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The Resilient Supply Chain: Global Trade Unrest

September 30th, 2018

In today’s Amazonian environment, the customer experience is of paramount importance.      Nothing else matters if the customer isn’t happy. Thus, all the conversations going on about trade really just come back to the customer.  What is the best way to service your customers?

 

 

In manufacturing circles, there are many elements converging to strengthen manufacturing in the United States:

  • There are lots and lots of customers in the U.S. and they all want products and services delivered rapidly (making it less conducive to producing half way around the world).
  • Customers change their minds frequently and last minute changes aren’t conducive to long transit times.
  • The new tax law has made the tax rates much more comparative to other nations.  
  • Deregulation has definitely made manufacturers more on par with other nations.
  • Technology improvements have made it more cost effective to produce in the U.S.

Globally Interconnected
Even though manufacturing is surging in the U.S., we live in a globally interconnected world.  Very few, if any, clients source 100% of all materials within the U.S. If you go to suppliers twice removed, you’ll definitely be in global territory.  Thus, global trade remains a key issue.

Tariffs
In logistics circles, there is a lot of concern about the impacts of tariffs on global trade.  Will customers still bring in the same level of imports? If not, how will that impact the ports, distribution centers and transportation?  

Interesting that it hasn’t slowed down yet. The ports are having a record breaking year. We’ve seen price increases start to occur as they are passed on to the next person in the supply chain.  However, the question remains – is this good or bad? And will it substantially change the supply chain in any way?

Global Trade
Certainly there are a lot of heated discussions surrounding global trade.  We have clients who are positively impacted because it just makes them more competitive and on par with the rest of their industry.  And we have clients who are up in arms because their raw material prices are increasing and they are concerned about how to pass it on to their customers.  Will this put them at a disadvantage vs. a competitor who doesn’t source from overseas? Or does it just even the playing field?

Strategic Questions and Decisions
Strategic decisions are beginning to be impacted as well.  For example, Ford decided to not produce a new small car in China.  With the 25% import tariffs, it no longer made financial sense. A few clients are thinking about whether to expand into Mexico and the U.S.  There is uncertainty with NAFTA . However, the experts believe something will carry forward. Perhaps with a resilient supply chain, the key is to not guess and focus on your customer.  If your customers are in the U.S., Mexico is closer to the U.S. than China. That is a fact that won’t change. One thing is definite – things will continue to change and evolve.

Have you built resiliency into your supply chain so you can successfully navigate ever changing business conditions?



Do You Give Back?

September 27th, 2018

We are all so busy that it can be hard to find time to give back.  Yet, the future of our profession, future leaders and our region is at stake.  Making this a priority during your day may not be as difficult as you think.

Choose a way that works for you.
Some people prefer to donate time.  Others prefer to donate money. And others donate expertise.

 I started this journey because one of my colleagues, Ellen Kane, who has to be one of the most helpful people I know (and therefore there is no way to say no to such a wonderful person) asked me to participate with the first APICS Western region student case competition (with just a hand full of students from three colleges).  Fast-forward 10+ years….  We led the competitions together with over 100 students from universities around the globe (from the western region of the U.S. to Canada to China and beyond).

To give an idea of the types of activities you might get involved with in your profession, community or with future leaders, here are the giving back priorities of LMA Consulting:  

1) Manufacturing/ Supply Chain Community

2) Southern CA Community  

3) Students and the future of the profession

  

 

 

 

 

Within these categories, here are some of the examples of our activities.  Hopefully they will prompt ideas for you:

  1. IEEP (Inland Empire Economic Partnership) and IEGO (Inland Economic Growth & Opportunity):  We focus on advancing supply chain and advanced manufacturing in Inland Southern California to contribute to the economy of the area.
  2. MCIE (Manufacturing Council of the Inland Empire):  Certainly this group also has a focus on manufacturing in Inland Southern California to contribute to the economy of the area.  For MCIE, we lead the Innovation Awards and partner and recognize manufacturing in the region.
  3. APICS Inland Empire & Universities/ Colleges in the I.E.: APICS is the leading trade association for supply chain and operations professionals.  Our goal is to provide value to manufacturers and distributors in the area as well as to students/future leaders (Harvey Mudd, Cal Poly Pomona, CSUSB, UCR, University of LaVerne, Drucker & Norco College).  
  4.  Student internships & mentoring (Pomona College & the Drucker School): We also partner with students at Pomona College to provide internships in research and business topics and with students at the Drucker School to mentor women in supply chain.  
  5. University of LaVerne Board of Advisors:  As part of this role, our goal is to advise the business school, participate with the CEO Summit and contribute to the committee focused on advancing women in the business school.

One of the best pieces of advice we’ve received is to start small.  You can make a difference by giving back in a small way and expand where it makes sense for you.  There are no competitions when it comes to giving back. Do it in a way that makes sense to you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  Also, you might have completely different interests. For example, my business partner in the Society for the Advancement of Consulting contributes by volunteering for an association that focuses on diabetes.  I have colleagues who give back by taking care of aging parents.  

No matter your interests, it is likely to give you a bit of diversity in your life.



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.



According to the Industry Week U.S. 500, Manufacturing is STRONG!

September 21st, 2018

 

According to the Industry Week U.S. 500 (America’s largest manufacturers), manufacturing is STRONG!  In fact, the author uses the words VERY STRONG – most likely the largest opportunity for manufacturing since the end of World War II.   Now that is saying something….

The economy is strong and is supplemented by a tax overhaul that supports manufacturers combined with a deregulation focus.  The key is to leverage the opportunity. Even though there are lots of worries about trade wars and skill shortages, thus far, manufacturing continues to outperform.  Get ready for agile and speedy manufacturers with high tech tools to outpace the pack and further spur the economy! Will you be in the fast lane or watching them race by?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Take a pragmatic look:  Are you in the fast lane, driving with the pack or in the slow lane?  

With the VAST opportunities for manufacturers to succeed, perhaps it is time to put on your turn signal and step on the gas!  As one of our LMA Associates has been saying lately, perhaps we should all “make hay while the sun shines”. Are you?

Making It Happen
Strangely, one of the most important to-do’s should be to not get carried away with all the negative “what if’s” (such as trade wars).  Of course, don’t hide your head in the sand. Stay up-to-date on what’s most likely and relevant to your industry.  Focus 95%+ of your energy on how to distinguish your company from the competition while providing superior customer experiences and enabling scalable, profitable growth.  

Make hay while the sun is shining. Bring your best team players together.  Bring in experts to accelerate progress.  Ignite innovation.  Create the environment to ensure success.  Remember your supply chain partners.  AND THEN, “get out of the way”. Success will follow.



The Importance of Continual Learning

September 18th, 2018

Recently, we updated our website.  It prompted a lot of thinking about many aspects of business.  One is the importance of continual learning.  As you’ll see on our Continual Learning webpage, it is a priority.  With that said, I’ve noticed that the most successful people (clients, colleagues, fellow Board members etc.) have continual learning in common.  There is definitely something behind this trend!  It reminds me of one of our LMA Advocate winners, Valerie Ladd – her continual learning is quite impressive.  She never stops learning – and all with a positive attitude to boot.

 

 

 

 

When thinking about continual learning for LMA Consulting, we focus on three categories:

1) Future trends in business, the economy, the industry, our area of expertise etc.
2) Technology trends & disruptors
3) Local & global trends.

What are you learning?

One tip to implement this week:
There are countless ways to add or expand on your continual learning.  Instead of getting stuck in a sea of possibilities, just choose one or two and start there.  Don’t worry if they are the best ones or will provide the greatest benefit.  Just start!  Waiting for perfection is a LONG road….your competition will certainly pass you by.

With that said, if you’d like some ideas of where to go for continual learning, here are several that pop to mind:
1) Ask your mentor.
2) Talk with colleagues and ask what they are learning – or ask to learn more about their role and challenges.
3) Go to a trade association meeting.  For example, APICS Inland Empire provides programs, symposiums, tours and education to provide value to manufacturing and distribution professionals.
4) Go to an alumni meeting.
5) Attend a local chamber or business club.
6) Read the news, magazines and blogs related to your field.
7) Call a customer or supplier.
8) Join a mastermind.
9) Call a former colleague or manager.
10)  Attend a tradeshow.

What are you going to do?