As previewed in last Octobers edition of Manufacturing & Logistics IT, Demand Solutions has now officially launched DSX, featuring a state-of-the-art forecasting engine and suite of tools that allow users own business expertise and specific requirements to be incorporated into the demand plan.
Demand Solutions Bill Harrison explained that the solution re-write process first began some three and a half years ago, when Demand Solutions observed a growing number of companies needing more technology and flexibility in their chosen software product. Many small-to medium-sized and medium-to enterprise-level companies have IT requirements that are more complex than they used to be, said Harrison. For example, where they have worldwide supply chains and where they are outsourcing manufacturing on a more global scale. But when it comes down to it, regardless of company size, many more companies now require more technology-based software with robust functionality.
Forecasting in multiple time units in the same database
One state-of-the-art feature of DSX is an engine that allows the user to forecast for any time unit whether weeks, months or quarters for any item, all within a single database. With DSX, users dont have to consider all types of goods within the context of a uniform time unit. Demand Solutions Bill Harrison commented: For example, if companies have a number of high-volume items they might want to forecast these weekly. For standard items that just need to be replenished, they may want to forecast these monthly. And when it comes to slow-turning items that might be sold at a rate of, say, four one month, none the next and twelve the next month, why not remove some of the bias out of the scenario and forecast for these items based on whats likely to happen over a three-month timeline.
Harrison pointed out that, with DSX, Demand Solutions also wanted to make the users experience of the software as simple and convenient as possible through offering a very simple and convenient navigation methodology. We knew that when people visit a website they want to be able to get to the information they need within three clicks or they may decide to leave the site, explained Harrison. So, we set about ensuring users of our new software could get to where they want to go in three clicks or less. We were adamant that they shouldnt need to navigate through more than this amount of panels.
DSX makes advanced filtering, segmentation and analysis capabilities available so that planners can drill down to any level of detail and focus on the most profitable opportunities. Planners can see as detailed information as they want in DSX by drilling down into the data; for example, by item, customer, region and distribution centre. This visibility allows planners to focus on areas of the business that need the most attention. Planners can also view and manage all inventory in a supply chain network, and constrain orders by shipping capacities such as container or minimum order quantity and by seasonality, material shortages, labour and warehouse space.
Because there is an infinite number of ways a planner can view, interpret, and analyse their data a large part of the design brief for DSX was to ensure the user could spend time acting on data, not navigating through it. With the understanding that no two customers are the same, DSX was built on the principle that users need the flexibility to plan each individual customers unique requirements. Therefore every screen can be customised so that even the most complex and disparate user requirements can be met.
DSX has also been designed to allow companies to change their supply chain business practices within the software to respond to market changes quickly and efficiently at any level of the business. It allows users to administer multi-user environments with role-based usage rights for a large, distributed user base; manage large volumes of data and easily administer any number of end users across the world; and partition large SKU populations into manageable pieces with robust item stratification. Another advantage is that DSX allows users to view demand forecasts, history and on-hand inventory all on one screen.
In terms of DSXs more bread and butter software configurability, the software features something Demand Solutions calls work spaces. Delivered out of the box we have screens that look similar to our Version 11 software as far as whats on them, but these are not what the user is bound by all these work spaces are configurable by users for their own requirements, said Harrison.
DSX also features Sandbox functionality, allowing users to review various possible production scenarios in a safe test mode on their own client before seamlessly moving simulations to a production environment. Users can try different what-if scenarios and save the data in the sandbox; then once they find a method they like they can commit it to actual production, said Harrison. And they can log off and safely return to the data a week or a month later or whatever the timeline, knowing the data wont be lost. This feature offers a lot of flexibility.
Box Jenkins algorithm
One notable feature of DSX is its use of the Box Jenkins algorithm with optimised parameters so that users do not need to engage with the algorithms complexity in order to gain a raft of forecasting and planning benefits.
However, despite the arrival of DSX, Harrison is keen to emphasis that the companys existing solutions suite Version 11 will continue to be maintained, marketed, sold and enhanced. So, we are essentially offering two separate products, he said. Version 11 runs on a proprietary database, it doesnt require SQL and it is proven to be an efficient and successful product for Demand Solutions customers. Harrison makes the point that many companies require a simple-to-use, low cost of ownership, value-added solution. On the other hand, he adds that a lot of customers want more of a higher-end technology solution. With this requirement in mind, DSX has adopted .Net 3.5, Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Windows Communication Foundation (WCF). The new offering runs on Microsoft Server 2008 and Microsoft Server 2008 R2. The technology platform allows DSX to be totally compatible with Microsoft updates and upgrades without reinstallation. Demand Solutions is also an active participator in Microsofts Cloud computing Azure Early Adopter Programme.
Harrison commented that Demand Solutions has been through thorough alpha and beta phases with DSX for forecasting and replenishment, and the solution is now available for shipping. He added that the company is currently in the middle of a re-write of its Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) application on DSX. In conclusion, Harrison remarked: DSX is a product that is well positioned for companies that are looking for a technology product that offers a high level of flexibility.