Leverage Systems for Growth

May 19th, 2015

If you’re riding a wave of growing demand put systems in place that can support the increased workload and not wipe out your goals.

Lately I’ve been talking with many clients and potential clients who are interested in growth. Although rapid growth is exciting, it can also be one of the most challenging to navigate. Systems can provide the perfect tool to leverage for success – whether your company is small or big.

Even the strongest of my clients are deterred with rapid growth. In many cases, the client is still relatively small and concerned with cash flow yet they are starting to experience “big company” problems. For example, customers do not care what you have to do to service them. They expect you’ll have what they need where they need it when they need it. Just think about Amazon. Same day and next day delivery has become commonplace. E-commerce capabilities and mobility (seeing the information on your cell phone and iPad) are expectations.

Similarly, larger companies also can benefit from systems. One of the best ways to gain new customers, new items and to cross-sell is to upgrade your capabilities. If you can stand out from the crowd by leveraging systems behind the scene, you can achieve great success. So, how can systems be leveraged for growth? There are several ways: 1) Volume.  2) Best practice processes.  3)  Automation.

Undoubtedly, one of the tenets of a system is that it is a vehicle to be leveraged to support significantly higher volumes without additional effort. Whether your customers buy 1 or 100 and whether you have 5 or 1000 customers does not matter to a system; however, it matters greatly if these transactions must be completed manually. The system will then figure out how many components and materials are needed to support these customer requirements. In essence, the system can function as a “big calculator” to cover these types of volume increases.

Next, the system will support best practice processes. Unfortunately I’ve seen clients (and people) who have the latest and greatest technology available yet they fail miserably. The reason this occurs is that they do not take the time to think through the optimal process to be utilized with the system. One way to think about this is “garbage in, garbage out”. A system will only calculate “junk” faster if you don’t focus time and attention on your processes. How can you set up your daily, weekly and monthly routine to best support your business? Build these into your system, and your system will become invaluable to growth.

The opportunity to automate is another advantage of leveraging a system for growth. There are countless opportunities to automate in every business. I’ve yet to walk into a new client without significant potential to take steps out of processes by having the computer perform steps and calculations for you within a set of guidelines. For example, instead of manually calculating what you need to produce in order to meet your customers’ needs, an ERP system will figure that out for you and provide you with a recommended plan for review. Then, our job becomes managing exceptions and adding value instead of performing routine tasks.

There are countless reasons to consider implementing a new system, upgrading your system or further leveraging your system to support growth. I see it as one of several “capacity items” that need to be put in place to support growth. If your sales people can sell without inhibition because they know you’ll have the capacity (people, processes, systems, machines, etc.) available, imagine what can be achieved!

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Where Should I Start to Ensure Demand Planning Success?

May 18th, 2015

It’s easy to feel lost when you have no direction from customers about their own sales projections. Get a clearer picture through demand planning.

80% of companies are not in front of their demand. How can you decide what to plan for if you don’t know where you are going? You don’t! Thus, it makes sense to spend time upfront to determine your best estimate for customer forecasts and your demand plan.  Don’t worry about perfection as the definition of a forecast is that it will be inaccurate; however, you can get in the ballpark. By achieving this goal, you will better serve your customers, grow your business and improve margins.

If you are unsure where to start, consider digging into the following:

1. Talk with customers: Pick up the phone and find out what is happening with your customers. Are they promoting certain items? Or focused on specific locations? What are they seeing in terms of demand further down the supply chain?

2. Talk with Sales: Certainly Sales should be staying on top of what is important to customers. Ask Sales which products, categories, and/or customers should be the focus.

3. Talk with Customer Service: Customer Service can often be overlooked as they might not be perceived as strategic; however, they can have extremely valuable insights into customer demand. Customers are likely to tell them about upcoming demand, challenges, and other valuable information about the customer.

4. Ask for demand data: Often times, customers will have information about what their customers are purchasing. Ask for the data that pertains to your items. If you are able to gain data, you can perform analysis of your customers’ customers’ preferences. It can yield a goldmine of information.

5. Look for market intelligence: What does your market project? For example, if you are in aerospace, you will likely track the number of airplanes Boeing, Airbus, etc. are producing. You’ll then be able to extrapolate what your forecast is likely to be.  Even if you are not in an industry with long-term market intelligence discussed in the news, market insights will still exist. Knowing your industry can go a long way!

Generating a demand plan that is a reasonable representation of your company’s growth is the first step to implementing a SIOP (sales, inventory, & operations planning) process which can yield substantial results. It starts with superior customer service and delivers profit and accelerates cash as you optimize and balance your demand with your supply.

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Do You Have Enough Female Leaders?

May 12th, 2015

supply chainI attended the compelling Renaissance Executive Forums All Member meeting last week in the Inland Empire, and it got me thinking about female leaders. One of the keynote speakers discussed this topic. Who would think it would take me attending an event to think about an obviously appropriate topic? I have been one of very few women leaders and consultants in manufacturing. For example, without my former CEO, I would not be here today as he told the Board of Directors that he didn’t care that his VP of Operations wasn’t a “grey-haired man with a Harvard MBA” because I was able to achieve results.

The point of the keynote by Maureen Berkner Boyt is that there is a war on talent. I certainly concur as my Skills Gap research states the same thing – only the best will attract and retain top talent. She cited statistics such as female leadership yields a competitive advantage: 2% more cash to the bottom line; 22% lower turnover rate and 30-40% increased patent citations from mixed gender teams. So, what are you doing to encourage female leadership in your organization?

One tip to implement this week:

No matter your position, think about how you can help promote the advancement of women. Is your culture accidentally supporting the advancement of males only? If you are a leader, take a step back to evaluate your culture. Are you looking for opportunities for female leaders (and career progression)? I’ve seen many clients overlook top talent who happened to be women. Are you attracting women with your hiring practices and company brand?

If you are not in a hiring position, you can still make a difference. What knowledge can you share? Can you recommend a female colleague for a key team? One easy tip is to keep your eyes open. Just looking for female talent can yield interesting results. Once you see talent, find a way to help promote these folks within your culture. I’ve found that if your objective is to look for solutions (instead of pointing out all the problems), they will appear.

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”


Pioneer of Supply Chain Employment

May 12th, 2015
big idea

Bold ideas in employment may be counterintuitive but you have to be willing to fail to win big.

I recently attended the Southern California Logistics & Supply Chain Summit hosted by the Center for Supply Chain & Logistics of the Drucker School of Management and the Inland Empire Economic Partnership. There were several interesting trends and innovations; however, the keynote speaker from Walgreens stood out in my mind.

If you are unwilling to try something new and fail, you will be a miserable failure at innovation. You must be willing to “go BIG or go home”. Randy Lewis, the former Senior Vice President at Walgreens, launched a division-wide disability hiring initiative based on the principle of “same jobs, same performance, same pay” which resulted in 10% of its workforce composed of people with disabilities. He had loyal fans for employees – both those with disabilities and those without. Who said we cannot be innovative in a manufacturing or distribution environment?

Innovation is essential to succeed; it is no longer enough to be “good”. You must be able to stand out from the crowd to succeed in today’s business environment. Listen to pioneers like Randy. They will provide ideas and spur thought. Read about the latest trends. Attend events. For example, the APICS-IE executive panel & networking symposium had several innovation gurus on our panel. Value your supply chain employees – ASK them. Certainly if Walgreens can utilize people with disabilities and come out with equal efficiency with only half the absenteeism and workers comp costs, it is worth thinking outside the box.

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Keeping an Eye Out for Opportunities

May 8th, 2015
be ready for new opportunities

All supply chain events, trends, and issues – good or bad – can lead to new opportunities if you’re vigilant.

One of the most successful strategies for success for executives follows the Occam’s Razor concept of simplicity – keep an eye out for opportunities. It is amazing how often vast opportunities pass us by because we are deep in execution and not looking at what is going on around us. Instead, remain vigilant on keeping your eyes open for trends, issues and opportunities you and your business can leverage for success.

For example, many of the great innovations in history came from places such as unexpected successes, unexpected failures, market changes and the like.  None of these would have occurred if the innovator had been unobservant.  Think about each event that occurs as an opportunity. Is there a way the process could be improved? Did it open doors for a completely new way of doing something? Instead of getting caught up in what didn’t work, think about how you can use these experiences as an opportunity.

So how do we do this? There are several strategies that can lead to success; however, here are a few of the top ones to try out: 1) Plan a certain amount of time into your day to walk around and observe. Pay attention to what’s going on. 2) Ask questions and listen. You might gain a goldmine of information. 3) Look at everything that happens as an opportunity – good or bad.  What can you learn from the situation or leverage from the situation?  You never know when the next BIG idea will occur. 4) How can you combine things differently for a better result?

As they say at the DMV, keep your eyes “on the road” – look for opportunities. 

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