What is a moonshot? In 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech to the U.S. Congress to present the goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth. The public was overwhelmingly against this plan — 58% of the American public were opposed to the concept! So why do it at all?
Fast forward to Sept. 12, 1962 (57 years ago today). President Kennedy, here in my hometown of Houston Texas, stood in the heat at Rice University and delivered an address to 40,000 people. This speech is remembered now, almost six decades later, because it presented a dream — and a compelling vision.
“We choose to go to the moon! We choose to go to the moon… We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”
And, of course, seven years later that vision became a reality with the first moon landing.
Similarly, here at AspenTech, we’re always focused on pushing the boundaries of what’s possible too, a recent example being our industry-leading Production Optimization solutions individually tailored for energy and chemicals. This is an exciting time for our Supply Chain Management suite, with many new V11 capabilities, in conjunction with existing Aspen solutions, being rolled out to enthusiastic customers. We are excited about these new capabilities — capabilities that are truly the first of their kind, capabilities that we describe as our “moonshot.”
Naturally, our meaning of the word differs a bit from the literal meaning coined in JFK’s 1962 speech. But more recently, Google popularized “moonshot” in the technology sense; their X Development division (formerly Google X) describes a moonshot as “a big problem, a radical solution and a breakthrough technology.”
It’s as good a definition as any, so let’s use this framework to share exactly what has us so excited about the new Supply Chain Management capabilities.
The Big Problem: Closing the Gap Between Planning and Execution
One consistent problem in any manufacturing environment is that plans don’t go according to plan. We live in a world of incredible complexity, and it’s not getting any better. The average manufacturing plant deals with many, many interrelated processes — hundreds of things that could potentially go wrong.
Overcoming this gap between plan and execution can seem as daunting as landing a person on the moon. Organizations regularly miss out on significant value by not closing this gap!
As George Baartmans, senior manager of global supply chain and analytics solutions at Hexion Inc., said, “We can do all the planning in the world we want, but if the scheduler isn’t scheduling to that plan, it doesn’t matter. Our money is made, to a large degree, when the scheduler executes to the plan and to what is most financially optimal for our company.”
The Radical Solution: Scalable, Sustainable Teams Alignment
In a manufacturing environment, every day is a battle of execution. When circumstances change, you need a process, a built-in ability to change priorities on a dime, to roll out those changes to your teams and to understand the implications of any changes.
Currently, this is done well in small silos, but it is typically hard to do it well over an entire manufacturing facility or over the breadth of a manufacturing network. Our radical solution provides the ability to align people and processes across an organization in a scalable, sustainable way.
Only through a scalable alignment solution can tremendous productivity improvements take hold — creating value and closing the gap between plan and execution.
Breakthrough Technology: Supply Chain and Operations Alignment Combined With Self-Healing Supply Chain Capabilities
AspenTech’s uniquely comprehensive solution set has allowed us to build a supply chain that is truly a breakthrough technology in the industries we serve. Let’s walk through two unrivaled capabilities.
The first, supply chain and operations alignment, is all about achieving your goals, or KPIs. Only through alignment of supply chain and operations, and real-time visibility into your production targets can you schedule your resources to their full potential.
Aspen Schedule Explorer allows for the important scalable, sustainable alignment and communication that is necessary to adapt to today’s ever-changing environment. With Goals vs. Actuals, live tracking of metrics ensures team accountability, while end-of-the-month analysis allows you to understand your performance in context and highlights root causes and necessary actions required to consistently achieve to targets. These two powerful features ensure every person, from plant manager to a new operator on the third shift, always has the information needed to make the correct decisions.
Breaking down operational silos, ensuring up-to-date information is available and fostering a collaborative environment is a powerful recipe to unleash team productivity!
The second key capability, the self-healing supply chain, ensures your representation of reality (i.e., transition times, cycle times, etc.) is as accurate as possible. With Smart Calibration, we can easily calibrate supply chain models to ensure they are in sync with demonstrated plant, equipment and process performance, aligning models and data in much the same way we align teams.
Another aspect of the self-healing supply chain is that it leverages the machine learning of Aspen Mtell in conjunction with the advanced optimization algorithms of Aspen Plant Scheduler. This provides the ability to absorb unexpected downtime with minimal disruption to manufacturing goals and customer commitments.
These capabilities combine to create a resilient supply chain, where powerful prescriptive and predictive analytics work in concert to provide unparalleled value.
So what does “moonshot” mean for AspenTech Supply Chain Management? It means something to strive for: a vision and a goal. Innovating and pushing boundaries have always been part of our DNA, and because of that we have consistently been able to unlock new levels of value creation through our advances in technology.
Today, we are doing things that were considered science fiction just a short time ago —just as the original moonshot seemed like fantasy when President Kennedy first presented it. I’m excited to see how far these capabilities will take our customers in the years to come!