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 Strongest Link in Your Supply Chain

UGG Founder, the Amazon Effect in Healthcare & Why Demand is Key 



UGG Founder, the Amazon Effect in Healthcare & Why Demand is Key

February 8th, 2019

In listening to the UGG founder, Brian Smith talk through his trials and tribulations in developing the amazing UGG brand, a few themes emerged.

  1. Resilience in finding pivot points when obstacles emerged played a vital role in creating the UGG brand.  
  2. The benefit is what matters; not the product.
  3. Creating demand goes back to being a leader in the category when the market shifts.

What a great story!

Next, related to the demand theme, I spoke to the Professional Women in Healthcare (PWH) Orange County group about the Amazon Effect. As a former Executive of a healthcare manufacturer, it was fun to have an interactive discussion with these leaders. Interestingly, healthcare manufacturers and distributors are experiencing the same issues as aerospace, building products and food & beverage. How to keep up with demand (or preferably get ahead of it) while increasing profit and accelerating cash flow (not having a bunch of inventory tied up for no benefit) is the topic on everyone’s mind. Aligning demand and supply and related parties is the trick!

Demand emerges as a common theme. Therefore, I’d like to invite you to an executive lunch centered on the topic, “Increase Demand“. I am speaking on a panel of experts on driving demand in your business. Use early bird promo V25 for a 25% discount. Hope you’ll join us there.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Every client has a focus on demand. Typically, they are thinking about how to grow the business in a scalable, profitable way, which leads to a mountain of questions about forecasting and how to get in front of demand.

Interestingly, it ALL goes back to one place, the customer. Do you have a passion for your customers and creating a superior customer experience? If so, demand will grow. If not, it won’t. In watching countless organizations over the last 14 years in consulting, I’ve yet to see one that succeeded long-term without this essential ingredient. Have you?

If you have a passion for the customer as the CEO or General Manager, that is a great place to start. However, it is not enough. Your sales team is relevant but the most successful clients view the entire organization as the sales team with a passion for the customer. Ask a trusted colleague to visit your facility. They will be able to ‘feel’ whether there is a passion for the customer or not. Ask them.

If the most successful executives have a focus on demand, it is worth noting. Are you providing lip service to the customer or are you creating this view within your organization? There is also a tremendous amount of focus going into understanding demand with forecasting tools, analytics, artificial intelligence, and more. Do you have a clear path forward as it relates to demand? Of course, this topic also relates strongly to creating a resilient supply chain. Only the most successful companies predict and proactively engage customers to get ahead of demand.

To learn more about these strategies, check out our new series:



Holiday Sales are Expected to be UP by Double Digits in E-Commerce

December 17th, 2018

Black Friday has already gotten off to a strong start!  According to Coresight Research, holiday sales are expected to be up by 4% whereas e-commerce will be up 16%!   Target had a goal to hire more than 120,000 people for the holiday season which is a 20% increase. UPS planned to hire 100,000 which is up 5,000 from last year (maybe because they had to spent $125 million extra last year to fix delays because they were short staffed).  And FedEx planned to hire 55,000 additional seasonal workers which was a slight increase from last year (and they expect a record-breaking year).

Is your business seasonal?  What are you expecting? Is anyone in your supply chain focused on seasonal business?  Perhaps you should find out!

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Are you prepared for the holiday season?  I find this is somehow a common issue among clients.  The smartest of clients tend to miss holiday season trends.  For example, I worked with one client for several years and key workers took off during the holiday season for extended vacations every year.  Yet, it seemed to be a constant surprise when we struggled to keep up with demand.  Of course, our customer’s demand didn’t decrease, even in a non-holiday industry. Of course, clients focused on consumer products always struggle to predict holiday sales as you cannot start producing in December! When I worked with Coca-Cola Enterprises, employees only got Christmas day off because holidays were always BIG.  

Think beyond your company.  Given the statistics above, do you think your carriers might be a bit busy during the holiday season?  How about your suppliers that might supply other holiday-intensive industries? Your trusted advisors? No matter the supply chain partner, perhaps a heads up surrounding holiday activity and expectations would be a good idea. Holiday season volatility is another good example of why you should create a resilient supply chain to navigate disruption and achieve peak performance.

Check out our new video and article series as well as our soon-to-be offered Rapid Resilient Supply Chain Assessment service.



The Sheer Relevance & Impact of Transportation (A Billion Here, a Billion There)

November 24th, 2018

Recently, I attended Mobility 21, the Southern California transportation coalition, and it reminded me of the sheer relevance of transportation.  No manufacturer can operate without transportation: distributors are out of business without trucks dropping off and picking up, healthcare would stop functioning and our frequent Amazon orders would be a thing of the past.  In essence, everything would come to a grinding halt!     

Certainly, trucks are what we typically think about when it comes to transportation.  They account for $722 billion in freight flows with Canada and Mexico, for example. Whereas rail still accounts for $174 billion (not pocket change).  The ports are our gateway to the rest of the world (and the Los Angeles ports alone bring in 40% of the U.S. volume). Air carries an impressive number of packages especially with the rise of e-commerce. UPS and FedEx are expanding at amazing rates, especially at Ontario airport, the hub of e-commerce activity.  For example, during the 2017 peak season, this region of UPS alone processed 13.1 million packages!

At Mobility 21, there were some interesting statistics throw out:

  • AAA has 60,000 service calls per day
  • Transportation has a $700 billion dollar economic impact on Southern California and accounts for 1/3 of the jobs in Southern CA!  
  • 350 billion miles each year are driven in California
  • The number of trucks is expected to go from 1.8 trillion to 3.9+ trillion by 2045
  • And the list goes on….

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
At a minimum, why not take a step back to think about your transportation network?  What does it look like? How do you receive materials and products? Do you use the ports?  Air? Rail? Undoubtedly, you use trucks! How expansive is your network? Are there many players involved?  Since it could cause your operations to cease, it makes sense to find out!

Next, think about what you’d like your transportation network to deliver.  Do your customers expect rapid deliveries and “above and beyond” service? If so, who is your partner in ensuring this occurs?  

Your transportation partners are your last face to your customer. And, in today’s marketplace, there is a significant demand and challenges your transportation partners must navigate.  If you plan to be successful, you must stay on top of your transportation network and partners. Are you attractive to them? Perhaps we better think about that further….



The Resilient Supply Chain: Does Supplier Negotiation Work?

October 29th, 2018

In today’s Amazonian environment, it is quite clear that the customer’s experience is #1.  It doesn’t matter what issues you have.  If you cannot make sure that your product or service is delivered on-time with a value-add at a reasonable price, you will lose the business.  

The Squeeze
In talking with a group of aerospace CEOs who are being squeezed between the Tier 1/2 suppliers (those who supply Boeing and Airbus with plane ready parts) and their suppliers who are metals suppliers (mills/metals service centers) and outside processors, it is a tough position to hold!  However, just as Mirna Elnar, CEO of Acrua Spas said in our supply chain resiliency video series, there is always a solution when you think innovation.

The Win-Win
In this example, many of the suggested solutions from executives and procurement resources alike were to find opportunities to redesign/improve the product and process to achieve a “win” for the Tier 1/2 suppliers (improved manufacturability with better efficiencies and/or less scrap, less materials while maintaining specs/ performance, having the “right” inventory in the “right” place at the “right” time etc.) while also achieving a “win” for the CEO (better margins/ better cash flow) and ideally a “win” for their suppliers (more predictable demand, etc.).  A win-win-win is achievable if you look hard enough.

A Dose of Reality
This relates to a situation I found myself in while VP of Operations & Supply Chain for a mid-market manufacturer.  We found private-equity backers and were able to make cash flow by the “skin of our teeth”. We even were able to convince suppliers to take a haircut.  So far, so good. Then, oil and gas prices rose which impacted 70% of our material cost which impacted 70% of overall cost. NOT good. Also, we found that our product lines were all mixed up (which ones cost less to produce vs. the sales price for various customer segments) because we had recently merged three companies into one.  Also NOT good.

Our customers were a bit angry about service issues that arose when we cut over to a new system and merged the three businesses into one.  Also NOT good. And the largest segment of the business hadn’t updated products in years because they planned to sell and were desperate need of an upgrade to grow sales.  A fact but also NOT good. Lastly, our product is light but fluffy (which makes it larger in size) which carries a high transportation cost. NOT good either. But we had good suppliers and an innovative and committed team.  GOOD! So, how did we turn this into a “win-win-win”?

We decided to kick off a redesign project to find a way to straighten out the product tiers, improve performance of the product, reduce the cost of the product and reduce the freight cost associated with the product to boot.  A bit of a tall order? Yes, but a challenge as well!

We were successful in achieving ALL of these objectives by turning supplier negotiation on its head.  Instead of demanding price concessions, we partnered, provided upfront information on our objectives (including cost reduction objectives), collaborated on the design of new/improved materials, redesigned products and packaging, collaborated with customers to make sure we aligned with their needs and priorities, collaborated with equipment suppliers to put it all together and turned supplier negotiation into customer collaboration. 

The Result? We achieved a win for our customers, our business (and therefore our private-equity backers) as well as our suppliers.  There are too many people to thank but a quick shout out to Bill Weber, Keith White and Rick Finlayson seems appropriate.

Are you stuck in thinking about cost concessions or are you looking for the “win-win-win”?