Inventory or Capacity?

November 18th, 2019

Inventory has emerged as a hot topic lately. In today’s Amazon-impacted business environment, customers expect rapid, customized deliveries, the ability to change their mind anytime and easy interactions (placing orders, returns etc.). Since clients are growing, they are also concerned with keeping up with the increasing volume. Thus, they have responded  by stocking more inventory to support increased sales and to respond to these increasing expectations.

However, as clients are taking a step back, they see inventory tying up bunches of cash unnecessarily.  Just because they have more inventory doesn’t mean they have the ‘right’ inventory in the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time. Inventory not only ties up cash, but it also increases costs. We are hearing about concerns regarding space, efficiencies, transportation cost impacts and more. In essence, there is a double hit to cash and profit yet the appropriate level of inventory (varies by network and strategy) is required to meet customer expectations.

In addition to pursuing inventory improvement programs to maximize your service, cash and margins such as SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) and proactive vendor managed inventory/ collaborative inventory programs, you might want to consider your capacity.

We had a client a few years ago who called because service issues had started to arise and customers were angry. Leadership thought the the operations team was under-performing because there must be something wrong with them since sales revenues were not increasing over 5% a year.

As we dug into the issue, we found that the product mix changed significantly which drove a greater level of operations requirements for the same dollar volume. When this occurred in the past, it didn’t create a problem (lending support to the perception that the operations team was at fault).  Yet, it turns out that as people left, they stopped replacing them because they wanted to bring down costs.

In the past, since they had excess capacity (machinery) and a small excess level of trained, highly skilled direct labor resources, they could produce what was needed as conditions changed without a problem. They no longer could use this magic bullet!

Would it make sense to maintain excess capacity/skills in a key bottleneck area of your operation (whether manufacturing, technical or office)?

If you’d like to talk about your inventory and/or capacity situation further, please contact us.



Should I Upgrade Now or Later?

October 10th, 2019

A Client Question
Since we have a simple reorder point system largely in place and we plan to focus on an ERP upgrade in the coming year, should we continue to roll out MRP (material requirements planning) and DRP (distribution requirements planning) or should we just put our efforts into the new ERP system?

In this case, there is still much of the planning process that is done manually. However, a manual process could be good or bad. Employees forced to perform manual processes learn the process in detail yet they might not understand why they are doing what they are doing. Would there be a larger benefit in learning the process in the current system and then re-learning in the new one or vice-versa? After all, resources are limited and the people performing these roles understand key customer requirements in detail. How should we best utilize their time for maximum benefit?

The Answer
In this case, resources are limited. So, the key question becomes how to best leverage the planners to meet customer expectations while getting ready to support the future. Since the simple reorder point works but only to a degree (since they cannot see their bill of materials explosion) in this case, the rest has to be manually calculated. When looking at a configure-to-order situation across multiple sites not connected by DRP, inventory disappears and the complexity of planning materials increases. Also, unfortunately, the only resource that gains an understanding of MRP / DRP concepts is the material planner. The production planners remain unclear as to how these concepts apply. So, it makes sense to roll out the concepts in the current system so that the team gains exposure to how it works. This understanding will prove valuable in implementing the new system, and most importantly, if the material planners do not have to spend countless hours manually calculating numbers, they can provide better service to customers, as well as contribute valuable input in setting up the new system for success.

Food For Thought
Although the MPS/ MRP module of ERP systems can be valuable in improving service and reducing inventory, they do not always make sense. Take a step back to look at the complexities in your planning process. Have you overbuilt the process? We also find that simplifying creates substantial improvement for almost every client. Perhaps you should simplify rather than add complexity, even if you already own the system or your key resources think complexity is needed. At least 80% of the time, we simplify to some degree.  We might take what seems like a step back to simplify in order to take a giant leap forward.

If you are interested in running your situation by us, contact us.

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

Which Inventory Planning Method is Best?
Systems Pragmatist



Top Trending Client Request: Reduce Inventory

October 7th, 2019

More than 50% of client requests in the last several months have related to inventory. In fact, it seems to be a trending hot topic! In today’s era of the Amazon Effect where customers expect more and have ZERO patience to wait, there are challenges like a volatile environment with tariffs and concerns about space, costs and more, more inventory is needed to grow the business yet businesses cannot afford it. Learning how to reduce lead times and improve service levels while reducing inventory and costs is of utmost importance.

In partnering with several clients on just this topic, we’ve found the same ingredients to success yet the mix and proportions can be quite different. Several of the top contributors behind inventory success include:

  1. Demand planning: It turns out there is a lot to be said for fine tuning your demand plan (sales forecast). How well do you understand your customer requirements? We’ve seen that even in the best of clients, there is a gap between perception and reality. In 80% of our clients, there is a path to significantly improve the forecast with a direct correlation to inventory reduction
  2. Production &/or material planning: Not surprisingly, there is no ‘magic process’ that works for every client.  However, there are general themes that are identical. In every case, there is some sort of logical combination of master scheduling/material requirements planning (MPS/MRP) and kanban processes. How we figure out the right mix, proportions and formulas is the trick. It depends on the manufacturing/distribution type, people, processes, systems, customers, suppliers and related capabilities and more.
  3. Distribution planning: Similar to production and material planning, we’ve seen a significant opportunity with several clients to leverage a more proactive yet simpler distribution planning approach. The process will involve concepts from DRP (distribution requirements planning) and kanban. Often, this simple process can provide the visibility required to better manage inventory levels.
  4. Lead Times: Certainly, none of these can be viewed in isolation. Customer lead times will dictate the requirements of your network, whereas supplier lead times must be built into your planning processes. Distribution lead times and options (mode of transportation) could also make the difference between OTD (on-time delivery) or OTIF (on-time-in-full) and late delivery as well as profit and loss.
  5. Capacity: Understanding your capacity (skills, labor, machinery, space, and more) and how it relates to your requirements is of paramount importance. This process of aligning demand with supply across your organization and supply chain is termed SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning).

In our experience, clients can reduce inventory by 20-30% on average without negatively impacting customer service. In fact, we often find that a win-win-win can be created: improved service, inventory turns and cost/margins simultaneously.

Read more in an upcoming article I’ve written for Distribution Trends.  Feel free contact us to discuss your situation in detail.

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Will Inventory Matter Again?
Warehousing Strategies for Success

 



Which State Has the Most Manufacturing? The Answer Might Surprise You…

September 25th, 2019

According to an Industry Week article on the US 500: Top Manufacturing States, which state is #1 in terms of having the most manufacturing headquarters? California! Certainly, CA is not a manufacturing-friendly state in most places (although there is an initiative to create an advanced manufacturing consortium of excellence in the Inland Empire which is gaining support across the board). Manufacturers account for 10.93% of total output in the state and employ 7.2% of the workforce. Neither of these figures is #1 but the total output of $300 billion with an average of 1.3 million manufacturing employees does! #2 is Texas, followed by Illinois, Ohio and New York.

One of the reasons manufacturing is bucking the trends so far is that there are a vast number of consumers and companies in California, and in today’s Amazonian environment, rapid, customized deliveries are the norm. Thus, proximity matters. California is larger than all but 6 countries! The powerhouse of manufacturing is Southern CA. Additionally, California and specifically the Inland Empire is #1 in logistics in the U.S. According to research by a University of Redlands professor, logistics is at the center of what’s called an onion structure. It is the lifeline of the economy. Manufacturing co-locates or locates next to the logistics lifeline. Supporting services form the next layer of the onion, followed by all others such as retail, construction, leisure and hospitality.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
For one, all this talk about “manufacturing being dead and gone to Asia” is obviously an exaggeration. In fact, we are starting to see executives look at reshoring as rapid delivery is of paramount importance. After all, everyone is scrambling to provide one-day delivery to keep up with Amazon, and B2B customers are expecting B2C service as well!

Further, we are seeing a SHARP increase in concern over high inventory levels to support these service levels. Some clients are concerned about the cost impact of tariffs and inventory levels and others are just becoming more focused on managing cash so they can better utilize existing resources to launch new products and services, invest in the business and more.

Since manufacturing is directly correlated to logistics, trusted advisors and other industries, it is worth paying attention. Start thinking about potential impacts such as the following:

  • Will your supply base change or move with the changing times?
  • Will capacity be available? Suppliers, transportation partners, manufacturing operations, equipment, skilled resources etc.
  • Are you agile so that you can meet changing conditions rapidly and without a significant hit to your customer experience or bottom line?
  • Do you have a skills gap? Please take our brief survey.

If there ever was a topic related to the resilient supply chain, this would be it! We have recently upgraded and added content to our resilient supply chain series.



Manufacturing Expert, Lisa Anderson, Sees Impacts of Artificial Intelligence on Manufacturing Profit, Inventory Levels and Cash

September 20th, 2019

Manufacturing Expert, Lisa Anderson, Sees Impacts of
Artificial Intelligence on Manufacturing Profit, Inventory Levels and Cash

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – September 19, 2019 –  Manufacturing and Supply Chain Expert,  Lisa Anderson, MBA, CSCP, CLTD, president of LMA Consulting Group Inc., predicts that artificial intelligence (AI) and human learning will impact most aspects of manufacturing resulting in improved profits, inventory levels and cash.

“Our manufacturing clients have really embraced the power of AI since the first of the year.  From improved forecast accuracy impacting inventory levels to more openly working with changing customer needs and the overall customer experience, manufacturers are seeing the effects of using this data,” Ms. Anderson commented. LMA Consulting Group works with manufacturers and distributors on strategy and end-to-end supply chain transformation to maximize the customer experience and enable profitable, scalable, dramatic business growth.

“Despite the fact that manufacturing, especially in Inland Southern California continues to be strong, manufacturers need to be smart. By integrating AI with tried and true techniques such as SIOP (Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning) and taking advantage of predictive analytics and other human learning technologies in conjunction with ERP systems, manufacturers can become better at forecasting and exceeding customer expectations.  In fact, for every one percent improvement in forecast accuracy, there can be a seven percent improvement in inventory levels and therefore cashflow,” she said.

In an effort to support clients, Ms. Anderson is active with the Board of Directors of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, where she represents the Logistics Council whose initiative is developing a consortium for logistics, supply chain and advanced manufacturing success. “AI and other forms of technology are transforming manufacturing as we know it. From reevaluating sourcing and enabling robots to predictive maintenance and shortened design times, AI offers up vast potential. Successful manufacturers are strengthening their hold. Supply chain and other manufacturing professionals are sharpening their skills to take advantage of these resources. It takes work, smart management and a strong team to be successful. A perfect storm for manufacturing success. The evidence is in the growth we see in Inland Southern California (also known as the Inland Empire),” she concluded.

About LMA Consulting Group – Lisa Anderson, MBA, CSCP, CLTD

Lisa Anderson is the founder and president of LMA Consulting Group, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in manufacturing strategy and end-to-end supply chain transformation.  She focuses on maximizing the customer experience and enabling profitable, scalable, dramatic business growth. Ms. Anderson is a recognized Supply Chain thought leader by SelectHub, named a Top 40 B2B Tech Influencer by arketi group, 50 ERP Influencer by Washington-Frank, a top 46 most influential in Supply Chain by SAP and named a top woman influencer by Solutions Review. She recently published, I’ve Been Thinking, 101 strategies for creating bold customer promises and profits. A regular content contributor on topics including a superior customer experience with SIOP, advancing innovation and making the supply chain resilient, Ms. Anderson is regularly interviewed and quoted by publications such as Industry Week, tED magazine and the Wall Street Journal.  For information, to sign up for her Profit Through PeopleTM Newsletter or for a copy of her book, visit LMA-ConsultingGroup.com.
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Media Contact
Kathleen McEntee | Kathleen McEntee & Associates, Ltd. | p. (760) 262 – 4080 | KMcEntee@KMcEnteeAssoc.com