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Trip Report – Tokyo Supply Chain Design Conference

By Craig Frankland  March 30, 2016

I recently attended the first LLamasoft Supply Chain Design Conference held in Tokyo, Japan on February 24, 2016. The conference in many ways reflected the early years of LLamasoft’s annual SummerCon conference. The goal of the event was to introduce LLamasoft and supply chain design to the Japanese market. As LLamasoft CEO Don Hicks stated “we are truly a global company, because our customers are global.” LLamasoft has had Japanese-based clients for many years, however, only recently opened the Tokyo office in the fall of 2015.

This one day event stressed the importance of design within an organization and provided examples from current LLamasoft customers such as Ford, Bridgestone, and General Motors. With over 150 attendees the event was a huge success. Here are a few of my key takeaways from the event.

Importance of Supply Chain Design in Japan

Don Hicks presented an overview of LLamasoft and supply chain design for the Japanese market, and stressed the importance of design to all companies. Don talked about how “good planning cannot overcome bad design” and for companies to be successful they must be able to do both design and planning. This was an important message to the Japanese market where businesses have been incredibly successful due to their world-class planning and execution. Supply chain design is not well-defined, nor is it widely practiced in Japan, but the resounding message of its importance was clear. He also mentioned that while LLamasoft is in the business of selling software, we and our customers are successful because of the people who use our tools. “Design is about thinking, and thinking is done by people” was a reminder to everyone that to achieve successful interaction between design, planning, and execution, companies also need to invest in their people.

LLamasoft CEO Don Hicks spoke with the media at a press conference prior to the event.

LLamasoft CEO Don Hicks spoke with the media at a press conference prior to the event.

 

John Ames, President of LLamasoft Japan, then presented his vision for the office in Tokyo and the goal to build a supply chain design community in Japan. To that end, LLamasoft has invested in Japan-based staff members and is working with local alliance partners to ensure that Japanese customers receive the high degree of local support and assistance as they start building their design teams.

Lessons Learned from LLamasoft Modeling

John Bozynski, Network Modeling Manager for Ford, and Paul Webb, Senior Manager Strategic Business Planning for Bridgestone, both spoke about the value and benefits they’ve received from using LLamasoft software. Bozynski talked about how Ford has received value by retaining the knowledge from performing strategic design projects internally. He mentioned that some of the best benefits can come from building the internal capability of your organization. He also added that the most important part of completing a strategic design project is to ask questions. The process of asking questions gets everyone in the room thinking about all the possibilities for a new network and increases the value of his LLamasoft models. As a member of the LLamasoft Professional Services team, I cannot add enough extra emphasis to John’s point. Design projects are only as good as the team building the models, asking and answering questions, helps companies succeed.

The agenda for the first Supply Chain Design conference at LLamasoft Japan.

The agenda for the first Supply Chain Design conference at LLamasoft Japan.

 

Paul Webb talked about the many lessons he’s learned as a LLamasoft user for the past six years. Like many of the others, Webb discussed how people are necessary for building the right supply chain models.  His point was that models alone do not solve business problems, but that you need to set boundaries and scenarios to identify what is optimal for your organization. Webb also walked attendees through the importance of investing in an organization’s supply chain design team. My take from his discussion, and my own personal experience, is that the organizations who provide the time, management, will and resources for strategic network thinking achieve the greatest efficiency and cost savings.

The conference was a hit with attendees and it proved that the Japan market is ready to deepen its knowledge of supply chain design.