First Solar is a maker of solar photovoltaic modules for power plants in the field. Sulfaro says the company was out to "challenge the norm" in defining its supply-chain processes. The exercise focused in particular on its supplier-collaboration efforts.
The company had been struggling to integrate suppliers with its planning activities. It needed to give them full visibility into its forecast, along with inventory on hand and open orders. “We challenged the norm in the sense that we are moving now at a completely different pace,” he says.
Suppliers might be based in North America, Asia and Europe. Collaboration, says Sulfaro, needs to take place on a global basis. First Solar has achieved that objective through centralization, deploying the RapidResponse application from Kinaxis for demand planning.
The tool provides visibility into specific orders, part numbers, quantities and dates. “Everybody is on the same page with the forecast number,” says Sulfaro. “Now we have the mechanisms to agree to a specific forecast.”
Benefits include complete, on-time fulfillment without excess inventory, Sulfaro says. Previously, First Solar suffered from excess and unutilized inventory, as well as shortages. RapidResponse has allowed the company virtually to eliminate the need for safety stock, he says.
The company has also been able to eliminate the use of spreadsheets that weren’t immediately visible to all partners, Sulfaro says.
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