Category: The Strongest Link in Supply Chain

Supply Resiliency: Video Interview on Disruption in Logistics

December 4th, 2018

Next in our supply chain resiliency value series, we are excited to share an interview with BJ Patterson, President of Pacific Mountain Logistics.  Thanks to B.J. for sharing his expertise on the Manufacturing Summit’s panel “Amazon Effect: Pass or Play – the New Sales & Distribution Game and How it Affects Manufacturing”.   

B.J. is responding to a question related to supply chain resiliency on disruptions in logistics.  In essence, the key question is: How to maintain margins throughout the supply chain when:

1) We ship a single item vs. a pallet of items in terms of warehousing/material handling inefficiencies

2) Customers’ orders require many more truck trips than ever before

3) Truck space is at a premium and we are shipping a lot of air since Amazon-like shipments often have 1 item in a large box on a truck.  

Certainly, there are no easy answers.  However, we must be thinking about how we’ll create supply chain resiliency so we can thrive with these changing market conditions.

 


With an increasing frequency, supply chain partners are pulling together to find solutions to these types of challenges.  Moreover, the strategic use of data is at a premium. If you can better coordinate all of these ever-changing market conditions to gain visibility and efficiencies within your extended supply chain, you just might take the lead in your industry.  

Our most successful clients don’t wait for these disruptors to crush them.  Instead, they are always looking for potential disruptors and searching for solutions.  They take proactive approaches to take the lead position instead of disappointing customers in an era where the customer experience is of paramount importance.  

What are you doing to navigate these logistics disruptors? We are always interested in feedback and ideas to share.

 



Amazon, Uber, Netflix and More…..Disruption is Here to Stay!

November 7th, 2018

Although not an official theme, it was quite clear that disruption was the common theme at the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM/ APICS) Annual Conference.

From the keynote speaker, Marc Randolph, one of the founders of Netflix, to almost every executive and thought leader, disruption is top of mind.  Amazon has disrupted retail.  Netflix has disrupted television. Uber is disrupting the transportation industry.  Do you know what disruption is likely to impact your company – and career – next?

 

 

Certainly, Netflix is disrupting television and cable currently.  At its roots, it disrupted the video industry.  Blockbuster was a powerhouse when Netflix was getting started.  It was fascinating to hear that discussion!

Marc brought up an intriguing concept – how to disrupt yourself.  To give you the highlights, he discussed three items you need:
1) Tolerance for risk – You cannot wait for full information before you “move”.
2) An Idea – contrary to popular belief, it does not need to be big, new, complex or even good.
3) Confidence.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Marc’s advice is “right on”.  So, how might you go about it?  For our clients, manufacturing and supply chain organizations, disruption is commonplace.  The key question is how do you have any hope of getting ahead of this instead of being buried by the likes of Amazon and other disruptors?  The answer – create a resilient supply chain!

What IS The Supply Chain?
Let’s start by defining supply chain: your end-to-end supply chain, starting with your customers’ customers to your manufacturing and distribution operations to your suppliers’ suppliers and all connections in the middle such as transportation, systems, financials, processes, and most importantly, people.  This is quite the topic to create a resilient supply chain!

 

 

We find that the most successful executives start with their team.  I’ve yet to see happy customers with unhappy employees.  You better start there!

Each person in your business is integral to creating a resilient supply chain!  To learn more about creating a resilient team as well as the rest of your end-to-end supply chain, we are thrilled to introduce our new series, The Resilient Supply Chain: Navigating Disruption.  Achieving Peak Performance

We will be adding articles, videos, interviews/ Q&A with thought leaders and executives frequently so please save this link and join in on the discussion. We are always interested in feedback and requests.

 

 

 



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”?



The Resilient Supply Chain: Can You Get Trucks?

October 3rd, 2018

Are you able to find trucks?  This is quickly becoming a major question that needs to be answered.  Every driver has at least 12 options. Why will he/she take your load?  Are you attractive to carriers? That is the key question. After all, you can carry inventory so you are responsive (assuming you planned well and have the right inventory at the right place at the right time) but if you cannot deliver, it was all for naught.

According to the Journal of Commerce, truck rates are up in the low double digits half way through the year.  And, they are expected to go up to 15% before slowing down to 7-10% increase in 2019.  However, these rate hikes are quite the shock to businesses. Many clients are tell us that there are times they cannot find a truck, whether they pay 15% more or not. What are you doing to ensure you have a resilient supply chain?

Here are a few questions to ponder:

  • Do you view your carriers as partners or vendors? – Undoubtedly, if you view them as vendors, you probably aren’t delivering on-time or are paying double or triple the going rates.  
  • Do you have a backup carrier? – I learned this lesson from the Director of Purchasing who worked with me at PaperPak.  He kept a backup supply of our critical material so that if anything went wrong in the supply chain, he could “turn it on”.  This meant we were paying higher prices on an ongoing basis to keep this backup supply. Naturally, our board members were not happy about the increased cost.  However, he was “right on”.  Eventually there was a strike at the ports and our supply was delayed. Because we had been bringing in backup supply all along, we were able to turn up the production and cover our needs seamlessly.  Do you have a backup in place you are confident will be there when you need them?
  • Are you proactively partnering with your carriers? – When supply chain challenges arise, do you proactively collaborate with your carriers to resolve the issues?  Are you willing to think outside the box and try new and innovative ideas?
  • Are you an attractive customer? – How you treat people will either make or break success.  People tend to do business with people they know, like and trust. Are you finding ways to improve your customers’ conditions?  Remember you cannot just decide to become attractive when you need your suppliers. It is a way of doing business.
  • Do you need trucks at all?– Perhaps it’s time to re-think your strategy.  Should you consider rail, air or another method?  Can you partner with your customers or suppliers in a new way?  How about collaborating with competitors? Or, you could consider insourcing vs. outsourcing. 

Think outside the box and start early.  Waiting until there is an issue is no time to think about resolving one. 

It seems such a basic element to have trucks where you need them and when you need them.  Yet it often isn’t viewed as a priority.  Why not take stock of where you stand and put some thought into your path forward?

You’ll be more likely to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations with this proactive approach to supply chain resiliency.

 



Let’s Spur Innovation

September 24th, 2018

Last month, I led a manufacturing roundtable on the topic of innovation.  Undoubtedly, if we want to be successful over the long-term, we must innovate. Problem solving only gets us back to our standard level of performance.  Although necessary, it will not be enough!  Instead, to exceed our customers’ expectations while enabling profitable growth in today’s Amazonian marketplace, innovation is a requirement.

Innovation is raising the bar to an entirely new level of performance.  It doesn’t require you to develop the next iPhone or 3M’s famous sticky pad.  In fact, the best innovators might not even think they are creative.  The great news is that everyone can innovate.  It doesn’t have to require significant investments.   What it does require is a culture that enables innovation.

An Innovation Culture
Here are a few “musts” when creating an innovation culture:

  1. Engage your people -You aren’t going to be successful innovating in isolation – at least not for long!  Involve your employees – view each employee as a valuable asset.  You never know what ideas can be unleashed if you have a culture of innovation that values each employee’s input and ideas.  Start here. Until your people are engaged, there is no point in going further.  How long do you think you’ll have happy, innovative customers with unhappy, not engaged employees?  NOT long.
  1. Engage your customers – One of our clients is creating an innovative culture.  They recently purchased a clay manufacturing company and are working to raise the bar.  The owners and executives value the input of their people and extend that to their trusted advisors, customers and suppliers.  I happened to be in Hawaii last month and my best friend wanted to see a pottery shop of an artist she really liked.  So I went along for the ride. When we arrived, I brought up my client because I thought the owner know of them. They were so excited.  They said they were a customer for life of Laguna Clay  (my customer) because they provided exceptional service.  They proceeded to provide input, ideas and much more. I took pictures and texted them back to my client. My client had engaged their customer in the innovative process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Provide opportunities– Next, provide opportunities for innovation.  Do you provide a “safe zone” for your employees, partners and others to collaborate and innovate?  Most importantly, you’ll have to set aside time for them to focus on this priority.  Beyond time, provide your vision and get the process started by spurring idea generation and give them a few guidelines.
  1. Stick by your commitment –  Innovation will create failures which is why guidelines are helpful so the failures can be isolated within a reasonable tolerance.  There is something wrong if failures don’t occur. Thus, be prepared for them and celebrate the progress. Don’t be disappointed, or worse, beat up your people. That will mark the end of their innovation.

Creating an innovation culture is “the” key to innovation. Start there. End there.  We’ll talk through more of the details in the middle in future editions (or feel free to contact us to help you accelerate progress); however, this is the 80/20 of success.  It’s well worth raising the bar of performance.