Category: The Strongest Link in Supply Chain

Made in Vietnam?

January 19th, 2020

Vietnam has been the hot topic lately. After a visit recently, I saw first-hand the potential along with the challenges. Clients are definitely evaluating changing the source of supply to Vietnam. And the question is: should they? Or, alternatively, the question is: Are they moving fast enough?

Although there are infrastructure issues, the most successful clients are already ahead of the curve and seriously considering Vietnam. Of course, it is not best for all products and situations, just as China wasn’t best for all situations previously. If you are starting to see price increases in China and are concerned about the quality and reliability as China is struggling, it is definitely something to consider. Consider this fact – many Chinese companies are moving production to Vietnam.  Obviously there is something to be said for evaluating this source of supply.

Vietnam likes manufacturing and the United States. One of my proactive clients has been moving a significant portion of their supply from China to Vietnam over the last year. They started the process before the tariffs because they expected to save significantly with Vietnam production.  However, they really looked like heroes to their Board when they also beat the Chinese tariffs with the move.

This does NOT mean it will always make sense. We also have clients who outsourced to China a long time ago when it was the latest “fad”. In fact, the tide turned over the last several years.  The total cost of the product as well as the gains in customer satisfaction of sourcing closer to customer demand (typically in N.A.) makes a lot more sense.  Unfortunately for them, most of the companies in this situation haven’t changed supply yet due to capital and infrastructure costs and related efforts to move the source of supply. Yet it can be done. Our client reevaluated and started the transition to Vietnam. Recently, the tariffs are forcing several to re-think the China strategy, but is it “too late”? Are you going to wait for the next tariff scenario where you are on the defensive or are you gong to proactively reevaluate your entire strategy?

Certainly part of what you’ll need to evaluate is your working capital requirements. How does China compare with Vietnam? Both require an extended supply chain. Generally speaking, the longer lead times to cross the ocean carry working capital requirements. As customers become more demanding, you’ll need to consider inventory as a key component to your sourcing decisions. Pick up some tips and strategies in our recent article ” Inventory Management as Fashionable as Automated Intelligence for Distributors” for ACHR News.

Getting ahead of the curve might be the only avenue to success. When looking at China vs. Vietnam, it is quite clear that China is significantly larger and has far more manufacturing capability.  Yet, those early to Vietnam won’t have to worry about this particular issue.  And, of course Vietnam is racing to catch up.

Whether you have sourcing in China, Vietnam or neither, the underlying point is essential. Are you constantly revisiting your supply chain strategy? If not, you’ll likely be left following your competitors. Instead, consider future-proofing your manufacturing and supply chain business. Stay tuned and read more about it.

If you are interested in discussing a supply chain assessment, please contact us.

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Will Technology Gain Critical Mass in Manufacturing in 2020?

January 6th, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to an Industry Week article, recent predictions say we are headed into the year where technology gains critical mass!  That is truly exciting for manufacturers as people and robots work in collaboration to achieve profitable growth and success. Of course, it isn’t all about robots but it provides a good visual for the conversation.

 

There are all sorts of technologies to consider including robots, collaborative robots, wearables, IoT, additive manufacturing, 5G, AI and more. By NO means should we jump on the next fad.  Yet, we should be aware of these technologies, the progress of the technologies and be ready to take advantage of opportunities. Your smart competition will be! When technology gains critical mass, not only will your competition have the edge but it will accelerate the rate of progress.  This means you will be left inching your way from the start gate when your competition passed you in the victory lap with profitable growth, superior customer experiences and happy employees. Are you considering your technological footprint?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Without a doubt, shift into high gear when it comes to getting educated on the technologies that support your industry and your supply chain partners. You do not need to throw bunches of money at this issue but gaining prudent proactive knowledge is a must. Understand your landscape and which technologies might provide an advantage in the marketplace. Be willing to invest in testing and trials.

Involve your team and extended supply chain partners in collaborating and brainstorming on win-win-win strategies to achieve key objectives. We live in a collaborative world.  We need to see our partners as partners – not vendors and the competition. From this point-of-view, in my ProVisors group of trusted advisors, the most successful members believe in referring business they could do themselves if they think it is slightly better off with their competitor. It is counter intuitive and ends up turning 1 + 1 into 4 with more business for all. The same will hold true with your supply chain partners.  With that said, being collaborative is not an excuse to be negligent. You have to watch out for cyber security and a host of other issues that could arise.

At a minimum, re-evaluate your technology roadmap.  Remember, this is identical to strategy in 2020. A strategy looking 5 years out is pointless, even a year out is suspect. Instead, you need a roadmap of guidelines with the flexibility to be resilient and the attentiveness to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. In essence, future-proof your manufacturing organization and extended supply chain.

Check out our new LMA-i, LMA-Intelligence series including Future-Proofing and contact us if you’d like an assessment path-forward plan to accelerate your bottom line and customer performance.



Is Vietnam the New China?

December 23rd, 2019

Possibly, and “it depends”! China has been moving factories to Vietnam since the early 2000’s, so it is certainly a place to consider. With the tariffs, global uncertainty, rising wages in China and social/political implications, Vietnam can provide a viable alternative especially for certain industries. Vietnam has lower wages, multiple ports, is friendly and has a growing and advancing manufacturing base. Of course, there are always challenges to navigate as well such as a lesser developed infrastructure and less high skilled resources available. The bottom line is that you should at least have Vietnam on your radar.

Some of our clients are sourcing from Vietnam in addition to other countries including China, Mexico and N.A. Similar to China, there is a stark difference between those with money and those working diligently to get by. The picture of the nice looking building is part of the Sofitel Legend Metropole is a fabulous hotel (and happens to be where Donald Trump & Kim Jung-un met), and the other picture is one of Hanoi’s city streets. The vast majority of people cannot afford a car (which is quite expensive in Vietnam, $25,000 for the smallest hatchback) , so there are motorbikes all over the place, driving in seemingly organized chaos. In comparison to China’s wages of $27.50 per day, wages in Vietnam are $6.70 per day. Yes, a stark difference for labor-intensive industries. While Vietnam may not be right for everyone, you should at least be aware of what the country has to offer in terms of sourcing opportunities.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Countless numbers of organizations outsourced to China 20 years ago.  Many have discovered it wasn’t the smartest decision. Perhaps labor intensity wasn’t high. Perhaps lead time requirements were quick and critical. Perhaps product was delayed at ports or the risks associated with the South China Sea are too great. Perhaps it never came out much ahead when looking at the total cost or perhaps it has evolved to more of a parity. In non-labor intensive industries, I’ve heard several executives re-think the decision. At larger companies with global business, they reoriented the China facilities to supply the Asian markets. In smaller companies, they were stuck for a period of time because they invested heavily including in capital intensive machinery and equipment. And in some cases, it was a brilliant decision.

Whether you have outsourced to China, Vietnam or anywhere else is not relevant. The key question to think about is the impact your decisions have on your customer, your skills requirements, your cost structure, your risk profile and more. So long as you are going into these decisions with your eyes wide open, you’ll be successful.

Perhaps you should also be thinking about backup plans and deliberately creating redundancy and diversifying your manufacturing base. Even if you don’t consider switching part of your base because you aren’t prepared to make this transition successfully, you should at least think about how you are sourcing growth and expansion. Should you build skills close to your customers? If you are in a labor-intensive industry such as apparel and home textiles (which are #1 and #2 in Vietnam), perhaps you should consider Vietnam. And, why not get ahead of the curve? Samsung is producing several phones in Vietnam.  There may be something to be said about being first to the party of using higher-skilled talent.

At a minimum, re-evaluate your end-to-end supply chain in order to future-proof your manufacturing operations and related supply chain components. Check out our new LMA-i, LMA-Intelligence series including Future-Proofing and contact us if you’d like an assessment path-forward plan to accelerate your bottom line and customer performance.



Forget About Reducing Inventory; Perhaps You Have the Wrong Supply Chain Strategy

December 16th, 2019

Clients and colleagues have demonstrated a heightened interest in inventory reduction recently despite not yet seeing the full value! Certainly with everyone worried about a potential recession in 2020, they are starting to think about not tying up as much cash in inventory but that is not the 100 pound gorilla. The real question is why we are thinking about corporate mandates and full warehouses instead of seeing the bigger picture – reevaluating our supply chain.

Of course, maximizing your customer service (on-time delivery, quicker lead times), margins/efficiencies and cash flow (inventory reduction) is an important standard best practice. To learn more about how to achieve this win-win-win, read our recent article ” Inventory Management as Fashionable as Automated Intelligence for Distributors” for ACHR News. Yet, it could become “rearranging chairs on the titanic” if your supply chain is not set up to deliver maximum performance. So, instead of jumping to erroneous conclusions, take a step back to reevaluate your end-to-end supply chain strategy.

When I was a VP of Operations & Supply Chain for a mid-market manufacturer, our private equity backers and Board of Directors were always asking about labor costs. It didn’t matter that labor costs was our smallest cost element. In fact, material cost was the 800 pound gorilla at around 70% of product cost, followed by freight. If we could double labor cost to reduce materials and freight, it would be a smart decision. Yet, it was never viewed that way. So, if a smart private equity group and executive team can bark up the wrong tree, we all might be speeding down the freeway but going in the wrong direction.

Typically, labor cost is 8-12% of the total cost of ownership. How does that compare to your materials cost? Unless you are in a labor-intensive industry, perhaps you better take a second look. Next there are freight costs. Not only do freight costs continue to rise but the rules, regulations and delays can be astounding. In a recent California Inland Empire District Export Council (CIEDEC) meeting, the new sulfur emission rules for shipping arose because costs will have to be passed on to importers and exporters. Of course, we don’t have to mention tariffs and global unrest. Now, let’s add inventory carrying cost into the equation. It is a minimum of 6%.  Yet, most experts (and clients) agree that it is truly a minimum of 25% and could be as bad as a 1:1 ratio. Just think about how often your customer changes his mind, all the expediting you have to do to serve customers and the systems and complexity your team has to manage. Is it time to reevaluate?

ERP system
Let’s not forget that this equation isn’t just an insource or outsource question. There are lots of opportunities. For example, you might want to think about the following questions:

  1. Where are your customers?
  2. Where are your suppliers?
  3. Is there disruptive technology that could impact your cost ratios?
  4. How complex is your supply chain? Have you thought about the price of complexity?
  5. Do you have a robust ERP system to support customer expectations while achieving profitable growth?
  6. Are there supply chain partner programs that could completely change the game?

No matter your situation, it is worth revisiting. Corporate strategies last NO MORE than a year so why are we leaving our supply chain to old rules? Instead, we should be future-proofing our manufacturing and supply chain business.

Stay tuned and read more about it If you are interested in discussing a supply chain assessment, please contact us.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

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Drones are More Than a Pipe Dream

December 2nd, 2019

In reading an Cnet article on drones, it is clear drones are more than an Amazon pipe dream. In fact, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that he expects at least one U.S. city to have have the ability to control hundreds of unmanned aerial systems by 2028. NASA is using a “grand challenge” incentive program to improve the technology’s maturity, and there are many key companies working on drone technology. Of course, Amazon is one.  They are joined by folks like UPS and Uber Elevate. Drones soon will become a reality.

One of our clients makes drones for military use, and they have a “mini Cal Tech” feel. The future will be in the hands of those who can transform technology into practical applications, improving the customer experience and the bottom line simultaneously. Are you thinking about how drone technology and other technologies might impact your industry, your company and your employees?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Certainly, there are a vast number of challenges in flying commercial drones especially in dense population areas like Los Angeles. However, as NASA says, with the brightest minds thinking through how to bring this to a reality, it will occur. The only question is whether you will be surprised and left in the dust by the impacts or whether you will be positioned to thrive. We plan to ensure our clients are thinking ahead to be squarely in the “thrive” category!

Drones might seem unrelated to our immediate future and to our business. However, if we receive anything or ship anything, I imagine drones might be relevant. Perhaps we should re-think the impact. And, more importantly, it isn’t the drones themselves.  Instead, it is the technology and that translation of technology into practical applications. Whether it is autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchain or another buzzword, the key question is whether we are thinking about our vision and objectives and how we can leverage technology to accelerate our progress towards these objectives. Now that is worth something!

Since we are unveiling another LMA-i, LMA Intelligence category of Future Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain, this is quite relevant to preparing to successfully navigate your future. No matter what happens in the volatile global marketplace, if you are set up to thrive no matter the conditions, you’ll come out ahead. Stay tuned for article archives related to future proofing, just as we have for the Amazon Effect, the Skills Gap and the Resilient Supply Chain.