For Xilinx Inc., a supplier of programmable logic devices, the focus is more on speed than optimization, says Alex Brown, vice president of supply chain.
That’s not to say the latter is unimportant. After all, Brown was trained in the area of optimization, but he says data, always uncertain, changes every day. “We want to make decisions quickly, we want to be able to run things quickly, we want to know as fast as we can the sensitivity of a problem and what the key parameters are that affect decisions. Then, too, we focus on speed because it allows us to focus on problems other than just planning. It’s the data management problem, for example, where we make mistakes.”
Alex Brown shared a great quote by Steve Jobs who shares his philosophy:
Fight the urge to be precise. Try to think about solving the business problem not the price mathematical issue. Their lesson was you have to get your core infrastructure straight so that you can model your core complexity well. And what allows Xillinx to embrace and tame this complexity is their supply chain planning technology.
In one platform, Xilinx receives signals continuously across the supply chain – because of the depth of its integration with its suppliers and customers, Brown says. How those signals are processed is extremely important. “That goes back to speed, about the speed of being able to process those signals quickly. When you have a signal, you have to know right away how that affects your output decision.”
It’s one of the key reasons, he says, why Xilinx became a Kinaxis customer to leverage its supply chain management software. “I like the Kinaxis heuristics because they are transparent and make it easy to understand that when input change occurs, the output changes as well.”
Kinaxis RapidResponse is used for all planning across the board at Xilinx. “It’s used everywhere in the organization now. People wouldn’t think to not have it anymore. It’s like having a computer or Excel. It’s become like that.”
Specifically, the platform has helped solve a fundamental semiconductor problem related to performance binning. “If I was not able to solve that, and we couldn’t with just a simple MRP system and a bunch of very smart planners, there would be tens of millions of dollars in excess and obsolete inventory that would happen every quarter. So it has major value for us.”
Upper management buy-in and subject matter expertise ensured that implementation would be relatively pain-free, Brown says. Before the product was selected, key users from each function and supply chain were tasked with a two-week pilot to test the usability of the system. “Obviously, they all came back and said RapidResponse was the right tool.”