PART ONE: Optimisation Squared
As a result of the economic downturn that has now ended, we've seen impressive improvements in supply chain capabilities across the board, but particularly in warehouse management and transportation management; two functions that have historically been viewed as time and cost-intensive.
It's easy to be nimble if you're willing to expedite shipments or work overtime in the warehouse, but those activities are expensive. The real challenge is how to be agile, while keeping costs low.
More and more leading companies are using advanced supply chain solutions across their warehouses and transportation networks to achieve this goal in their daily operations.
For example, in the area of warehouse management, Advance Auto Parts recently leveraged a suite of solutions to cut replenishment cycle time by at least 50 percent, while simultaneously increasing product breadth in its stores by 20 percent.
Improvements in warehouse efficiency have directly led to significant sales gains because products are readily available when consumers are shopping.
In the transportation management arena, Kimberly-Clark Corporation replaced its legacy planning system with JDA solutions that apply logic and business rules to automate approximately 80 percent of its load-planning activities.
In addition to reducing manual labour, the company is saving an incremental $12 million to $14 million a year in freight charges, including $8 million in the first year of implementation. As these and other supply chain leaders leverage new technologies and higher-impact processes to optimise their warehouses and transportation networks, the obvious question is: What's next?
Once performance has been optimised within these two functions, the next supply chain revolution will involve bringing them together and optimising their shared results. By tightly integrating all activities from the time an order reaches the warehouse through customer delivery, companies in every industry can take agility and cost control to an entirely new level.
Two Functions, One Perspective
The first step in achieving this ambitious vision is ensuring that warehouse managers and transportation managers have concurrent visibility to demand. The moment a customer order is generated, planners in both the warehouse and the transportation function should begin aligning cross-functional resources to fill and deliver that order in the most timely, cost-effective way.
Neither discipline should be impeded or delayed because of an absence of order data. Since most companies currently base their warehouse and transportation operations on a set of serial processes, this requires a huge change in mind-set.
Ultimately, transportation planning should still drive warehouse execution for the simple reason that warehousing is a location-specific function, while transportation is a network-level function. An intelligent transportation plan comes up with dynamic strategies for maximising efficiencies across the entire network.
For example, by scheduling a soft transfer to a distribution centre (DC), picking up an order at the DC and delivering it to the customer as a seamless process.
It only makes sense for the DC to base its processes on the capabilities of the transportation network, so valuable time won't be invested picking and packing orders that will be sitting on the loading dock, while trucks wait for other orders that aren't filled yet.
Intelligent transportation planning will always be the driver, but providing warehouse planners with concurrent order visibility allows much more effective coordination across these two functions.
Transportation planning can be enabled and enhanced with defined warehouse-level constraints that result in flawless, cost- and time-efficient execution. In addition, demand visibility ensures that the warehouse staffs is always working on the most critical orders, enabling high service and high profitability.
Google and NIST Address Supply Chain Cybersecurity
As high-level supply chain attacks hit the news, Google and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have both developed proposals for how to address software supply chain security. This isn’t a new field, unfortunately. Since supply chains are a critical part of business resilience, criminals have no qualms about targeting its software. That’s why identifying, assessing, and mitigating cyber supply chain risks (C-SCRM) is at the top of Google and NIST’s respective agendas.
High-Profile Supply Chain Attacks
According to Google, no comprehensive end-to-end framework exists to mitigate threats across the software supply chain. [Yet] ‘there is an urgent need for a solution in the face of the eye-opening, multi-billion-dollar attacks in recent months...some of which could have been prevented or made more difficult’.
Here are several of the largest cybersecurity failures in recent months:
- SolarWinds. Alleged Russian hackers slipped malicious code into a routine software update, which they then used as a Trojan horse for a massive cyberattack.
- Codecov. Attackers used automation to collect credentials and raid ‘additional resources’, such as data from other software development vendors.
- Malicious attacks on open-source repositories. Out of 1,000 GitHub accounts, more than one in five contained at least one dependency confusion-related misconfiguration.
As a result of these attacks and Biden’s recent cybersecurity mandate, NIST and Google took action. NIST held a 1,400-person workshop and published 150 papers worth of recommendations from Microsoft, Synopsys, The Linux Foundation, and other software experts; Google will work with popular source, build, and packaging platforms to help companies implement and excel at their SLSA framework.
What Are Their Recommendations?
Here’s a quick recap: NIST has grouped together recommendations to create federal standards; Google has developed an end-to-end framework called Supply Chain Levels for Software Artifacts (SLSA)—pronounced “Salsa”. Both address software procurement and security.
Now, here’s the slightly more in-depth version:
- NIST. The organisation wants more ‘rigorous and predictable’ ways to secure critical software. They suggest that firms use vulnerability disclosure programmes (VDP) and software bills of materials (SBOM), consider simplifying their software and give at least one developer per project security training.
- Google. The company thinks that SLSA will encompass the source-build-publish software workflow. Essentially, the four-level framework helps businesses make informed choices about the security of the software they use, with SLSA 4 representing an ideal end state.
If this all sounds very abstract, consider the recent SolarWinds attack. The attacker compromised the build platform, installed an implant, and injected malicious behaviour during each build. According to Google, higher SLSA levels would have required stronger security controls for the build platform, making it more difficult for the attacker to succeed.
How Do The Proposals Differ?
As Brian Fox, the co-founder and CTO at Sonatype, sees it, NIST and Google have created proposals that complement each other. ‘The NIST [version] is focused on defining minimum requirements for software sold to the government’, he explained, while Google ‘goes [further] and proposes a specific model for scoring the supply chain. NIST is currently focused on the “what”. Google, along with other industry leaders, is grappling with the “how”’.