being developed University of Vaasa, Finland and ABB Corporate Research Center.

ASDN – “Agile Supply Demand Networks” is software for analyzing and developing logistics networks. This rapid modelling tool should help decision-making in network architecture design and performance management.

The project home page is located at http://asdn.sourceforge.net and the source codes (Java) are distributed via SourceForge: ASDN


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About me

I am Chris Jacob Abraham and I live, work and blog from Newburgh, New York. I work for IBM as a Senior consultant in the Fab PowerOps group that works around the issue of detailed Fab (semiconductor fab) level scheduling on a continual basis. My erstwhile company ILOG was recently acquired by IBM and I've joined the Industry Solutions Group there.

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