Stefan calls himself “an extroverted mathematician with a chronic passion for supply chain.” His areas of expertise include demand forecasting, inventory optimization, production planning and scheduling, S&OP / IBP, supply chain planning, and strategic network design. This interview originally appeared in the Summer 2017 Issue of Foresight (Issue No. 46).
Stefan, tell us about Wahupa.com.
Wahupa is a young company founded by myself and three others with extensive experience in supply chain management and enterprise-software development. We have lived the good, the bad, and the ugly, and hope to elevate supply-chain management. No truly groundbreaking innovations have occurred in at least 30 years, and we aim to change that.
Was it a long road, getting to Wahupa?
I started with advanced planning and scheduling (APS) at FYGIR Logistic Information Systems. When they were acquired by SCT Software, I relocated from the Netherlands to the new headquarters in Malvern, Pennsylvania and became product manager for the planning portfolio, which included a demand planning application, also recently acquired from a company called APSI, now Demand Works.
Then our division was acquired by what is now INFOR, and I left to become independent and to design new planning concepts that would overcome the flaws I saw in APS software. However, I quickly discovered that attracting developers capable of building this was nearly impossible. I kept looking while I continued with consulting and software design in forecasting, planning, and scheduling. It was only a decade later that I found my three Wahupa cofounders, all enterprise-software developers, and we commenced work on the software.
But when money ran out, I looked for another job. Serendipitously, in my hometown of Boston, I found Tools Group, the only company that already had a commercial probabilistic forecasting and inventory optimization system. It was a natural fit. A few years later, my wife’s job relocated us—first to San Diego, then to Atlanta, and there I began to split my time between Tools Group and Wahupa, which was reinvigorated with an investment and subsequent hiring of full-time employees.
What were your main issues with forecasting and planning software?
I felt that this type of software needed to be probabilistic, to remove/reduce the bullwhip effect, encompass the entire supply-chain planning domain, and still be easy to implement and integrate into other systems.
The supply-chain space is slow to adopt innovations. In forecasting, for example, we are predominantly using variations on half-century-old approaches. So much more is possible with our current computing power, but we must get out of our comfort zones to utilize it. We need to discard flawed, outdated paradigms, and search for better ways to be more efficient, effective, and competitive.
So how do you see the future of planning and forecasting?
With ever-increasing computing power, I predict we will continue to see increases in automation and a growing role for systems as enablers of more sophisticated methodologies.
I am excited to see all of the great interest in machine learning, but am worried that we are applying all this power to overly simplistic models of supply chains. While rife with uncertainty, our supply-chain forecasts are exact and pretty much invalid by the time we finish creating them. We are forcing a square peg into a round hole. The future will truly start once our models become probabilistic, and we begin applying all that power to embrace the natural uncertainty.
What do you do to relax?
I try to spend as much time as possible with my family. With an old house on a large property, there’s never a shortage of things to fix or build. Constructing a tree house with the kids works wonders on unscrambling my brain. I also like to read (news, fiction, math, and domain literature) and write blog articles (www.linkedin.com/in/wahupa).