Kinexions22 - how Bristol Myers Squibb shifted to a continuous improvement approach to supply chain planning

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed May 5, 2022
With Kinexions22 set to formally kick off next week, the virtual event already has content to view. One highlight: Bristol Myers Squibb and ZS on how they use Kinaxis RapidResponse for continuous improvement - and a supply chain planning center of excellence.


I've been giving event planners a hard time about their virtual and hybrid events - time to call out a vendor doing it the right way.

Along with its sold-out Kinexions22 on-the-ground event, Kinaxis also has a virtual Kinexions22 component, which you can still register for (the event formally kicks off on May 10, but some sessions are available on-demand now).

That's how I got the skinny on an informative Kinaxis customer session, How BMS Leveraged RapidResponse to Elevate Maturity and Enable a Global Supply Chain Network. Sometimes, the enterprise stories we hear don't get at scale. Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) certainly does.  As Colin MacFarlane, Associate Director, Integrated Supply Planning System Lead explained, BMS operates 33 brands in 62 markets, spanning 13,600 SKUs.

Today, supply chain effectiveness is ultimately measured by the consumer's experience. The three aspects of the BMS supply chain approach capture that:

  • Respond to evolving biopharma needs and enable an excellent patient experience.
  • Integrated approach to planning, strong cross functional and supplier relationships.
  • Embedded One Plan, One System aligned approach for global supply planning.

User adoption matters - "introducing a new planning system is not easy"

And how do you get there? During the session, MacFarlane was joined by BMS' supply chain services partner, Manoj Porwal of ZS Associates. One lesson? Scaling supply chain planning isn't going anywhere without user adoption. MacFarlane's team launched Kinaxis RapidResponse in 2013 with one business unit. In 2015, they deployed their safety stock module within RapidResponse. But adoption was limited the next few years. In 2018, says MacFarlane, "We decided to reprioritize RapidResponse, and ensure it was our planning system for all business units." He adds:

So our launch has been a bit non-traditional, in that we've been adding new business units bit by bit over the years. And so we launched biologics in 2013, inventory planning in 2015, pharmaceutical planning in 2019.

Long range planning was added in 2020:

So it's been an evolving journey along the way. And with that comes significant amount of system work, and working closely with the business to ensure that we understand what they need, and what the outcomes are.

MacFarlane described this adoption curve as "non-traditional," but I've seen plenty of projects where software launches remained in one division, or didn't scale for whatever reason. But this presented a new challenge for MacFarlane and ZS. Some planners were well-versed in the planning system, but now, a large group of users were added. That's where the emphasis on training, continuous improvement, and a center of excellence came about.

Despite the hype about modern UX, software adoption is not an easy thing. MacFarlane shared what works for BMS: It starts with: stakeholder buy-in of the planning numbers.

From an adoption perspective, introducing a new planning system is not easy. So we focus a lot on stakeholder adoption, validating that our models are correct and yielding correct results - and everybody's comfortable with how it's working.

Then you need agile support and training, training, training:

From a support perspective, we put a lot of effort into supporting the system, so stakeholders can identify issues, or identify areas of improvement. We focus on those as quickly as we can. Then from a user perspective, we focus on training, training, training... The more training, the better. As we see an influx in users that we've seen over the past couple of years, it's become apparent that repeated and re-occurring training adds tremendous value.

Keys to a supply chain planning center of excellence

Building a supply chain planning center of excellence is another core piece, one that more companies should pursue. Porwal shared lessons:

The key intent was to instill the right rigor, discipline, and industry best practices to improve supply planning, strategy and operations. It started with setting up four critical building blocks.

  1. A solid foundation - "Set up the right vision and the mission, develop a robust approach for the overall governance, underlying processes and right system elements for the broader ecosystem."
  2. Business-relevant technology only - "Ensure that the planning system components are built on strong understanding of the business knowledge and underlying processes, and critical to the center of excellence and its way of working."
  3. User adoption - "The most critical one... We ensure the success is measured by the adoption of the planning platform, and the feedback from the planners."
  4. Continuous innovation - "Bring to bear the latest and greatest advanced analytics and functionalities to help ensure we are ahead of the curve on the evolving business complexity and the needs."

The wrap - advanced analytics on deck

If you want planners to ditch their spreadsheets, they need to trust your system. MacFarlane says that's exactly what's happening:

The critical success factors for the RapidResponse Center of Excellence: align on one plan, one system. Our goal is to ensure that we don't have multiple plans and Excel files throughout the company. One plan for our critical brands in one system - that any stakeholder can access if needed.

The BMS and ZS collaboration presses on. Next up? RapidResponse analytics:

Some of the analytics we're not using currently will result in more efficient planning, with better accuracy and better flexibility. So we partner with our insights and analytics team to help us understand the back-end algorithms. We're documenting those, and we're continuously reviewing them with the planning teams to make sure we're shaping the direction of where we want to go by the end of the year... It's a great setup for us, and it's yielded great results.

Too often, training is an afterthought - but not with this team. It's appropriate, then, that MacFarlane's last word on this project comes back to training:

We believe that there can't be too much training, as long as it's organized, and the planners are retaining it. We're going to keep going after it, until we can uplift the skill set of all the planners... The need to continuously improve and evolve your planning process - I believe is always out there. New tools are always going to become available. Even within RapidResponse, new upgrades are going to get pushed, and new tools will be available. So we feel this is important - and we focus on it very much.

End note: during the session, Colin MacFarlane of Bristol Myers Squibb stated the views during the session were his, not that of his employer's. The same obviously holds true for this piece.

For more diginomica stories from Kinexions22 visit our Kinexions22 event hub. The event is live in San Diego, CA, from May 9-11th 2022, with many sessions available to view on-demand until the end of June. Click here to register and view now.

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