REVIEWER: Nikhil Sagar, supply chain project manager for Whirlpool.
BACKGROUND: Located in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Whirlpool Corporation is the leading manufacturer of home appliances. Whirlpool recently implemented CPFR with several of its large trade partners.
PLATFORMS: The application resides on an AIX (UNIX) operating system. The application server is Websphere.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Prior to using the i2 Supply Chain Collaborator (SCC), numerous forecast-related documents (including promotional event calendars, transition plans and new store opening plans with flooring quantity requests and other issues) were sent back and forth between Whirlpool and its key trade partners during the week via e-mail. This led to confusion about which documents were the most current. A monthly PSI (production, shipments and inventory) meeting was scheduled to review in detail every line item of trade-partner and Whirlpool forecasts. Discrepancies were resolved during the PSI, and handwritten notes served as agreements to change the numbers on each end to ensure alignment of the forecasts. Unfortunately, this alignment would last only the week of the PSI. With SCC, we were able to solve the problem of version control. The most current version of any file is now located in the secure, shared files section of SCC, easily accessible by any planner from either the Whirlpool or partner viewpoint. We now know at all times that we are both looking at the same data for planning/forecasting purposes. SCC has allowed us to migrate from a monthly alignment of forecasts to a weekly alignment, improving overall accuracy levels. In addition, our forecasting performance has also improved because there is less room for human error.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The product provides a common view of data to Whirlpool and its trade partners. Updates to data can be viewed immediately by either side. SCC also offers an exception-based alert-generation capability. Based on predefined tolerances that are set in a quarterly joint business planning review, mismatches between the two forecasts are identified in real time. A summary of all mismatches is viewable in the "issues" section of the application. Changes can be made to either forecast within this section, immediately eliminating the exceptions. The automated system-to-system data exchange removes errors that previously resulted from manual data entry. Our improved forecast accuracy has resulted in reduced safety stock levels and improved trade partner fill rates and end- customer service levels.
STRENGTHS: SCC is user friendly and simple to use. Training new users takes no longer than three hours. It also has an excellent user interface. The detailed collaboration view user interface is very similar to an Excel spreadsheet. SCC integrates well with other systems. Additionally, the application accepts forecasts from even the most rudimentary forecasting systems (legacy DOS-based systems, Excel spreadsheets, etc.) and allows for multiple views of the data slicing and dicing, and filtering.
WEAKNESSES: SCC has limited aggregation capability exceptions and detailed data views are all at the item level. One cannot view multiple product total forecasts in the same screen and generate exceptions at the aggregate level. This could be great for internal collaboration and also for some collaborative planning activities.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Our main selection criteria were ease of use and ease of integration with existing planning systems. The key advantage of this application over competing products is the simplicity of use without compromising on depth of functionality.
DELIVERABLES: SCC delivers: sales forecast mismatch alerts, order forecast mismatch alerts, new file upload alerts, deliverable past due alerts, detailed view of retailer sales forecast, detailed view of Whirlpool sales forecast, detailed view of retailer order forecast, detailed view of Whirlpool supply forecast, inventory levels, actual sales history, actual order volume history, and actual shipment volume history. (All data is at the SKU, location, week level.)
VENDOR SUPPORT: The i2 implementation team was highly competent and very conscientious. They worked long hours to meet a very aggressive timeline. They asked many questions, which was very reassuring to us because it showed that they paid attention to detail. They also were great in sharing their industry best-practice expertise. They offered technical savvy and business process expertise.
DOCUMENTATION: Supporting documentation is limited. It is not accessible through the "Help" command on the application. The i2 team gave us electronic files with some documentation by e-mail. However, at least in the initial stages, the Whirlpool technical team did require some amount of consulting support to deal with technical issues while setting up new products, trade partners and exception rules for collaboration.
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