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The Value of Alignment: Sales, Operations & Finance

May 30th, 2019

Alignment might sound like a fluffy concept, but it delivers bottom line results. Our most successful clients have achieved the most substantial results from alignment. Although SIOP (Sales, Inventory, Operations Planning) gets a wrap as a technical topic, in our experience, it is the alignment portion of SIOP that delivers the bacon!

For example, in one client project, the Sales Leader was concerned about service levels. He knew that service was the differentiator in the marketplace, and if they didn’t have quick lead times and responsive customer service, it would negatively impact his ability to grow the business. On the other hand, planning knew that sales tended to come in dramatic spikes which were hard to predict in advance and so strategic inventory could make sense. Operations wasn’t too keen on inventory since they had a lean mentality with the view that inventory was ‘bad’, and they were concerned about capacity and staffing. Accounting set rules on overhead rates as a percentage of sales on a monthly basis which caused HR and Operations to hire and fire temps continually (and sometimes full-time resources). Overtime wasn’t used as a rule of thumb and was seen as costly by management, In fact, it was the only client we’ve ever worked with that didn’t use at least some percentage of overtime on a continual basis. And, of course, R&D created new products and had no idea about the volume and the impact on capacity and staffing. In essence, no one was on the same page!

We created a demand plan based on historical forecasts with sales input, confirmed the capacity and staffing levels required to meet that forecast and determined that if we level loaded the forecast over a quarter, we could create a win-win: improved service during the sales spikes with improved margins (lower temp turnover, improved efficiencies etc.). But it didn’t matter if we didn’t align the team. That was the 80/20 to creating success (and is ALWAYS the hardest part). Fast-forward 3-6 months down-the-road: We shortened service dips from the sales spikes, increased the service levels and reduced costs.

These types of client results are commonplace with alignment no matter your position in the supply chain or the world. Have you considered whether your teams are saying they are aligned or whether they are truly using the same playbook? It often will make the difference between a happy customer and a disgruntled one (which isn’t something anyone wants in today’s on-line era), let alone the profit impacts. If you are interested in an alignment assessment, please contact us.

 

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

The Strongest Link in Your Supply Chain

SIOP: How Collaboration & Judgement Can Achieve Wonders

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Pricing & Profits: It’s Not All About Revenue

May 26th, 2019

According to CFO Magazine, Amazon’s profit doubled to a record $3.6 billion in the first quarter yet reported its lowest growth rate in quarterly revenue since 2015. In today’s Amazonian environment, subscription services such as Amazon cloud and Kindle services as well as disruptive forces such as the 3rd party seller services (clients worry about from the opposite viewpoint) are driving profitable growth for a company that once lost money continuously. Are you considering ways to ensure your pricing makes sense and delivers the results you intend?

 

It’s Not All About Revenue
Ask questions of your sales representatives, customers, marketing department, executives and competitors about pricing:

  • When is the last time you raised prices? Why are they at the level they are set?
  • Who sets your prices? Think carefully as this could lead to some interesting discussions.
  • Do you know how your prices compare to your costs? There are lots of reasons NOT to set prices this way but knowing this relationship is relevant.
  • How does your pricing stack up with the competition? Again, high or low is irrelevant but considering your strategy is key.
  • Since it has come up frequently lately, I’ll also throw in this one: Is your pricing so complex that your ERP system won’t support it? That would certainly be something to re-evaluate.

Pricing is an important topic, assuming you are interested in profitable growth. It is worth taking the time to ask a few key questions of your internal and external resources. Gather your executive team and put some focus on whether what you are doing makes sense and supports your strategy or if it is out of date. With the pace of change at an all-time high, reviewing this topic once every few years is by NO MEANS enough. If you’d like an expert to assess your situation to partner with you to achieve these types of results, contact us.

 

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People & Robots Can Co-Exist Successfully

May 23rd, 2019

We held an engaging executive panel discussion at our APICS Inland Empire spring symposium on the topic: “The Talent Transformation: People or Robots? There is quite a lot of hoopla in Inland Southern California as this geography is larger than all but 24 states (and soon will take over Lousiana) with a strong manufacturing and logistics base.  Yet, the threat and opportunity of automation is close at hand. According to a University of Redlands study, most large metropolitan areas are subject to losing 55% of their current jobs due to automation. In Inland Southern CA, that number expands to 62%. What will this mean? Disaster or opportunity?

According to a robotics expert with a background in industry, Carnegie Mellon and Harvey Mudd, the CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP), a Director at Honeywell and a recruiter and practice lead at Aerotek, we can rest assured that people and robots can co-exist successfully. Of course, this assumes we are proactive in thinking about automation, retraining and educating our workforce and providing the insights and collaboration opportunities such as the executive panel event.

We had some probing questions from the manufacturing and distribution professionals in the audience, but it was unanimous that a solution exists. We also talked about Middle Harbor which is a high-tech area of the ports. This has proven more challenging as negotiations have put some people out of a job yet still getting paid for it. With that said, there were many examples of success with business growing 3-fold while the company doubled the workforce and more. Hiding under a rock is definitely not the route to success. Instead, be a part of the collaborative effort.

As a Board member of IEEP and a supply chain expert, I am helping to lead a consortium for advanced manufacturing and logistics success to address just this topic (resulting from the Brookings study research). If you are interested in staying in the loop with updates, please email me. I’ve created a special interest list for this topic.

The students from Harvey Mudd presented some exciting robotics research they are conducting with industry on how to successfully navigate cluttered workspaces (as most manufacturing and distribution clients require). Much progress is being made.  And, robots aren’t going away. There are many positives in terms of consistency of quality, replacing competitive motion tasks, reducing workers compensation and labor risks in addition to cost savings. With that said, there are also some challenges to overcome such as what happens when technology goes wrong (like with the Boeing 737 Max). There is always risks to mitigate and people who are overlooked. The panel discussed the Challenger disaster and the employee who warned ahead of time to the technical glitch.

What are you doing to evaluate technology from a strategic standpoint? Will you be left in the dust? Grocery stores might have been a bit complacent before Amazon bought Whole Foods. Are you complacent? On the other hand, please don’t follow fads. When everyone thought outsourcing was great and Boards insisted on following the trend no matter the total impact, several companies outsourced and were sorry later when service went down and costs weren’t saved. If you’d like an assessment, contact us.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on this topic:

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The Resilient Supply Chain: Do You Have Resilient Employees?



Amazon Adds In-Garage Delivery Option

May 20th, 2019

According to Good Morning America, Amazon is adding in-garage delivery options to its already vast array of delivery options – in-home and in-car. I remember when I first started working after college receiving a package was an ordeal! I was lucky if I could go to the post office on a Saturday to get a package or have to take a vacation day just to get the package. How insane that sounds!

Now, we can receive packages in-car (I would have loved that at the time because I could go to the parking lot at work), in-home (hard to imagine but even Walmart has been testing putting groceries away in the refrigerator with in-home delivery) and now in-garage if you don’t want people in your house or if you have pets you worry about. You can control the garage door opener from your phone and see the package being delivered for peace of mind. Talk about convenience!

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Consumer products companies are evaluating all sorts of convenience-related delivery options to ‘win’ the race for shopping convenience. That’s why we also see Amazon tents popping up around the country as Amazon gets into the transportation business and needs last mile facilities. What will be next?

At a minimum, get up-to-speed with the latest strategies in e-commerce and logistics. LMA Consulting was a sponsor at the e-commerce and Logistics Summit recently, featuring keynoters from UPS, Georgia Tech and more. Check out these types of events to at least be aware of what’s happening in the industry and think about what types of piloting you should perform at your company.

Can you work with select customers to determine what type of service would go “over-and-beyond” for them? High-quality products and great brands are no longer enough. You better add top notch service into the mix to succeed!

You’ll find more information on these types of topics on our resilient supply chain series.



Let’s Manage Inventory for Our Customers

May 16th, 2019

inventory managementAmazon is propelling this age-old topic into a new realm. Since the CEO of the Ontario Airport Authority used the phrase “last mile” has become “last minute” on a panel I facilitated last year, I have shamelessly reapplied his brillant quote.

If customers don’t even know what they want, how can we? Interestingly, we have found that many customers, even the seemingly most confused and  volatile ones, have a pattern to their demand. If we take a holistic view of their demand and inventory planning processes from beginning to end and from high level to the minute detail, solutions emerge.     

One strategy that has proven quite effective is to “remove the middleman”, the customer himself. Instead, with access to demand information direct from the customers’ customer or end user, you can not only manage the extended supply chain inventory better for a happier customer but you also can improve margins, efficiencies and cash flow to boot.

In consumer products circles, this strategy often termed, vendor managed inventory is usually dictated by the “big guys”.  In aerospace, it is also expected but termed differently, customer based ordering, min max and other names. It is also common in healthcare as we won “supplier of the year” for two years in a row because of what we accomplished with VMI for Cardinal Healthcare when I was VP of Operations at PaperPak. We decided to make it a strategy for key customers at PaperPak, even though Cardinal is the only one who requested it. Should you consider a strategy like this to get ahead of your customers’ demand?  It is just another aspect in creating a resilient supply chain. Check out our series on the topic.