Note: Today’s post is part of our “Editor’s Choice” series where we highlight recent posts published by our sponsors that provide supply chain insights and advice.
When I started my career in the late ’90s, supply chain was a cool place for math geeks! As a discipline supply chain was not really that big in the universities. The traditional pathway into supply chain was through a major in operations research, industrial engineering, or business, often with each offering courses in their silos. Then there were those that managed to sneak in because of their experience in mathematical modeling, as algorithms were all the rage! I fell in the latter category. Or….. let us just say someone believed I did…..
We tackled some of the most complex and hairiest supply chain problems using mathematical techniques. Statistics, optimization and heuristics based approaches were gaining traction. User experience, either as a term or as a concept was unheard of. As we were building algorithms, we shipped the software on a CD (or a bunch of CD’s). The software did come with a user interface. However, for the most part, the users skipped the UI altogether, having their IT organizations write custom user interfaces while embracing the algorithms that, we, the vendors, built and shipped. The drive towards modernizing IT infrastructure in the wake of Y2K helped us tremendously. Life was good!
Then the tide started turning. The economy hit some headwinds which worsened with 9/11 and the Enron scandal. A wave of consolidation followed in the supply chain software industry which resulted in vendors acquiring a mixed bag of technologies that did not speak to one another. Most of the vendors’ time was spent on rationalizing and integrating these technologies, the success of which was rather mixed at best. Lots of time and precious R&D dollars were spent on providing a unified frontend through a common UI while in the backend the data and algorithms sat on islands. Algorithmic innovation, for the most part, took a backseat.
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Dr. Madhav Durbha is the Group Vice President of Industry Strategy at LLamasoft, where his team helps customers and prospects solve various supply chain challenges. Prior to his role at LLamasoft, Dr. Durbha held positions at Kinaxis, JDA Software and i2 Technologies, Inc. With more than 20 years in the supply chain industry, Dr. Durbha has broad experience in strategy & process consulting, supply chain software, program management, software application development & deployment, machine learning and data science. He received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Florida and his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology at Madras.