What are the latest supply chain trends?

October 31st, 2011

I just returned from speaking at and attending the Association of Operations Management (APICS) International Conference in Pittsburgh. It was an interesting conference as there were some new, innovative ideas presented (including one game-changer from my perspective), fresh approaches related to supply chain fundamentals, and intriguing keynote speakers. I also had a long conversation with a book editor and gained some new perspectives on what’s important in the book world.

A few emerging trends pop to mind from synthesizing the presentations and discussions at APICS 2011:

1) Demand driven MRP – an exciting combination of MRP, Lean and TOC (theory of constraints). Every exceptional planner knows that none of these approaches “work” alone yet no systems or typically known best practices addres the issue. I’ve been implementing demand driven MRP for many years as the most successful method to combine what makes sense of MRP, Lean and TOC in order to consistently achieve the optimal inventory, service and efficiencies; however, I didn’t have a “name” for it until now.

2) Supply chain sustainability – although I view much of this topic as common sense (again combining what makes sense of best practice manufacturing concepts, lean, green, etc.), there is an increased interest and heightened awareness in today’s new normal business environment.

3) Supply chain risk – undoubedly, we’ve proven that supply chain risk is not something to ignore (Japan’s earthquake, East Coast hurricanes, the San Diego power outage, port issues etc.) yet how to proactively address is not quite as simple. The best in class companies are not only thinking about this topic but also are partnering with universities like MIT to develop solutions.

4) Fundamentals – as important as it is to stay on top of the latest trends, the fundamentals remain VITAL to success. Of all of my clients, very few need anything beyond solid fundamentals to return a significant bottom line profit.

How Do I Implement Lean I.T. and Accelerate Business Results?

October 20th, 2011

One of my colleagues, Vicki Jeter, is exceptional at designing and implementing lean for I.T. – in essence, Lean I.T. is about providing value in the eyes of the customer, driving out non-value added work, and leveraging systems to achieve bottom line results. A few tips I’ve learned from her include:

1. Provide value – forget about the latest and greatest technical gadgets and software; instead, think about how to leverage your systems to provide value for your customers.

2. Automate – look at each task for what is non-essential and can be automated. There are endless opportunities to automate in I.T. and for the business.

3. Streamline – if you cannot automate, how can you streamline the process utilizing the system?

4. Leverage – how can you leverage your systems to improve decision-making and drive bottom line results? Look for underutilized assets, systems, fields, functionality etc.

5. Eliminate waste – are you performing non-value added tasks? I’d be surprised if you weren’t as I’ve yet to see a “perfect” scenario. Keep an eye out for waste. After a while, people don’t even see waste, even if it’s piled high next to them.

Interested in Private Equity?

October 18th, 2011

What is a CFO’s job like in private equity – Exciting & exhausting! (CFO Magazine)

I thought this was so appropriate to what I’ve seen over the years, and so I wanted to share and comment. I felt the same way as a VP of Operations in private equity, and I know many Executives who have expressed similar sentiments.

Never-ending requests for profit bridges, analyses, endless documents on proposed capital spending, questions about results, questions on risks and rewards, etc. I found that although we spent countless hours on these sorts of requests, there was an upside as well – we ended up with a razor-sharp focus on our business.

Of course, as with everything, there can be excellent private equity partners or horrific private equity partners – I’ve seen both. The good can end up with “big risk, big payoff”, and the worst…….it’s ugly.

Are You Undervaluing Your Project Leaders?

October 11th, 2011

As I just spoke on the “Secrets of Project Leadership Success in the New Normal” at ProjectWorld / BusinessAnalystWorld in Vancouver and had some fascinating discussions with other speakers and participants, it got me thinking about how often excpetion project managers are undervalued.

As it’s clear that those companies who achieve bottom line business results are those who value these resources, why do so many companies choose the less successful route? As I said in my speech, if there was a subject that went across organizational boundaries that could impact the bottom line, it would be project management. How do we take advantage of good ideas? Project management. How do we thrive in the new normal? Project management. Whether we realize it or not, those leaders who “get things done” typically are exceptional project managers and leaders. I’ll take a so-so idea with an excellent project leader anyday over a fabulous idea with a so-so project leader.

Take a step back and assess whether your organization has any exceptional project leaders? You might be surprised – who brings up future roadblocks and obstacles frequently with ideas/ recommendations to overcome them? They might even be considered annoying as it’s an “easier” day if no issues are constantly arising. Who has people following them regardless of their position title? Who ruffles a few features as no exceptional leader will stand by and let a non-performer go unaddressed on his/ her project team?

If you’re interested in reading more about successes, failures and case studies about project leadership, there are many articles on my Articles & Publications webpage under the category of Project Management – click here and/or I have a few years worth of monthly columns on the Project Times website – click here