The Importance of Controlled Speed

June 24th, 2016
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supply chain

Last week I was in New Zealand, and I went on a wild ride on the Dart River (see below). We went at 100 kph with just 4 inches of water. It was a thrilling ride with amazing scenery in the background, and it got me thinking about the critical importance of speed in today’s workplace. EVERY single one of my clients must grow, improve service levels, reduce lead time, maximize margins, and improve efficiencies — YESTERDAY. Speed of results is of the essence. It has been the focus of my clients since the recession (as cash was the focus during the recession) — in today’s Amazon-impacted workplace, speed will make or break success.

However, if you are going at 100 kph in an uncontrolled fashion, you will end up smashed directly into a boulder in the Dart River. In business, it is no different — you must maintain CONTROL while moving rapidly or success will not follow. This is one of the tenets of my proprietary process for driving supply chain performance TST. Having speed and torque with no traction leads to spinning your wheels. It is often the reason I’m called into a client.

speed

 

One tip to implement this week:

I’ve found the first step is to understand and create urgency around your priorities. Most likely you are doing a task because you want to serve a customer as almost everything we do at work can be traced back to serving customers; no matter the task — if you don’t think what you are doing ties to a customer, contact me. I bet we can tie it to a customer or drop it from your priority list. These customer-centric tasks are critical. This doesn’t mean you have to serve customers blindly but to serve them well while achieving a win-win profit and business growth requires you to work with controlled speed.

Start by finding the why behind your tasks this week. If there isn’t a compelling why, remove the item from your list. Focus only on those with an important why. Explain the why to your team or your manager. Create urgency. Think about the last service you received that not only provided great service but was speedy — wouldn’t you like to repeat that for your customers?

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”

 



Success or Failure? Collaboration Is Key to Success

June 23rd, 2016
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collaboration

Meeting the demands of today’s Amazon-impacted world requires meaningful collaboration within your organization and with supply chain partners.

collaboration

Meeting the demands of today’s Amazon-impacted world requires meaningful collaboration within your organization and with supply chain partners.

How important is collaboration to project success? Several years ago, it was important but not critical; however, within the last 5-10 years, it has become a cornerstone to success.

In today’s Amazon-impacted world, customers have higher expectations of rapid turnaround, 24/7 accessibility, and increased levels of service. These expectations drive complexity. Additionally, we are in a global economy. Executives are hard-pressed to find a product sourced solely from the country of origin. Most likely, at a minimum, your suppliers’ supplier will be from another country. On the customer side, typically, those who export grow sales more rapidly than those who don’t. The bottom line is that we are more interconnected than ever before; thus, collaboration is critical to success.

Although external collaborators are what we typically think of in a global, Amazon-impacted world, it is often just as important if not more important to consider your internal collaborators. Does your sales team talk with production? Does R&D talk with marketing? Does your Ohio location talk with your California location? Often times, different sites within the same country can be more collaboration-challenged than when coordinating with sites in other countries. How often have we heard the challenges in collaborating across the U.S. yet we seem to be able to coordinate across borders? Quite frequently! It is as if we are speaking a different language even though it might be the culture of the south vs. the hustle of New York or the laid-back nature of California.

No matter whether we are collaborating across functions, sites or countries, these keys to success will give you an advantage:

  1. Provide background– Instead of jumping into a conversation and assuming your internal or external partner knows about the initiative, take the time to provide background information. Make sure they are comfortable with the topic and understand what you want to accomplish, why it is important, etc. If you are on the receiving end, make sure to ask questions. Starting on the same page makes all the difference in the world.
  2. Take a breath– This tip relates just as much to collaboration as it does to everyday communication. Do not run on for several minutes on a tangent without pausing to see if your audience is following along. Don’t assume the lack of questions is good news. Ask for confirmation that you are answering their questions and whether what you are saying makes sense.
  3. Build a framework together– For what reason are you collaborating? Most likely you are working on an initiative together or need help or advice from the other person. Either way, build the framework together. Thus, if you are putting together a project plan, make sure to put it together with a give-and-take perspective. Suggest a place to start. Ask the other person where you should go next. Trade off consistently if you need a way to force yourself to remember to ensure fairness. If you have become more expert at collaboration, mix it up. Start with the first few tasks, if you are strong in those areas, and defer to the other person for the areas they are strong in. Build upon each other’s strengths.
  4. Compare resources– Another way to collaborate is to compare resources. For example, if you are rolling out a product, you could have internal and external resources involved in the project. Compare the resources of different team members vs. your objectives. Most likely, each person will be more successful supplying inputs and resources to the areas of the project within their capabilities and resources. It seems quite obvious; however, it can often be an overlooked key to success. In the new product rollout, the engineering group is likely to have access to resources to optimize the production process whereas the logistics group will have more resources available to optimizing packaging. Match up resources with project plans.
  5. Share successes– Sharing in successes and creating opportunities for quick wins encourages collaboration. It is always a good idea to look for opportunities where you can turn 1 + 1 into 22 instead of 2. Collaboration will achieve 22!

Collaborating has emerged as vital to success for any project or major initiative. We must communicate internally among departments, facilities, and levels of the organization. That alone can put most companies over the edge. However, in today’s Amazon-impacted, global environment, we must collaborate externally as well. Customers, suppliers, supply chain partners and other business partners such as trusted advisors must come together and collaborate with a clear, shared objective to achieve dramatic business results.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

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Plan the Work; Work the Plan

June 21st, 2016
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from planning to execution

Oftentimes we spend countless hours planning a project with details, responsibilities and timelines, only to forget to work the plan. Once a plan is done, refocus your energy to execution.

 

from planning to execution

Oftentimes we spend countless hours planning a project with details, responsibilities and timelines, only to forget to work the plan. Once a plan is done, refocus your energy to execution.

 

We were reminded of this favorite client project and success story related to work processes recently as we were talking with a new GM at a key client about ways to improve service levels rapidly. It reminded us to pay attention to what “works”.

So many clients try complicated and convoluted programs, thinking it is required for success, but it isn’t! Why go down that rabbit hole when simplicity can achieve rapid, bottom line results?!

This particular favorite project made the list due to its simplicity and quick results in the face of quite a bit of doubt and several previous failed attempts to resolve along the way. Who doesn’t love a great underdog story?

In this case, there was one area within the manufacturing process that held up the vast majority of the customer orders. The bottleneck was obvious; thus, identifying it wasn’t the issue! Unfortunately, solving it proved elusive. What worked was simplicity — plan the work; work the plan. Not rocket science but it reduced 80% of the past due within 2 months’ time in a long lead-time, aerospace industry manufacturer.

As with every success, it wouldn’t have occurred if the GM hadn’t supported the plan and made the priority clear. Once the plan and production schedule was communicated, the sole focus was to prepare for and execute the plan. Thus, instead of not having the right skills available at the right time, we knew we’d run into this issue ahead of time, and we proactively resolved it.

And the next 100 items like this fell by the wayside as well. Manager’s attention was redirected to this bottleneck. If the team needed help, the management team would jump to action. Soon, the bottleneck freed up and orders started shipping. Eventually our #1 customer went from being “off the charts” in negative territory to regaining bronze level status. I personally remember this as one of my favorite accomplishments as getting these long-term numbers up consistently over many months to bring the status level up was a TALL order — and great to see!

Are you so far into the weeds that you miss these sorts of obvious solutions? It is easy to do. Instead, take a step back, simplify, execute & succeed.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

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Lean or No Lean, a Demand Plan is a MUST

June 16th, 2016
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demand plan

Demand planning delivers such useful information on client demand that even Lean devotees will find data on longer-term forecasts, seasonal products and trending patterns useful.

 

demand plan

Demand planning delivers such useful information on client demand that even Lean devotees will find data on longer-term forecasts, seasonal products and trending patterns useful.

 

Whether you are on the Lean journey or not, you need a demand plan! Prior to forming LMA Consulting Group, I was a VP of Operations and Supply Chain for a mid-market manufacturer. Our Board hired a lean consultant who insisted we had to be purists – there is no in-between. If we were to embrace lean (and, who wouldn’t want to be lean, after all?), there are some lean purists who say “no need for a demand plan”. Somehow, this is what was adopted as gospel at my company; however, it was NOT accurate — assuming you wanted to service customers. From this frustrating experience along with several others in working with clients, it is apparent that the demand plan is not dead!

If we take it back to the basics, I have to wonder why anyone would ever think they didn’t need a demand plan. In essence, it is like saying you don’t need to know what you’re likely to sell, use, and transfer to other facilities.  Why wouldn’t we want to understand this information? Well, the lean purists would say kanbans are connected directly to customer demand and pulls it through. Certainly that is a successful way of planning in many organizations and for “A” products especially those with those with relatively even demand.  However, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want a good feel for your demand. It is always helpful to provide longer-term forecasts to suppliers and to use internally for staffing, skills building, etc.

And, when it comes to B and C items, seasonal items and other trending patterns, understanding the demand plan isn’t a “nice-to-have”; it is critical to success. We estimate that at least 80% of our clients can gain significant bottom line results from focusing a bit more attention on the demand plan.  If you are interested in discussing further, contact us.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your supply chain:

 

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Unique New Zealand Style Cooperation

June 15th, 2016
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IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459

This past week, I’ve been in New Zealand, following my strategy/mentor advisory meeting in Sydney and a few tours in Australia. Our first stop was Christchurch. It was devastated by an earthquake in 2011 with buildings crumbling everywhere — apparently, they hadn’t built Christchurch with earthquakes in mind originally (although they certainly are rebuilding it that way now). Thus, it was almost a complete loss in the city center.

Not to be held down, New Zealanders thought of an innovative plan to build a mall from shipping containers to keep the city center going, and it became so popular that it still exists today. Here is a picture of the mall:

innovative idea

And, I thought this mural (in the mall) was a great depiction of how New Zealanders cooperate. Several of the sentiments on the mural and especially “Creativity is maximized when you are living in the moment” was exemplified with the creation of the mall. I love many of these!

creativity mural

One tip to implement this week:

Are you creative and cooperative? It might come in quite handy when trying to solve a “work problem” you’ve had for quite a while (or even think of an innovative new approach) if you emptied your mind to see what new ideas came to you. And if you could collaborate and brainstorm on those ideas, I bet you’d have an even better chance at coming up with good ones — and implementing them. After all, most of my clients have the ideas but need the assistance to confirm, prioritize them and to “get them done”.

Take a break or lunch this week and just empty your mind. Give yourself the opportunity to think creatively, and you might find that you have new ideas. Perhaps you can then use another sentiment from the mural and “do one thing a day that scares you” — it could be believing in your idea enough to run it by your colleagues, customers, Board of Directors and the like.

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”