Category: Profit through People

Future-proofing Your Supply Chain

February 21st, 2020

Disruptions abound in supply chain circles. Just consider any of the following recent events: the tariff war, global unrest, the Coronavirus, natural disasters such as the volcano in the Philippines, the Hong Kong protests and more.

We have never had a client that could claim that 100% of the extended supply chain (from suppliers’ suppliers to customers’ customers) was inside the U.S. So, we have to be prepared to navigate these types of disruptions and the related impacts.

Disruptions certainly go beyond your physical supply chain. What about your human capital, technologies (accompanied with processes) and strategies? Refer to our article on future-proofing your skills gap and assess which risks might be on the horizon in your industry.

When it comes to technologies, there is no doubt that emerging technologies are gaining steam and are starting to transform supply chains. Just consider the application of collaborative robots, automation, RPA (robotic process automation), artificial intelligence, IoT, blockchain, and predictive analytics to name a few. Big name companies are dropping big dollars into these technologies. When thinking about strategy, remember strategy is no longer a multi-year exercise. We must be thinking in terms of strategic sprints. Who knows what will happen beyond a year out!

Several high-level categories should be assessed as you think about your supply chain:

  1. Sourcing – Are you sourcing from China? Is this a viable path forward to source 100% from China? There are increased risk factors to consider. Listen to an interview I conducted with John Tulac, international business attorney, on future-proofing and doing business with China. It is time to reevaluate your supply chain footprint.
  2. Logistics – There are significant disruptors transforming this industry, ranging from e-commerce and the the Omni-channel to robotics, additive manufacturing and the digitization of the supply chain. If you aren’t incorporating these impacts in future-proofing your supply chain, you will be left in the dust. These are concepts of focus for the consortium for logistics success in the Inland Empire to enable companies to stay informed and keep up with the fast pace of change.
  3. Manufacturing – Industry 4.0 is transforming manufacturing and changing the landscape. It will be a pivotal year that separates the winners vs the losers as advances are made. See what the National Association of Manufacturers’ Leadership Council sees as critical issues
  4. Demand & Supply – There is no doubt, there is a keen interest by business owners, executives and private equity leaders on creating predictable demand and forecasting sales. The more we understand our demand plan, the better our operational performance, supplier performance and customer performance. Read about SIOP (sales, inventory, operations planning) and how it can help future-proof this area.
  5. Inventory – As the disruptions abound and executives fear a slow-down, the proactive management of inventory and advanced collaborative programs are gaining in relevance. Pick up some tips and strategies in our recent article ” Inventory Management as Fashionable as Automated Intelligence for Distributors” for ACHR News.
  6. Metrics & Predictive analytics – Keeping a pulse on performance should remain a top priority while forecasting what will be needed.

Getting ahead of the curve might be the only avenue to success. Consider creating a resilient supply chain and future-proofing your supply chain. Stay tuned and read more about it, and If you are interested in discussing a supply chain assessment, please contact us.

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Made in Vietnam

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Future-Proofing Your Customers

February 13th, 2020

Have you thought about future-proofing your customers? In thinking about future-proofing your people, it makes sense to start with your customers.

The statistics are staggering. According to Outbound Engine, acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. We wouldn’t be surprised if the actual cost is far greater if direct and indirect costs are combined. It certainly should give us pause. How do we future-proof our customers?

One way is to focus on the Amazon Effect and providing lighting speed delivery and tirelessly differentiated service. There is no doubt customers expect more. The bar gets higher with each passing day. Thus, we must be ahead of our customers to take a proactive approach to providing a superior customer experience while being cognizant of profitability and working capital.

How will you know what your customers see as differentiated service? Start by listening. Observe your customers and see what might provide value. Ask questions and tailor your solutions to be special for key customers. Find ways to provide these differentiated services while proactively managing the process efficiently and effectively from the internal point-of-view.

To accomplish this feat, it is wise to keep in mind that you are only as good as your #1 asset, your people. We have yet to meet a client with unhappy employees and happy customers. Start by getting your house in order. What do your employees need to be successful? It is more than a training course or occasional pat on the back. Do they know they are making a difference? Are they empowered within reasonable guidelines? Do they know leaders value performance and are willing to address the tough topics?

Investing in employees is the best way to future-proof your manufacturing and supply chain. Expand your thinking on people to your trusted advisors, customers, suppliers and other business partners.

Are you taking the time to ensure a prepared yet agile end-to-end supply chain? Remember, the people within the end-to-end supply chain count in providing an exceptional customer experience!

If you’d like an assessment of where you should invest (time, resources, money) to deliver lightning speed delivery and tirelessly differentiated service, contact us. There are also plenty of free articles and resources on our website. Let us know your thoughts and questions.

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Are You Waiting Too Long to Future-Proof?

February 10th, 2020

Although most economists do not see an immediate recession, there are plenty of concerning signs along with global volatility. Unfortunately, concern alone can create a recession unrelated to underlying factors. Meaning, we could have terrific fundamentals and results yet still go into a recession if fear takes over! I wouldn’t want to be dependent on avoiding fear in the marketplace. Would you?  This is why it’s important to future-proof manufacturing operations and the extended supply chain!

The worst thing you can do is wait for a recession to act. It is similar to a natural disaster. For example, when my house burned down in a fire, I was fortunate that it was an isolated incident. I was able to find alternate housing nearby while the house was rebuilt. I was also able to gain priority with a builder, etc. Instead, if I was caught in one of the devastating California fires, I would be one of many people struggling with the aftermath. Of course, I would be a pebble in a sand quarry in that case. The same is true would be true with a recession, global unrest or a natural disaster. Have you thought through how you will continue operations to satisfy customer demand?

One Tip to Implement This Week:
We’ll make this quite simple: Stop and determine if you have backup plans at a minimum.

Think through the following:

  1. Sources of supply
  2. Resources, skills and trusted advisors who support the business
  3. Operations
  4. Logistics infrastructure
  5. IT and ERP system infrastructure

What are you going to do about it? Are you willing to invest in future-proofing? I’d be willing to bet that any executive willing to make prudent investments in future-proofing might have to take a temporary ‘hit’ with the initial investment but will surpass the competition by a minimum of 10 fold in the future.

For example, one of our clients thought about what they should do to get ahead – not just survive. When the competition was increasing capacity in China, our client was moving out of China and into Vietnam. They were ahead of the curve and had far less roadblocks and bottlenecks along the way to overcome. There is definitely something to be said about being early to the party and leading the way.

Think about taking a calculated risk to lead instead of follow. In today’s Amazon-impacted world, you cannot afford to be a follower!

 



Should We Listen to all the High Tech Talk?

January 22nd, 2020

Client Question
Should we pay attention to all this high tech talk? Certainly it seems like everyone and their brother is talking about artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and even the use of technologies such as virtual reality and autonomous vehicles. And this is aside from mundane topics such as ERP systems. And,  we need to function on a daily basis. We need to serve customers and deliver value to the bottom line.  And, we prefer to only get distracted when necessary.

The Answer
We have seen clients get carried away with the latest and greatest technology fads. Although it was an interesting personal education, it typically didn’t result in a return on investment. On the other hand, we have also seen clients ignoring technology that becomes vital to survival in their industry. After all, it is easy to do. When Sears used to be the Amazon of the age, no one thought they would be going out of business.

So, as usual, the answer is “it depends”. You must pay attention, learn about and invest in technology so that you can make a good decision on which to pursue and which to ignore for your go-forward business strategy. If it were easy, we would all be successful for 100 years running.  There are VERY few companies in this position. Do you have a position or a person who is dedicated or allocates part of his/her responsibilities to this role? If you don’t call it out, it will fall by the wayside. This should be similar in concept to an R&D/new product focus. Why should we focus only on new products and not new technologies?

Food For Thought
No two clients are alike. Some ask us this question and it is an obvious,: YES, you must invest to stay relevant and increase business value. For others, it is an emphatic, NO. Why waste resources on additional technology when we haven’t implemented or used the available systems capabilities that will move the business forward? As it seems to go in business, it is usually the best executives and CIOs who are on top of their technology road map who ask these questions. The rest won’t even invest enough to find out where they should prioritize limited funds so they don’t become the next Sears!

At a minimum, once you get to a certain size or complexity, the minimum you should do is upgrade your ERP system so that you have a modern technological backbone and can scale up quickly as needed. With that said, it is rarely enough if your goal is profitable growth.

If you’d like a technology and ERP systems assessment, please contact us. At a minimum, read our numerous articles and get started in evaluating your situation!

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Made in Vietnam?

January 19th, 2020

Vietnam has been the hot topic lately. After a visit recently, I saw first-hand the potential along with the challenges. Clients are definitely evaluating changing the source of supply to Vietnam. And the question is: should they? Or, alternatively, the question is: Are they moving fast enough?

Although there are infrastructure issues, the most successful clients are already ahead of the curve and seriously considering Vietnam. Of course, it is not best for all products and situations, just as China wasn’t best for all situations previously. If you are starting to see price increases in China and are concerned about the quality and reliability as China is struggling, it is definitely something to consider. Consider this fact – many Chinese companies are moving production to Vietnam.  Obviously there is something to be said for evaluating this source of supply.

Vietnam likes manufacturing and the United States. One of my proactive clients has been moving a significant portion of their supply from China to Vietnam over the last year. They started the process before the tariffs because they expected to save significantly with Vietnam production.  However, they really looked like heroes to their Board when they also beat the Chinese tariffs with the move.

This does NOT mean it will always make sense. We also have clients who outsourced to China a long time ago when it was the latest “fad”. In fact, the tide turned over the last several years.  The total cost of the product as well as the gains in customer satisfaction of sourcing closer to customer demand (typically in N.A.) makes a lot more sense.  Unfortunately for them, most of the companies in this situation haven’t changed supply yet due to capital and infrastructure costs and related efforts to move the source of supply. Yet it can be done. Our client reevaluated and started the transition to Vietnam. Recently, the tariffs are forcing several to re-think the China strategy, but is it “too late”? Are you going to wait for the next tariff scenario where you are on the defensive or are you gong to proactively reevaluate your entire strategy?

Certainly part of what you’ll need to evaluate is your working capital requirements. How does China compare with Vietnam? Both require an extended supply chain. Generally speaking, the longer lead times to cross the ocean carry working capital requirements. As customers become more demanding, you’ll need to consider inventory as a key component to your sourcing decisions. Pick up some tips and strategies in our recent article ” Inventory Management as Fashionable as Automated Intelligence for Distributors” for ACHR News.

Getting ahead of the curve might be the only avenue to success. When looking at China vs. Vietnam, it is quite clear that China is significantly larger and has far more manufacturing capability.  Yet, those early to Vietnam won’t have to worry about this particular issue.  And, of course Vietnam is racing to catch up.

Whether you have sourcing in China, Vietnam or neither, the underlying point is essential. Are you constantly revisiting your supply chain strategy? If not, you’ll likely be left following your competitors. Instead, consider future-proofing your manufacturing and supply chain business. Stay tuned and read more about it.

If you are interested in discussing a supply chain assessment, please contact us.

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