Category: Supply Chain Management

Blockchain Service Has Gone Mainstream

June 11th, 2019

Although according to most experts, blockchain hasn’t lived up to its promise yet especially in comparison with IoT, robotics and more, it has just gone mainstream. Of course, who else but Amazon has just made blockchain service platform generally available. Undoubtedly, that will disrupt many of the techies running around to be the first at blockchain! With that said, big names such as IBM have poured a lot of resources into blockchain, so it is likely to go somewhere. For example, IBM and Syniverse just completed a pilot program for roaming solutions using blockchain technology.  And, IBM has interesting projects going with Nestle, Volkswagen, and Albertsons (the world’s 2nd largest grocery chain).

Have you thought about how blockchain might impact your industry?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
There has been a lot of hoopla about blockchain for several years although progress has been slower than many other technologies. Regardless of how popular, it is important to understand key technologies that might impact your industry or your supply chain partners. Certainly, in blockchain’s case, it is relevant to industries where a chain-of-custody might be needed such as food. That is why two of the companies mentioned above relate to food, Nestle and Albertsons. Yet it doesn’t matter if you relate to food or another blockchain-related industry, it is quite likely your industry or your supply chain will be impacted in some way. For example, you might use the same supplier or transportation system.

The bottom line is to stay abreast of what might impact your industry, company, customers, suppliers and related geographies. Thinking ahead will enable you to take advantage of opportunities and successfully navigate around barriers. You’ll find more information on these types of topics on our resilient supply chain series.

 



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?

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.



Amazon Adds In-Garage Delivery Option

May 20th, 2019

According to Good Morning America, Amazon is adding in-garage delivery options to its already vast array of delivery options – in-home and in-car. I remember when I first started working after college receiving a package was an ordeal! I was lucky if I could go to the post office on a Saturday to get a package or have to take a vacation day just to get the package. How insane that sounds!

Now, we can receive packages in-car (I would have loved that at the time because I could go to the parking lot at work), in-home (hard to imagine but even Walmart has been testing putting groceries away in the refrigerator with in-home delivery) and now in-garage if you don’t want people in your house or if you have pets you worry about. You can control the garage door opener from your phone and see the package being delivered for peace of mind. Talk about convenience!

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Consumer products companies are evaluating all sorts of convenience-related delivery options to ‘win’ the race for shopping convenience. That’s why we also see Amazon tents popping up around the country as Amazon gets into the transportation business and needs last mile facilities. What will be next?

At a minimum, get up-to-speed with the latest strategies in e-commerce and logistics. LMA Consulting was a sponsor at the e-commerce and Logistics Summit recently, featuring keynoters from UPS, Georgia Tech and more. Check out these types of events to at least be aware of what’s happening in the industry and think about what types of piloting you should perform at your company.

Can you work with select customers to determine what type of service would go “over-and-beyond” for them? High-quality products and great brands are no longer enough. You better add top notch service into the mix to succeed!

You’ll find more information on these types of topics on our resilient supply chain series.



Let’s Manage Inventory for Our Customers

May 16th, 2019

inventory managementAmazon is propelling this age-old topic into a new realm. Since the CEO of the Ontario Airport Authority used the phrase “last mile” has become “last minute” on a panel I facilitated last year, I have shamelessly reapplied his brillant quote.

If customers don’t even know what they want, how can we? Interestingly, we have found that many customers, even the seemingly most confused and  volatile ones, have a pattern to their demand. If we take a holistic view of their demand and inventory planning processes from beginning to end and from high level to the minute detail, solutions emerge.     

One strategy that has proven quite effective is to “remove the middleman”, the customer himself. Instead, with access to demand information direct from the customers’ customer or end user, you can not only manage the extended supply chain inventory better for a happier customer but you also can improve margins, efficiencies and cash flow to boot.

In consumer products circles, this strategy often termed, vendor managed inventory is usually dictated by the “big guys”.  In aerospace, it is also expected but termed differently, customer based ordering, min max and other names. It is also common in healthcare as we won “supplier of the year” for two years in a row because of what we accomplished with VMI for Cardinal Healthcare when I was VP of Operations at PaperPak. We decided to make it a strategy for key customers at PaperPak, even though Cardinal is the only one who requested it. Should you consider a strategy like this to get ahead of your customers’ demand?  It is just another aspect in creating a resilient supply chain. Check out our series on the topic.

 

 



Pepsi’s Innovations with Artificial Intelligence

May 10th, 2019

Artificial intelligence appears to be taking over the world. I read a fascinating article in Forbes about Pepsi’s innovations using artificial intelligence.  It is quite clear that those executives who are thinking about how to lead this effort will leave the rest in the dust.

For example, Pepsi is working with the University of the Pacific to have a Snackbot deliver snacks and drinks from an app to 50 locations across campus for no fee! Quite an intriguing idea. It delivers rain or shine.

Similarly, in Pepsi’s Frito-Lay factory, they use lasers to hit chips and listen to sounds to determine texture. And this is just the beginning of how AI can relate to process control.  They also used machine learning and a vision system to predict the weight of potatoes which led to millions in savings.

There seems to be no limit to the number of ideas and ways to utilize AI. Have you thought about what you can do in your operation?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
You better get up-to-speed quickly! One way to do this is to join our APICS-IE chapter and our symposium on “The Talent Transformation: People or Robots?“. We have an amazing lineup of panelists including a robotics expert, the world’s leader in GIS mapping software, and more.

You can also read mountains of articles on-line, ask colleagues, attend conferences, network with industry professionals and much more.  The key question is as follows: Are you exploring these technologies and what can they do for your business?

These types of advanced manufacturing and leading edge technologies are becoming quite accessible. But that isn’t enough. Are you involving your team in the process and providing opportunities for education, testing of new ideas and for failure? Otherwise, write all the checks you want; however, it will fall apart when trying to integrate these technologies into your organization in a smart way to achieve a value-added end result. Just pose the question – how can we create a resilient yet automated end-to-end supply chain? No doubt, you’ll circle back to this topic!