Posted on Leave a comment

Supply Chain Analysis – What’s the risk? – Madu Iyer

Just laying on the beach getting tan…

In this episode, we talk to Madu Iyer, a Supply Chain Analyst at a multi-national hardware and tool corporation. We are talking about demand planning and forecasting, what can go wrong, and who ends up on the hook. Madu found her way to manufacturing by accident and is now a firm believer that anyone can find a position within a factory company that offers new challenges, community, and opportunities for advancement. Let’s hear what she has experienced in her 8 years at her job.

Listen to the Podcast:

Click here to get free downloads from the podcasts

Show Notes

EPISODE TITLE: Supply Chain Analysis – What’s the risk? – Madu Iyer


In this episode, we get insight into a highly topical subject, supply chains. We talk with Madu Iyer, an Analyst, and Demand Forecaster for one of the largest tool, lock, and hardware manufacturers in the world. She talks about how manufacturing has been very good as a career choice even though she did not initially intend to work there. We discuss the risks of demand forecasting, why robots won’t be the answer for everything, and how she got her MBA for free. All very topical and we dive deep into it.

“So we make pop rivets tools, like all the different kinds. We also customize it for different businesses. So I think what really fascinates me is how you can even make a screw that can go into your phone, that you use every day, or the parts that go into the car you drive every day, and how manufacturing is integrated into our daily life that you don’t see it.” – Madu Iyer

“You only see the end product, a little. You know how many of these tiny parts that go into it, to make it, and to think that I’m somewhat, contributing to the end product, kind of fascinates me.” – Madu Iyer

About the Company : ( Confidential per terms of interview)

About our Guest Madu Iyer: 

Madu studied Computer Science Engineering at VTU, and received her MBA from the Uconn School of Business in 2019. She got involved with software and programming, eventually applying to work at her current employer after helping them install the software she currently uses. Madu is Currently the Lead Supply Chain Analyst at a well-known multi-national manufacturer of hardware, tools, and security devices. Their name shall remain secret, for now.

Madu possesses a keen analytical mind and is responsible for forecasting parts and materials requirements based on macro & micro-economic data, global conditions, and other weighty factors.  Who knew Supply Chain forecasting had moved into the 22nd century and we are no longer just looking at our “Work In Progress” and outstanding unfilled orders as a proxy for how much raw material to purchase?

We are pleased to have someone with her experience and perspective spending time in the Factory of the Future®.


Madu Iyer – Demand Forcaster

[00:00:00] Mitch: So welcome back to the Factory of the Future® podcast. And today with me, I have a special guest Madu Iyer who is a Demand Planner Forecaster for all of North America for the corporation that she works for. And we’re going to talk a little bit about that as well as her origin story and other exciting things about manufacturing.

[00:00:21] Mitch: Welcome. Madu how are you today? 

[00:00:23] Madu: I’m really doing great. I’m really excited to be here and to be in your podcast. Thank you for having me. 

[00:00:28] Mitch: Thanks. Can you talk to our listeners about how you got into manufacturing? Because I know a lot of people don’t think of manufacturing, having to do anything with planning or demand or sort of the front office back office. They think if you have a manufacturing job, Sitting at a tool machine and you’re spinning metal or something. 

[00:00:49] Madu: Yeah. That’s the impression I had. So I have a software engineering background and I started with the company as a program, Analyst, I was specializing in this particular software that helped to forecast for our manufacturing business.

[00:01:08] Madu: So I was helping the business to implement the software. So I got to know ins and outs of the software, all the functions, and the features. So I was working on it and I started gravitating toward this. I was curious about this tool, and how it helps businesses. So I got into the supply chain side of it and I gravitated towards that.

[00:01:31] Madu: And when an opportunity presented for a demand planner, I was interested in it because I knew the tool so well. Having confidence that I could gain the business, and acquire the business acumen, I was able to get into the supply chain demand plan. 

[00:01:46] Mitch: That’s a great story. You pick the right place to be and you develop your skills and then you were moved into another whole situation and become the quote expert.

[00:01:56] Madu: So like you had mentioned, I work in a plant where we have factory workers, and union workers, but I do have a desk in front of me. And like you said, it’s kinda mind-blowing how, I didn’t think about it, that you could have an IT or computer-related job, yeah. 

[00:02:15] Mitch: What is it about manufacturing that you like, or if it’s more, more broadly that’s too broad then what is it about demand forecasting that? 

[00:02:24] Madu: So our company specializes in global tools and storage, security and industrials. So we have all the business units under our wing and I focus mostly on the industrials.

[00:02:37] Madu: So we make like pop, rivets tools, like all the different types. We also customize it for different businesses. So I think what really fascinates me is how you can even make a screw that can go into your phone, that you use every day, to the parts that go into the car that you drive every day, and how it’s integrated into our daily life that you don’t see it.

[00:02:59] Madu: You only see the end product, but a little. You know how many tiny parts that go into it to make it and that, and to think that I’m somewhat, contributing to the end product kind of fascinates me. 

[00:03:13] Mitch: You’re making sure the parts from part A, get to part B at the right time and got enough parts and how many parts they should make.

[00:03:21] Mitch: It’s huge!

[00:03:22] Madu: Correct. The process that starts from the beginning to the end is mind blowing process, a lot goes into it. 

[00:03:30] Mitch: What is it about the forecasting that you like? 

[00:03:33] Madu: I’m also interested in like economics and, watching the market and stuff. So I think to predict an accurate forecast for industrial, it’s a bit more challenging because there’s not a lot of data out there compared to the automotive industry where there’s all this market research group to see how many models you, you can make and you don’t have that kind of data to work with when it comes to industrial.

[00:03:56] Madu: So it’s a bit more challenging and I love challenges. And for my personality, if it fits my personality better that, rather than just working in it behind a laptop or a desk, because it allows me to work with different areas of people at work. So for example, I have to work with product managers to see,, if they’re running any promotions, and I have to adjust my forecast based on that after working with a sales and commercials team to see. You know what input they’re getting from the customer and that I can feed into my forecast. So it’s not just looking at all the past three histories, how we have done and generating the forecast, but you’re working and collaborating with all these different teams. And then you gather all this. Feed into the system, because if the system does a pretty good job, it runs different algorithms.

[00:04:45] Madu: So there’s like more math involved. It picks up the forecast with the least error. So that also fascinates me, but it’s not intelligent enough to gather all this information. So it allows me an opportunity to work with all these different groups of people. And I’m a very outgoing person. So I enjoy doing that.

[00:05:05] Mitch: That’s really cool. I like that, all this technology. Cause I imagine back in the day it was probably all done on paper and probably a lot more phone calls. But there’s still, I think what I’m trying to get at is a lot of people think about technology as replacing humans, but the more people I interviewed for this podcast, the more I realized no.

[00:05:28] Mitch: I have to learn the technology to help the technology, right? 

[00:05:32] Madu: Yeah. You have to make the system, more intelligent when you feed all this information. So we, you definitely need manual integration, you can’t, you’re not going to take away that human part of it. But it’s just to me, More intelligent and customized.

[00:05:49] Madu: It is where the, and trust me, even today, people still want to use Excel end of the day. They don’t want to use a fancy one. So it takes a mindset and, to get them up to speed, to be on board as technology advances. 

[00:06:06] Mitch: It’s interesting. Cause somebody else I talked to about maintenance in industrial plants said when you’re acquiring a new technology to help you do this.

[00:06:16] Mitch: The most important thing is to know what data you want. 

[00:06:22] Madu: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I think garbage in, garbage out. So if you’re feeling all bad data, then you’re gonna get that forecast. Even looking back at history, something might have gone wrong. That’s why we had zero forecasts that month. That doesn’t mean we are going to sell zero.

[00:06:39] Madu: So you have to go in, manipulate and tweak those massage, the data to give you a better. Accurate information.

[00:06:47] Mitch: So it’s almost like solving a mystery sometimes. 

[00:06:50] Madu: Yeah. Yeah. So you’d have seen some trend that was down like two years ago and you’re trying to figure out, oh my God. Oh, that’s why it happened.

[00:06:58] Madu: And then how can we correct it to make sure it doesn’t repeat it? You’re trying to learn from the mistakes that humans make errors and trying to perfect as much as we can.  

[00:07:09] Mitch: So for people who. I understand how a factory works in its detailed way. Can you explain to the listeners how what you do affects what happens down on the shop floor with the machines?

[00:07:23] Madu: Correct. So what I get is from the system, how much we have sold in the past month, it’s like rolling data. So I know how much this specific part has been sold. I can go back five years and look at that information, taking what the system is telling me how much to make and working with all these, different people like operations, commercial team, and product managers.

[00:07:52] Madu: After I feed into it, I come up with the best number possible, and then whatever the numbers that I predict Go to the plan. Now I handed it to them. Okay. You guys have to make these parts, now they’re going to look into who are the suppliers, what is the lead time? How much stock do you have on hand and how much do we need?

[00:08:13] Madu: So based on that map, that goes into it, based on the safety stock on hand inventory level, then. And how much time it’s going to take for them to make it and how much time it’s going to take them to ship to the customer. What time is the customer wanted?

[00:08:31] Madu: And then basically people at the plant, I get the orders and then they go and make those parts and packaging ships out the doors. So there are a lot of people, and I’m only a tiny part of that process. 

[00:08:49] Mitch: Like the first part, just about, I’ve got other people that salespeople, but they’re like, oh Madu, how many should we make?

[00:08:57] Mitch: And she says let me think about it. 

[00:08:59] Madu: You told us to make that much. So I had to be really careful and cognitive. 

[00:09:05] Mitch: So shifting gears a little bit you’re definitely involved with a lot of technology and stuff. And the buzzword in manufacturing these days is industry 4.0 or the industrial internet of things.

[00:09:18] Mitch: And I wanted to get your thoughts as someone who’s, sort of on the software side, but probably sees interfaces and software programs, pulling data from all these places. What are your thoughts on, is it good that we have all this technology? Is it neutral? Is it maybe a risk? That kind of thing.

[00:09:35] Mitch: What are your thoughts? Industrial Internet of Things. 

[00:09:39] Madu: Yeah. I think definitely, at least I can speak for my company, that our future, I see as a smart factory where we’re trying to bring in all this audit trying to automate and have robotics in the plants. And I don’t think it’s going to go away.

[00:09:55] Madu: Or take away the jobs we have, as the company is continually expanding and to adapt and to cater to that level of Capacity, we need that kind of automated support. So for example, the plan to have these tiny screws, I’d have to please it’s like strips and we just got this major auto show order of, like 250 million parts.

[00:10:20] Madu: So in a month, how can you allocate all the resources to go? And just place strips one by one. That is a lot of human time. So you know how to cater in a comedy that kind of capacity. We need to have robotics and automation as much as we can. And I definitely see smart two years, a future of our industry for sure.

[00:10:45] Mitch: Yeah, and I think that’s an awesome point. I never thought of that in terms of the sheer number of things that need to be made or have a demand to be made may not actually be possible to have a person make, a person for making everything, 

[00:11:02] Madu: Do you allocate all the resources to that one specific part because we have numerous customer parts on, and we need to keep going? And also was, for example, we have a plant down in Iowa and there’s always a need for more people like to work at the plant. There’s always a deficit and all the people that are currently there, they’re retiring, but you’re not able to replace them or, even so sometimes even we call back the retirees to come in Hey, can you like to train them?

[00:11:35] Madu: Can you like help us out? So I feel we can definitely use and take advantage of the automation. 

[00:11:43] Mitch: You’re like the best podcast guests you just led right into the next question one of the things we’re trying to address here on the podcast is the misconceptions or the perceptual misconceptions about what a factory is like today.

[00:11:58] Mitch: And because of those misperceptions, we now have a skills gap. Like you just said, we’ve got people that are retiring to have all the institutional knowledge. And we can’t even find people to come and take the jobs that are there. Correct. That’s perfect. Just what you said. And if you could maybe speak a little bit about what you would see someone would need to get into a job like yours, what kind of training or what would they want to do in order to make a pathway for themselves? 

[00:12:29] Madu: I think there’s no definite answer. Unfortunately. I think it’s based on what your interest is. I’ve seen people who are like global supply leaders. Who has started their work from working in a planned and because they have so much knowledge about, all the different parts they are so well integrated with.

[00:12:51] Madu: They work their way up to director levels, CFO level. And then there were people like me who came from a different channel that, eventually found their passion to supply chain and manufacturing and change their careers. So I feel like there’s no definite answer, okay. Do this and then you’re going to go to B, I think everyone can work their way. And like I said, manufacturing is not just working in a plant. There are so many different roles that, I think whatever your passion is, it has a place for you. 

[00:13:15] Mitch: Yeah. You have got a home in manufacturing. That’s great. I love that. Obviously, our listeners can probably tell that you are female. I’d like to know in the place that you work, what percentage of the workforce is, are women and what your experience has been there and how has it been as you’re also in the engineering teams, what’s your experience as a woman engineer?

[00:13:36] Madu: Yeah. So our company has like 60,000 employees worldwide. And I don’t think I can definitely say this percentage of women. What our company holds. What I notice is I think it depends on each department specifically, so I can see definitely more women in the HR department spread out in the finance.

[00:14:00] Madu: And then I think sales is mostly like a male dominant team, I would say. And then I think again when it comes to the plan when it comes to hardworking when you have to move carts off, all these parts, it’s nothing but men. But like in finance head, HR, I think I see a lot more. Women contribute to, and I think our company mainly focuses on diversity and inclusion, not only for gender but also for different races, and different cultural backgrounds.

[00:14:31] Madu: They always want to make sure they have a good diverse group to get the best benefit from a team because everyone thinks in a different way. And it’s good to have that diversity. 

[00:14:41] Mitch: Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you for answering that. So in general your experience has been favorable and, would you say that manufacturing is a good place for women to find work?

[00:14:59] Madu: Absolutely. There are so many roles, as you can imagine. Especially if you like I said, if you’re very outgoing and now you like working with people, then commercial team, that would be a great place for you where you’re, you had this great, you have to have this great relationship with a customer and making sure, you both communicate to have for the company’s growth.

[00:15:18] Madu: So that could be a place for you or not necessarily in the plan, but, or you could be a materials manager, making sure you order, you had good inventory whenever for the parts that we make. So there are a lot of roles that are available in manufacturing.

[00:15:39] Mitch: You said your shop is fairly automated. What do you think are the obstacles or limitations to the adoption of more technology and more automation in the place where you work? 

[00:15:53] Madu: So right now we have some challenges right now, specifically, watching the politics. I think the trial.

[00:16:01] Madu: The tariff of raid rice from like 10% to 25%. Wow. So that’s we are having some challenges because when we buy equipment so we buy from Asia thing to be more suppressed with China, like a generic one, and then we bring it here and customize it. So anytime there’s a transaction but I think are coming to a pretty good job in predicting.

[00:16:34] Mitch: Going forward, the macroeconomic scene is a big challenge. Is there anything institutionally like within the company that you think is holding people back from adopting more technology, either on the shop floor or in the office?

[00:16:49] Madu: I think people are doing a pretty good job getting on board so I can tell at the plant in the morning when they do the walk and do the reading it was mostly like very manual or Excel bays and printouts. And now they have dashboards that they can see. It’s like a taught screen, everything displays and moves.

[00:17:08] Madu: So I think people are adopting. You haven’t gotten that little push, but people do appreciate it when it makes their job easier. So definitely I think one of the challenges in my role is. Especially in industrial I think at the product line level, it’s easier to forecast because you’re going to use the same material to seem to meet that same product line.

[00:17:33] Madu: It could be a quarter inch as opposed to half a quarter inch. So to forecast and get it right at that detailed level at the skew level, that’s hard to, make it because sometimes the commercial seller would give them a discount. Or if you buy in bulk, we would give you X amount of percentage discount.

[00:17:53] Madu: They might need a hundred thousand parts throughout the year, but instead of buying 10,000 every year, they would just buy two bold orders. So how do I predict, okay, when are they going to make that purchase? To forecast at that level of detail, it’s a bit challenging. So we are looking into it and hope we can make progress.

[00:18:17] Mitch: This has been great. Are there any other things you want to pass along to either aspiring people entering the workforce or to other supply chain people or any particular audience that you feel particularly aligned with? 

[00:18:32] Madu: I would say whatever your passion, manufacturing, and factories have a place for you. You could be an engineer, you could be a design engineer for the parts. You could be in customer care service, or you could be even the finance because everything has to talk to each other in order for a plan to run better. What is your category aspiration as smashing has a place for you?

[00:18:58] Madu: So don’t get bogged down on one specific thing and don’t let that stop you. 

[00:19:04] Mitch: I just remembered one thing I wanted to bring up, you’ve been working there a while. And weren’t you able to go to school and get your MBA through your company? 

[00:19:15] Madu: Correct. Because I have an engineering background and am a demand planner, I have to work very closely with finance.

[00:19:23] Madu: So I expressed my interest and I wanted to go into and get a degree in finance. They were extremely supportive and a lot of Fortune biotech companies like, support you to get your master’s degree in this response to you. It’s a company corporate policy, and there was extremely flexible timing.

[00:19:42] Madu: And they wanted me to acquire because I was, they knew I was good with the technical side of it. And I had to work my way through to get that business acumen. So the MBA kind of helped me to get there along with the experiences and collaboration with the teams. 

[00:19:58] Mitch: So if you had to put up I’m sure you probably know what it would have cost you if you had to pay for your MBA yourself.

[00:20:06] Madu: Yeah. It would have been deep down in the student debt. And the beautiful thing about the part-time program is you can set this. Set a time limit. I can finish in two years or I can finish it in five years. You can do it at your own pace. Yeah, them contributing some amount of dollars every year really helped me to get through it without having to take a loan.

[00:20:33] Mitch: So just to summarize. Madu got her MBA paid for by her company. She was able to do it part-time so she didn’t have to stop working as she continued to earn her salary. And now she’s got it. Which is a key to upper management and getting into that C-suite office. 

[00:20:53] Madu: I also have a full-time student in my program and I can feel, the stress because they are paying for all the expenses, living expenses, as well as the part from the school.

[00:21:05] Madu: And now, as soon as you finish the program, they have to go get a, find a job. So I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. 

[00:21:12] Mitch: Yeah. So again, manufacturing, it’s got extra benefits aside from, good pay and good work conditions now. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate you taking your time.

[00:21:24] Mitch: It’s been fabulous interviewing you. I think, like I said, the perfect podcast guest, you didn’t really know what to say, so thank you. 

Madu: Thank you for having me.

Mitch: And I thank you again for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contributed Content Disclaimer

The content and opinions expressed here are exclusively those of the author and do not necessarily represent Factory of the Future, LLC or its staff. Please see our Community GuidelinesHow to Advertise and Terms Agreement.

How to Advertise

There are 6 Free and 3 Paid ways to advertise on FactoryoftheFuture.Org. Please see: How to Advertise.

Advertising Disclaimer

Advertisements for products or services do not constitute an endorsement by, does not imply any partnership and we do not make any representation of these parties. Listing here does not constitute a warranty or guarantee of performance, durability or safety. It is the User’s responsibility to verify through samples, tests and inquiry to Advertisers that performance criteria are met. The information within these Advertisements is considered a member benefit and is provided as goodwill and correct to the best of Factory of the Future, LLC’s information, knowledge and belief.