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”?



Industry Week’s Salary Survey Finds Good Morale Yet Not Higher Wages

October 17th, 2018

According to Industry Week’s salary survey, almost 70% of respondents are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their current job yet salaries took a 6% dip since last year.   I wonder if the baby boomer retirement ramp up is impacting these numbers as the survey finds that the people with the most seniority make the most money.  

A few interesting statistics:
1) Not surprisingly, bigger companies pay more.
2) Medical devices pay the most, followed by chemicals and food & beverage. Apparel/textiles is at the bottom of the list.
3) VP Manufacturing/Production makes the highest salary ($187,100).

What’s Matters to the Workforce
Yet, the article made a point of saying that salary wasn’t most important to the respondents.  

In terms of what matters most in the job, the respondents said:
1) Challenging work.
2) Base salary.
3) Job stability.

How Employees See It
And, the overwhelming challenge faced in manufacturing by respondents goes back to the skills gap with #1 being the lack of skilled labor.  A distant second (tied) was the adoption of technology and leadership lacking. Lastly, foreign competition and governmental regulation were next. Do you know how your employees feel about their jobs?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Do these survey results surprise you?  We find that our clients largely seem to follow in line.  There haven’t been significant pay increases.  However, they are starting to lose top talent to the competition due to the intangibles (location, vacation etc.) as well as pay.  Thus, it’s important to watch the market carefully – is saving 3% worth losing one of your best employees? I doubt it!

Our clients definitely are experiencing the skills gap.  They are automating as quickly as possible to keep up with demand while also pursuing new strategies to gain employees (such as reducing degree requirements) and mentor, train and educate employees to promote with the needs of the business.  Only the proactive companies with excellent leaders (as everyone can “look up” their new potential boss and see what others’ think) will thrive!

What are you doing to stand out from the competition when it comes to talent?

 



U.S. Small Business Optimism Climbs to 2nd Highest on Record!

September 12th, 2018

A National Federation of Independent Business survey reported that U.S. small business optimism is close to a record high and is at the highest level in 35 years!  Fueled by tax cuts, deregulation and robust consumer demand, business owners are optimistic about the future.  As a result, unfilled job openings rose to a new record. Not only did 23% expect to create new openings in the next three months but 23% also cited finding qualified workers as the single most important business problem, nearing the highest in 45 years.  Are you appreciating your talent?

 

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Definitely, we should all look at our talent with a fresh set of eyes.  Before we think about hiring, the key question to answer is “are you appreciating the talent you already have?”.  Your competition will if you don’t. Perhaps go a step further – are you appreciating them as you want to be appreciated or as they want to be appreciated?  

For example, giving someone who wants opportunities to advance his career a small bonus might not be as nearly appreciated as putting thought into the ‘right’ project to further his career.  A single mother might prefer a bit of flexibility in her schedule vs. either of those perks. And there are a surprising number of people who would secretly prefer you to remove non-productive and poor attitude employees out of their way.  It can be the single best thing you can do to keep good people by weeding out the poor performers.

Next, consider whether you’d want to be hired by your company.  Are you working on progressive initiatives? Does it look like a dungeon or a place you are proud to arrive at each day?  Are collaboration and teamwork encouraged? Or is it a dog eat dog world? What does social media say about your company? And, most importantly, people work for people; not companies.  Are your leaders a good representation of your company? Would you work for them?

Would you work for you?