Keeping the Supply Chains Running in Rapidly Changing Conditions

Keeping Supply Chains Running in Rapidly Changing Conditions

April 06, 2020

It has only been two months since my last blog post, “2020 Supply Chain Trends to Watch,” but so much is dynamically changing with COVID-19. We are truly living in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world where every person and organization is looking for ways to better manage and cope with this new reality.


Despite all this uncertainty, I have heard some positive and encouraging stories from AspenTech Supply Chain Management (SCM) customers and partners around the world. Many of them have shared their creative solutions over the past two weeks, relating how they have adapted to this new operating environment and gained the agility they need in this challenging market.



Ensuring Workers Remain Connected Wherever They’re Working


I have spoken to more than half a dozen customers, who have all continued manufacturing. Operations personnel are still at the production facilities, whereas others have been asked to work from home, such as schedulers, raw material planners, shipping coordinators, process engineers, supply chain planners and others. 


I am hearing wonderful stories from early adopters using Aspen Schedule Explorer that this sales and operations execution (S&OE) solution is quite helpful in maintaining high levels of individual and team productivity. This collaborative web platform provides supply chain and operations execution teams with a live web-based view of the latest published production schedules for any of their manufacturing facilities that uses Aspen Plant Scheduler™. 


Activity-based conversations provide clarity and context by linking directly to scheduled production activities in order to: specify technical changes to a batch, flag rework instructions, share production status updates, flag slow-moving off-grades, etc. This helps maintain ongoing alignment between the work-from-home employees and personnel at the manufacturing facility.  


Some of our customers have explained Aspen Schedule Explorer inside their organizations as a Microsoft Teams or a Slack designed specifically for manufacturing organizations. Keeping all supply chain and operations executions stakeholders aligned every day minimizes misunderstandings that lead to waste, logistics demurrage charges, delays in product shipments and other costly mistakes.


It was particularly great to learn of a scheduler in Asia who specifically requested access to Aspen Schedule Explorer (via their Supply Chain Center of Excellence team) for herself and for her supply chain and operations colleagues due to work-from-home policies in her country.



Responding to Rapidly Changing Supply and Demand Conditions


One of our supply chain customers operates two manufacturing facilities. The first production facility was preparing for a shutdown related to COVID-19. The second production facility, in a different part of the country, has not yet been impacted and is still producing finished goods. This customer uses Aspen Supply Chain Planner (SCP) for monthly sales and operations planning (S&OP) purposes to optimize their end-to-end supply chain. AspenTech’s professional services team has shown this customer how to use Aspen Supply Chain Planner to easily run and evaluate “what if” scenarios with any combination of supply/demand assumptions.


The customer can quickly update the AspenTech SCP digital twin to reflect that their first plant will be shut down for some time due to COVID-19. Their digital twin uses powerful mathematical optimization methods to determine the best combination of supply chain decisions over a planning time horizon to maximize overall enterprise profitability. 


I also learned that one of our global chemicals customers has been using Aspen Supply Chain Planner extensively to run a vast amount of scenarios each day that factor in evolving COVID-19 assumptions in order to build a portfolio of supply chain “game plans” to best respond to existing and future supply/demand conditions, constraints and implications. The company appreciates that as changes happen in different countries where they operate, the flexibility in AspenTech’s solutions can help ensure business continuity. 


Another customer I spoke to expects management will soon ask them to evaluate numerous scenarios using Aspen Plant Scheduler-EO for their global manufacturing facilities. In the past, this customer made extensive use of scenario analysis and powerful mathematical optimization capabilities to navigate VUCA conditions related to protracted labor disputes at a key manufacturing facility. The optimization capabilities available in Aspen Plant Scheduler-EO enabled them to align demand, supply, capacity and operations execution every day in a challenging environment.



Maintaining Social Distancing to Keep Plant Personnel Safe


One of our partners told me about a joint customer that wanted to incorporate new constraints around social distancing into their production planning and scheduling digital twins to help protect their manufacturing personnel. High-speed manufacturing occurs in a large common section of this customer’s production facility across different production lines. The customer also added constraints related to using alternating lines/equipment on various days of the week.


Overall production has been reduced in response to changing demand. The optimized plans and schedules now honor all these constraints and help ensure that personnel scheduled to work in a section of the manufacturing facility have safe distances from staff working on other lines/equipment.


AspenTech remains committed to helping all our customers succeed through improved supply chain planning, scheduling and ongoing alignment with manufacturing operations execution. If you have questions regarding any of our products, you can contact us anytime via our customer support site, or send an email to



You can learn more about how digital technologies are helping companies remain agile in our live webinar later this month.   

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