Ultriva: Escalting Manufacturing Output through Lean

Narayan Laksham, Founder & CEO Narayan Laksham, Founder and CEO of Ultriva, is adept at two things: pattern recognition in a multidimensional space and simplifying complex problems. In 1999 and 2000, as he walked through manufacturing floors across different industry segments and attended kaizen events around the world, he quickly saw a pattern of issues ailing the plant floors—excess inventory, non-standard production schedules, and lack of collaboration. Being an outsider with 20 years of experience in databases, CAD/ CAM systems, application infrastructure, and development tools, Laksham sought to bring a fresh perspective into manufacturing. He applied lean principles to supply chain processes and developed a solution that triumphs over the traditional Material Requirements Planning (MRP) syste ms and delivers more value.


Thinking outside the box is not just a phrase with Ultriva


Enter Ultriva—a company that is taking Kanban and lean manufacturing methodologies to the next level by systemizing them into a software and extending lean beyond the four walls of an organization. “Thinking outside the box is not just a phrase with Ultriva,” beams Laksham. Under his leadership, the company utilized ‘collaborative Kanban,’ to develop lean manufacturing and end to end pull supply chain solutions. In this quickly growing $10 billion supply chain industry, Ultriva rises above the rest by focusing on the execution side of things, directly impacting the shop floor performance and effectively complementing existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems which are primarily forecast driven. Ultriva dwells in the demand-driven replenishment arena. “We enable companies to transition from a forecast-driven business model to a demanddriven manufacturing model,” remarks Laksham.

Today, Ultriva’s solutions fit right into the manufacturing landscape. Gone are the days when inventory reduction was viewed as an ROI to sell software worth thousands of dollars. “Reduction of inventory has become a necessity and not an option in order to survive,” expresses Laksham. Given the change of perspective, companies are looking at tools that systemize and sustain the discipline to improve inventory turns. The focus has shifted from inventory reduction to right sizing the inventory, in conjunction with the move away from typical MRP driven material replenishment, which depends on forecasts or planned demand. In the wake of these developments, Ultriva promotes a consumption driven replenishment methodology, which ultimately means—producing exactly what the customer wants and not what the forecast says.

Walking away from the legacy model alone is not sufficient. Today, most of the departments related to supply chain—planning, purchasing, procurement, material management, and shop floor scheduling—act as silos.
Each of them has different and often conflicting goals. Ultriva presents one version of truth across all these departments, while providing material movement visibility and actionable information. “Gaining visibility to where the material is, on a real-time basis, is an extremely critical piece of the supply chain puzzle and we can help you with that,” assures Laksham. Being a cloud-based solution, any user with correct privileges can log in and gain access to real-time information, to make the right decision. This comes in very handy especially in the current scenario where CIOs are steadily adopting cloud technologies and are looking to collaborate beyond the four walls of business by integrating with their global suppliers, distribution centers, and customers.

Furthermore, there is an ongoing trend around the companies’ growing interest in better managing their customers. The focus, Laksham notes, “has shifted from raw material availability to finished goods management.”

With a number of companies in the supply chain arena still focusing on the supply side, Ultriva is “uniquely positioned with its Customer Demand Portal, which revolves around the demand side,” he continues. The Demand Portal enables collaboration between manufacturing plants and the customer tiers such as distributors, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), and end customers. Every day, hundreds of manufacturers and suppliers see stock-out alerts, gain clear visibility to their customer’s on-hand inventory, and have a better understanding of material availability at each distribution center—courtesy of Ultriva’s Demand and Supply Portals.

On an interesting note, Ultriva’s unique supply chain loop driven architecture mimics the physical flow of materials, wherein the entire supply chain is constructed as series of interconnected loops. Such architecture enables Ultriva to easily identify a company’s biggest pain point and then migrate upstream or downstream. The built-in methodology calculates the usage, loop size, safety stock, and variability of consumption and significantly reduces the bullwhip effect across the supply chain. “Ultriva provides a continuous improvement platform for manufacturing companies to start from wherever they are to a true demand-pull environment,” states the polyglot Laksham.

The forecast driven DNA that is present in the ERP and MRP systems of major players like Oracle and SAP is very different from the “lean” DNA of Ultriva. In fact, its nature is quite the opposite. In essence, it is not simple for the competition to achieve something similar to Ultriva—create a sustainable solution and retain customers.

This is evident from the fact that a number of Oracle, SAP, Infor, and Cincom customers have now acquired the services of Ultriva, citing several shortcomings of their previous systems. “Lean methodologies can complement MRP, but MRP cannot replace lean,” emphasizes Laksham. Paying keen attention to this, Ultriva built their infrastructure so that it handshakes well with existing ERP applications, which act as system of records, while Ultriva takes care of “all things execution.”

Headquartered in the beautiful city of Cupertino, CA, Ultriva claims to have an astonishing customer retention rate of 98 percent in the last 10 years. With Laksham at the helm, the company has brought many multi-billion dollar enterprises sub-one year ROI gains and has consistently helped customers to go live in less than 12 weeks.
On one such occasion, a Global Biotech/Pharmaceutical Leader (GBPL) that is an intravenous drug manufacturing division of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies had no means of tracking and controlling its sterile equipment inventory across the production, cleaning and restocking loop, resulting in ramifications. GBPL then chose Ultriva’s cloud-based Lean Factory Management (LFM) solution, which helped them gain control of its inventory by establishing a series of interconnected consumption-driven material replenishment loops between manufacturing usage and supply locations. “The entire application is automated through tablet devices on movable stations,” affirms Laksham. Furthermore, a barcode labeling process was implemented, which sent a pull-based replenishment signal to material coordinators indicating them to replenish unsterile equipment with sterile units every time the barcoded equipment is scanned by the production. “Within 60 days of deploying Ultriva, GBPL’s manufacturing services team improved on-time delivery rates from 62 percent to 82 percent, while eliminating stock-outs,” claims Laksham. With Ultriva, GBPL continues to make strides towards improving on-time delivery and employee productivity.

Ultriva improves service levels on both sides of the supply chain. Suppliers increase their performance through collaboration, real-time information, and superior visibility and manufacturers improve their retention rate by right sizing the inventory and reducing lead times through the implementation of pull methodologies. In a similar vein, when a world leader in the commercial vehicle market was on the lookout for a “lean” solution that would increase inventory control and visibility, while engaging the suppliers—they turned to Ultriva’s Collaborative Supply Portal (CSP) and Electronic Kanban. Not only did Ultriva provide the client with full inventory visibility, its web-based platform also gave easy accessibility to the company and its suppliers. At the end of the day, Ultriva’s CSP featuring eKanban enabled the client to view and track inventory at every phase—the supplier, in transit, the receiving dock, and on to the customer. This real-time information allowed them to adjust inventory and run the most efficient lean material flow, providing customers with on-time delivery. The company recouped its investment in the Ultriva platform within just six months, and within one year, it realized a 28 percent gain in inventory turns and a 43 percent reduction in overall inventory.

While the normal ERP systems allow interdepartmental workflows within a single organization, Ultriva on the other hand has been focusing on providing solutions where the process spills over to other business organizations. “So, we built supplier portal for purchasing, followed up with a portal for customers and also expanded the modules to support Request For Quotation (RFQ), Non-Conformity/Corrective Action process that spreads across suppliers, manufacturers, and customers,” recalls Laksham empathically. The company’s solutions are built on a very powerful infrastructure, which includes isolation layers, transactional workflow engine, mutli-language support, rules engine and business objects for superior security. “Adding new business process in Ultriva is very simple and therefore we focus on customer driven software development,” he adds. Moving forward, Ultriva is bent on enhancing its product features and improving processes that involve cross business workflows. The company’s CEO is also determined to retain manufacturing in the U.S. “Manufacturing should be where the market is,” he emphasizes. “Using our software we have shown how companies can cost effectively build a local supply chain.”

Company
Ultriva

Headquarters
Cupertino, CA

Management
Narayan Laksham, Founder & CEO

Description
Provides cloud-based solutions that enable companies to streamline their supply chain to drive growth and profitability.