Category: The Resilient Supply Chain

The Future of Technology

August 20th, 2020

Technology is a tricky topic. On one hand, almost everyone has put technology and ERP implementations on hold due to concerns about COVID-19 impacts and to conserve cash. On the other hand, it is the best time to gain employees’ attention and focus on upgrading technology to scale the business, create a superior customer experience and deliver bottom line results.

Kellogg or Post?
As I said in my eBook, Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19, the Kellogg vs. Post story from the Great Depression provides an excellent example to ponder. In the 1920’s, Kellogg and Post dominated the market for cereal which was still a relatively new and untapped market. Post reigned in expenses and Kellogg doubled its ad budget and pushed its new cereal. Even as the economy hit bottom, Kellogg’s profits rose 30% and they become the dominant player.  Do you want to be Kellogg or Post? The morale to the story is NOT about dollars invested. It is about the opportunities of investing resources (which can be simply in the form of employees’ focus) in future success.

Which Technologies Provide Immediate and Long-Term Value?
Of course, the answer depends on your industry, company, current infrastructure, your customers’ evolving needs, your suppliers’ evolving needs and more. Why not perform a rapid assessment of what makes the most sense for your business and take one important step forward? As I said in my eBook, Newton’s Law is relevant. Objects in motion stay in motion whereas objects at rest will stay at rest. You must take steps forward, no matter how small.

Let’s highlight a few of the more likely technologies to provide immediate value and long-term value:

  1. Further utilize & expand your ERP system: No one uses 80% of their system.  Most organizations utilize only 20%. Find the next 1% that will yield a significant benefit to your customers or bottom line. Clients are gaining significant value from this simple step.
  2. B2B customer portal/ B2C e-commerce: No doubt about it. The ONLY growth area across the board is e-commerce. In addition, what could be more important than visibility of orders for your B2B customers? Delays will result in lost opportunity!
  3. Business Intelligence (BI): We are overloaded with data. The issue isn’t having data, it is making meaningful decisions and formulating plans based on the interpretation of data. BI will bring meaning to your data that translates into customer and profit opportunities.
  4. Artificial intelligence (AI) & Human Learning: In today’s environment, predictive capabilities produce VASTLY greater results than simply analysis and static plans. Demand planning/ forecasting, predictive maintenance, cash flow forecasting, and the automation of tasks are enhanced with AI.
  5. CRM: There has never been a time when understanding, staying in touch with and being on top of evolving customer needs has been more important.
  6. Digital Twins: Virtual replicas of physical devices that technology gurus can use to run simulations before actual devices are built and deployed. Read a fascinating article about the applications in logistics.
  7. Systems to gain efficiencies: WMS (warehouse management), TMS (transportation management), rate shopping, MPS (master production scheduling)/ MRP (material requirements planning)/Inventory planning, replenishment including VMI (vendor managed inventory) and more.
  8. 3D Printing/ Additive manufacturing – If you can produce a customized product on demand close to customers, you win in today’s Amazonian environment. Either way, it speeds up R&D.

Read our eBook, Future-ProofingiManufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19 to read more about technology as it relates to successfully emerging and thriving post-COVID-19. Explore these concepts further as you start thinking through your technology roadmap.

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The Rise of E-Commerce & WMS Popularity During the Pandemic

Systems Pragmatist



The Future of Manufacturing

May 30th, 2020

 

I was on a panel of a webinar, The Future of Manufacturing with Andrew Zanelli, president of VCC, Michael Knight, president TTI Semiconductor Group, and Seth Denson, co-founder of GDP Advisors. It was a lot of fun, and we talked about the coronavirus, reshoring, cost leadership, innovation, and other topics. Are you interested in what the future might look like and how you can position your company and career successfully?                                         

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

There is no doubt there is a renewed interest in reshoring and sourcing manufacturing closer to the customer. All panelists agreed that labor cost has reduced significantly in terms of relevant factors to consider in evaluating manufacturing and supply chain strategy.

  1. China’s labor costs have continually risen, leading progressive companies to move to Vietnam and other Asian countries to chase lower labor costs if labor is a significant factor in total cost of their products. Mexico is gaining steam as well as the latest statistics show their fully burdened labor costs are often lower than China.
  2. Advances in technology have reduced the labor component in the total cost of products, sped up the turnaround time and enabled greater customization on demand. Robotics, additive manufacturing, automated equipment, autonomous vehicles are just a few of the advances.
  3. The time component is increasing in importance in today’s environment where Amazon-like customer service is the norm. Lengthy lead times will lead to a loss in customer demand.
  4. Although cash is always king, during the pandemic, it has risen in importance. Product tied up in the supply chain which is typically 3 months minimum for Asian supply to the U.S. equates to dollars tied up that cannot be invested elsewhere.
  5. There is a higher likelihood of disruption the further away production is from customer demand and the more steps to the supply chain (such as ports, trucks, sailing through unfriendly waters).

Whatever was true last quarter or last month is no longer true. Continually reevaluate your end-to-end supply chain requirements. I’ve addressed this topic as well as your strategy, priorities, key trends, and your restart recipe for success in my eBook,  Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19. If you are interested in a rapid assessment, please contact us.

 



Are You Developing Close Relationships with Your Customers?

May 17th, 2020

During turbulent times, relationships move faster than at any other time. Will they move in a positive direction or a negative one? That is the only question. In fact, customers will be reevaluating what they buy and when they buy it. Consumer behaviors are evolving and business buying behaviors are evolving. Are you in the loop with your customers as to what is top of mind? Listen to our conversation with an expert in creating customer loyalty on our Navigating Through Volatility webinar series on creating a Forever Transaction.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

As a customer, I have less patience with slow response when I need it the most. Our customers are no different. On the other hand, a few suppliers stand out in my mind in making my life easier and being ahead of the curve. I will remember that as the pandemic winds down. Identify your top customers and make sure your relationships are moving rapidly in a positive direction. In fact, it is appropriate to drop low priority or unprofitable customers. Otherwise, your key customers might not gain the value they would otherwise.

Look for opportunities to provide value. Ask questions to understand your key customers’ current situation and what would help. Simply look for opportunities to help your customers be successful. If you can offer help and/or ideas, it can go a long way! Don’t worry about expanding business during your conversation. Provide value and your customers will be more successful. When your key customers are successful, you’ll be more successful as well. I’ve addressed this topic as well as your strategy, priorities, key trends, and your restart recipe for success in my eBook,  Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19 

Please share your stories, challenges, ideas and successes. Contact us and please join in our free webinar series and listen to our archives.



Leadership As We Emerge from the Pandemic

May 6th, 2020

“Whatever You Are, Be a Good One.” – Abraham Lincoln

All bets are off. No matter what type of leader you were pre-pandemic, your opportunity is now. Relationships move faster during times of crisis than any other time. Simply become the leader you know you can be. Everyone has the potential. Use your strengths. Gather your team to build on that strength. Move forward.

 

Be Calm

During these unprecedented times, there is substantial emotional turmoil. Start with self-management. Demonstrate calmness. Communicate clearly. Be patient, yet firm. Be upfront and tell people what you can tell them and tell them what you cannot tell them. Do not avoid them. People will make up a situation worse than reality every time. Instead, be upfront. Let them know that they will be the first to know when you know or are able to communicate. Establish trust and hold it closely.

Offer Resources & Communicate Frequently

Offer information and resources to help employees, customers, suppliers and other partners navigate these volatile times. Even the strongest of people should consider EAP (Employee Assistance Program) resources. Make sure that resources are communicated clearly so that employees can take advantage of what is available. Keep communicating – even if there is no news.

Read our eBook, Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19 to hear about additional strategies to lead, keep your teams moving forward, and engage your people in the future. There is ZERO doubt that leadership will make or break not only employee and customer engagement but also bottom line business results. As my HR mentor used to say, “It begins and ends with leadership.” Thanks to Debra Daniels-Smith as I couldn’t provide nearly the value to clients without her valuable counsel when I was VP of Product Supply for a mid-market healthcare products manufacturer.

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JIT Might Not Be What it is Cracked Up to Be?!

April 2nd, 2020

Just-in-time might not be what it is cracked up to be! Certainly, the coronavirus impacts should give us reason to question this rule at face value. Are you running so tight that you only have one bin, pallet or small supermarket to keep your facility running? If so, the question extends to your end-to-end supply chain.

Let’s assume you are a critical manufacturer struggling to produce key items during this coronavirus pandemic. Your suppliers should not be on lockdown since they support a critical infrastructure business; however, that doesn’t mean you’ll be fine. There are many considerations to review:

  1. Source of supply: Are your suppliers located in Asia and unable to staff during the peak of the coronavirus? Do you know what type of delays you’ll experience? Do your suppliers have contingency plans?
  2. Your suppliers’ suppliers: Even if you have a good handle on your suppliers, do you know the status of your suppliers’ suppliers? In an interconnected supply chain, we are only as strong as our weakest link. Who is your weakest link?
  3. Your transportation infrastructure: Even if your suppliers have product, can it get to you? Within what timeframe?
  4. Backups: No matter how well you’ve planned, the question is whether you have backups for critical materials/ ingredients that will ramp up rapidly as needed. Hopefully your supply chain is diversified geographically.
  5. Your customers: Are you in lockstep with your customers so that you are proactively managing demand or are peaks and valleys a surprise? Of course, the coronavirus was unexpected but the degree you fully understand your customers will determine your reaction time to changes in demand.
  6. Positioning of inventory: Do you have critical inventory positioned throughout your end-to-end supply chain?
  7. Your digital supply chain: Are you able to see into your extended supply chain? It could provide quite a benefit at this point.
  8. Additive manufacturing & robotics: Are you able to keep running with less people, socially distanced people and/or print on demand?

Using JIT (or any concept for that matter) without taking a 360 degree view is a bad idea! The cousin of JIT is lean manufacturing. I gained the attention of Wiley by writing that lean is just uncommon common sense (which of course simplifies it in order to make a point), but perhaps it is something to think more about. Have you put all these trendy concepts through a common sense filter? How about a risk filter? Let’s hope so! Otherwise you can be in a critical business and still not producing and running customers out of stock.

What is the answer? It depends! If you have put thought into your supply chain strategy upfront, considered risks, diversified your supplier base, invested in quality checks and top talent, and treated your employees well, it is likely your version of JIT will prove successful. On the other hand, if you saw JIT as a way to reduce inventory and were short-sighted in looking at your end-to-end supply chain and treating your employees and partners as trusted colleagues, you will likely suffer.

Getting ahead of the curve might be the only avenue to success. Consider creating a resilient supply chain and future-proofing your supply chain. Stay tuned and read more about it, and If you are interested in discussing a supply chain assessment, please contact us.

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The Strongest Link in Your Supply Chain