Category: Supply Chain Management

Rip City Interview: What is Going on with Toilet Paper?

March 28th, 2020

I was very excited to be interviewed by Rip City about why grocery stores cannot keep toilet paper in stock. We discussed how we can resolve the issue so that toilet paper and other essential supplies are back in stock and how the supply chain works. Listen to the interview on Rip City.

For additional coronavirus information, resources and strategies, please visit the coronavirus resources section of our website.



Supply chain strategy: Modernization tips from Lisa Anderson

March 27th, 2020

As Published in:  Ratelinx

For business leaders looking to modernize their supply chain, the technology investment is the easy part: Evaluate solutions, calculate the ROI, make your business case, and take delivery. Sure, it can be tricky to get sign off on these tech investments, but it’s a business problem with a logical solution.

The more challenging part is preparing your organization to take full advantage of that investment. That means getting people on board, ready for the change, and developing new processes that take full advantage of the new tech.

“High tech must be accompanied with high touch,” says Lisa Anderson, supply chain consultant and President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. “The most successful supply chain leaders will remember that people are their number one asset.”

We asked Lisa for her perspective on the current state of supply chain, the key trends that are driving change, and how you can prepare your team for what comes next. Read on to learn what she had to say.

Modernizing Your Supply Chain Strategy

The right supply chain strategy includes technological investments, process refinements, and a change management plan for your team. It should be detailed enough to act upon, but flexible enough to account for changing trends. Here’s how to get started.

Key Trends Driving Supply Chain Modernization

For most businesses, there are two factors that make modernization essential. First, there’s sustainability: Consumers are looking to buy from sustainable companies. That means companies are under pressure to not only work with sustainable suppliers, but to prove they’re doing so.

The second factor is perhaps an even bigger driver for change: The demand for near-instantaneous, free shipping for ecommerce. “In the next five years, customers will be expecting Amazon-like service levels at affordable rates, regardless of the high levels of disruption,” Lisa says. “Reshoring, near-sourcing, and sourcing reevaluation will be major concerns.”

Lisa predicts high levels of adoption for new technologies to meet these demands. “The use of technology such as artificial intelligence, IoT, predictive analytics and other technologies will enable meeting these customer needs while maximizing profit and cash flow,” she says.

 

“In these early stages, it’s important to focus in on the
most relevant data to drive decision-making. ” 

Getting Started with a Modernization Strategy

The actual nuts-and-bolts process of building a strategy is the same as solving any problem in your organization. “Start with the outcomes you’d like to achieve,” Lisa says, “then perform an assessment and gap analysis of your people, processes and technology. Assess your change management capabilities to achieve your outcomes. Finally, design the solution and build an implementation team.”

The process may be familiar, but knowing where to start can be a challenge. The first step should be getting a clear picture of your current supply chain. “Start simply and create a dashboard or availability screen that shows your supply chain status; however, remember that if you don’t pay attention to process disciplines, garbage in will result in garbage out,” says Lisa.

In these early stages, it’s important to focus in on the most relevant data to drive decision-making. But don’t try to boil the ocean: “Data plays a vital role; however, do not get sidetracked and overwhelmed with data. Start with your No. 1 priority, find directionally correct data and enable visibility,” Lisa says. “Once your team and supply chain partners understand this data, move to the second largest priority.”

Once you have your supply chain mapped out, you can start to implement solutions that will pay off in the short term and in the long run. A.I. and IoT initiatives have the potential for a quick win. Lisa says in her consulting work, she’s seeing “Artificial Intelligence and IoT used in predictive analytics and forecasting as top priorities. Getting ahead of customer demand drives significant supply chain value.”

Train and Hire the Right Skill Set

For Lisa, the human element is an often-overlooked, but crucial, part of supply chain modernization. “I’ve found that a more dramatic ROI can occur by aligning the people, even more than the data and the process,” she says.

When bringing in new talent, Lisa recommends looking for data science fundamentals. “Data analytics, the ability to leverage ERP systems and think through down-the-line impacts as well as tying business process to systems design are all part of the equation,” she says. “But we should also look at soft skill requirements, such as the ability to collaborate.” Collaboration, big-picture strategizing, and lateral thinking are all essential characteristics of a modern supply chain expert.

The ROI Potential of Supply Chain Modernization

Remodeling your supply chain is not without risks, and it’s a process that takes time and resources to ensure success. But the rewards are worth the effort. “It depends on the situation, of course,” says Lisa, “but it isn’t uncommon to see a five or 10:1 return on investment from supply chain transformation improvements.”



Coronavirus and Impacts in the Supply Chain

March 7th, 2020

I was talking with a Los Angeles Times reporter about the coronavirus a few days ago, and it spurred several thoughts about down-the-line impacts beyond the obvious. According to the Epoch Times, the coronavirus impacts will hit within the next few months. This makes perfect sense since lead times are typically between 2-3 months for our clients.  So, expect current shutdowns to have impact in a few months.  While you should obviously spring to action if impacted, you should be thinking about future-proofing your supply chain regardless!

 

 



U.S., China Sign Historic Phase One Trade Deal

February 3rd, 2020

According to the National Association of Manufacturers press release, the U.S and China trade deal is an unprecedented phase one win for manufacturers.  Previously the NAM CEO lamented that “China has proven one of the most troubling markets in the world for manufacturers, due to its lack of commitment to free markets, fair competition and reform.” Thus, this statement was high praise for the deal, “It is a remarkable turning point for manufacturers, with the unprecedented and enforceable commitments on critical intellectual property protections to which China has agreed.

There are a myraid of issues in trade with China for manufacturing, and there is debate whether “phase one” went far enough or too far (as both extremes exist); however, according to my recent discussions with international business attorney and China expert John Tulac on future-proofing your manufacturing supply chain, there is quite a bit of risk in China to navigate.

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

Certainly this trade deal relates back to tariffs. Of course, the U.S. agreed to cut tariffs of $120 billion in Chinese goods by half. They also held off on tariffs in December with expectation of the trade deal. Not surprisingly, economists expect this to positively impact growth.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, China agreed to ramp up purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over the next 2 years. Agricultural products will go up by $32 billion over that period, and China agreed to steps that will provide market access for dairy products, poultry, beef and more.

Most importantly to many manufacturers, there is strong language preventing thefts of trade secrets. That is certainly a huge frustration to manufacturers! We definitely aren’t too comfortable relying upon this but it can be seen as progress and eases some concerns. There is also agreement to create a dispute resolution office as well as to not manipulate currency. The bottom line is there is a host of positive outcomes and progress which provides a base to build upon.

By no means should we jump on expanding manufacturing in China as there are plenty of issues of concern. With that said, this trade deal might provide time for you to evaluate what will make the most sense for your business objectives while reducing negative impacts of tariffs. As costs have gone up in China and working capital increases in importance, manufacturers are starting to look at moving operations closer to customers to support quick turnarounds and a superior customer experience. Technology might provide a strategic advantage with 3D printing, AI, IoT, robotics and more. Commodity products with minimal freight costs are moving to other low cost countries. For example, Vietnam loves manufacturing and is rapidly expanding. There are plenty of options to ponder.

At a minimum, continually re-evaluate your supply chain road map and think through related impacts. These topics certainly relate to our new LMA-i, LMA-Intelligence series including the Amazon Effect, the Resilient Supply Chain and Future-Proofing and contact us if you’d like an assessment path-forward plan to accelerate your bottom line and customer performance.

 

 

 



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.

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

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