2019 Predictions from Manufacturing & Logistics Executives

April 22nd, 2019

Economic volatility and uncertainty are the new normal. Instead of lamenting, manufacturers have a unique opportunity. There has never been a better time to stand out from the crowd with a superior customer experience amidst the chaos. 

Not only has the Amazon Effect driven customers to expect customized product and service offerings with rapid response – creating a greater demand for local manufacturing – it has also made innovation a cultural norm. There is a trend towards near-sourcing, vertical integration and agile strategies to proactively address these elevated expectations as well as to meet customers’ insatiable need for last minute changes.

With the rise of e-commerce, increasing transportation costs and global risks, sourcing experts are re-evaluating their global supply chains. Logistics is gaining in relevancy as transportation costs increase, sustainability efforts expand and managing inventory becomes a hot topic as accelerating cash flow becomes more relevant.

Drones, robotics, IOT, artificial Intelligence, big data predictive analytics and additive manufacturing are transforming entire industries while providing the tools to create a customer-centric, resilient supply chain. However, technology alone will achieve nothing. With a differentiated strategy and the right talent, the opportunities are endless. 

We asked business owners and executives for their predictions for 2019. From aerospace and defense to food and beverage to building products, the perspectives may be different, but the outcome is the same: Opportunity Abounds. 

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The Talent Transformation: People or Robots?

April 14th, 2019

automationNo matter the industry and geography, the topic of “People vs. Robots” is a hot topic!

Certainly, manufacturing has been focused on technology and automation for quite some time to navigate the path to thrive in the modern environment of high costs, regulations, and elevated customer demands.

The Manufacturing and Technology Expo in Pittsburgh is going back to the theme of the 1939 World’s Fair, “The World of Tomorrow”. The Manufacturing sector has seen positive job growth not seen in 79 years. As Industry Week says, “We don’t have smoking robots but we have ones that perform lung surgery.”

Our APICS Inland Empire Chapter is hosting an executive panel and networking symposium on just this topic, “The Talent Transformation: People or Robots?” on April 13th at Harvey Mudd. We have an intriguing panel of executives and experts to discuss automation, robots, IoT, AI and much more. How do we co-exist successfully? Join us to learn more and probe further.

In logistics circles, there is quite a bit of worry and opportunity. According to a University of Redlands study, most large metropolitan areas are subject to losing 55% of their current jobs due to automation. In Inland Southern CA, that number expands to 62%. However, it depends on your thought process. UPS automated a section of their facility that reduced the number of people they needed by 100 yet they ended up hiring as they absorbed additional volume. Additionally, it depends on whether you are furthering your education and skills. We find proactive employees and employers in our Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM)’s APICS certification classes who want to learn and grow.

For Inland Southern California, we have a particularly unique opportunity or challenge, depending on how you want to look at it. According to a Brookings study, we must focus on advancing the capabilities and competitiveness of local firms in opportunity-rich manufacturing and logistics industries. What an opportunity for us to leverage technology hand-in-hand with talent to THRIVE.

If you are interested in discussing whether your organization is prepared to leverage these opportunities and what priorities should emerge, contact us. We are experts and would love to see the U.S., California and the Inland Empire take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to enable scalable, profitable growth.

Find out how to navigate disruption and achieve peak performance.

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Have You Thought about Increasing Demand?

March 8th, 2019

If you are reading our newsletter, I have no doubt you are interested in increasing demand. Whether an owner, executive or key player, increasing demand for your products and services has to be top of mind. Let’s put it this way. No matter the position of my client (typically a CEO, Owner, CFO, General Manager or Board member), he/she is interested in increasing demand.  Consequently, the projects we work on are typically related to increasing demand, either directly or indirectly.

I was on a panel about increasing demand at the Anti-seminar Executive Luncheon. We had interesting discussions about demand from several diverse points-of-view. Thanks to Chase Photography, you can see them as a livestream on Facebook – video 1 and video 2 (about 60 minutes total). In thinking about how to increase demand, a few highlights include:

  1. Observe how your customer uses products and services –An often-overlooked gem is to follow Apple’s lead and observe how your customers are using your products and services and look for ways to enhance their experience. Have you taken a step back lately to look for areas where you can further help your customer?  Do you make working with your company onerous? That’s an obvious one yet commonplace. Imagine if you looked further!
  1. Do you provide a superior customer experience? If you ‘shopped’ your business, would you want to buy from it? Do your customers receive their products and services as ordered and in good quality/ condition? On-time? Quicker than the competition? Do you allow for easy returns? Hopefully you answered yes to each of these. We’ve found that this solely achieves a base level of customer service. Thus, the question becomes, “What are you doing to go over and beyond to make your customer compelled to return to you?”.
  1. Are you referable? First, people buy from people; not companies. Are you people referable? The #1 strategy to increase demand is referrals. No matter whether we are talking about a manufacturer, distributor, transportation partner or service organization, referrals can generate more business than any other method. Just as much as we enjoy buying the latest technology based on the referrals from our friends, the people working at companies also refer. When is the last time you attended an industry event or conferred with local CEOs? You better believe business gets done based on word of mouth.
  1. What can you take over for your customer? We have found that whether the industry is aerospace and defense, food and beverage, building products or healthcare products, there are opportunities to take over tasks for your customer. One common and prevalent one is to figure out what your customer needs at each of their branches/facilities and keep them replenished so that they have the ‘right’ inventory at the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time. We see this as gaining relevance.  Distributed inventory is becoming an essential element of the end-to-end supply chain plan as customers expect Amazon-like service and will find someone else if you cannot meet their needs.

When at PaperPak, we won supplier of the year for two years in a row with our #1 healthcare products customer because we implemented vendor managed inventory and were able to maximize their service levels while minimizing their inventory levels (cash tied up throughout their system). It didn’t hurt that we also grew the business by partnering further with them while reducing our costs and inventory levels as well. Have you thought about taking a request from a customer and turning it into increased demand for you?

Our most successful clients are thinking about these types of strategies to increase and manage demand. Why not spend a few minutes to listen to the expert panel and walk away with a few insights? If you’d like an expert to assess your situation to partner with you to achieve these types of results, contact us.

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The Value of Collaborating with Strange Bedfellows

February 19th, 2019

The topic of collaborating with strange bedfellows has recently come up repeatedly. There can be significant value and strategic advantage created in collaborating with unlikely partners if there are clear objectives, trust and an open mind. Just think about Amazon’s collaboration with the U.S. Postal service. Amazon is clearly famous for rapid, same-day, even Sunday deliveries whereas the U.S. postal service is definitely not known for agility and speed yet they understand and are proficient with the ‘last mile’.

Kash Gokli & I host the Harvey Mudd executive roundtables, and the topic of collaborating with competitors as well as unlikely partners arose in our recent roundtable. In the ‘right’ situation at the ‘right’ time, it can maximize service and value. Also, I am a Board member of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership and member of the Southern CA Logistics council, and this topic of collaboration has come up on multiple occasions. We recently led a collaboration session with 10 academic institutions. Of course, they all compete from several respects yet there are opportunities for 1+1+1 = 25. And this is just the beginning. When it is put together with collaborations with industry and government, perhaps 25 can turn into 100 or 1000. Last but not least, I met with UCR students last night to encourage their involvement in manufacturing and supply chain and invite their participation in APICS-IE. We had this exact conversation about collaborating with their competitors (Cal Poly Pomona, CSUSB etc.).

Are you exploring collaborations with strange bedfellows?

One tip to implement this week:
Perhaps it is as simple as opening your mind to new possibilities. Think about the person or entity you would most want to avoid joining your collaboration. What if you gave it a chance? For example, I remember a distinct time a few years ago when I was involved with a group. Someone in the group brought up a new member who would be the last person I’d want to join our group. I felt like I was collaborating with a diverse set of people, and we were making great progress. I just didn’t like this person. Although I didn’t say it, I cursed my bad luck on the way home because I just wasn’t excited about collaborating.

Fast-forward several months and it turned out that the new participant added unique value that probably would not have occurred otherwise. Although I still wouldn’t want to have dinner with this person outside of our work together, I’m glad I gave it a chance or I would have missed out on fantastic benefits and a learning opportunity. We have all been there, and sometimes we are right to be hesitant. Can you achieve a shared goal? Is trust possible as it relates to the objective? Assuming so, I vote for exploring the opportunity. Perhaps it is the next Amazon/ U.S. Postal Service collaboration.

Collaboration goes hand-in-hand with resilience. In today’s marketplace, there is no doubt the resilient will thrive. If your key supplier or customer is devastated by a natural disaster, power outage or unexpected shutdown or other disruptor, have you thought about collaborating with strange bedfellows to serve your customers? You cannot wait until the issue occurs! Creating a resilient end-to-end supply chain is of paramount importance.

For more information, check out our new resilient supply chain series and contact us if you’d like to have an assessment of your organization.



The Global Logistics Landscape

February 15th, 2019

In the past two weeks, I attended the CSCMP State of Logistics event, am preparing for the Future of Supply Chain & Logistics reception event as part of the leadership team and have debriefed with LMA Associate, Elizabeth Warren who attended the State of the L.A. Port and the State of Long Beach Port events. To summarize, I’ll borrow from the Port of L.A.: “Busier, safer, greener”.

Still number 1 and 2 in the U.S., the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach increased volume last year to 9.5 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) and 8.1 million TEUs respectively.  With the threat of tariffs, there was a surge of imports around the holidays, creating record-breaking days in both locations and the second busiest month in history at Long Beach.

Significant progress has been made in terms of air emissions. From 2005 to 2017, diesel particulate matter has decreased by 88%; nitrogen oxide has decreased by 56%; sulfur oxide decreased by 97%; and greenhouse gas by 18%. In terms of targets, there is a goal to reduce greenhouse gasses by 40% in 2030 and 80% in 2050. Certainly, California leads the way when it comes to green and sustainability.

Logistics is around 7.7% of GDP or $965 billion. It has increased around 20% since 2006 yet decreased as a percentage of GDP by 30%. In comparison to other countries, we are far lower with Japan the closest around 11% and China the furthest around 18%. E-commerce is increasing around 15% per year, and it carries high supply chain costs around 25-30% of e-commerce sales.

All modes of transportation were up (airfreight, rail, trucking)! With that said, trucking is 76% of transportation spend and is the 100 pound gorilla. Rates have been on the rise, capacity is tight and shippers have to be more proactive. There are lots of technologies being explored but no near-term, viable solutions to resolve the issues. Again, similar to the ports, there are countless conversations about sustainability.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

Global logistics is relevant to GDP and to every business that produces, distributes and sells products. Whether an aerospace manufacturer with multiple outside service steps all requiring transportation or Walmart, requiring a supply chain sourced both locally and from afar as well as grocery delivery on the customer side, without logistics, business will cease.

In today’s Amazon-impacted marketplace where quick turnaround, short lead times and frequent order changes are the norm, re-thinking your manufacturing and extended supply chain footprint is becoming a necessity. Whether re-evaluating make vs. buy decisions, re-configuring sales channel structures or revising inventory fulfillment practices, logistics is one component that can no longer be an afterthought.  

In our view, those clients with a resilient supply chain will thrive in this new normal business environment.

To learn more about how to create a resilient supply chain to navigate disruption and achieve peak performance, check out our new series or contact us for customized expertise.