Every day there are numerous supply chain decisions that depend on Alteryx to speed up and improve business outcomes. Manufacturers, distributors, logistics providers, and retailers apply Alteryx low/no code analytics automation tools to use cases ranging from demand forecasting to inventory and procurement optimization.
Casey Koopmans, a principal data scientist with Alteryx customer Amway, knows well the power of Analytics Automation to speed and improve supply chain decisions. Working in the Global Supply Chain Analytics organization, Casey has leveraged Alteryx to solve problems like safety stock optimization, where he modeled Amway’s supply chain with the goal of protecting service against typical supply and demand variability with a data driven inventory strategy.
In this INPUT Blog interview, Casey shares his journey to productivity with Alteryx and offers insight into how others can improve their adoption of Analytics Automation while scaling the value of these investments within the supply chain and beyond.
Casey, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your journey with Alteryx. Can we start by having you describe your role and how the team you work in aligns with others doing analytics work in support of the supply chain at Amway?
Sure thing Gib, my pleasure. I work as part of a global team with colleagues in Michigan, South Korea, and India that support our supply chain’s level 1 metrics – service, inventory, and disposals – metrics that are in constant tension with each other. We officially report up through the Planning organization, but since the supply chain includes Source, Make, Deliver, we often engage with colleagues and data in the Procurement, Demand Planning, Manufacturing, and Logistics spaces. At times we get involved with other areas such as Engineering and Supply Chain strategy as well.
How were the first use cases identified? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?
The first use cases at Amway were identified purely related to automating existing manual processes – connecting, cleansing, and prepping data. This freed up analysts’ time to go pursue more impactful analyses, doing things we had never done before, such as, at least in the supply chain space: modeling the supply chain to predict the impact of decisions (on service and inventory, or e-comm vs physical presence, for example), predicting future transit times to make sure our lead time parameters that drive the plan are tuned, or something such as using commodity forecasts to predict material spend/savings.
Looking back, I would have found Alteryx sooner! In all seriousness, I likely would have gotten more engaged in the Alteryx Community, carved out time for the Weekly Challenges, and learned more about some of the tool palettes I wasn’t aware of (yet) via the Alteryx Academy online and resources that are available within the software.
What other areas of Amway use Alteryx? Which was the first to adopt Alteryx? For new customers, what do you recommend they consider when prioritizing initial use case opportunities?
Many other areas at Amway use Alteryx, including all analytics teams under the broader supply chain umbrella, parts of IT, customer service, a team in engineering, and smaller pockets of folks in sales, finance, and marketing.
What’s your relationship with those in the business who depend on the results of your work? How is business value communicated and recognized by these stakeholders? For others just starting out, how do you recommend the C-suite be appraised of the value contribution of Analytics Automation?
Alteryx has allowed me to increase both speed to insight, depth of insight, and provide new insights that were not possible before. This has resulted in a growing partnership with the larger planning team and the supply chain organization as a whole. Sometimes this value is communicated in a more indirect way, in that they come with more questions based on the value of historical insights and awareness about the type of questions we can more readily dig into. Other times it is communicated via email or other means of explicit recognition.
As far as the C-suites go I think it important to educate those in one’s sphere of influence on the importance and value of such tools. It is important to highlight the direct business impact, creating a story they can share that will resonate with those in the C-suite on the huge value being driven by such an investment in technology.
In terms of training and gaining practical experience, how did you go about learning Alteryx? How do you maintain your expertise? How would you recommend others get up to speed quickly?
Shortly after becoming an Alteryx user, it became apparent to me that if there was something I thought it should be able to do … it probably could, and it was just a matter of me learning more to figure out how. And honestly, the learning curve isn’t that steep but requires curiosity and enjoyment, or “thrill”, of solving. This may sound a bit strange to new folks, but I honestly find joy and have fun using Alteryx, which leads me to poke around and learn new things just by exploring.
That said, I have found tremendous benefit in the Alteryx Academy and Learning Paths, solving the Weekly Challenges, searching for insights or asking new questions in the Alteryx Community, and getting and maintaining my Advanced Certification. I also learned a ton from colleagues who were willing to share their knowledge, tips, and tricks, as well as live training that we’ve had a couple of times internally. I also have found value in learning about other use cases via venues such as Inspire or various user groups.
How do you recommend others think about productivity benefits such as saving time, relative to the value of making decisions faster and better by incorporating new data sources and applying more advanced forms of analytics like predictions?
I hinted at this in my answer to question #2, as that is essentially what continuous improvement is all about. Alteryx enables efficiency gains in existing processes, freeing up resourcing to tap into some of the more powerful aspects of Alteryx in order to work on new, even more impactful things.
Final questions: What excites you about being an analytics professional and are there any trends you foresee in the supply chain that remain an untapped source of value for Analytics Automation?
Not to sound too cliché, it is the thrill of solving that excites me – new problems, new things to learn, new insights to glean all the time. Specifically, in the supply chain space, I think the pandemic-related supply chain issues we’ve all experience have exposed a lot of untapped areas for most companies. In the predictive space, there is much focus on the demand side – “How much are we going to sell?” There is a lot of untapped value related to predicting the supply side of the equation.
The direct benefit of this is to get the plan to more optimally perform and get the product in the hands of customers. Additionally – in situations like we’ve been in recently – this would help identify where the supply chain is falling down and becoming less efficient, and where resources should be directed to dig in further and ameliorate the issue.