Category: Inner Circle

Priorities, Priorities, Priorities

November 21st, 2019

When teaching a CSCP class for a large Target distribution center recently, one of the managers asked me about what drives results across all clients. One of the great benefits of speaking and teaching is that attendees stimulate new ideas and/or insights. I gave him what popped to mind immediately.

However, it got me thinking. Why not share these with my clients as it might stimulate ideas across the board! Here’s what popped into my mind: We gained the biggest benefit when figuring out where to focus attention to achieve the desired end result (such as increasing revenue, profit or cash flow). In essence, what is the priority?

Unfortunately, this sounds so obvious that most people think they have it covered but they do NOT! I’ve yet to meet a client with the following situation:

  • Just a few key priorities that were best suited to drive the results they desired
  • Key players in the organization (and perhaps key supply chain partners) were aligned on this same page.

More typically, there are FAR too many priorities AND the issue is that they all sound like priorities.

  • The Board wants x.
  • Our key customer is demanding y.
  • There are projects to launch new products.
  • There are projects to save costs.
  • Employees need education and training to know how to grow the business.
  • And the list goes on.

So what should we do? If it were easy, it wouldn’t be so commonplace. Yet, it is doable. We start at the end and work our way back. What are the desired results we need x months or years into the future? Then we look at how we get from where we are to where we need to go. Again, it sounds quite simple but, of course, it isn’t. And then, we look over what we see as priorities and how they fit into what we need to get from here to there.

Next, we look at three aspects:

  • What is the impact of the priority?
  • How urgent is the priority? This is often confused with impact. Often, they are NOT the same.
  • If we did nothing, what would happen? Would the situation get better on its own, stay the same or get worse?

Re-think your priorities. Why are you doing what you are doing? I was just reminded of this recently by a partner. She asked about the results we were achieving jointly and wondered if the level of effort was worth the outcome. I had to say, she was right! What were we thinking? Consequently, we are re-evaluating our priorities.

How about you?  It also often takes an outside view to stir the pot to re-think priorities. Are you comfortable? If so, you might want to take another look.



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.



Do You Know Your Demand?

October 23rd, 2019

This has been emerging as a hot topic. As clients are interested in meeting ever increasing and changing customer expectations while managing long supply chains, changing rules and regulations (including tariffs), and concerns over the cash flow implications of high inventory levels have resulted in discussion around the critical importance of demand. Do you have a handle on your demand plan over the next 12 months?

According to Gartner, every 1% improvement in forecast accuracy will result in 7% less finished goods inventory and 9% reduction in inventory obsolescence. A 1% improvement is imminently doable! Also, according to the experts, a 15% improvement in forecast accuracy will drive a 3%+ increase in pre-tax performance. Last but not least, in our experience, it is one of the best ways to drive a simultaneous improvement in customer service, cash flow and profit.

Every client we talk with says the same thing: Our sales are unpredictable. We have a custom business. We follow lean principles and produce in concert with customer demand. Or, our sales team is on top of it and are already doing everything they can to give us a heads up on demand. We don’t doubt that. However, we have also never come across a situation that couldn’t be improved. With the dramatic results that follow, it proves well-worth the effort.

Instead of brushing off the idea of focusing attention on demand, just think about what could be improved. It isn’t an exercise to beat up sales or planning. In the end, if that is what happens, there is no doubt that is part of the issue. The forecast must be collaborative with input from sales, marketing, customers, planning and anyone who interacts with customers or has input relevant to future demand. With that said, the best forecasts start with a simple statistical base. What do you do?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that you should use your forecasts in your S&OP/SIOP process (sales, inventory, and operations planning) to align your demand with your supply so you can maximize your customer value and your bottom line. If you’d like to discuss your situation further, please contact us.

 

What bottlenecks exist in your organization?



Value Based Pricing

October 21st, 2019

calm leadershipAn overarching theme from our pricing and profits presentation relates to value based pricing. It was unanimous – every CEO believed that value based pricing was the best direction to go.  Yet, it became muddier in figuring out how to move towards value based pricing in his/her particular situation.

Let’s start by defining value based pricing. Simply stated: prices are based on the value the customer receives.

Everyone wins. The customer gains more value and you gain a higher price. Of course, that higher price should carry a higher margin.  It isn’t set up so that you win at the expense of your customer. Instead, both parties win with extra value and margin. So, if everyone wins, why don’t more of us utilize value based pricing? According to the CEOs, it isn’t simple. Yet we all agreed it is worth it.

Perhaps we’ll be talking about this for months and years to come as it can do something far more important than increase margins. It enhances customer value which can lead to customer engagement and loyalty. There are lots of statistics.  Suffice it to say, we will be much happier and are willing to spend more to do business with companies that deliver excellent customer service. And, more engaged and happy customers are dramatically more profitable.

After all, it can be 2 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one.

Start by figuring out the value of your product or service. Don’t listen solely to your R&D department, sales resources or anyone else while trying to understand value. Don’t even listen to your customers. Instead, think about your target customers and probe the value to these customers. Ask. Listen. Observe. When you ask questions, listen to what else they say. What would improve your customers’ situation? The value will emerge.

 



How to Keep Your Team Engaged

August 31st, 2019
Every client is concerned about how to engage the team. Some executives are thinking about how to ‘keep good people’, others are thinking about how to enable ‘smart people to share what they know’, and still others know they need engagement to ensure customers are happy and bottom line business results occur.
According to Gallup, there is some positive news in that engagement is on the rise and is at an all-time high of 34%. With that said, there is such a long way to go to fully leverage already existing assets – our people! Time and again, the most successful companies actively engage employees in their work. The actively disengaged is down to 13% while ‘not engaged’ is 53%.
A few ideas to consider:
  • Tie each person’s work to the result (for the company, customer etc.) – Wouldn’t you like to know WHY you are doing something?
  • Take each employees’ ideas into consideration – Simply asking can go a long way if you truly care about the answer.
  • Don’t treat each employee the same – don’t we each have different goals and interests?
  • Are you developing your employees? – a little investment into your employees can go a long way.
  • Do you address poor performers? – one of the biggest issues we see if letting poor performers carry on. Everyone knows it and is less motivated. Why not just proactively address? Provide an opportunity and swiftly address if necessary.