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Participation is More Fun

June 20th, 2019

During my recent trip to Sicily, Prague and Belgium, I went on several food tours. I have found food tours can be a fun and interesting way to get to know an area, as well as the food that is unique to the area. So, of course, when in Italy, what better than to have a food tour and make your own pizza! We sort of participated in making limoncello which is always a great taste to include on a tour.  And, we definitely made chocolate treats on a chocolate tour in Brussels.

Each time an activity was included, it added a new twist to the food tour. Isn’t that true with work as well? If you want someone to learn a concept, develop an exercise or a way for him/her to participate. Since returning, I taught a CSCP (certified supply chain professional) class at the Target distribution center and another class with two students at the University of LaVerne/  We had interesting interactive discussions. The students brought up real world examples to participate and relate the concepts to everyday work scenarios and gain immediate advice on a few issues. Bringing concepts to life with active participation is much more memorable than just talking or droning on about a topic. How can you bring concepts to life at work?

One tip to implement this week:
Think about how to build clarity and build participation into your conversations, presentations and discussions. As Jerry Seinfeld says, “I will spend an hour taking an eight word sentence and editing it down to five.” Similarly, I’ve noticed it might take our team at least that long to distill one key concept into a graphic. It is well worth it if the point is clearly communicated and our recommendation is understood and supported. In this case, think about how to engage your team, audience or client to participate in the solution. Not only will they understand it much better but they also will be aligned with it!

There is an art to developing participation exercises that will engage the audience while achieving your end outcome. I find it much harder than it appears. Ask your favorite speakers, educators and leaders how they do it. Take note when someone does it well. How do they introduce the exercise? How do they engage the team? Do they tie the results to the next topic or business need? Little things go a long way. For example, try making your exercise relevant to the audience. When explaining the importance of bills of material for a clay company, we used play dough to make some simple items (thanks to my colleague Diane Garcia for that great idea!). I’d love to hear your ideas for successful participation.

 



Why Supplier Management is More Important Than You Think

June 17th, 2019

Supplier management has been a theme this week. I taught a CSCP (certified supply chain professional) class session about supplier relationship management and SRM software recently. An attendee had a great example of the impact of poor quality.  Her company was sending an entire container load of product back to Asia with defective parts.  This was bound to have negative impacts on the customer. After all, they were already delayed.  Now, they were spending another month on the water to start over again. That led us to discussions on backup suppliers.

Next, I spent quite a bit of time on webinars and calls one day talking about the critical importance of supplier lead time, reliability, safety stock, lot size and how these factors impact our ability to maximize service, profit and cash flow. And, I presented to APICS Ventura on “The Resilient Supply Chain” We had intriguing discussions on the trends of vertical integration, supplier consolidation, allocation of key materials (and how consumer products are gaining priority access with the leftovers being allocated to industrial companies), the impact of tariffs on sourcing, and several more topics.

The bottom line of each of these discussions is that proactive management of suppliers is of ever-increasing importance in today’s Amazon impacted business environment. If you don’t have what you need, when you need it, where you need it, in good quality, and within cost guidelines, you are likely to lose vs. your competition. And, this includes last minute changes! Do you consider your supplier your partner or someone to negotiate with and gain an advantage over?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
It is NOT all about cost. Of course, the hot topic on executives’ minds is how to achieve scaleable growth, so profit and cost are important topics.  Yet, smart executives realize it is quite easy to sacrifice the future by saving pennies in the present. Similar to the mistakes made several years ago when it didn’t matter whether it made cost-sense or not (ie. Boards were demanding outsourcing regardless of the financials), many Boards are demanding supplier concessions without looking at the extended supply chain impacts. Instead, stick up for looking at total cost and taking the value viewpoint! Of course, this means you’ll be focused on costs but it won’t be your sole focus.

We talked about several scenarios where you had to invest financially upfront in order to achieve longer-term success. For example, we talked about keeping a more expensive backup supplier and giving them 20% of the volume. Boards and private equity backers weren’t too happy with the extra cost yet this risk mitigation technique saved the day on more than one occasion. When the material went on allocation, the main supplier struggled or the ports/transportation infrastructure broke down, those who planned for the inevitable bump in the road had uninterrupted supply from the backup supplier and satisfied customers while the competition fell further behind. Are you thinking about your suppliers like a cost or a partner?  You’ll find more information on these types of topics on our resilient supply chain series.

 



Language & Why Quality Is Lost in Translation

June 14th, 2019

I recently returned from a trip to Europe and it highlighted why language and positioning matters. Of course, when visiting Sicily, Sorrento, Prague and Bruges, different languages and dialects were spoken.  However, my comments about language and positioning relate to English. On a day tour in Prague, we had an extremely knowledgeable guide who wanted to tell us everything she knew. We could understand her English.  However, she was opinionated about where we should stand when listening, whether we could stray to take pictures, and whether we could ask questions if she hadn’t told us what she thought we should know. She didn’t position her language in the interests of her customer, so it really wasn’t as enjoyable as other tours where the guides clearly didn’t have the same level of experience and expertise.

I bring this up – because I still was glad I went on the day trip – however, this same topic has arisen multiple times in business in the last several days. In one project update call, the project manager presented important information. Yet, the way he presented it made it seem like the world might be coming to an end, even though it was FAR from reality and not his intention. It could have had drastic unintended consequences if we hadn’t spoken up to re-position.

In another client meeting, the group was talking about relevant details but all the CEO heard was blah, blah, blah because he wanted the bottom line – what those details meant. Of course, he wanted to know that the details were reviewed but the lengthy and wandering explanations made him feel uncomfortable in the conclusion (perhaps we protest too much) instead of confident. The details were intended to provide evidence to support, yet it backfired similarly to the guide’s endless stream of facts instead of focusing on the highlights that were relevant to the customer. Instead, speaking with confidence and conveying that details were considered (without going into detail), highlighting the bottom line result would have done the trick. I can’t tell you how many valuable superstars in clients are overlooked because they don’t know how to use language and convey their ideas successfully!

One tip to implement this week:
As someone who started out horrendously in presenting and positioning, I can tell you with confidence that it is a learned skill. Start wherever you are and make a new effort to improve. Don’t worry about perfection.  It is DEFINITELY overrated. Just strive for improvement on a daily basis. According to my consulting mentor ,Alan Weiss, if you improve by 1% a day, in 70 days you are twice as good. If you think about it, that is really quick!

Start by positioning what you say in the best interest of your audience,not in the light of what you assume is in their best interest. This alone can be revolutionary!

When I was a VP of Operations, I couldn’t understand why a plant manager, who reported to me,  seemed to believe what she said.  It was obviously untrue.  It’s wasn’t until my best friend in an unrelated field explained that people believe their own perceptions and they don’t have to match reality. I was thinking from my point-of-view instead of hers.

How many times have you used arguments to gain approval, funding or resources/support that you would use vs. those that would appeal to your audience? More than we’d like to admit I’d guess!



Blockchain Service Has Gone Mainstream

June 11th, 2019

Although according to most experts, blockchain hasn’t lived up to its promise yet especially in comparison with IoT, robotics and more, it has just gone mainstream. Of course, who else but Amazon has just made blockchain service platform generally available. Undoubtedly, that will disrupt many of the techies running around to be the first at blockchain! With that said, big names such as IBM have poured a lot of resources into blockchain, so it is likely to go somewhere. For example, IBM and Syniverse just completed a pilot program for roaming solutions using blockchain technology.  And, IBM has interesting projects going with Nestle, Volkswagen, and Albertsons (the world’s 2nd largest grocery chain).

Have you thought about how blockchain might impact your industry?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
There has been a lot of hoopla about blockchain for several years although progress has been slower than many other technologies. Regardless of how popular, it is important to understand key technologies that might impact your industry or your supply chain partners. Certainly, in blockchain’s case, it is relevant to industries where a chain-of-custody might be needed such as food. That is why two of the companies mentioned above relate to food, Nestle and Albertsons. Yet it doesn’t matter if you relate to food or another blockchain-related industry, it is quite likely your industry or your supply chain will be impacted in some way. For example, you might use the same supplier or transportation system.

The bottom line is to stay abreast of what might impact your industry, company, customers, suppliers and related geographies. Thinking ahead will enable you to take advantage of opportunities and successfully navigate around barriers. You’ll find more information on these types of topics on our resilient supply chain series.

 



Why Inventory Will Matter Again

June 8th, 2019

I was on a bit of a trip down memory lane over the holidays as I reconnected with former colleagues from when I was VP of Operations and Supply Chain at PaperPak, an absorbent products manufacturer for healthcare and food products.  I recently talked about healthcare manufacturing with a group of powerful women (and a few brave men) at the Professional Women in Healthcare event.  When inventory arose as a hot topic, I thought about paper rolls (pictured).

Actually, inventory was a hot topic as we partnered with key customers to develop collaborative forecasting models, implement vendor managed inventory programs to dramatically reduce inventory and free up cash while improving service levels and to maximize storage and efficiencies in our operations, distribution centers and, most importantly, throughout our transportation system (since absorbent products are bulky and freight intensive).

In our view, inventory is circling back in importance and will become a hot topic again as customers expect immediate, customized deliveries with the expectation of easy returns and last-minute changes to orders in production, in the warehouse or in transit. What are you doing to get ahead of this ‘new normal’ assumption?

To throw out a few ideas to get your juices flowing:

  • Get demand further into your supply chain – what are your customers’ customers selling or using of your product?
  • Be collaborative with strange bedfellows – I’ve written several articles recently on this topic as the most successful executives see the value in finding the ‘win-win-win’
  • What talent do you have focused on having the ‘right’ inventory at the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time? You could double your inventory and decrease service if you don’t know how to navigate these treacherous waters.
  • How sure are you that your demand and supply (labor, skills, machine capacity, buildings/ storage capacity, cash flow) are aligned and will remain aligned?

This topic reminds me of one of my early articles, the Million Dollar Planner. Although that sounds insane, it might be worth thinking about conceptually. If you maximize your customer experience, profitability and cash flow, the return is frequently in excess of a million dollars. Most importantly, what could you do with an extra million dollars? Invest in new products and services to spur growth? Build your infrastructure to enable scalable growth? Build your talent base to create sustainability? The possibilities are limitless.

Contact us if you’d like to discuss further.