Last week I attended Kinaxis Kinexions ’22 in San Diego, CA. This was my first in-person event in over two years, and it did not disappoint. You could feel the energy in the air as 450+ people seemed to really enjoy being back at an in-person event. We were also joined by over 1,500 people from around the world who attended the conference virtually. The theme for the conference was “Ready. Together.” and as Kinaxis President and CEO John Sicard noted in his opening keynote, the natural state of civilization is togetherness. When you face challenges and adversity, you want to lock arms with people you know and trust. And this is what Kinaxis wants its customers to remember.
The last few years have been a strange time for global supply chains. As Mr. Sicard pointed out, we face micro-disruptions on a daily basis. This includes weather events, port strikes, capacity shortages, and unexpected demand spikes. However, the Covid pandemic brought about a round of macro-disruptions that could not be imagined. This came in the form of unexpected absenteeism at factories, warehouses, and on the road, as well as boats being stuck in ports which created container shortages. The unique thing about these macro-disruptions was that they were felt by every industry, company, and geography at the exact same time. But even with these macro-disruptions, Mr. Sicard said “you’ve been tested, you’ve been challenged, and together we have prevailed.”
John Sicard made a statement early in his keynote that really struck a chord with me. He said that supply chains have a higher purpose; supply chains only exist to serve humanity. It began with the sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution of necessities for life. At the same time, you cannot have a functional supply chain without the generosity of the planet. As a society, we use so many natural resources, so when you do it well, society thanks you and so does the earth. When it comes to the planet Earth, we need to leave it better than we got it. When it comes to making decisions, whether it is faster shipping or larger orders, it cannot be all about revenues and margins; the impact on the planet needs to be factored into it. Thankfully, Kinaxis is putting its money where its mouth is. The company opened a new global headquarters in Ottawa, which holds 950 employees. It is seeking to be the first platinum certified WELL company in Canada, and the company achieved carbon neutrality last year.
Mr. Sicard made another statement that really stuck with me as well. He said that we are living through a supply chain renaissance. Right now, we are looking for a giant breakthrough, giving examples such as the emergence of Google and FaceTime. These were breakthroughs that changed everything. For Kinaxis, this breakthrough could come with the release of Planning.AI, which combines advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence.
For years, supply chain planners were forced into “or” decisions, such as accuracy or speed. With this release, planners can now look at accuracy and speed for supply chain agility. Part of the Rapid Response platform, Planning.AI combines heuristics, optimization, and machine learning. The solution runs heuristics first, feeds these results into an optimizer, which then helps to slash the time to decision for supply chain planners.
Within this new solution, Kinaxis released what it calls Amplifiers, to drive next-level business results across the end-to-end supply chain. At the conference, the first two Amplifiers were introduced: Demand.AI and Supply.AI. Andrew Dunbar, Manager of Product Management, Business Solutions, at Kinaxis introduced Supply.AI. Supply.AI drives costs out of the supply chain by using multiple analytical approaches to solve a wider variety of business problems and balance trade-offs incorporating cost, revenue, on-time delivery, capacity, and more. Essentially, it puts an optimization solution at the fingertips of planners. Supply.AI can create an agile plan for business and minimize costs (transportation, manufacturing, holding), while maximizing value (revenue and margins). Planners can use a weighted objective function, determine which KPIs are most important, and use the platform to make the decision, thus increasing the speed of decision making. An example would be a high-tech company with excess inventory determining how to move that inventory to maximize revenues.
Waleed Ayoub, Senior Vice President of Solutions R&D, at Kinaxis introduced Demand.AI. Demand.AI creates a true picture of demand by incorporating internal data and outside-in external signals to improve demand and supply plans and deliver insight across all planning horizons using machine-learning based sensing and forecasting. There are three core areas that Demand.AI looks at: accuracy, flexibility, and explainability. Accuracy takes a heuristic approach with machine learning to bring about a base level of accuracy. Flexibility is where the company wants to focus. This empowers users to bring their knowledge of business and planning problems, to incrementally increase accuracy and help drive customer satisfaction. Finally, explainability is the ability to communicate the findings to stakeholders.
A final piece of the puzzle that Kinaxis demonstrated is the use of supply chain automation. Azalia Shamsaei, Product Manager for Platform, at Kinaxis, said that planners are overwhelmed by the amount of high demand decision making they are doing. Companies need to empower planners with scalable technology to automate tasks. This means they can automate repetitive planners’ activities and identify the priority of complex problems that needs the planners attention. This will increase efficiency by letting planners do what they do best, and make sure planners on working on the right priorities.
Kinaxis Kinexions ’22brought together Kinaxis employees, customers, thought leaders, and analysts of the world. As I’ve always said, one of my favorite things about going to a conference is to meet and interact with these people and learn from their hand-on experience. Kinaxis Kinexions ’22 showcased all of this, through though-provoking sessions and case study stories. The releases of Planning.AI was a highlight, as it demonstrated the power of advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence. It is a solution that I look forward to following over the years.