Seven Risk Mitigation Strategies You Can Do With Smart Optimization

Optimization can not only be used to reduce cost, but it can also be used to reduce risk. In this post I’m going to overview how you can effectively support seven common risk mitigation strategies in a proper strategic sourcing decision optimization solution (including the solution offered by Iasta, if you’re wondering).

Capacity Assurance
You can create exclusion constraints that restrict supply to suppliers with a minimum amount of capacity to insure that the suppliers can handle the award they receive. Furthermore, you can create qualitative constraints that restrict award to suppliers with spare capacity to insure you can cope with unexpected demand surges. Although forecasting significantly more demand than you actually have is bad, especially if you stockpile inventory and don’t dynamically order and pull as needed, forecasting significantly less demand and not being able to meet that demand is much worse – because then your brand takes a big hit in the public market, which is much harder to recover from.

These days, there are a dizzying array of regulations that may need to be complied with such as REACH, RoHS, Part 11, ITAR, and SOX (etc., etc., etc.), and failure to comply with any one of these regulations can result in huge fines, delayed or stopped shipments, or confiscation and destruction of inventory. Thus, it’s key that you insure that each product you source meets the regulations that you have to meet. Optimization supports this by allowing you to exclude suppliers that don’t meet any of the requirements, and limit supply to suppliers that only meet the standards of some of the countries you ship product to.

Distribution Alternatives
A strategic sourcing decision optimization solution that supports freight lanes can support multiple carriers, allowing you to select the lowest carrier, and lowest cost shipping lane per carrier, between a supplier warehouse and a buyer distribution center. (If the product doesn’t support multiple shipping lanes per carrier for each warehouse-distribution_center pair, you can always create a second instance of the carrier and associate that with alternate routes. You can then account for total volume discounts offered by the carrier by defining the discounts on all instances of the carrier.)

Dual Sourcing
From a risk mitigation perspective, sole sourcing is a bad idea. A really, really bad idea. With decision optimization, you can use allocation constraints to force an award to at least two carriers, and even specify an approximate award breakdown, such as a 20-30-50% split between the three lowest cost carriers.

Incentives / Performance Based Contracts
Let’s face it, some suppliers will perform much better if they get a bonus for good performance. By using negative discounts, you can determine how much a given award would cost you if the supplier performed exemplary under an incentive structure, and by using penalties, you can determine how much an award would cost if the supplier performed poorly (providing you also factored in an adjustment for the higher cost of processing more returns).

Lead Time Reduction
You can use a qualitative constraint to capture the average amount of delivery time for each carrier on each lane and limit awards to a given distribution center, set of distribution centers, or all distribution centers to product from supplier warehouses that can reach the destination(s) in a maximum (average) timeframe. Thus, if you’re selling a product for which demand can fluctuate significantly, you can make sure you can always restock within a given timeframe as soon as the sales data starts to spike unexpectedly.

Price Hedging
Strategic sourcing decision optimization can help you figure out what contract length might be optimal for a given commodity. For example, if your predictions are that oil is going to keep rising for the next year, with a peak price that’s $20 per barrel above what you’re paying now, and your main supplier thinks that it’s going to top out at a peak price that’s only $10 per barrel more than what you’re paying now, and is willing to give you all the oil you need at only $5 more per barrel than the current market price, you can run scenarios for a 6 month demand window and a 1 year demand window at different price points. Then, you can see that if cost keeps increasing at a rate that is only two thirds of your prediction, it’s probably better to hedge for a full year.

And, of course, proper strategic sourcing decision optimization also gives you:

Total Value Management
Since it allows you to capture all your costs – unit, freight, utilization, and impact costs (by way of adjustments) – as well as any discounts available to you from a supplier for the purchase of certain products in sufficient quantities. This means that you’ll always get the lowest total cost of ownership with respect to your business constraints.

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