Recently, Ultriva, the leader in collaborative supply chain solutions, was the cover story in the current October issue of CIO Review. This issue was the manufacturing technology special edition. The feature article was authored by Raj Kumar and is titled, “Ultriva: Escalating Manufacturing Output Through Lean.” The author interviewed Narayan Laksham, Ultriva’s founder and CEO. During the course of the interview, Laksham explained how he applied lean principles to the supply chain processes and developed a solution that triumphs over the traditional Material Requirements Planning (MPR) systems and delivers more value. Here is part one of the article:
Narayan Laksham, Founder and CEO of Ultriva, is adept at two things: pattern recognition in a multi-dimensional space and simplifying complex problems. In 1999 and 2000, as he walked through manufacturing floors across different industry segments and attended kaizen events around the world, he quickly saw a pattern of issues ailing the plant floors—excess inventory, non-standard production schedules, and lack of collaboration. Being an outsider with 20 years of experience in databases, CAD/CAM systems, application infrastructure, and development tools, Laksham sought to bring a fresh perspective into manufacturing. He applied lean principles to supply chain processes and developed a solution that triumphs over the traditional Material Requirements Planning (MRP) systems and delivers more value.
Enter Ultriva—a company that is taking Kanban and lean manufacturing methodologies to the next level by systemizing them into a software and extending lean beyond the four walls of an organization. “Thinking outside the box is not just a phrase with Ultriva,” beams Laksham. Under his leadership, the company utilized ‘collaborative Kanban,’ to develop lean manufacturing and end to end pull supply chain solutions. In this quickly growing $10 billion supply chain industry, Ultriva rises above the rest by focusing on the execution side of things, directly impacting the shop floor performance and effectively complementing existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems which are primarily forecast driven. Ultriva dwells in the demand-driven replenishment arena. “We enable companies to transition from a forecast-driven business model to a demand-driven manufacturing model,” remarks Laksham.
Today, Ultriva’s solutions fit right into the manufacturing landscape. Gone are the days when inventory reduction was viewed as an ROI to sell software worth thousands of dollars. “Reduction of inventory has become a necessity and not an option in order to survive,” expresses Laksham. Given the change of perspective, companies are looking at tools that systemize and sustain the discipline to improve inventory turns. The focus has shifted from inventory reduction to right sizing the inventory, in conjunction with the move away from typical MRP driven material replenishment, which depends on forecasts or planned demand. In the wake of these developments, Ultriva promotes a consumption driven replenishment methodology, which ultimately means—producing exactly what the customer wants and not what the forecast says.
Walking away from the legacy model alone is not sufficient. Today, most of the departments related to supply chain—planning, purchasing, procurement, material management, and shop floor scheduling—act as silos. Each of them has different and often conflicting goals. Ultriva presents one version of truth across all these departments, while providing material movement visibility and actionable information.
“Gaining visibility to where the material is, on a real-time basis, is an extremely critical piece of the supply chain puzzle and we can help you with that,” assures Laksham. Being a cloud-based solution, any user with correct privileges can log in and gain access to real-time information, to make the right decision. This comes in very handy especially in the current scenario where CIOs are steadily adopting cloud technologies and are looking to collaborate beyond the four walls of business by integrating with their global suppliers, distribution centers, and customers.
Furthermore, there is an ongoing trend around the companies’ growing interest in better managing their customers. The focus, Laksham notes, “has shifted from raw material availability to finished goods management.” With a number of companies in the supply chain arena still focusing on the supply side, Ultriva is “uniquely positioned with its Customer Demand Portal, which revolves around the demand side,” he continues. The Demand Portal enables collaboration between manufacturing plants and the customer tiers such as distributors, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), and end customers. Every day, hundreds of manufacturers and suppliers see stock-out alerts, gain clear visibility to their customer’s on-hand inventory, and have a better understanding of material availability at each distribution center—courtesy of Ultriva’s Demand and Supply Portals.
On an interesting note, Ultriva’s unique supply chain loop driven architecture mimics the physical flow of materials, wherein the entire supply chain is constructed as series of interconnected loops. Such architecture enables Ultriva to easily identify a company’s biggest pain point and then migrate upstream or downstream. The built-in methodology calculates the usage, loop size, safety stock, and variability of consumption and significantly reduces the bullwhip effect across the supply chain. “Ultriva provides a continuous improvement platform for manufacturing companies to start from wherever they are to a true demand-pull environment,” states the polyglot Laksham.
The forecast driven DNA that is present in the ERP and MRP systems of major players like Oracle and SAP is very different from the “lean” DNA of Ultriva. In fact, its nature is quite the opposite. In essence, it is not simple for the competition to achieve something similar to Ultriva—create a sustainable solution and retain customers. This is evident from the fact that a number of Oracle, SAP, Infor, and Cincom customers have now acquired the services of Ultriva, citing several shortcomings of their previous systems. “Lean methodologies can complement MRP, but MRP cannot replace lean,” emphasizes Laksham. Paying keen attention to this, Ultriva built their infrastructure so that it handshakes well with existing ERP applications, which act as system of records, while Ultriva takes care of “all things execution.”
To see the article in its entirety, please go to the CIO Review Manufacturing Special Edition. To check out Ultriva’s supply chain execution solutions and see how easily it can integrate with your existing ERP, schedule your own demo.