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3 New Product Variants

The summer moves apace and we are delighted to announce the forthcomming launch of 3 new versions of our Office Superchargers.

Building upon the fantastic user feedback for the Excel Supercharger Lite version, we have created entry-level versions of both our PowerPoint and Word Superchargers.  This will give you basic functionality at an affordable cost.

We are also in final testing of our enhanced PowerPoint Supercharger - Professional Plus. 

It adds significant capability to the PowerPoint Supercharger, with multiple Autofix and standardisation options for your presentation.  Even better, you can apply these fixes across dozens  documents at the same time.  Brilliant if you are changing documents between projects or updating presentations with new company standards.

As a thank-you to our loyal followers, we will upgrade the first 10 NEW PowerPoint Professional licencees, purchased in August to the Professional Plus version, free of charge once it is launched.  For existing users, we will be drawing 10 free upgrades from the list of licencees who like us on our facebook page.  You can like us here:

Watch out for our launch promotions.

IDMBot, Our New Support Assistant

It's been a busy few months and we have also added a neat new robot helper to our support pages.  IDMBot will help you what you want on our support site.  

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Go to our support site and give him a try.


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Adaptiveness, the continuing battleground in supply chain management

blue squigglesToday's supply chain is complicated, driven by the need for speed at low-cost, across multiple layers, involving many parties and partners. Add to this, thousands of products, dozens of outlets, hundreds of suppliers and a plethora of both internal and external manufacturing capabilities. Season this, with a fine sprinkling of increasing market volatility, more frequent promotions, faster new product introduction and it is not surprising that this heady brew sometimes drives the supply chain and manufacturing leadership reaching for the ‘morning after’ cure.

Indeed, over the last ten years you've probably invested millions in your supply chain. Your logistics and supply chain controllers have attended just about every supply chain conference and seminar. You've talked to every consultant around and know all the buzzwords, having implemented at least half of them.


Sadly, there is no magic bullet, no single leap you can make to get you to the ‘promised land’ of decreased inventory with improved availability. Supply chains are not the neat linear processes that a pipeline implies. They are more like overlapping and tangled, strands of rope. With customers pulling on one end and suppliers the other. Meanwhile, distributors and manufacturers are trying to create enough slack to untangle the knots that cause the difficulties of one supply chain to impact on another.

Thankfully, the new realism caused by the collapse of the bubble has created an environment where sceptical customers are demanding practical, simple and fast solutions. Vendors have responded with simplified offers using pre-configured software and templates. Consultants are delivering services that simplify processes and untangle the knots. Modern solutions use technology only as a means to deal with unavoidable complexity and to facilitate rapid transfer of information and assist decision-making.

So, what does the future hold?

In the increasingly networked supply chain that needs to be flexible and adaptable in volatile markets, which can't afford to discard legacy systems every five minutes, a rigorously thought out battle plan is essential. This includes the ability to plug and play new functionality, systems and processes as well as a strategy for continually improving the flexibility and responsiveness of the whole organisation.

Finally, having the right planning process at the heart of this adaptive supply chain is the key to ensuring success. The planning function acts like a conductor keeping the constituents of the supply chain orchestra in harmony. This can only be done with modern technology, good visibility and a deep commitment to managing (and rewarding) end to end performance, rather than functional excellence.

I Can't Keep It Simple Stupid

Throughout the years I’ve been engaged in operational excellence projects, one challenge has been a constant.  How do I reconcile my lean execution system with my computer support system?  Like oil and water, they struggle to mix.  

Here are some ideas that might help.

Lean zealots will insist you should do away with systems... They are an admission of failure.  In many ways, this is very true, but misses a fundamental truism.   Not all things can be made simple.  Cross-border, cross organization and cross language communications and structures; complex product options exacerbated by lumpy demand; the need for ever shortening response times; all add to a level of ‘irreducible complexity’    

Though I would even challenge the root-cause of these complexities, before I accepted them as being irreducible, (for instance lumpy demand is often self-inflicted via. promotions, month-end pushes and sales KPIs), my experience is that while you can minimize and militate against them, there always remains a core which needs support.

To get the best from improvements in this environment, demands a strange hybrid of systems savvy, lean thinking.   For a major electronics OEM, the compromise involved segmenting some of their ‘Runner’ products (highly predictable/stable demand) as a group managed outside the main MRP system using a kanban pull system.  Demand for lower level componentry and raw materials (which was common to other segments) is driven by a forecast based on the throughput rate of the lean pull system as well as dependant demand coming through MRP from other segments.   To handle the execution meant that common components were issued as line-side or pull stock to the lean segment (unplanned issue in ’MRP speak’) and through conventional MRP kit issues for the rest.   For some products, we also used a 2 bin replenishment process (both physically and within MRP’s ordering method) 
This might sound a little complex, but effectively you are taking as much as you can outside the system and then managing the rest with systems.  Aligning system parameters (MRP ordering method) to their (near) equivalent physical/lean (2bin/kanban) processes is possible and is greatly simplified in contemporary MRP systems with recent embellishments  such as non-MRP stocks, line-side stocks and support to pull systems.

The chemists among you will know that to make oil and water mix, you simply need to add soap.

In our case the soap is simply the following 3 simple rules; use lean techniques to simplify as far as is humanly possible; use systems to deal with the irreducible complexity;  and most importantly of all, apply lean thinking to the way you configure those systems to, "keep them simple stupid”.

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle Applies to Business Systems Projects Too!

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There has rarely been a better time for using IT systems for business management and measurement. Systems are sophisticated and flexible and modern hardware can eat through large data sets. However, having been a ‘victim’ of well intentioned but ultimately futile attempts with technology there are a number of key observations which need to be considered to improve any systems project.
The most important consideration is the premise of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (HUP) states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, can be simultaneously known. In other words, the more precisely one property is measured, the less precisely the other can be controlled, determined, or known.

It is identical with systems projects... the more precise you make the data collection (characterised by the various codes and hierarchies you deploy); the less chance the end user has of using the correct code. This therefore undermines the very precision you are trying to drive. If everyone books to a handful of codes, you can be pretty sure the figures are right. If there are hundreds, the total will be right, but the underlying breakdown will be largely fictional due to the inherent difficulty an individual has in picking the correct code.

Consequently when you are looking at this crucially important and topical subject you should think about the following;
Remember why you are doing this project and focus on the ‘critical few’ metrics that will make a genuine difference to your business;
Keep the number of codes that users have to navigate to an absolute minimum. Accept the loss of discrimination for the increase in precision;
Make the key measures visible... use classic lean management systems, short interval controls and other visible management techniques so that the output becomes central to operational improvements;
For the limited number of codes you do use, look at ways of ‘error proofing’ data entry through both systems (Validation rules) and user (Crib sheets) approaches;
Start simple... most over-engineered systems are spawned by people ‘theorising’ at what is needed. You should design the end-state, but get a simple practical solution working first; then look at how to make it better. At some point you will discover where the boundary is between more detail and less precision.
The HUP is fundamental to the invention and performance of so many modern inventions from the phone to the computer, from GPS to laser printing. Perhaps its application in business systems deployment can be equally profound.

Ian Batey


Ian Batey has spent over 40 years in various line roles in manufacturing, IT and management consulting.  He has advised at both management and board level  across the globe and been responsible for dozens of successful operational improvement and IT implementations.

View my profile on LinkedIn

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