Supply Chain Planning is Like a Relay Race

By Bernard Milian

Have you ever watched a relay race? Each runner gives the best of his performance for his portion of the race, and passes the baton to the next runner in a predefined area.

In a 4x100m relay, to pass the baton there is a 20m transmission zone: 10m before the 100m, and 10m after. This zone is materialized on the ground, to allow the athletes to adjust their actions. Passing the relay before or after this zone is eliminatory.

This 20m zone for each 100m section thus represents 20% of the distance travelled.

Wait a bit (at least a few tenths of a second…).

In our supply chains, we naturally ask each of the players (suppliers, factories, distribution centers) to give their best performance, but then to hand over the baton at a given date or even time, very precisely. Is that right?

If, for example, we assemble complex systems with multiple components made to order, we require all partners to deliver just in time for integration of the final system.

In other words, over-trained athletes are entitled to a 20% time zone to pass the baton, but in the supply chain planning the date must be strictly adhered to and any delay or advance is an anomaly 

A Time Buffer

In the real life of our companies this handover also requires flexibility, the definition of transmission zones, and an adapted decision making (slow down / speed up) in view of our position in this zone.

Let’s call it a time buffer. A time buffer is very similar to an area where relays pass between upstream and downstream operations. It is there to absorb the variability of the upstream operations, and to allow the downstream operation to start in time. This time buffer is materialized with red, yellow and green zones, and depending on our position in the buffer we make steering decisions: speeding up, slowing down, giving priority to this order rather than that one.

When you are manufacturing to order, the organization of time buffers at key points of your flows, their proper sizing, and their visual control are essential to ensure fluid relays along your supply chain.

Want to know more? We recommend you explore the Demand Driven Leader training from the Demand Driven Institute, and our DDOM compliant solutions!

Get in Touch

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


Recent Posts

Sign up to our Blog

You may also enjoy

pills rolling off production line, governed by demand drivencapacity buffers

Capacity, the unloved buffer

There are three types of buffers that help manufacturers deal with variability: stock, time, and capacity. Which is the most powerful?

aerospace component machine, delivered on time through demand driven supply chain methods

Demand Driven for the Aerospace Industry

The aeronautical supply chain was not designed to ensure the fast and reliable flow of goods, but to meet detailed technical, quality, and safety specifications. How can Demand Driven methods help?

Replenishment+ is now Intuiflow

Ten years ago, Demand Driven Technologies launched the world’s first Demand Driven supply chain solutions: Replenishment+, APM, and DBR+. Now, we’re uniting those solutions into a single, powerful solution. Meet Intuiflow.

What’s in a name?

Our solutions are built to make supply chain management intuitive — and help manufacturers ensure the best flow of materials through their supply chains.

What’s changed?

Intuiflow integrates all our solutions into a single, powerful platform — and incorporates AI/ML to identify patterns in demand faster and more accurately than ever before.

What does that mean?

Intuiflow brings you DDMRP, DDOM and DDS&OP compliance in one suite, powering critical synergies across the business.

Replenishment+ is now Intuiflow