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!



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?



Boom or Recession? What is the State of the Economy?

May 6th, 2019

In the last few months, I’ve attended sessions on the global, national and regional state of the economy. Every executive, trusted advisor and colleague wants to know: Are we headed for a recession?

The bottom line answer is that there are no signs of a recession in the foreseeable future in terms of the economy. Instead of worrying, it might be just the time to take advantage of the opportunity. As Roy Paulson, president of Paulson Manufacturing said in our 2019 Predictions from Manufacturing & Logistics Executives report, “…expect to see more talk of tariffs, threats and waving of hands, all the while, those of us in exporting will be busy making deals, signing contracts and getting business done.”

Similarly, in manufacturing, there was concern over the worsening ISM (Institute for Supply Management) index even though it remained far above (54.2) the level that indicates expansion (50) yet the index rose significantly in March to 55.3, signaling great growth and stabilization. The largest contributor was from employment which had the biggest gain in 3 years. All cylinders seem to be firing.

Yet many remain concerned for the next shoe to drop due to the volatility and uncertainty of these tumultuous times. Perhaps it is time for us to get comfortable with volatility and pursue new product introductions, technology (automation, AI, IoT) for those that will add value in our businesses and experiment with innovative ideas. What better time will there be to get in front of the curve so that we can pass by the competition if/when a recession hits?

One tip to implement this week:
There are countless studies that prove that those people who remain calm, invest smartly while others panic and stay the course to what they know will add value to their business thrive. Perhaps we should take a page from their book.

Of course, stay up-to-date on the latest trends and don’t hide your head in the sand as issues arise.  Spend the 80/20 of your day looking for opportunities. What new ideas have you had lately? Have you asked your front line employees for ideas? Are you willing to invest in their education and give them the chance to fail?

When I was VP of Operations at PaperPak, I worked with a CEO who was constantly thinking about the ways for us to succeed. Gas prices rose (which we obviously couldn’t control), which had the potential to create pure havoc with our profitability (with a Board that didn’t consider gas prices a reasonable excuse). Instead of panicking, he would consult with key people throughout the organization and create opportunities to get ahead of the issue. We rose from the ashes more times than I can count because we kept focused, thinking of opportunities instead of becoming defeated by some rather significant curve balls.

Give it a try this week at the next sign of volatility and disaster. How can you turn it into an opportunity?



The Talent Transformation: People or Robots?

April 14th, 2019

automationNo matter the industry and geography, the topic of “People vs. Robots” is a hot topic!

Certainly, manufacturing has been focused on technology and automation for quite some time to navigate the path to thrive in the modern environment of high costs, regulations, and elevated customer demands.

The Manufacturing and Technology Expo in Pittsburgh is going back to the theme of the 1939 World’s Fair, “The World of Tomorrow”. The Manufacturing sector has seen positive job growth not seen in 79 years. As Industry Week says, “We don’t have smoking robots but we have ones that perform lung surgery.”

Our APICS Inland Empire Chapter is hosting an executive panel and networking symposium on just this topic, “The Talent Transformation: People or Robots?” on April 13th at Harvey Mudd. We have an intriguing panel of executives and experts to discuss automation, robots, IoT, AI and much more. How do we co-exist successfully? Join us to learn more and probe further.

In logistics circles, there is quite a bit of worry and opportunity. 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%. However, it depends on your thought process. UPS automated a section of their facility that reduced the number of people they needed by 100 yet they ended up hiring as they absorbed additional volume. Additionally, it depends on whether you are furthering your education and skills. We find proactive employees and employers in our Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM)’s APICS certification classes who want to learn and grow.

For Inland Southern California, we have a particularly unique opportunity or challenge, depending on how you want to look at it. According to a Brookings study, we must focus on advancing the capabilities and competitiveness of local firms in opportunity-rich manufacturing and logistics industries. What an opportunity for us to leverage technology hand-in-hand with talent to THRIVE.

If you are interested in discussing whether your organization is prepared to leverage these opportunities and what priorities should emerge, contact us. We are experts and would love to see the U.S., California and the Inland Empire take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to enable scalable, profitable growth.

Find out how to navigate disruption and achieve peak performance.

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