Let’s Manage Inventory for Our Customers

May 16th, 2019

inventory managementAmazon is propelling this age-old topic into a new realm. Since the CEO of the Ontario Airport Authority used the phrase “last mile” has become “last minute” on a panel I facilitated last year, I have shamelessly reapplied his brillant quote.

If customers don’t even know what they want, how can we? Interestingly, we have found that many customers, even the seemingly most confused and  volatile ones, have a pattern to their demand. If we take a holistic view of their demand and inventory planning processes from beginning to end and from high level to the minute detail, solutions emerge.     

One strategy that has proven quite effective is to “remove the middleman”, the customer himself. Instead, with access to demand information direct from the customers’ customer or end user, you can not only manage the extended supply chain inventory better for a happier customer but you also can improve margins, efficiencies and cash flow to boot.

In consumer products circles, this strategy often termed, vendor managed inventory is usually dictated by the “big guys”.  In aerospace, it is also expected but termed differently, customer based ordering, min max and other names. It is also common in healthcare as we won “supplier of the year” for two years in a row because of what we accomplished with VMI for Cardinal Healthcare when I was VP of Operations at PaperPak. We decided to make it a strategy for key customers at PaperPak, even though Cardinal is the only one who requested it. Should you consider a strategy like this to get ahead of your customers’ demand?  It is just another aspect in creating a resilient supply chain. Check out our series on the topic.

 

 



We Are All Salespeople

May 13th, 2019

Do you think of yourself as a salesperson? For most of us, the answer is probably ‘no’; however, every successful executive, manager, professional and person is a salesperson.  

Last week, I participated in a consulting conference, and our Society for the Advancement of Consulting ambassadors (pictured here) filled the role of salesperson to spread the word on the value of SAC. We had a great time and many value-added discussions. I find the key to ‘selling’ is actually providing value; not selling people products and services they do not need!

When I think back, I have always been in sales even though I thought I had no idea whatsoever about sales at the time. The way I got my first job was talking about the value of a senior project and how it was applicable to performing a planning role. I had NO idea that this was actually selling but it is how I successfully landed a great job out of college. Early in my career, I found system settings that would make our Coca-Cola facility’s process better, and I had to sell IT and others on why they should support this change. Later at a plastic injection molder, I had to sell management on why we should focus on certain inventory initiatives.

Lastly, as a VP of Operations of an absorbent products manufacturer, I absolutely spent 90% of my time selling my team on how they were valuable to the vision, suppliers on how they could have a part on creating a win-win, customers on how we could create collaborative vendor management inventory initiatives that would increase their service and profit (which would also improve our revenue growth, inventory and efficiencies), the Board of Directors on why we should focus efforts on material projects to drive profitable growth (even though they wanted me to focus on reducing labor costs instead) and the list goes on. In consulting, 80% of project success (partnering with the client to make sure results occur) relates to selling and positioning. After all, doesn’t it all stem from successfully navigating change?

Think about your career and daily job responsibilities. I bet you are selling every day as well!

One tip to implement this week:

The key to success in sales is to provide value. As I read in a book by my consulting mentor when I decided to start consulting, selling consulting services is simply finding ways to provide value to clients by helping them to increase the value of their businesses. Somehow, increasing the value of businesses sounded FAR simpler to me than selling people on hiring me as a consultant (after all, who budgets to hire a consultant?), and so I went for it (and am celebrating my 14th year anniversary in May).

Of course, it isn’t exactly that simple; however, it is absolutely true. The crux of all sales is in providing value. Think about when you purchase products and services. Why do you purchase? I used to think I was quite logical and not influenced by typical sales techniques; however, it is human nature that logic makes us think and emotions make us act. Although I am never tempted by clothes (except as I know I need to look decent to be successful), I realized I spent quite a bit of money on education to be successful in my consulting practice. Clearly, I saw the value and ‘went for it’. How can you show value more often in your job, your company, and of your products and services?



Boom or Recession? What is the State of the Economy?

May 6th, 2019

In the last few months, I’ve attended sessions on the global, national and regional state of the economy. Every executive, trusted advisor and colleague wants to know: Are we headed for a recession?

The bottom line answer is that there are no signs of a recession in the foreseeable future in terms of the economy. Instead of worrying, it might be just the time to take advantage of the opportunity. As Roy Paulson, president of Paulson Manufacturing said in our 2019 Predictions from Manufacturing & Logistics Executives report, “…expect to see more talk of tariffs, threats and waving of hands, all the while, those of us in exporting will be busy making deals, signing contracts and getting business done.”

Similarly, in manufacturing, there was concern over the worsening ISM (Institute for Supply Management) index even though it remained far above (54.2) the level that indicates expansion (50) yet the index rose significantly in March to 55.3, signaling great growth and stabilization. The largest contributor was from employment which had the biggest gain in 3 years. All cylinders seem to be firing.

Yet many remain concerned for the next shoe to drop due to the volatility and uncertainty of these tumultuous times. Perhaps it is time for us to get comfortable with volatility and pursue new product introductions, technology (automation, AI, IoT) for those that will add value in our businesses and experiment with innovative ideas. What better time will there be to get in front of the curve so that we can pass by the competition if/when a recession hits?

One tip to implement this week:
There are countless studies that prove that those people who remain calm, invest smartly while others panic and stay the course to what they know will add value to their business thrive. Perhaps we should take a page from their book.

Of course, stay up-to-date on the latest trends and don’t hide your head in the sand as issues arise.  Spend the 80/20 of your day looking for opportunities. What new ideas have you had lately? Have you asked your front line employees for ideas? Are you willing to invest in their education and give them the chance to fail?

When I was VP of Operations at PaperPak, I worked with a CEO who was constantly thinking about the ways for us to succeed. Gas prices rose (which we obviously couldn’t control), which had the potential to create pure havoc with our profitability (with a Board that didn’t consider gas prices a reasonable excuse). Instead of panicking, he would consult with key people throughout the organization and create opportunities to get ahead of the issue. We rose from the ashes more times than I can count because we kept focused, thinking of opportunities instead of becoming defeated by some rather significant curve balls.

Give it a try this week at the next sign of volatility and disaster. How can you turn it into an opportunity?



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. 

Find out how to navigate disruption and achieve peak performance. Download our free report here.

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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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