Shaking up supply chains: LLamasoft Inc.

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Don_HicksLLamasoft Inc. has redefined the scope of supply chain software.In the past, modeling solutions for supply chain networks looked only at cost optimization. Yet by integrating multiple engines into a single platform, LLamasoft has factored in other variables, such as customer service, sustainability and risk — which enables it to analyze extremely complicated situations and predict the effect of change. “Granted, this made for a longer development path,” says CEO Don Hicks. “Yet we didn’t want to just sell a tool; we wanted to help customers solve complex problems.”

Founded in 1998, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company released its flagship product in 2003. By the end of 2013 LLamasoft was generating more than $25 million in revenue with a staff of 160 employees, and it forecasts continued strong growth with the launch of a new product that moves it into the business intelligence and big data space.

Although LLamasoft maintains a low profile in Ann Arbor, it has built a global presence with offices in Bogota, Colombia; Cape Town, South Africa; Shanghai, China; and Towcester, England. Case in point, in China LLamasoft is helping Mongolia’s largest dairy make better production and distribution decisions. And in Brazil, it’s working with AB Imbev to improve the beer giant’s distribution network for the 2014 World’s Cup.

In addition, LLamasoft’s diverse clientele includes aerospace, automotive, electronic and pharmaceutical companies. It also serves public health customers, including many in Africa. In 2012, for example, LLamasoft developed software to help the Tanzanian government route its medical-supply trucks more accurately and reduce transportation costs.

“We’re solving complicated logistical problems,” Hicks says. “Our customers are making goods and getting them where they need to be in order for people to use them. It’s a huge part of the economy, and the better job we do, the more we can increase standards of living around the world. That’s our mission — to impact what’s going on in the world.”

Although LLamasoft has developed ground-breaking technology, Hicks attributes much of his company’s success to a culture of ownership — where employees step up to the plate without hesitation and take responsibility for things beyond their job descriptions. “Our mantra is: Let me help you with that, and if I can’t help, I’ll find someone who can,” Hicks explains. “It’s an attitude that makes all the difference with customers — and it’s an attitude you need to have internally as well.”

In second stage, protecting that culture has become even more critical. “At a certain point, company culture really is your most important asset,” Hicks explains. “Technological advantage is a never-ending struggle. Theoretically, someone could show up tomorrow with some radical computing breakthrough and wipe out our advantage, but I’m confident we could survive and win because we have a culture that can embrace change and competition.”

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Second-Stage Rockstars

Because second-stage entrepreneurs are so focused on their businesses, their contributions often go unnoticed by the media, policymakers, economic developers and community stakeholders. With that in mind, celebrating growth entrepreneurs and communicating their value is part of the foundation’s entrepreneurship mission, which it carries out in a variety of ways.

Among these is Second-Stage Rockstars, a series of online articles that examines the ongoing impact of second-stage companies. These stories chronicle not only second-stagers’ economic growth, but also how they may be transforming their industry, creating empowering workplaces or excelling as corporate citizens. Below are some recent Rockstars; others can be found in our archives.