Imagine a world where all silos of supply chain functions work in unison on the same platform, where most decisions are made automatically considering competing objectives of various functions and results are optimized using cost versus service trade-offs, and the partnership model allows for continuous evolution of the model, user interface and analytics as business needs change. This world isn’t a distant dream.
In the corridors of Unilever, a team of dedicated supply chain planners from demand to supply to transportation embarks on a daily journey. Their day doesn’t begin with traditional routines but with diving deep into a digital universe where data alerts serve as guiding stars. With the E2E exception-base autonomous planning, the system automates decisions from demand forecasts, production plans, and order fulfillment strategies to delivery with minimal need for manual intervention.
This is not eliminating the planners entirely but focusing their attention where it’s best. Planners are empowered with more free time to focus on more value-adding strategic and tactical decisions by evaluating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) dashboards, and when their attention is required, the system will alert them automatically.
At the core of this transformative tale lie three indispensable assets: Digital, the foundation of the platform providing a single source of truth for the entire organization; Intelligent, the infusion of AI and machine learning, transforming raw data into actionable insights, empowering Unilever to predict market trends, anticipate demands, and stay ahead of the ever-shifting market landscape; and Autonomous, the pinnacle where end-to-end supply chain decisions are made seamlessly, free from human touch.
End-to-End Supply Chain Planning Platform
The end-to-end process begins with data. Automatic data diagnostics ensures the quality of the data it receives, fixes the inconsistencies where it can, and alerts the planners in case their attention is required. The result is an end-to-end planning process operating on the highest quality data possible.
Then, Demand Planning, driven by AI, predicts market fluctuations by analyzing demand drivers, including weather, market dynamics, and new products, providing forecasts that minimize the need for overrides and provide insights to enable data-driven decisions. Supply Planning crafts production plans that optimize available capacity and resources, not just optimal but synchronized with operational constraints, ensuring the right product mix at the right time and cost.
Customer Service Fulfillment becomes an art of efficiency, with real-time data optimizing replenishment, allocation, and truckload fill. The system allocates stock based on various parameters, enhancing service and volume maximization, enabling 100% autonomous planning!
Transportation Planning streamlines the intricate web of logistics by ensuring efficient truck planning, reducing fulfillment time and the carbon footprint. With such a level of sophistication and precision delivered by automated recommendations, 90% of them are executed as is, and planners focus only on exceptions.
Through this transformation, Unilever has achieved multiple milestones.
Centralized Demand Planning became the cornerstone that streamlined operations, leading to not just efficiency but an alignment across functions across the entire organization. Advanced Analytics provides the Unilever team with automatic insights, enabling Unilever to gaze into the future with clarity, foreseeing market trends, and preparing for every twist and turn in the market landscape.
Real-time Visibility gives the team a bird’s-eye-view of the entirety of the operations, allowing for faster decision-making, erasing data silos, and fostering collaboration among teams previously isolated in their individual silos. End-to-end synchronized Planning ensured every cog in the machinery moved in perfect unison, creating a workflow so seamless that it felt like a choreographed dance.
Finally, for the cherry on top, Unilever adopted Goal Programming, which allows the company to set multiple objectives, model constraints simultaneously as opposed to a pre-selected order, and generate an optimal plan that considers all objectives. This process prevents the functions from working against each other and considers the impact of every decision on the whole chain.
Continuous Innovation Is the Core of Successful Partnerships
At the end of the day, if the environment for continuous improvement and proactive innovation is not present, even the best of technologies lose relevance in today’s dynamic setting.
The key here is high user acceptance rates, streamlined workflows, reduced manual intervention, and enabling Unilever to achieve the holy grail of supply chain management: exception-based, no-touch planning. It’s a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and unwavering dedication to efficiency. It’s not just about machines and algorithms; it’s about the people who understand the soul of the supply chain, who breathe life into every line of code, transforming it from mere instructions into a symphony of efficiency.
End-to-end decision automation is not a distant vision for giants like Unilever but also for mid-market companies. You, too can make innovation a way of life, not just a buzzword.
Nilufer Durak is the Chief Operating Officer, Head of Customer Success at Solvoyo. Nil is a highly motivated technology executive, passionate about implementing Solvoyo’s bold autonomous supply chain vision with clients. With over two decades of experience in Corporate America, Nil has developed a deep understanding of customer success and operational excellence. She is best known for her boundless energy and ability to get things done. Currently, she is COO and Head of Customer Success at Solvoyo, a leading supply chain planning and analytics SaaS company based in Boston. Nil has also been an active member of women’s professional networking groups, advocating for women’s leadership roles in the technology and entrepreneurship fields.