Category: The Amazon Effect

Top Trending Client Request: Reduce Inventory

October 7th, 2019

More than 50% of client requests in the last several months have related to inventory. In fact, it seems to be a trending hot topic! In today’s era of the Amazon Effect where customers expect more and have ZERO patience to wait, there are challenges like a volatile environment with tariffs and concerns about space, costs and more, more inventory is needed to grow the business yet businesses cannot afford it. Learning how to reduce lead times and improve service levels while reducing inventory and costs is of utmost importance.

In partnering with several clients on just this topic, we’ve found the same ingredients to success yet the mix and proportions can be quite different. Several of the top contributors behind inventory success include:

  1. Demand planning: It turns out there is a lot to be said for fine tuning your demand plan (sales forecast). How well do you understand your customer requirements? We’ve seen that even in the best of clients, there is a gap between perception and reality. In 80% of our clients, there is a path to significantly improve the forecast with a direct correlation to inventory reduction
  2. Production &/or material planning: Not surprisingly, there is no ‘magic process’ that works for every client.  However, there are general themes that are identical. In every case, there is some sort of logical combination of master scheduling/material requirements planning (MPS/MRP) and kanban processes. How we figure out the right mix, proportions and formulas is the trick. It depends on the manufacturing/distribution type, people, processes, systems, customers, suppliers and related capabilities and more.
  3. Distribution planning: Similar to production and material planning, we’ve seen a significant opportunity with several clients to leverage a more proactive yet simpler distribution planning approach. The process will involve concepts from DRP (distribution requirements planning) and kanban. Often, this simple process can provide the visibility required to better manage inventory levels.
  4. Lead Times: Certainly, none of these can be viewed in isolation. Customer lead times will dictate the requirements of your network, whereas supplier lead times must be built into your planning processes. Distribution lead times and options (mode of transportation) could also make the difference between OTD (on-time delivery) or OTIF (on-time-in-full) and late delivery as well as profit and loss.
  5. Capacity: Understanding your capacity (skills, labor, machinery, space, and more) and how it relates to your requirements is of paramount importance. This process of aligning demand with supply across your organization and supply chain is termed SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning).

In our experience, clients can reduce inventory by 20-30% on average without negatively impacting customer service. In fact, we often find that a win-win-win can be created: improved service, inventory turns and cost/margins simultaneously.

Read more in an upcoming article I’ve written for Distribution Trends.  Feel free contact us to discuss your situation in detail.

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The Amazon Effect Won’t Die!

October 4th, 2019

We have been writing countless articles about the Amazon Effect for many years as customers have the upper hand. In essence, if you cannot provide rapid, customized service with easy returns and ‘extra value’, you will be left in the dust. The needs aren’t going away. If anything, Amazon continues to raise the bar. Several companies such as FedEx, Walmart and others have announced same day and next day delivery. Target is redesigning stores and pick up areas so that customers can conveniently pick up purchases same day. Walmart is evaluating delivering groceries inside a customers’ home while they are at work. And, Costco has established a chicken farm to grow, slaughter and distribute chickens in an effort to eliminate the middle man for quicker, cost effective deliveries. However, this isn’t just about B2C and traditional e-commerce companies typically in industries such as consumer products and food and beverage. B2B companies expect Amazon-like service as well! Behind every B2B company is a person who expects B2C customer service.

Executives are still intrigued by the Amazon Effect. The reason executives still care is because it is getting harder and harder to remain competitive and profitable. For example, at the Manufacturing Summit, we recorded a series of videos from an Amazon Effect panel talking about these issues. Countless CEOs are expressing concerns about how to navigate these troubled waters. On the other hand, there are a few who are taking advantage of the situation to stand out from the crowd by becoming the disruptor instead of the disruptee. Which are you?

The Amazon Effect also teaches us that innovation is cornerstone to success. Not only does Amazon continually innovate and test new ideas, but some of these new concepts ‘stick’. As the founder of Netflix said, it isn’t that you set out to get the idea for Netflix and it is success all the way. The reason we are still talking about 3M and the famous sticky pad innovation is that it doesn’t happen that often, and 3M sets aside time and money for innovation as a part of their culture. Thus, we must get comfortable with trial and error. Of course, the error part is the problem. No one likes failure. Yet, it is just a part of the process. In fact, if you aren’t failing, you won’t succeed. Even Amazon fails. They test new markets, are willing to lose money and shut down programs. We just don’t hear about them as often as we hear about the latest and greatest new service or drone delivery! Are we really pushing the envelope far enough?

Have you thought about whether you have a culture that supports innovation? Check out our video series on innovation to gain some ideas. Gather your team to brainstorm out of the box ideas. Ask an expert to poke holes. Deliberately stimulate debate and organize trials. In essence, why not encourage maverick behavior within reasonable guide posts so that you set your team up for a “win”?

If you are interested in an Amazon Effect assessment with ideas to break from the mold, check out our free resources and/or contact us.

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Do You Have a Resilient Supply Chain?

August 11th, 2019

supply chain strategyThere is extreme volatility in today’s end-to-end supply chain.  Are you keeping up with all the changes?  For example, think about the following:

  • Tariffs & trade impacts
  • Data & security breaches
  • The Amazon Effect
  • New technologies such as 3D printing
  • Natural disasters, port strikes and more

The Resilient Supply Chain
Instead of allowing each of these incidents to impact you, we must create a resilient supply chain.  Are you proactively thinking about these topics?

  1. Agility– Instead of seeing agile as an IT or project management concept, we should be thinking about how to incorporate agility into every step / every piece of our end-to-end supply chain.  If a customer changes his mind, are we flexible enough to handle it?
  2. Speed – Is your supply chain set up for speed?  Customers are unwilling to wait.  I’ve found that I’m unwilling to wait anymore.  If I wait for a trusted advisor, service provider, subcontractor or even a client, it delays LMA Consulting. For us to be on the leading edge with clients, we must be ahead of the curve; not waiting for something that will be obsolete before we get it!  That is one thing we appreciate about our webmaster; he is speedy and understands priorities which is how we are able to announce a major content upgrade (thanks Scott).
  3. Predictive – In today’s complex world, we must also be predictive so that we are prepared from an 80/20 standpoint for the most likely unexpected events, trends and bumps in the road.  Thinking three steps ahead can go a long way in creating resilience.
  4. Collaborative – One of key components to creating a resilient supply chain with multiple partners is to collaborate.  There is no time to establish relationships and find ways to navigate volatility together if you haven’t already set a collaborative tone.
  5. Adaptive team – No doubt; the core to resilience is having an adaptive team where each members understands where he/she is headed and feels empowered to handle obstacles as they arise.

Have you thought about each interrelated partner, piece or parameter in your end-to-end supply chain?  How can you set it up to be resilient?



Manufacturing and Distribution Expert, Lisa Anderson, Confirms Inventory, Cost and Logistics Pressures in Supply Chain

July 12th, 2019

CLAREMONT, CA,  July 9, 2019 –  Manufacturing and Supply Chain Expert Lisa Anderson, MBA, CSCP, CLTD, president of LMA Consulting Group Inc. confirms that supply chain resiliency requires acute attention to inventory and cost pressures for manufacturers and distributors.  As predicted in her 2019 forecast, “Manufacturing & Supply Chain in the New Normal”, ever-changing customer needs, increased expectations, tight labor and transportation challenges are the ‘new normal’ and key issues for manufacturing and the supply chain.

Economic volatility and what Ms. Anderson calls the Amazon Effect – high customer expectations requiring rapid deliveries, accessibility and flexible, customized service – is putting pressure on costs and inventory levels.

“It’s like the perfect storm, tariffs, last minute changes, rapid delivery requirements and increased customer demands are challenging the supply chain. In turn, inventory levels are increasing.  Add in elevated labor and logistics costs and it gets tougher and tougher to control costs,” Ms. Anderson explains.

The result is an increased focus on improving inventory turns to accelerate cash flow, as well as an emphasis on re-shoring and near-sourcing.

“Aligning sales forecasts with operational capabilities is critical for manufacturers to thrive. In our 14 years of consulting, sales, inventory and operations planning (SIOP) has consistently delivered the strongest increase in business value. Leveraging best practices in demand planning and better aligning sales forecasts with operational capabilities will drive significant improvements in customer performance and the bottom line,” she says.

LMA Consulting Group works with manufacturers and distributors on strategy and end-to-end supply chain transformation to maximize the customer experience and enable profitable, scalable, dramatic business growth. As a result of her work with manufacturers and distributors and financial knowledge of factors affecting the bottom line, Ms. Anderson has been appointed by the Logistics Council of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP) to lead the effort to develop a consortium for logistics, supply chain and advanced manufacturing success.

“Inland Southern California leads California in job creation and manufacturing growth. We are in an ideal situation to become a global leader in logistics, advanced manufacturing and export excellence. I’m very excited to be spearheading the effort with the IEEP to create a Consortium of Excellence to support the future of the industry and accelerate regional growth,” she says.

About LMA Consulting Group – Lisa Anderson, MBA, CSCP, CLTD

Lisa Anderson is the founder and president of LMA Consulting Group, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in manufacturing strategy and end-to-end supply chain transformation.  She focuses on maximizing the customer experience and enabling profitable, scalable, dramatic business growth. Ms. Anderson has been named a Top 40 B2B Tech Influencer by arketi group, a 50 ERP Influencer by Washington-Frank, ranked in the top 46 most influential in Supply Chain by SAP and named a top woman influencer by Solutions Review. She recently published, I’ve Been Thinking, an inspiring collection of 101 strategies for creating bold customer promises and profits. A regular content contributor on topics including providing a superior customer experience with SIOP, advancing innovation and making the supply chain resilient, Ms. Anderson is regularly interviewed and quoted by publications such as Industry Week, tED magazine and the Wall Street Journal.  For information, to sign up for her Profit Through PeopleTM Newsletter or for a copy of her book, visit LMA-ConsultingGroup.com.
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How Are You Keeping Up?

July 9th, 2019

In today’s Amazon-impacted, data overloaded world, it is one BIG challenge to just “keep up”. How are you keeping up with the latest industry trends, noteworthy products, emerging technologies and more?

It would be easy to spend 40 hours a week just “keeping up”. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend that as your competition would be happy to speed on by. However, this idea got me thinking about how executives should “keep up”.

Time isn’t a resource. We cannot make more time. On the other hand, time is a matter of priority. When we answer, “I don’t have time for that,” it means we aren’t prioritizing that topic or that person. We cannot prioritize everyone and every topic including how to stay up-to-speed.       

A few recommendations for executives to stay up-to-date on relevant information without taking “too much” time:

  • Make it a priority for your team to stay up-to-date.  If each of your team members is up-to-date on relevant information for his/her area, it will be half the battle. Ask for a bullet point summary of highlights.
  • Talk with customers.  One priority you cannot delegate is a certain amount of customer interaction and discussion on trending topics. How else will you steer the ship?
  • Attend key industry conferences. Typically, there is a flagship industry event our clients attend. No matter how busy, make room in your schedule to attend, meet with customers and suppliers and find out what is trending.
  • Focus some attention on your strategic differentiation. For example, a few clients are expert at sourcing. Thus, they better put some focus on this topic. Others are expert at manufacturing, e-commerce or a technical topic. Stay abreast of key trends.
  • Skim industry articles & the Wall Street Journal. Staying current on key events and how they could impact your industry and your company is essential.