The Future of Manufacturing Is Bright: Harvey Mudd Takes 1st Place in Global Student Case Competition

November 15th, 2019

As President of APICS Inland Empire, one of my favorite activities is encouraging students. We encourage students from all of our local universities to participate in plant tours, symposiums and student case competitions to learn about manufacturing and supply chain, as well as to expand their professional network. Our Board of Directors has been proud over the years to see multiple teams from Cal State San Bernardino, Cal Poly Pomona and Harvey Mudd win regional competitions to compete in the Association for Supply Chain Management International Student Case Competition. And this year, our student team from Harvey Mudd College took home the gold!

Harvey Mudd placed first, followed by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Case Western University. As an audience member during their presentation to the Board of Directors of the case study company, I can assuredly say that my clients would be thrilled to hear this sort of presentation to their Board and it gives us high hopes for the future of manufacturing. There are no limits with students of this caliber! And, as a former co-leader of a highly successful Western region student case competition, I can definitely say a big thank you goes to their academic advisor, Kash Gokli as well as mentors and exemplars that have aided their progress along the way.

Harvey Mudd College facilitates students’ involvement with manufacturing companies as a part of their Clinic program so that students walk away with practical, hands-on knowledge and the company walks away with bottom line results. Another Harvey Mudd team won the Manufacturing Council of the Inland Empire‘s Innovation By Students Award earlier this year for working with manufacturing company, Laguna Clay, to improve processes and drive performance improvement in their manufacturing process. Gone are the days when top notch students think in theory.  Instead, practical manufacturing work experience is the norm and we have many top notch engineers going into manufacturing again!

Additionally, I would be remiss not to recognize that earlier this year another student team from Cal Poly Pomona won the regional competition for the Global Student Challenge and went to the Netherlands to compete in the global competition. There is no doubt that if we provide the tools and education, the future leaders of manufacturing will achieve goals we can’t even imagine at this juncture.

What are you doing to support our future leaders and to encourage the pairing of fresh ideas with solid experience? When paired successfully, it is an unbeatable combination with both the new employee and the tenured employee gaining new ideas and excitement from the process. Take a step back and think about how to make 1 + 1 = 64. And, please refer your friends and colleagues to our APICS Inland Empire chapter as there are numerous opportunities for student involvement and growth.

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Blockchain, IoT, AI, Big Data. Will Anything Stick?

November 11th, 2019

Client Question
Should I really invest time and resources into technologies I don’t know will pay back?

For example, there is a lot of conversation about the value (or lack thereof) of blockchain, IoT, AI and more. This concern continues to arise and is on every executive’s mind. They do not want to be left in the dust “holding the bag” (old and slow) while their competitors race by. On the other hand, they do not want to dump all sorts of money into technology that might not prove effective in their industry. And, in some cases, what they could invest would be a drop in the bucket. It would be like trying to refill the Pacific Ocean with a pail. Remember that fabulous song by Harry Belafonte “There’s a Hole in the Bucket“?

My colleague Diane Garcia and I set out to find the latest answer to this question at the Association for Supply Chain Management International Conference. There were several panels and presentations on each of these topics, along with several exhibitors talking about the latest and greatest technology integrations.

The Answer
Undoubtedly, there is a lot of noise about these technologies. According to Gartner, AI augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion in business value and recover $6.2 billion hours of work productivity. So, it is easy to see why AI is gaining investment with the large companies and with leaders of large organizations.

I love this quote from Harvard Business Review, “Over the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t.” That about sums it up! We need to at least be aware so that we can make good decisions when it comes to these technologies.

As it relates to AI, according to McKinsey Quarterly, across all functions, respondents report that the most significant benefits come from adopting AI in manufacturing! Coming in second is risk with supply chain management just behind in third place. So, if you are in manufacturing, you cannot afford not to at least consider the opportunities. Do you need to do this on your own? NO! We are seeing small companies come together to share resources and invest jointly to drive scale with results (and so they can compete with the large companies). There are also groups that facilitate this type of collaboration. At the most digitized companies, the adoption of AI capabilities is greater including machine learning, virtual agents, robotic process automation, computer vision and more.

According to Forrester, 90% plan greater investments in data and according to MIT Sloan, 85% view AI as a strategic priority. These two technologies cross over and seem to have the upper hand with the most immediately applicable technology.

With that said, there were even more sessions about blockchain and whether it was hype or hope. The bottom line on blockchain is that it is a real opportunity for certain industries such as the food industry (related to food safety).  It is still in early stages and will require a consortium of companies to come together to bring to reality.

According to a leader from FedEx, whether big or small, no one company will be successful on its own. Yet all the “big guys” are interested and participating. Stay tuned to see where it goes. Last but not least, IoT is integrated into many conversations about big data, AI, autonomous vehicles and more because it connects technologies. In manufacturing, IoT is connecting machines and data for predictive maintenance and the possibilities abound.

The bottom line: pay attention but resist exploring technology in isolation. Learn to collaborate.

Food For Thought
As much as these technologies should be on your radar, don’t get carried away and forget your fundamentals.

Do you have a scalable ERP system to support your business growth and profitability? If not, start there!

Do you have reporting and business intelligence systems so that you can slice and dice information to make instantaneous, informed decisions as key customer questions or business opportunities arise? If not, start there!

How about a simple CRM solution? Certainly in the Amazon Effect era, we must pay attention to customers.

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The Often Overlooked Value of Reverse Logistics

November 7th, 2019

While recently at the Association for Supply Chain Management International Conference, I attended a session related to reverse logistics that contained several ideas for how to achieve significant savings and customer value through reverse logistics.

What I thought was even more compelling were examples of innovative ideas that a friend of a colleague discussed that will provide superior customer service AND a significant margin improvement with a common sense idea gained by collaborating with her team. It again proves that results go to those who take the time to listen, observe and collaborate to test new ideas.

One example related to shipping boxes: This aerospace manufacturer received complaints from their customer that they didn’t want hefty shipping boxes as they had to dispose of them. However, there are legal and security requirements that had to be addressed.  So, a creative solution was required.

A team brainstormed ideas and developed a way for the customs officials to look inside the crate without breaking into the crate and created a way to return and reuse the crates also saving the customer disposal costs. Collaboration was a key theme as the supplier, customer and internal team were involved. As this top notch manager commented, there are countless numbers of these types of opportunities out there if we just listen, observe and collaborate.

When is the last time you have visited your shipping operation to ask for common sense ideas that can achieve a dramatic return on investment? Even more importantly, the team feels a part of an important success.

Turning to the e-commerce world, according to a presentation by the Reverse Logistics Association, returns are 25-35% for on-line sales vs. 8-9% in stores. What a dramatic difference! And, of course, handling these returns is inefficient. Traditional labeling is the limiting factor in achieving higher throughputs. Have you thought about your labeling recently? Who knew it could become a differentiator!

When looking at reverse logistics related to food, collaboration was again a key theme. Costa Farms resolved cart and rack issues with both the customer and supplier by moving to consolidated rack return. The idea of collaborating across supply chains is just gaining momentum. For example, as a part of the consortium for logistics success in the Inland Southern California, we are collaborating with Georgia Tech. They are bringing collaboration of strange bedfellows across Southern CA to the table as a way to create a win-win-win for each company involved as well as the environment and more. Stay tuned for the latest trends and ideas emerging from this supply chain consortium over the next few years.

Perhaps the common theme is to pay attention to collaboration opportunities and reverse logistics. There can be a significant hidden opportunity in this topic.

Why not focus attention and see what can be achieved with some common sense and collaboration?

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Taos & Unplugging from Technologhy

November 4th, 2019

I went with my mom and aunt to visit my aunt (mom’s best friend) and her sister in New Mexico. First, it is interesting all of the things we assume and take for granted as a frequent traveler (a note for another day!).

Next, we drove to Taos, New Mexico for two nights. It is an interesting mountain art town with one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the U.S. (the Pueblo). Although this Native American tribe of Puebloan people have members who live with modern amenities outside of the Pueblo, there are several families still living there without water and electricity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our way to the Pueblo, our phones went out because the cell tower went down. Since almost everyone used Verizon or services that went through Verizon, we were out of touch with the world.  And, service finally came back up (hotel included) the next day. It is amazing the number of items we use our cell phones to look up (symptoms of altitude sickness for one of my aunts, a decent place for lunch, directions to the Pueblo, a call to my mom’s other sister to see how a procedure went and a call to a client)! Odd timing perhaps that we were left on our own devices (except for my mom’s “old person phone” that my brother gave her which worked on T-mobile from time to time) as we visited an ancient pueblo. I had to text by clicking multiple times on numbers to try to reach my cousin and client. What a great story… you couldn’t plan this if you tried!

Have you thought about unplugging?

One Tip to Implement This Week:
Although I do not wish to lose technology again anytime soon, it certainly makes you think and prioritize who you are going to text (as it might take at least 20 times longer), what you need to know and how else you might find the answer and more. I barely recall when I first started working and would pull over to use a pay phone to return a call from my beeper to the plant about what to do about a scheduling issue. Can you imagine?!

Losing technology makes you think, observe and prioritize. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to prioritize how we spend our time anyway? At the airport in Albuquerque on the way home, I sat at the bar with my laptop (as it was the only place that had a plug), and the guy next to me was complaining about a couple who sat near us who apparently had been staring at their phones and not talking the entire time he was there. Have we forgotten how to talk? I can definitely say that our clients experience communication challenges from time to time. Actually, don’t we all? Perhaps we should practice more often!

Why not put technology aside for a few hours and observe and listen? You might experience an entirely different situation than you ever have before!

 

 



Celebrating Manufacturing Day & Its Impact

October 30th, 2019

In our Manufacturing month Profit through People newsletter, we discussed the relevance of manufacturing on the economy, jobs and quality of life. For example, for every $1 spent in manufacturing, $1.82 is added to the economy which is the HIGHEST multiplier effect of any economic sector. Read our feature article to gain many other compelling statistics.

October is Manufacturing Month.  Specifically ,Oct 4th is Manufacturing Day. And, we are ready to celebrate our significant success. After all, for an industry the general public thought was dead and outsourced to China, it is far from dead. In fact, manufacturing in the U.S. would be the 8th largest economy in the world!

There are many manufacturing events occurring during October. Take a look at a few of the options and consider how you can participate:

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
What is the impact of Manufacturing Month?

We could make the difference in not only our economy and quality of life but also on future leaders!
How can you participate in Manufacturing Day? Read through any one of the opportunities listed above. Or, why not start an event of your own? APICS Inland Empire teamed up with the University of LaVerne to offer production and inventory management education to high school students recently. These small steps can transform lives!

We are interested in what you decide to do. Send us feedback, pictures and ideas for continuing to spread the word on manufacturing. Manufacturing is a critical aspect in creating a resilient supply chain and so we thought we’d share a myriad of articles about manufacturing and supply chain to increase your success on our blog.