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Is it Time to Barcode?

February 24th, 2020

Client Question
If we struggle with process disciplines and performing timely, accurate transactions, should we pursue barcoding? This typically arises with every ERP implementation.  Our answer is generally that we should crawl before we walk before we run.

In fact, I am known for this comment at one client which I think we can chalk up to a “good” and “bad” thing! The key question is, “Is it always true that we should hold off?”

The Answer
Well, we certainly have seen unfortunate circumstances resulting from clients jumping into action to barcode before they are prepared. Unfortunately, well intentioned employees forget to scan or get scan happy, creating worse disruption than existed before scanning. Clearly, that isn’t good. In fact, one client that sped down this road too quickly had to navigate chaos with extra resources and cost because of just this circumstance.

So, as usual, the answer is “it depends”.

Recently, we have seen good reasons to consider starting near-term down the barcoding path, even when process disciplines aren’t fully in place. Starting by replacing key strokes with scanning can be a simple way to simple speed up slow keying and minimize errors. Now that could be quite the success story and worth starting early. With that said, it is always good to ensure success and take a slower path to full integration with your ERP system and related processes prior to strong process disciplines. Just make sure to work with experts to avoid the pitfalls and gain the advantages.

Food For Thought
Are you thinking about barcoding because it sounds progressive, interesting and your people have asked for it? Or are you thinking about barcoding because you have found a business benefit that outweighs the risks and costs?

Make sure you are jumping on the bandwagon for the right reasons, and you will be quite successful.

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Future-proofing Your Supply Chain

February 21st, 2020

Disruptions abound in supply chain circles. Just consider any of the following recent events: the tariff war, global unrest, the Coronavirus, natural disasters such as the volcano in the Philippines, the Hong Kong protests and more.

We have never had a client that could claim that 100% of the extended supply chain (from suppliers’ suppliers to customers’ customers) was inside the U.S. So, we have to be prepared to navigate these types of disruptions and the related impacts.

Disruptions certainly go beyond your physical supply chain. What about your human capital, technologies (accompanied with processes) and strategies? Refer to our article on future-proofing your skills gap and assess which risks might be on the horizon in your industry.

When it comes to technologies, there is no doubt that emerging technologies are gaining steam and are starting to transform supply chains. Just consider the application of collaborative robots, automation, RPA (robotic process automation), artificial intelligence, IoT, blockchain, and predictive analytics to name a few. Big name companies are dropping big dollars into these technologies. When thinking about strategy, remember strategy is no longer a multi-year exercise. We must be thinking in terms of strategic sprints. Who knows what will happen beyond a year out!

Several high-level categories should be assessed as you think about your supply chain:

  1. Sourcing – Are you sourcing from China? Is this a viable path forward to source 100% from China? There are increased risk factors to consider. Listen to an interview I conducted with John Tulac, international business attorney, on future-proofing and doing business with China. It is time to reevaluate your supply chain footprint.
  2. Logistics – There are significant disruptors transforming this industry, ranging from e-commerce and the the Omni-channel to robotics, additive manufacturing and the digitization of the supply chain. If you aren’t incorporating these impacts in future-proofing your supply chain, you will be left in the dust. These are concepts of focus for the consortium for logistics success in the Inland Empire to enable companies to stay informed and keep up with the fast pace of change.
  3. Manufacturing – Industry 4.0 is transforming manufacturing and changing the landscape. It will be a pivotal year that separates the winners vs the losers as advances are made. See what the National Association of Manufacturers’ Leadership Council sees as critical issues
  4. Demand & Supply – There is no doubt, there is a keen interest by business owners, executives and private equity leaders on creating predictable demand and forecasting sales. The more we understand our demand plan, the better our operational performance, supplier performance and customer performance. Read about SIOP (sales, inventory, operations planning) and how it can help future-proof this area.
  5. Inventory – As the disruptions abound and executives fear a slow-down, the proactive management of inventory and advanced collaborative programs are gaining in relevance. Pick up some tips and strategies in our recent article ” Inventory Management as Fashionable as Automated Intelligence for Distributors” for ACHR News.
  6. Metrics & Predictive analytics – Keeping a pulse on performance should remain a top priority while forecasting what will be needed.

Getting ahead of the curve might be the only avenue to success. Consider creating a resilient supply chain and future-proofing your supply chain. Stay tuned and read more about it, and If you are interested in discussing a supply chain assessment, please contact us.

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Future-Proofing Your Skills Gap

February 17th, 2020

Since talent has become a strategic topic for any executive who wishes to thrive in 2020 and beyond, it should top of mind for every manufacturing and distribution business owner or executive. Have you put time aside to think about this critical topic with your top team? If not, stop now and do it!

We have recently re-surveyed manufacturing and distribution executives, hiring managers, and related trusted advisors.  There is unanimous agreement that the skills gap remains. We also talked with business owners and executives from a wide range of manufacturing and distribution industries.

Talent is a hot topic for several critical reasons:

  1. Demographics – As baby boomers retire, it is leaving a gap in experience and expertise. It is a struggle to absorb or replace adequately.
  2. Technology – With the increase in technology required to run our businesses while providing not only a superior customer experience to grow but also with high levels of profitability and working capital, having talent with the skills to maximize the use of technology is essential. It is also changing the makeup of the talent required.
  3. Skilled Trades – There is a significant gap in the skilled trades such as CNC operators. There hasn’t been enough focus on the high school and community college career path into the sector. Those that find a way to bridge this gap have a leg up on the competition.
  4. Leaders – Whether high-tech or low-tech, leaders play a pivotal role in performance. It is FAR too often we see executives trade down to save money instead of looking at the return on investment over a multi-year period!
  5. Complexity – We live in a global, complex world with increasing rules and regulations to navigate.

How can we future-proof talent? There are a few priorities we should pursue immediately.

  1. Think Ahead: Don’t hire, retain and train for what is needed today. Instead, focus on where you’ll need to be in one year to thrive.
  2. Partner: If you need skilled trades, technology savvy resources and the like, consider partnerships. Successful executives have set up programs with local community colleges, partnered with trade associations such as the Association for Supply Chain Management (APICS – listen to the video below), collaborated with a makerspace academy such as Vocademy, brought in trsuted advisors, collaborated with competitors and more.
  3. Evaluate Technology: Evaluate which technology will provide a return on investment and spur profitable growth. There is no need to chase shiny objects but you should think prudently about how to accelerate success.
  4. Mentor: There is little better than establishing a mentoring process. Although training can be effective, people learn quickest through behavioral change modeling and feedback.
  5. Be attractive: You are in competition for your talent – both retaining top talent as well as finding new talent.

Proactively addressing this Skills Gap and future-proofing your manufacturing operations and extended supply chain is cornerstone to growth plans.

Lately, we’ve seen an increase in interest for an organizational structure and talent assessment to ensure the organization is shored up to deliver performance plans. If you’d like assistance in evaluating your readiness to meet business objectives, please contact us.

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Collaboration is NO LONGER a Fluffy Topic

February 16th, 2020

I facilitated an executive panel discussion on “Collaboration for Advanced Manufacturing & Supply Chain Success” with diverse viewpoints from transportation (Ontario airport), manufacturing (AMETEK Ameron), technology for manufacturing and logistics from the global leader in GIS (ESRI), and innovation, incubator and accelerator gurus.  It was a fascinating discussion on the value of collaboration, to innovate or not, robots or people and other controversial hot topics.

The key takeaways included the following:

  • The Value of Partners – Several panelists talked about the value of choosing your partners wisely. No one person and no one company can do it alone. In fact, we often collaborate not only with “usual suspects” but also with ones we might not suspect, such as our competition. When you can find a way to collaborate with competition where you both “win”, a powerful outcome will result.
  • Fail Forward – This was a powerful insight from one of the panelists. As I always say in speeches on innovation, you have to fail to be successful in innovation. Do we see our failures as ‘failing forward’? Or do we hide under a rock?
  • Robots or People? – We had a bit of debate. Will robots replace jobs? Absolutely! But can they also create jobs? Fill gaps left by the retiring baby boomer? Increase the quality of manual tasks? And enable far greater capacity? Absolutely!
  • Is all Innovation Good?  –  Of course not! Again, if a topic is a good one, it will stir up debate.  Wasting lots of time innovating for non-existent returns on investment isn’t a smart move. On the other hand, the pure nature of innovation will require failure. How do we navigate when to innovate and when not to innovate?
  • Is all Collaboration Good? Again, absolutely NOT! Wasting time collaborating when a quick decision must be made is worse than a waste of time. On the other hand, if we can turn 1 + 1 + 1 = 33, it certainly seems worth it. Just don’t think about your standard partners only. Why not industry groups, educational institutions, and more?

Take a few minutes to think about collaboration. What have you seen work best? Actually, back up. No one should just think about collaboration. Instead, we should be thinking about our end result. Where do you want to go and what do you want to achieve? Now, think about the best use of collaboration, innovation, technology and other topics that will accelerate success.



Future-Proofing Your Customers

February 13th, 2020

Have you thought about future-proofing your customers? In thinking about future-proofing your people, it makes sense to start with your customers.

The statistics are staggering. According to Outbound Engine, acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. We wouldn’t be surprised if the actual cost is far greater if direct and indirect costs are combined. It certainly should give us pause. How do we future-proof our customers?

One way is to focus on the Amazon Effect and providing lighting speed delivery and tirelessly differentiated service. There is no doubt customers expect more. The bar gets higher with each passing day. Thus, we must be ahead of our customers to take a proactive approach to providing a superior customer experience while being cognizant of profitability and working capital.

How will you know what your customers see as differentiated service? Start by listening. Observe your customers and see what might provide value. Ask questions and tailor your solutions to be special for key customers. Find ways to provide these differentiated services while proactively managing the process efficiently and effectively from the internal point-of-view.

To accomplish this feat, it is wise to keep in mind that you are only as good as your #1 asset, your people. We have yet to meet a client with unhappy employees and happy customers. Start by getting your house in order. What do your employees need to be successful? It is more than a training course or occasional pat on the back. Do they know they are making a difference? Are they empowered within reasonable guidelines? Do they know leaders value performance and are willing to address the tough topics?

Investing in employees is the best way to future-proof your manufacturing and supply chain. Expand your thinking on people to your trusted advisors, customers, suppliers and other business partners.

Are you taking the time to ensure a prepared yet agile end-to-end supply chain? Remember, the people within the end-to-end supply chain count in providing an exceptional customer experience!

If you’d like an assessment of where you should invest (time, resources, money) to deliver lightning speed delivery and tirelessly differentiated service, contact us. There are also plenty of free articles and resources on our website. Let us know your thoughts and questions.

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