Harvey Mudd Student Projects & Innovations Related to Cancer

February 22nd, 2018

Earlier this week, I attended some clinic presentations at Harvey Mudd (student projects with companies / partners), and the value of innovation hit home!  

For example, there are students working on innovations to improve on the success rate of breast cancer surgeries – talk about relevant!  There are many tangible and impactful projects the students work on throughout the year in a wide variety of industries.  Marrying up practical experience with book knowledge can go far in preparing students to be successful in careers after college.  Do you provide well-rounded education and experiences?

One tip to implement this week:
What type of education and experiences do you provide for your employees and team members?  I see a distinctive difference between training and education whereas education is a much broader concept so that your employees will be able to interpret and carry forward.  Do you explain the whys?  Do you provide practical examples?  Do you allow your team members to try new things?  Even if they fail?

Although education can be quite valuable, it might not be enough.  Do you find a way to provide an experience?  A kaizen might do the trick …or at least get the process started.  Or, have you put together a cross-training program?  Shouldn’t a planner or logistics resource understand the trials and tribulations of talking with customers on a daily basis?  Dealing with an angry customer can do wonders for opening your eyes.  And how about vice-versa?  Are your customer service resources committing to whatever the customer requests regardless of whether you can deliver it?  Why not give a more comprehensive experience approach a go?

Regardless, continuous education is critical today as everything seems to change in a nanosecond!

 



Manufacturing is HOT

February 19th, 2018

Supply Chain Briefing

In the last week, not only have there been several articles about the positive strides manufacturing is making but it also has come up in several presentations we’ve attended such as the Inland Empire Economic Forecast.  

Here is a compilation of just a few of the HOT topics and trends:

  • There are plenty of customers and consumers are in the U.S. – with the Amazon Effect (customers expecting rapid deliveries, customized product and 24/7 accessibility), locating closer to the customer is advantageous.
  • Automation and technology are gaining rapidly – the more technology that makes sense in our factories, the less lower-skilled people required.  That makes U.S. factories more competitive!
  • High-tech resources are in the U.S. – the more technology and automation, the higher skill level required.  Those folks are close by.
  • According to Industry Week, the NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, 95% of manufacturers are are optimistic at their company’s prospects.
  • According to an economic forecast I attended by a professor at Claremont McKenna, manufacturing is vital to the economy and  jobs since it pays well, similarly to construction.  Clients are hiring.
  • Deregulation and tax reform are definitely positive for manufacturers and improve manufacturers’ competitiveness vs. other countries.
  • Harvey Mudd (the #1 engineering school in the U.S.) has seen a significant increase in the popularity of manufacturing careers.

    Manufacturing is attractive once again….

Are you ready to grow your manufacturing presence?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Let’s sum this up with the following question:  Are you ready to achieve scalable, profitable growth?  

There are many aspects to consider in answering this question:  

1) Are your people prepared?  Do they have the appropriate skills, education and experiences?  Are they cross-trained?  Are they prepared for growth?  Do you have enough people?
 2) Will your processes support 25% growth before hitting the wall?  50%?  100%?  How agile are you?  Would you have to throw people at it (typically because you haven’t prepared in advance) or can you address with a combination of people, processes and technology?
3) Will your systems and technology infrastructure support your growth?  This is one of the most challenging as it can appear overwhelming in terms of the cost to upgrade your system; however, it can also become pennies in the scheme of things if you cannot keep up and service suffers, let alone margins suffer.  Also, are you considering new technologies and automation to keep your costs in line?
4) Are you thinking through in-sourcing, outsourcing, near-sourcing and keeping all of your options open?  It is rare that I run across a client considering both in-sourcing and out-sourcing simultaneously but it just might make sense….
5) Are your finances in order to support growth?
6) Are your supply chain partners and trusted advisors ready for growth?

Gather your team and start discussing these topics because it is coming!

 



A Systems Checkup

February 16th, 2018

Early in the year is an appropriate time to perform a systems audit.  In fact, most clients could benefit from this at any time of the year as we often discover some significant gaps.  

As we look further, we consider this subset of the questions:

  1. Do you have clarity of your current processes? It certainly seems apparent to start here but there are many clients who would check a box less than a “B” rating.  How about you?
  2. Do your people and/or facilities perform processes in a standard way? Do you want them to do this?  Or do you encourage differentiation?  There is no right answer across-the-board here!
  3. Do you know how to utilize your ERP system to support your core processes? Do you hunt and poke around until you figure it out or is there clarity for the basic elements of the process?  Perhaps take a step back – does anyone know how to use the system to perform these processes?
  4. Do you look for opportunities to further leverage your ERP system by joining user groups, going to conferences, brainstorming with your team etc.? The vast majority of companies use 20% of an ERP system’s functionality.  Moving the needle to 30% of the best functionality for supporting your business objectives can accelerate results.
  5. How do your processes and systems interface with your customers, suppliers and other supply chain partners? If you don’t know, find out!  You might be missing a HUGE opportunity.

A regular audit of your system can uncover  types of opportunities.  When was your last checkup?



The Value of Demand Planning

February 13th, 2018

In supply chain circles, there are lots of exciting concepts to discuss and debate such as lean, master scheduling, theory of constraints and many more; however, we have found that our most successful clients start with the customer!  

If you concur that we are in an Amazon-impacted marketplace where the customer is king (no longer is it cash!), prioritizing demand planning is essential.  

Do you have a position focused on demand planning?  Or do you have someone who knows it is at least part of their focus?  Does anyone realize its importance?  Let’s discuss the value…

  1. Without customers, you have no company– understanding their needs and what will compel them to buy from you vs. the competition couldn’t be more important.
  2. Do you know how your forecast compares with the recent past?– Again, understanding your customers and why they are changing couldn’t be more important to positioning your business to succeed long-term.
  3. Let’s take a step back – do you have an idea of what you think you’ll sell this year?– Let’s hope so!  Imagine how hard it will be for your HR resources, your operations resources (to determine which machinery to prioritize, purchase and train on), your suppliers and more to run efficiently while serving you and your customers if everything is a surprise.
  4. Is your sales mix changing? – We’ve seen many clients who spiral into a mess not because they don’t have a forecast but because they have no idea that the product mix has changed.  Different products come with different materials, different skills, different complexity and different requirements overall.
  5. What is the timing?– We’ve also seen clients with predictable annual sales (actually incredibly predictable) yet the monthly, weekly and daily sales could be vastly different.  Operations couldn’t keep up.  The customer suffered.  Margins declined.  Timing matters!

We would venture to estimate that 99% of our clients can benefit from an increased focus on demand planning.  Why not give it a go?  If you would like an audit of your current process, please contact us.

 



Do You Have an Eye to the Future?

February 9th, 2018

Do you have an eye to the future?  Don’t just answer yes and move on.  Take a few moments to consider this question.

In today’s Amazon-impacted world, if you miss a few months buried in your isolated internal world no matter the reason, you might miss a noteworthy event, trend or comment that could put you behind the 8 ball with no hope of catching up.

A 3-5 year strategy session once a year NO longer cuts it.  We are all in a strategic sprint.  In most industries, even going beyond one year out is a wasted exercise.  Instead, we should keep an eye to the future and build agility into our strategy setting process.  So, what are some ways we can keep an eye to the future?

  1. Pick up the phone and call a customer – Those clients who talk frequently to their top customers are far more successful than those who don’t.  Of course everyone is busy.  Offer value and make it is your customer’s best interest to keep in touch.  You’ll know more about what’s going on in the marketplace than those buried in month-end numbers, Board meetings and strategy sessions.  
  2. Attend an industry conference – Why do all the work yourself?  Network with those who are uniquely positioned to keep track of the latest trends and what might impact your industry.
  3. Have lunch with an old alumni friend –  You might wonder how this would help if your friend isn’t in a related field or isn’t a business owner or executive.  Keeping an eye on what’s happening in the world around you and gaining insights from trusted colleagues in different industries can provide some unique perspectives you won’t gain anywhere else.
  4. Involve your team in keeping an eye to the future – Certainly, if you provide the vision to your team (no matter the level), explain how the company is performing and encourage them to keep an ear to future trends, people will be happy to contribute to success.  We find that the best trends can come from unlikely places – the secretary you didn’t even notice or the person shipping orders who talks with UPS drivers.
  5. Watch the latest trends globally, economically– We are often surprised by how seemingly unrelated events throughout the world will impact suppliers, transportation channels, exchange rates or something else that will have a direct impact on business.  Subscribe to newsletters that can keep you up-to-speed on highlights, read the Wall Street Journal, talk with colleagues etc.
  6. Go visit a supplier– Don’t assign this to your procurement professionals solely.  Suppliers and trusted advisors can provide a wealth of knowledge that can help you navigate your path forward successfully.
  7. Join a CEO or key executive group – The problem with being at the top is that there is no one to talk to.  Find a new group of peers to ask the hard questions and keep you on track.

When you have a good idea of the future, you will position your company, your people, your processes, your infrastructure, your supply chain and more for success!