What IS the Supply Chain?

March 16th, 2018

Certainly, we are well-known in supply chain circles; however, what does that mean?  This topic has come up somewhat frequently lately – should we call this position an Operations Manager or a Supply Chain Manager?  Which will get us the best fit talent?

Because we are known as supply chain experts, we continue to talk about the supply chain even though LOTS of people – including potential clients – are unsure what in the world that means.  

For a while we talked about operations but that definitely didn’t provide the appropriate vision since our passion surrounds providing bold customer promises and profits. Nowhere does operations convey customers and growth.  

We also talk about manufacturing since it is our sweet spot within the supply chain! As the slogan touted at the Manufacturing Summit‘s reception on Valentine’s Day, “We love Manufacturing”. The bottom line is the “what to call what so many companies desperately need” dilemma has proven frustrating!  

In our case, we have decided to convey our vision of the supply chain in pictures – who doesn’t like a good picture?  (Note our updated homepage)



I brainstormed this topic a while back with my global consulting strategy group (and so I want to give them a shout out and thank you), and we had fun creating concepts to visualize the supply chain:

  1.  From cradle to grave –  It certainly does go from beginning to end -and beyond with reverse logistics and after sales support.  It is a bit dreary but nicely descriptive -and there are plenty of clients who should put some items, customers and poor performers ‘in the grave’ sooner than they do.  Have you noticed this too?
  2.  From inception to reception –  This appeals to me as it spans the inception of an idea for a product or service to the reception by the customer or client.
  3.  Coal to car – A manufacturing metaphor related to the same theme so, of course, I appreciate it.  Henry Ford owned the coal mines that made the steel that made the car.
  4.  From concept to cash –  This also appeals to me because it conveys the result of the supply chain – translating concepts into cash.
  5.  Creation to application or creation to customer– Appealing from a creative and technology point-of-view.  I have to say – many clients have issues in ‘application’. And, many people who know me will say, “how did you come up with 2 more C’s with creation to customer?!”
  6.  Significance to service – Since I have a passion for the customer side and wholeheartedly believe that you won’t have happy customers without happy employees; thus, significance to service hits the nail on the head as well.

Do these provide a picture of the supply chain?  Which do you like best? I hope to hear from you!  

One last thought on supply chain.  You’ll notice that purchasing is only one aspect of supply chain; logistics is only one aspect of supply chain; and so on.  In fact, isn’t the supply chain never-ending? It doesn’t really end but feeds the next loop within the supply chain?

Have You Thought of Crossing Borders Lately?

March 15th, 2018

There was an export panel at the Manufacturers’  Council of the Inland Empire 7th Annual Summit, and it brings to light the vast opportunity of export.  Additionally, I had a lunch with a top international attorney and an international research expert recently, and it opened my eyes further on the topic of export.  Why do we always think about import but forget to export?

Less than 1% of America’s 30 million companies export and less than 39% of US manufacturers export.  Of those that export, 58% export to only 1 country. Why? What is going on? In the same breath, the statistics show that  Made in the USA is a compelling proposition and there is VAST opportunity to sell products in other countries. You don’t even have to go far with Canada and Mexico at our borders.  

According to a study published by the Institute for International Economics, U.S. companies that export not only grow faster, but are nearly 8.5 percent less likely to go out of business than non-exporting companies. Are we not interested in profit????  This panel has found success in export.



For example, Kusum Kavia, president of Combustion Associates discussed the success her company has had in exporting to Africa as well as many other countries.  They were featured in the cover story in Global Trade Magazine as well as recognized by President Obama at a US-Africa Leaders Summit. She credits many collaboration partners in this success such as the Export-Import Bank and trade specialists at the US Department of Commerce.

Another Inland Empire manufacturer and APICS-IE supporter, Roy Paulson, president of Paulson Manufacturing has achieved great success with exports.  They have grown rapidly and significantly through export, and he has served on the president’s export council.  Why not get a boost to your sales revenues while providing value in other countries?

There is also far-reaching support for global logistics, banking and exchange rates and much more.  Why not look into whether your products might be of interest to other global markets? You might just discover a goldmine!



A Human Capital Checkup

March 12th, 2018

In honor of the Innovation Awards presented at the 7th Annual Manufacturers’ Summit in February, it seems appropriate to discuss the critical importance of human capital.  Innovation occurs with the engagement and involvement of your people. That’s why there is a specific category of the Manufacturers’ Council of the Inland Empire’s innovation awards for just this topic.  


Have you ever thought about how to answer these questions:  

  1. Why is HR a transaction department?  (and therefore not part of the executive team) In the vast majority of organizations (big and small), HR is solely or mainly focused on benefits, payroll and the like.  As an aside, thank you to my HR mentor who broke the mold with transformational HR -Debra Daniels. Without her, I would not have the same level of capability to partner with clients to deliver bottom line business results as it starts with the people.
  2.  Why do we focus on saving pennies when sourcing top talent?  Interestingly, we put these folks in charge of millions of revenue, profit and inventory dollars, yet don’t want to invest to find them.
  3.  What percentage of our executive meetings focus on people? We can get quite carried away in talking about customers, technologies, products and more.  How often are we talking about people?
  4.  Do we invest in training and development?  Since I am president of APICS Inland Empire that specializes in education for supply chain and operations professionals, it is quite clear which companies and/or executives in our area support this type of program and which employees decide to take personal responsibility for their development.  Have you taken stock lately?
  5.  Do we invest time?  This is FAR more important than the money as we learn through example and mentoring at a much quicker rate and more comprehensively.  I remember the pressures of the VP of Operations and Supply Chain role – it is quite tempting to put off even the 15 or 30 minute performance or goal setting discussion but DON’T!
  6.  Are we afraid to take on risk at the detriment of our people?  This is especially tough in California since it can be a challenge to address employee issues; however, going back to my HR mentor, she always said, “take the appropriate actions to address employee issues”.  In essence, don’t back down from respectfully addressing employee issues head on or it will likely be at the detriment of your business and the disengagement of the rest of your employees. It’s no wonder 85% of employees are not engaged according to the latest Gallup poll.  

If you need a referral to a top notch attorney to run issues by, contact us.

The Customer Experience

March 7th, 2018


Earlier this week, I attended a ProVisors (trusted advisors) group of women, and one of our members, Kathy McEntee, talked about the critical importance of the customer experience in today’s Amazon-impacted marketplace.  She made a point of talking about touchpoints.  Providing the ultimate experience for the customer is NOT the same at different touchpoints.  For example, what you do when they are an acquaintance is quite different than what they should do once they are a client or customer.  Also last week, I read through a playbook for a potential client and key contact.  The 80/20 was about branding and the importance of the customer experience.  This theme is popping up everywhere!

For example, Amazon and Nordstrom have driven the expectations for a superior customer experience up.  Do your customers expect rapid deliveries?  Do they expect you to design products and services specifically for them?  Are you thinking about what they haven’t yet requested?  



One tip to implement this week:
Whether you are on the front lines or not, you impact the customer experience!  At the very least, what you do impacts your internal customers and supports the delivery of products and services to your external customers.  

Think about all the ways you impact the customer.  You might be quite surprised.  If you still aren’t sure how you impact customers, ask your co-workers or your manager.  If they aren’t sure, ask your CEO.  He or she must know!

Next, think about what you can do to make a positive impact on your customers’ experiences.  

  • Can you contribute to quicker service?  Perhaps you can automate part of your tasks?
  • Can you help find a best practice among your peers or facilities?  
  • Can you contribute to a new product design?  Whether you have anything to do with R&D or product development

 I bet you can!  

Help your team understand your customer.  Research your customer.  Think as though you were the customer.  What would you want?  Ask around.  How can you help your customer be successful?

Just asking a few simple questions can achieve dramatic results.  Start the ball rolling this week and see what evolves…..  Undoubtedly, you’ll end up with at least one happy customer down-the-line.


Additive Manufacturing & GE’s 3D-Printed Aircraft Engine

March 5th, 2018

Supply Chain Briefing

More and more can be achieved with additive manufacturing – it is the wave of the future.  The latest feat is an aircraft engine.  GE’s new turboprop engine shows what can be achieved with 3D printing.  More than a third of the components of this engine can be produced through additive manufacturing which will power Textron Aviation’s new Cessna Denali.  Although additive manufacturing isn’t taking over the world yet, it is certainly a big part of our future. Are you evaluating 3D printing?


What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Undoubtedly, whether you relate to aerospace or not, 3D printing is something to think about.  However, don’t just stop with 3D printing.  What else is coming down the pike?  Are you thinking ahead?  Whether you wish to leverage these new technologies and techniques in your manufacturing or supply chain organization, you should be paying attention!  Your smart competition will be.

Aside from the dramatic impact it could have on your growth strategies and profitability, there are many other considerations.  Are you partnering with suppliers who are thinking to the future or just running assets to get the longest life with no thoughts of disruptive forces that are likely to arise?  Are you prioritizing innovation?  It is not a topic to be dictated.  Instead, it is a culture change – both inside your organization and throughout your supply chain.

What’s affecting your business’ future and what are you doing about it?