A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity for Manufacturing, Logistics & CA to Align

July 15th, 2019

Last week, I went to the California Capitol building as a part of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership’s (IEEP) regional leadership academy. It was interesting to hear how the process works. I also am also representing the IEEP’s Logistics Council as it relates to moving forward with the Brookings report recommendations to create a consortium of logistics and advanced manufacturing excellence in the Inland Empire.

We are positioned ideally to scale up and partner with industry, academia and government/non-profit partners to achieve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of aligning seemingly disparate goals of manufacturing, logistics, California government and the federal government’s interests to achieve a win-win-win-win. Wouldn’t that be a feat!

The idea is simple. The Inland Empire’s predominant high-paying professions include logistics and manufacturing. The IE has been outpacing all of California in job creation due to these industries yet they are not typically supported (to say the least!). Since they are contributing vitally to the IE community and jobs, we have the cards stacked in our favor:

  • IE logistics is #1 in the U.S.
  • IE manufacturing is strong and vast (SoCal is #1 in manufacturing in the U.S.)
  • The IE has access to great talent in the local and surrounding area universities (CSUSB, UCR, Drucker, Harvey Mudd, Cal Poly, Redlands), community colleges (Norco, Chaffey etc.), and partners such as GA Tech
  • And, the IE is in the unique position to leverage advanced technology to increase customer value, improve profit and create clean technologies as a win for the environment, X.

Thus, we are scaling up and collaborating for success.

This opportunity didn’t just fall into the IE’s lap. The leaders saw potential and ‘went for it’. Are you looking for opportunities?

One tip to implement this week:
In our work with clients, it is commonplace for clients to ignore vast opportunities such as this exciting initiative. There are always roadblocks, different interests, money flows to address and lots of other issues that arise. The key question is whether you are looking at each issue as a detriment or if you see the big picture and train your eye to ‘see’ a successful path forward.

Recently, our APICS Inland Empire chapter had the opportunity to provide training and education to Target (thanks to our partnership with the University of LaVerne). When the opportunity arose, we didn’t know how we would scale up and fulfill it successfully. However, we took the leap of faith to create value and had the confidence that we’d figure it out.

At first, we were worried about executing against our commitments.  Yet, it all fell into place. It forced us to be a bit more creative.  So, when the next leap of faith opportunity arose to provide manufacturing and logistics education to high school students to help bridge the gap to a profitable career, we went for it. We continue to evolve as we go but it has allowed us to make a difference in a way we would never had pursued or been involved with previously. Are you taking a leap of faith?



When Is It Time to Upgrade?

July 5th, 2019

A Client Question
A client didn’t feel prepared to launch into an ERP system upgrade as they had just bought the business and had invested significant funds into the transition.  Yet, this client was also starting to worry about scalability and the risk associated with old technology. After all, this old technology was directly supporting their day-to-day business and customer experience. Although the CEO was reluctant, he agreed to an assessment of his ERP system and readiness.

The Answer
In their case, they needed to upgrade to modernize their technology infrastructure and gain additional functionality that is required to support their business growth and meet current standards. However, we found a way to make small key improvements to their ancient system to support enough progress to ‘buy time’ for the teams to gain an understanding of process disciplines required to support a successful upgrade. It also gave them time to educate the workforce.

During the next year, significant efforts were made to roll out process improvements and system functionality to standardize functions such as pricing and raw material ordering. About a year into the process, we “hit a wall” in terms of the ERP capabilities with critical functionality considered a “must” in supporting the business. Thus, we were prepared to make a quick selection of an ERP system and partner and eventually gained corporate alignment to pursue the upgrade to support continued growth and profitability.

Food For Thought
We are often asked to look at ERP systems that clients think they should throw out.  It turns out that that were perfectly fine and scalable, just poorly implemented.  We usually aren’t asked to look at ERP systems on their last leg where we had to make a strong case to executives to even look at the topic. And whether a new system was needed or not, the organization might not be prepared. Determining whether there is time to prepare or whether you should follow a rapid preparation route can be tricky. There are typically risks on both sides, whether you move too slow or too fast. Take time to assess what makes sense in your case. Be careful of ‘shark’ salespeople as there are tons in this field. It is quite confusing so that even well-intentioned executives and salespeople can mislead organizations. If you are interested in running your situation by us, contact us.

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ERP Selection: Why It Has Become a Strategic Priority



The Strategic Benefit of SIOP

June 26th, 2019

SIOP (Sales, Inventory, Operations Planning) should not be relegated to the Planning Department. Although the planning group is a key participant and might lead the process, SIOP touches upon several strategic issues while creating alignment with Sales, Operations, R&D/ New Product Development, Finance, Purchasing, and others. As a CEO, you must become interested!

We have worked on countless SIOP projects with clients across industries as diverse as building products, food and beverage, healthcare, and aerospace.  It has proven to be the most effective at achieving the win-win-win of enabling growth while maximizing service, cash flow (inventory) and profit. For example, at one aerospace client, we put the fundamentals in place to support SIOP (scheduling, planning systems MRP/MPS, forecasting) and then rolled out a SIOP process involving all key aspects of the organization. Although our objective was to bring service levels from the 60%’s to the high 90%s, we not only accomplished that metric but we also improved margins by 5% and increased morale and engagement. What’s not to like with these results!

Critical Aspects of SIOP
Let’s start with just those elements that are most important to achieving results:

  • Can you get executives involved? Of course, it is better to gain executive involvement upfront.  However, I have found that it is quite doable to gain the involvement over time as well. For example, in one client situation, a key executive was not on board at any level at the start.  So, as we rolled out a pilot process, we convinced him to give the process a try. Once he sat in on the executive SIOP meeting, he became more interested because strategic issues arise such as make vs. buy, changes in sourcing, impacts to sales strategies and more.
  • What do you have to do to get directionally-correct information for making decisions? By NO means do you need perfect information.  In fact, if you wait for perfect information, your decision will be long past. Yet directionally correct information is imperative so that you can make fact-based decisions and/or gain approval from corporate or your Board for what you know must be done to succeed. I cannot think of a client situation where I couldn’t gain access to at least directionally correct information after an assessment, no matter how ancient their ERP system.
  • Will you involve all relevant departments in the SIOP process? If you focus on data and not the people, you will not succeed. The 80/20 of success is to bring typically disparate groups together to align on 1 plan/ path forward. It is much easier to say than to accomplish, and so those clients that do this well have a far higher success rate than the rest. You should involve Planning, Purchasing, Operations, Logistics, Customer Service, Sales, Finance, New Product Development, and any key area of your operation.

SIOP is not a quick resolution.  However, you can make quick interim progress . Similar to safety, it must become part of your day-to-day culture. As business conditions change, roadblocks naturally arise through the process. We’ve found that they have a FAR higher chance of being averted or minimized when they arise as part of the process instead of related to one person or department who typically is seen as the “problem”. Strategic issues also arise naturally through the process so that they are proactively addressed instead of resulting in a reactionary panic.

You can start the SIOP journey with an assessment of readiness with recommendations for improvement. Several clients have started with this approach so that they knew which building blocks to put in place and whether the benefits would drive a substantial return on investment at this juncture. If you are interested in this type of assessment, contact us.

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Gaining New Ideas to Increase Business Value

What’s Ahead for Business?



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!



We Are All Salespeople

May 13th, 2019

Do you think of yourself as a salesperson? For most of us, the answer is probably ‘no’; however, every successful executive, manager, professional and person is a salesperson.  

Last week, I participated in a consulting conference, and our Society for the Advancement of Consulting ambassadors (pictured here) filled the role of salesperson to spread the word on the value of SAC. We had a great time and many value-added discussions. I find the key to ‘selling’ is actually providing value; not selling people products and services they do not need!

When I think back, I have always been in sales even though I thought I had no idea whatsoever about sales at the time. The way I got my first job was talking about the value of a senior project and how it was applicable to performing a planning role. I had NO idea that this was actually selling but it is how I successfully landed a great job out of college. Early in my career, I found system settings that would make our Coca-Cola facility’s process better, and I had to sell IT and others on why they should support this change. Later at a plastic injection molder, I had to sell management on why we should focus on certain inventory initiatives.

Lastly, as a VP of Operations of an absorbent products manufacturer, I absolutely spent 90% of my time selling my team on how they were valuable to the vision, suppliers on how they could have a part on creating a win-win, customers on how we could create collaborative vendor management inventory initiatives that would increase their service and profit (which would also improve our revenue growth, inventory and efficiencies), the Board of Directors on why we should focus efforts on material projects to drive profitable growth (even though they wanted me to focus on reducing labor costs instead) and the list goes on. In consulting, 80% of project success (partnering with the client to make sure results occur) relates to selling and positioning. After all, doesn’t it all stem from successfully navigating change?

Think about your career and daily job responsibilities. I bet you are selling every day as well!

One tip to implement this week:

The key to success in sales is to provide value. As I read in a book by my consulting mentor when I decided to start consulting, selling consulting services is simply finding ways to provide value to clients by helping them to increase the value of their businesses. Somehow, increasing the value of businesses sounded FAR simpler to me than selling people on hiring me as a consultant (after all, who budgets to hire a consultant?), and so I went for it (and am celebrating my 14th year anniversary in May).

Of course, it isn’t exactly that simple; however, it is absolutely true. The crux of all sales is in providing value. Think about when you purchase products and services. Why do you purchase? I used to think I was quite logical and not influenced by typical sales techniques; however, it is human nature that logic makes us think and emotions make us act. Although I am never tempted by clothes (except as I know I need to look decent to be successful), I realized I spent quite a bit of money on education to be successful in my consulting practice. Clearly, I saw the value and ‘went for it’. How can you show value more often in your job, your company, and of your products and services?