Category: Profit through People

Ideas to Fill Peak Capacity Periods

February 27th, 2019

As we toured several e-commerce facilities such as UPS and Amazon, it became obvious that the sheer volume during peak season presents a huge dilemma. For example, UPS goes from 250-300 containers per night to 450 during peak season. Now that is quite a surge! Amazon has similar surges and stated facts such as 68 million orders on Cyber Monday.

Peak season occurs in other industries, as well. For example, building products companies tend to have a summer season since there are more issues to navigate in winter conditions. Since working with a large number of these companies, we’ve seen it range from a low of around 10-20% surge to almost 70% of the year’s volume sold during the summer. That can definitely be a challenge to navigate!

In this case, we are talking about labor but the same issues relate to machine capacity, storage capacity, transportation capacity and many others. We find that this area alone can achieve a significant return on investment as companies better align demand with supply. In fact, in 80% of our clients, these types of programs do the best job of achieving bold customer promises and profits simultaneously.

We have found several ideas to fill peak capacity periods. Of course, there is no one formula for success.  Each company has unique circumstances that require different solutions. However, a few ways to meet peak capacity include:

  1.  Hiring temporary workers for the peak season – of course, this strategy sounds like an easy win. If only it were that easy! UPS starts hiring seasonal workers prior to the holiday season in order to provide training. In 2018, they expected to bring on 100,000 seasonal workers. Over the last 3 years, 35% were hired into a full-time role after the peak season, creating an interesting enticement. Since every e-commerce related business needs seasonal workers, you need to provide some sort of benefit or enticement to fill these positions.
  1.  Overtime – of course, this is commonly used throughout manufacturing and logistics organizations. We’ve seen many aerospace firms running at high rates of overtime for many months, even years, in a row. It can be a tricky issue as employees become accustomed to higher paychecks, and the costs add up. On the other hand, people get tired and can get less productive and want a break. Counter-intuitively, it can also be the better financial decision given the learning curves associated with complex manufacturing roles. Of course, the answer is, “It depends”.
  1.  Hiring people with developmental disabilities – as our Inland Empire Economic Partnership leadership regional academy toured Goodwill and we have worked with clients such as Oparc, we have learned that people with development disabilities can be an ideal solution to fill peak capacity.  Thanks to Oparc for their research statistics: 1 in 7 people have intellectual or developmental disability, yet, only 19% participate in the labor force, leaving a significant opportunity to supplement the labor force. Studies show that these folks rate higher in reliability, productivity and loyalty. For example, a DuPont study showed that 90% of employees with Disabilities rated average or better on job performance. According to Walgreens, disabled employees had 40% lower accident rate, 67% lower medical treatment costs and 78% lower overall costs associated with accidents. And, Marriott shows a 6% turnover rate vs. 52% overall. It is worth checking this option out! Please contact us for a referral.
  1.  Partnering with companies with counter cyclical peak seasons – again, have you thought about partnering with strange bedfellows? Why couldn’t an e-commerce company with a winter peak season collaborate with a company in the building products industry with a summer season? In a way, the 3PLs follow this model. Having counter cyclical clients is an important aspect of maintaining a strong workforce as a 3PL.
  1. Outsourcing – one of the advantages of outsourcing and overflow capacity is that you can use it when you need it. Of course, you’ll pay a premium but it can still provide maximum value in several cases and meet the peak season requirements.
  1. Leveraging your extended supply chain – you never know what collaboration might make sense with your suppliers, customers and other supply chain partners until you ask. Explore the possibilities.

One thing is definitely true. You will not succeed during peak season if you wait until it hits to address your capacity shortfalls. Be clear on your strategy and make sure to build it into your plans. It isn’t all about peak season. Perhaps off-peak is “the time” to upgrade your infrastructure such as your ERP system, your business processes and to explore your customer collaboration opportunities. If you’d like an expert to weigh in on your plans, 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 Stock Market, The Economy & How They Do Not Align

February 12th, 2019

Key research groups are starting to talk about their predictions for the economy, and everyone is interested. It feels like everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop. After all, we have been in an expansion mode far longer than is typical and there is plenty of volatility and uncertainty in global trade, the U.S. Shutdown and more. Last week, I heard a research expert from City National Bank and did an informal poll of trusted advisors (CPAs, attorneys, consultants, commercial bankers etc.). The bottom line = continued growth.

The City National Bank expert said that they study about 20 economic indicators, and all are firing on all cylinders. The only one that has consistently shown some potential for hesitation is geopolitical risk –  which isn’t new. As much as the U.S. Shutdown, global trade tensions, Brexit and more has the stock market jittery, it hasn’t impacted the economic forecast. Businesses are growing and the economy is doing well! The hot topics being discussed include asset protection, the talent shortfall, the technology transformation and cyber security risks. There are always lots of details to consider but the common theme is growth. Thus, a key question becomes, are you prepared for scalable, profitable growth?  

One tip to implement this week:

What I’m seeing as a differentiator to success in these strong yet uncertain times is the ability to ‘stay the course’ and be resilient.  With each new emerging news story, I’m seeing the stock market choke and people panic. Unfortunately, this can lead to short-term, erratic changes in executives’ decisions. No one wants to be put into the same position as they were in during the last recession. So, the tendency is to overreact. Yet, the most successful clients provide stability and a platform for scalable growth.

They are willing to make hard decisions, ranging from investing in top talent to systems and technologies (even when their peers are hesitant) to addressing the sacred cow (every business has at least one!) to thinking about how their business model might be evolving and what they might need to change (even when they are currently profitable and seemingly successful).

It might make good sense to take a step back and avoid overreacting to the latest news. Stay aware and on top of trends. Ask questions and consider down-the-line impacts on your business. Instead of getting caught up in the latest drama or fad, put thought into how to build agility into your plans. How can you ensure your navigation system is rock solid and will weather whatever storm occurs next. If there is one constant, it will be continued volatility and uncertainty.

Prepare to be resilient. Check out our new resilient supply chain series and contact us if you’d like to have an assessment of your organization.



Getting Organized in the New Year

February 4th, 2019

I imagine I am not alone in thinking about getting organized in the New Year. My 4th grade teacher told my mom that I was the most organized child she had ever seen (far more organized than most adults she knew, even though she owned a business and was in politics in addition to teaching). Given that endorsement, I knew I better get back to living up to my 4th grade teacher’s praises.  So, after returning from Arizona where my mom and I organized a major portion of the house that required focused attention (since my dad passed away a few years ago) I decided I’d return to organization by early January. I am >90% there!

Why does being organized matter? I have found that you are faster, on top of critical topics and focused when organized. As my mom used to complain about her situation, she would have a piece of paper one minute, walk into another room, and it would disappear. Now she is talking about “everything having a place”. It could save you countless hours over the course of a year. Do you have extra time to look for papers or files? Worse yet, are you satisfied providing less than optimal answers and responses because you can’t find it?

One tip to implement this week:
As much as I enjoy that my 4th grade teacher appreciated my organization, it isn’t rocket science. Do you categorize information so that you can find it later? If it is in the computer, is it searchable by key word? Try using easy systems a 4th grader would understand. Color code so you can find what you need easily. Clean up your area so you don’t have to go through sift through clutter. Get rid of junk. If you haven’t used it for a year, do you really think you’ll use it now? Actually one of my global consulting strategy group members prompted me into action on this topic. His garage was more organized than anything I have ever seen. I figured the least I could do was get my work area into good shape after seeing his garage!

Don’t be afraid to spend wisely. My APICS Inland Empire Board of Directors group has APICS-IE emails; however, they forwarded to our personal emails. One of our key members changed jobs at the end of the year.  That prompted us to decide we should upgrade to Microsoft 365 so that we would have a natural archive (and don’t need to spend hours looking for invoices, class rosters and the like in mountains of emails). Worse yet, if someone was sick or changed jobs and didn’t send the files to another board member, we would lose critical information. We are organizing as well! The same is true for the storage of files. If you can’t easily access files, search and upload/download, is the $16 you save really worth it?  NO!

Start small and find a relevant pile and organize it. These “small things” add up. Soon, you’ll have saved a week. By the end of the year, perhaps you’ll have saved a month! Imagine what you’ll do with the extra time.

 



What’s Ahead in Technology?

January 30th, 2019

To think about what’s ahead in technology, it is important to put it in perspective with what’s ahead in business.  Read our article, “What’s Ahead in Business?” for details on the key trends impacting business:

  1. Importance of the customer experience
  2. Taking the holistic view has become a “must”
  3. Volatility is the new norm
  4. The coming power of manufacturing and supply chain

What’s ahead in technology lines up with these same themes. In order to achieve scalable, profitable growth, technology is an important enabler. The most relevant technology trends include:

  1. ERP Upgrades – More and more companies are realizing that their system infrastructure must keep up with business requirements and customer expectations. As tough as an ERP upgrade can be, it is one of the only ways to make the leap from manual, labor-intensive processes to providing a superior customer experience efficiently.
  2. E-commerce/ Customer Portals – Amazon. Alibaba. Customer collaboration. Need we say more?
  3. Business Intelligence & Data Analytics – We are overwhelmed by mountains of data. We are so anxious to gather data yet we don’t seem to have the appropriate information at our fingertips when we need it. That’s where data analytics comes into the picture. Beyond that, predictive analytics is gaining steam.
  4. Artificial Intelligence – Even my Mom counts on Alexa! In addition, who wouldn’t want a car that self corrects? Predicting customer patterns and behaviors is becoming more important. AI is set to transform many industries over the next several years.
  5. IoT– Smart factories. Smart homes. Connected devices and machines. According to NEWGENAPPS, 60% of global manufacturers will use analytics data tracked using connected devices to analyze and and optimize processes.
  6. Robotics & Automation – Robots may not be taking over the universe tomorrow morning, but they are working hand-in-hand with people to achieve many benefits – improve safety, increase speed and consistency, improve customer satisfaction, fill capacity shortfalls and and increase productivity.
  7. Autonomous Vehicles – Beyond self-driving cars and trucks, autonomous vehicles are used widely in manufacturing and distribution environments.

Are you thinking about which of these technologies will support your business objectives?  Or which are likely to impact your industry?  Consider technology as a key part of your strategy and plans. If you’d like an expert to evaluate which, if any, of these technologies will be relevant to your business, contact us.

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