Category: Inner Circle

Why Inventory Will Matter Again

June 8th, 2019

I was on a bit of a trip down memory lane over the holidays as I reconnected with former colleagues from when I was VP of Operations and Supply Chain at PaperPak, an absorbent products manufacturer for healthcare and food products.  I recently talked about healthcare manufacturing with a group of powerful women (and a few brave men) at the Professional Women in Healthcare event.  When inventory arose as a hot topic, I thought about paper rolls (pictured).

Actually, inventory was a hot topic as we partnered with key customers to develop collaborative forecasting models, implement vendor managed inventory programs to dramatically reduce inventory and free up cash while improving service levels and to maximize storage and efficiencies in our operations, distribution centers and, most importantly, throughout our transportation system (since absorbent products are bulky and freight intensive).

In our view, inventory is circling back in importance and will become a hot topic again as customers expect immediate, customized deliveries with the expectation of easy returns and last-minute changes to orders in production, in the warehouse or in transit. What are you doing to get ahead of this ‘new normal’ assumption?

To throw out a few ideas to get your juices flowing:

  • Get demand further into your supply chain – what are your customers’ customers selling or using of your product?
  • Be collaborative with strange bedfellows – I’ve written several articles recently on this topic as the most successful executives see the value in finding the ‘win-win-win’
  • What talent do you have focused on having the ‘right’ inventory at the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time? You could double your inventory and decrease service if you don’t know how to navigate these treacherous waters.
  • How sure are you that your demand and supply (labor, skills, machine capacity, buildings/ storage capacity, cash flow) are aligned and will remain aligned (review your SIOP plans)?

This topic reminds me of one of my early articles, the Million Dollar Planner. Although that sounds insane, it might be worth thinking about conceptually. If you maximize your customer experience, profitability and cash flow, the return is frequently in excess of a million dollars. Most importantly, what could you do with an extra million dollars? Invest in new products and services to spur growth? Build your infrastructure to enable scalable growth? Build your talent base to create sustainability? The possibilities are limitless.

Contact us if you’d like to discuss further.



Resiliency & Innovation Go Hand-in-Hand

February 22nd, 2019

With the high level of volatility and disruption that is commonplace in today’s business environment, creating resiliency has become a must. What we’re seeing is that creating resiliency and an innovative culture go hand-in-hand. If we find a resilient team, they are also innovative, and if we find one that is fixed in nature, it is very unlikely to be resilient. Do you have an innovative culture?

Innovation is very misunderstood. It doesn’t require “new” in most cases.  It is rare to find something completely new unless you are in certain industries such as the pharmaceutical industry.  Even Apple didn’t create the original idea behind the iPod which has now been incorporated into the iPhone.  It actually came from the Sony Walkman (remember those?). At that time, no one knew they needed to walk around with music. We have come a long way, and Apple has made that easy!

Since the Innovation Awards at the Manufacturing Summit provide a good example of different areas of innovation, I thought it would be beneficial to list them below to spur thinking:

Take a quick look at the video as well which talks to the innovation awards.  Of course, these are just those recognized at the Manufacturing Summit currently (and we are always interested in feedback and ideas).  There are many more categories. Perhaps it will stimulate a few ideas though.

innovation for project successInnovation doesn’t have to be complicated and complex.  What unexpected successes have you had?  Can you find ideas in those?  I just returned from a global consulting strategy group meeting, and one of our members did exactly that to spur one of his companies forward from struggling with intense competition and no way to stand out from them to rapid and significantly more profitable growth.  I am confident that this same type of success can be found in almost every client. Are you looking?

We can help you with that. Contact us if you’d like to discuss further.

 



How Resilient Are Your People?

January 17th, 2019

We would be remiss if we went too far down-the-path with supply chain resiliency without pointing out that the ONLY way you’ll have a resilient supply chain is if you have resilient people.  Similar to building a house, without a solid foundation, the best accessories will fail to “hold up” over the long haul without that solid foundation.  Your team is your foundation.  Would you be willing to have your business hang in the balance if your team’s ability to “hold it up” would make or break success?  Hopefully so!

Here are a few questions to think about to determine how comfortable you are with your foundation:

  • If your competition offered your employees slightly more money, would they jump ship without much thought?
  • Are your people willing to take a risk if they know the decision will help move the company forward?
  • Are your people willing to disagree with you?
  • Are your people willing to try new ideas, even if they fail?
  • If a customer presses your people about an issue, will they blame it on “them” or will they take responsibility to resolve the issue quickly regardless of whether it has anything to do with them?
  • If changing market conditions dictate they should follow a new course that isn’t popular or approved, will they bring it up?
  • What do they say to your customers and suppliers when you aren’t listening?

Every executive at our Harvey Mudd executive roundtables and on the APICS-IE executive panel pointed out the relevance of culture and your people on business success.  Technical topics are abuzz but the REAL buzz is who has the strongest team as they will speed on by the competition and be the most resilient as the economy turns, the industry changes, a disruptor emerges etc.  With this fresh perspective, it pays to think again about your team and the priority you give it.



How Resilient Are Your Business Partners?

December 20th, 2018

As we kick off our new series “The Resilient Supply Chain”, we are thinking about resiliency from all angles that will impact success.  One of the first that pops to mind is the resilience of your business partners.  You and your company could be 100% proactive and resilient; however, if your business partners aren’t, you’ll still crash and burn!

In thinking about recent client examples of disruptions and volatility, there are many!  Here are a few, along with some questions to think about:

 

  • Tariffs started impacting suppliers.  If/when this happens to you, do you know broadly how to handle it?
  • Capacity shortages starting to increase throughout the supply chain.  This has been especially true in aerospace.  Do you know in advance and have backup plans and partners? Or, are you surprised when this occurs?
  • Sales revenues increased more than expected.  A bit of unexpected success can be a nice lift but it also can create several unintended consequences to keep service levels intact. Are you proactively communicating with your supply chain partners?  And, how about your trusted advisors, such as your bank?
  • Transportation shortages have been creating havoc.  The conversation is no longer about price and saving pennies, it is about finding trucks.  Moreover, the key question is whether you will get the truck or whether your competitor will.  Are you the preferable partner to do business with?
  • Shifts in e-commerce and direct to customer have been changing industries. What are you doing to stay on top of these trends and share them with your business partners?
  • New technologies are creating disruption, obsoleting industries and bringing profit opportunities to the surface.  Do you have a plan?  Are you talking with technology trusted advisors, as well as finding ways to collaborate with supply chain partners to find the win-win?
  • And, what about your negotiations with suppliers?  According to APICS 2018 International Conference speakers from companies like Cisco, AkzoNobel, McDonald’s and NASA, it is no longer about negotiation.  It is about win-win collaboration.

This list could go on and on.  At our most recent Harvey Mudd executive roundtable, the CEOs discussed how culture (with employees and business partners) was the key to growth.  Making sure you are partnered with the “right” business partners who share your goals and are resilient might just make or break your success.

It pays to give it some thought!

 



Are You Able to be Resilient in Your Decision Making?

November 12th, 2018

 

As we kick off our new series “The Resilient Supply Chain”, we are thinking about all the aspects of resiliency.  It is overwhelming as to the volatility of almost every aspect of the end-to-end supply chain. Just in the last month, there have been many events/ factors that have created disruption:

  • U.S. and Mexico reaching a trade agreement
  • U.S. and Canada still at an impasse with respect to trade negotiations
  • U.S. and China still imposing tariffs on each other
    • Ford cancelled plans to produce a small car in China based on these tariffs.
  • Fires have and are plaguing California – the worst in history
  • The Big Island in Hawaii is just starting to pick up the pieces after the volcano
    • We’ve heard about severe impacts on the businesses and customers in that areAnd earlier this week, although not serious (thank goodness), there was an earthquake in the next town over from our office

The Resilient Supply Chain
Instead of panicking as each of these events or disruptors occur, creating a resilient supply chain can provide a proactive approach to this current state market condition.  One of critical aspects of taking a proactive approach instead of a reactive one is to think about whether you are able to be resilient in your decision making.

Here are some considerations:
1.  People – Good decisions stem from good people.  Thus, it always makes sense to start there.  Do you have people in leadership positions and other key roles that you would want to make decisions in your absence?  (Just this past week, a potential client was killed by a drunk driver while he was on a motorcycle. We would certainly rather be prepared for winning the lottery but the question remains:  Are your people ready to make decisions?)

2.  Data – Although good people can make up for a lot, you also need the “right” information and relevant background to make key decisions.  Do your systems allow you to retrieve meaningful data for decision making? Every single ERP selection client prioritizes business intelligence/dashboard reporting tools as high on their list of priorities for good reason!

3.  Input – Although this can be considered part of people and data, it’s worth calling out on its own.  Do you gain input from trusted sources (colleagues, customers, suppliers, trade association colleagues, industry groups and more)?  Recently, our APICS-IE instructors had an issue arise with updated learning materials – in essence, they were not set up for learning to occur.  Clearly a BIG issue for an education and value-focused organization! Fortunately, after 3 or 4 calls, we had several ideas on how to dramatically improve the process and overcome the obstacle.  In another example that occurred recently for a client project, we had a significant challenge in explaining a complex concept that was critical to success. If we didn’t get past that barrier, results would NOT follow.  It took 5 or 6 calls with excellent input from all as well as testing out ideas before we came up with the ideal way to convey the concept, and it “worked”!

4.  Speed – Slow decision making is worse than no decision making.  In today’s Amazonian marketplace, your customers will be LONG gone if you are slow to make decisions.  I’ve noticed that I am a LOT less tolerant of slow responsiveness even in my own business (and for things I would have been fine with a year ago).  I have to be to remain viable, and so do you! Thus, as it relates to having the ‘right’ people with the ‘right’ data and ‘right’ input, you must also have them at the ‘right’ time.

Have you put thought into your decision-making process before decisions must occur?  Ponder these critical elements, put them in place and you’ll be prepared to successfully navigate the volatility of today’s business decisions.