HPC and Supply Chain Management

By Steve Conway

September 15, 2006

Is supply chain management poised to become an important new application for HPC? At the Council on Competitiveness’ annual HPC Users Conference on September 7, panelists from commercial powerhouses Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Pratt & Whitney and Clopay Plastic Products described their experiences.

Wikipedia defines supply chain management as “the process of planning, implementing and controlling the operations of the supply chain, with the purpose to satisfy customer requirements as efficiently as possible. Supply chain management spans all movement and storage of raw materials, work-in-process inventory and finished goods from point-of-origin to point-of-consumption.” In a nutshell, it means optimizing the flow of materials, information and money all the way from a company’s suppliers to its customers, including what happens within the company itself.

To explore this topic, the Council on Competitiveness assembled a high-profile panel for its third annual HPC Users Conference. Chaired by Microsoft Corporate Vice President Marshall Phelps, who’s been involved with the Council since it began 20 years ago, the panel included Gary Abyad, president of Clopay Plastic Products Company; Tom Lange, director of corporate R&D modeling and simulation for The Procter & Gamble Company; Dr. Jayant S. Sabnis, chief engineer for systems analysis & aerodynamics, Pratt & Whitney; and Nancy Stewart, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

David Shaw, chairman of The D. E. Shaw Group and co-chair of the Council’s HPC Advisory Committee, said the Council is especially interested in this topic because supply chain management is increasingly important for competitiveness and profitability. There are strong competitive pressures to obtain parts quickly for assembly and to deliver finished goods quickly to outlets. Supply chain management has strong potential for HPC because it involves a lot of communication and extensive interoperability of heterogeneous systems at different companies. The Council needs to understand what drives these companies.

While large companies are beginning to use HPC for supply chain management because of their enormous data management and data analysis challenges, no two situations are exactly alike.

Nancy Stewart said Wal-Mart supercenters stock about 500,000 products each, and suppliers compete fiercely for shelf space. Every day between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m., the company runs its models to determine what is selling well in each store, then “reformats” the stores and sends the information to the stores. From its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, Wal-Mart services all of its stores worldwide, right down to turning on the lights in the stores. Wal-Mart uses HPC not only for ergonomics like this, but for shelf space determinations, store planning and resource planning.

Stewart stressed that if you really understand your data, you can do predictive analysis. “Every day between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m., I have to do enough data mining and analysis to let Procter & Gamble and other suppliers know what to stock in our stores. We can’t spend a dollar of investment on HPC or anything unless we can see the ROI. That’s why we had to make the investment in HPC.”

The large companies on the panel also discussed the extent to which they expect their suppliers to use HPC, and whether they would be willing to teach the suppliers how to use this technology if they aren’t familiar with it. Most suppliers don’t use HPC yet.

According to Jayant Sabnis, Pratt & Whitney has long used HPC for the modeling and simulation of jet aircraft engines. This is because “building models on the computer is faster and lower-cost, and you can look at any level of detail. Analog models only tell you whether something will work or not, so digital models are the basis for innovation.”

Sabnis said Pratt & Whitney’s suppliers also do modeling and simulation to speed development and reduce costs for the parts they contribute to the company. If parts and other elements from the supply base don’t arrive on time or don’t meet requirements, this can create a major problem. Modeling and simulation are important enough to Pratt & Whitney’s bottom line that if suppliers are ready to use HPC, the company will reach out to help them. Pratt & Whitney builds the digital model and show suppliers what simulation is doing for the company.

“We pay a lot of attention to whether suppliers have the ability to use these tools,” Sabnis said. “Mistakes can be disastrous, so we take a lot of time determining whether suppliers can use these tools. There’s no point using HPC if you don’t understand the problem. If they don’t have the ability, we work with them.”

Wal-Mart doesn’t ask suppliers to use HPC, but is always looking for the lowest-cost, highest-quality products to satisfy the company’s large customer base. “That’s the value HPC brings to us and our customers,” Stewart said. “It’s an advantage if suppliers can link into Wal-Mart’s systems and perform their own analyses using Wal-Mart’s complex tables.”

Procter & Gamble is an important supplier to Wal-Mart and uses HPC and high-end visualization extensively itself, but does not require suppliers to use HPC and, unlike Pratt & Whitney, does not expect to teach them how to use it. But “if HPC can reduce inefficiencies on the supplier side, we strongly applaud it,” said Tom Lange.

In Procter & Gamble’s world, there are some important barriers to the use of HPC by suppliers. One is the cost of software licensing. Another is a generally lower level of engineering ability than among auto-industry suppliers. Related to this is a shortage of user-friendly middleware. ”Not enough people are producing higher-quality middleware to get this scientific stuff out into industry for things that are done every day. We need middleware to get some of the routine analysis automated, so non-experts in FEA and CFD can run it,” Lange explained.

Clopay Plastics Products was the smallest company represented on the panel, though hardly tiny (more than $1 billion in annual revenues). Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble are both customers for Clopay’s products. Gary Abyad said Clopay isn’t convinced yet of the value of HPC, and hasn’t learned how to use it. “We need to be introduced and led with user-friendly tools that can produce results. As a public company, we don’t have the luxury of investing for 10 years for a potential payoff. Wal-Mart and P&G demand new products every day. So HPC has not made it onto our radar screen yet.”

Abyad said Clopay faces enormous competitive pressures to reduce time and costs, but is not seeing rivals tout HPC yet as a competitive weapon. He thinks larger companies can mentor smaller firms like his in the use of HPC. “But there are competitive issues,” Abyad explained. “Using these tools provides a competitive advantage, so P&G would need to decide how this would affect their own competitive advantage. Industry associations could also help smaller firms.”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

CMU’s Latest “Card Shark” – Libratus – is Beating the Poker Pros (Again)

January 20, 2017

It’s starting to look like Carnegie Mellon University has a gambling problem – can’t stay away from the poker table. Read more…

By John Russell

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Jan. 19, 2017)

January 19, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN to Partner on ARM and Exascale

January 19, 2017

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN institute announced a multi-faceted five-year collaboration to advance HPC generally and prepare for exascale computing. Among the particulars are efforts to: build out the ARM ecosystem; work on code development and code sharing on the existing and future platforms; share expertise in specific application areas (material and seismic sciences for example); improve techniques for using numerical simulation with big data; and expand HPC workforce training. It seems to be a very full agenda. Read more…

By Nishi Katsuya and John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Remote Visualization: An Integral Technology for Upstream Oil & Gas

As the exploration and production (E&P) of natural resources evolves into an even more complex and vital task, visualization technology has become integral for the upstream oil and gas industry. Read more…

ARM Waving: Attention, Deployments, and Development

January 18, 2017

It’s been a heady two weeks for the ARM HPC advocacy camp. At this week’s Mont-Blanc Project meeting held at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, Cray announced plans to build an ARM-based supercomputer in the U.K. while Mont-Blanc selected Cavium’s ThunderX2 ARM chip for its third phase of development. Last week, France’s CEA and Japan’s Riken announced a deep collaboration aimed largely at fostering the ARM ecosystem. This activity follows a busy 2016 when SoftBank acquired ARM, OpenHPC announced ARM support, ARM released its SVE spec, Fujistu chose ARM for the post K machine, and ARM acquired HPC tool provider Allinea in December. Read more…

By John Russell

Women Coders from Russia, Italy, and Poland Top Study

January 17, 2017

According to a study posted on HackerRank today the best women coders as judged by performance on HackerRank challenges come from Russia, Italy, and Poland. Read more…

By John Russell

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Jan. 12, 2017)

January 12, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN to Partner on ARM and Exascale

January 19, 2017

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN institute announced a multi-faceted five-year collaboration to advance HPC generally and prepare for exascale computing. Among the particulars are efforts to: build out the ARM ecosystem; work on code development and code sharing on the existing and future platforms; share expertise in specific application areas (material and seismic sciences for example); improve techniques for using numerical simulation with big data; and expand HPC workforce training. It seems to be a very full agenda. Read more…

By Nishi Katsuya and John Russell

ARM Waving: Attention, Deployments, and Development

January 18, 2017

It’s been a heady two weeks for the ARM HPC advocacy camp. At this week’s Mont-Blanc Project meeting held at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, Cray announced plans to build an ARM-based supercomputer in the U.K. while Mont-Blanc selected Cavium’s ThunderX2 ARM chip for its third phase of development. Last week, France’s CEA and Japan’s Riken announced a deep collaboration aimed largely at fostering the ARM ecosystem. This activity follows a busy 2016 when SoftBank acquired ARM, OpenHPC announced ARM support, ARM released its SVE spec, Fujistu chose ARM for the post K machine, and ARM acquired HPC tool provider Allinea in December. Read more…

By John Russell

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

UberCloud Cites Progress in HPC Cloud Computing

January 10, 2017

200 HPC cloud experiments, 80 case studies, and a ton of hands-on experience gained, that’s the harvest of four years of UberCloud HPC Experiments. Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Burak Yenier

A Conversation with Women in HPC Director Toni Collis

January 6, 2017

In this SC16 video interview, HPCwire Managing Editor Tiffany Trader sits down with Toni Collis, the director and founder of the Women in HPC (WHPC) network, to discuss the strides made since the organization’s debut in 2014. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This