The Resilient Supply Chain: Do You Have Vendors or Partners?

December 1st, 2018

Since we did research on “The Squeeze” for a speech on the the squeeze in aerosapce (meaning:  how does the supplier in the middle between the Tier 1 suppliers who supply final assembly parts for an airplane and the powerhouse mills survive, or preferably thrive), we have been thinking a lot about the supplier relationship.  Coincidently, we also heard a lot on this topic at the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM/APICS) international conference as it is a hot topic across all industries. There was an almost identical discussion occurring with retail and the consumer goods industry. Last but not least, all of our clients are seeing the relevance of this topic.

What is the “right” answer?  Of course, it depends!
To manage “the squeeze”, one of the keys is to create partnerships with your key suppliers.  The rest can be vendors since they are not core or significant to your success. However, your key suppliers must be partners and collaborators.  For example, one of the best ways to handle the middle position in the aerospace world is to bring your customers and their demand together with your suppliers and their capabilities.  

Here are a few ideas that all depend on being a partner:

  • Collaborate with suppliers on new ideas/design concepts to reduce materials and waste for you AND up your supply chain.
  • Become a partner of your customer and gain access to demand information as it becomes available and help translate that into a benefit for your customer, you and your supplier.
  • Leverage pricing and volume across the supply chain for a win-win-win.

Although these ideas relate to aerospace, the same concept applies with every client.  When I was VP of Operations and Supply Chain for an absorbent products manufacturer, we used these same concepts to find win-win-win solutions in your supply chain.  We partnered with key vendors to redesign materials (that performed better at a lower cost), redesign packaging, reduce waste in our manufacturing process which required teaks and collaboration with both material and equipment suppliers and more.  By following a partnership route instead of the “vendor” negotiation/beat up on price route, we turned our situation around from bad to good.

We found private equity backers who wanted profitable growth.  However, soon after, the market changed and oil and gas prices were continually rising which significantly impacted our material costs (and were unavoidable) while our private equity investors still expected the same profit improvements as before.  Our business was also heavy in transportation cost since the product was bulky which was also an issue with rising oil and gas prices. Thus, we collaborated with customers, material suppliers and freight suppliers for win-win-win solutions. It “worked” and we were able to offset the price increases while growing the business in a profitable and scalable way.

These types of situations are common in today’s business environment.  

Do you view your suppliers as vendors or partners? And who are you hiring to manage these relationships?  Transaction-oriented purchasing folks or strategic relationship procurement resources?

 



The Resilient Supply Chain: Does Your Environment Support Fear?

November 27th, 2018

In today’s Amazonian environment, customers expect rapid delivery (same day/next day is preferred regardless of industry), 24/7 accessibility, easy returns, innovative collaborations and much more.  Add disruptors popping up all over (such as Uber, Netflix and more), trade war impacts and technology disruptors to entire industries (such as artifical intelligence to the accounting industry), it is quite clear we are in a new ballgame.  One of the keys to successfully navigate this environment is to rely on your people.

When it comes to your people, if they don’t feel empowered, they will not take a leap of faith and bring up ideas, test theories etc.  In essence, they need to overcome fear to rise to the occasion. What is the environment like in your office? Here are a few questions to ponder:

  1.  Will employees be shunned if they go against the grain?  For example, if employees bring up an idea that isn’t popular or one that the manager thinks puts him/her in not-as-good a light, will they get shunned?  Before leaping to the answer of “of course not”, perhaps take a second look one or two levels below you. You might find a different answer than you wish.
  2.  Is failure celebrated?  Of course, we don’t mean multiple failures repeating the same mistakes but is a single failure/learning experience celebrated?
  3.  Would failure still be celebrated if it impacts month-end numbers? Unfortunately, that is when it will occur.  It is just luck of the draw.
  4.  Is it OK to help a project team?  For example, if an employee helps a project team that requires his/her expertise even if it isn’t relevant or supportive to his boss’s success, will it be OK?  Worse yet, if this person is busy (which will always be true), is it OK if he diverts a few hours to help the project team for the greater good even if it doesn’t help his manager?  Will the manager answer the same way if he didn’t know you were listening?
  5.  Do you provide tools and training?  Some employees will take the leap on their own whereas others want the extra support to feel qualified to provide ideas and advice.  Are you willing to invest in these?
  6.  Will you provide mentoring and support? Beyond tools and training, ongoing mentoring and encouragement is needed to facilitate the process.  Whether formal or informal, do you have a process in place that provides this support?

It is definitely much harder than it appears to have your employees overcome fear when you aren’t looking.  

Are you willing to invest time and money into this effort to enable the growth of your employees and the scalable, profitable growth of your business?

 



The Sheer Relevance & Impact of Transportation (A Billion Here, a Billion There)

November 24th, 2018

Recently, I attended Mobility 21, the Southern California transportation coalition, and it reminded me of the sheer relevance of transportation.  No manufacturer can operate without transportation: distributors are out of business without trucks dropping off and picking up, healthcare would stop functioning and our frequent Amazon orders would be a thing of the past.  In essence, everything would come to a grinding halt!     

Certainly, trucks are what we typically think about when it comes to transportation.  They account for $722 billion in freight flows with Canada and Mexico, for example. Whereas rail still accounts for $174 billion (not pocket change).  The ports are our gateway to the rest of the world (and the Los Angeles ports alone bring in 40% of the U.S. volume). Air carries an impressive number of packages especially with the rise of e-commerce. UPS and FedEx are expanding at amazing rates, especially at Ontario airport, the hub of e-commerce activity.  For example, during the 2017 peak season, this region of UPS alone processed 13.1 million packages!

At Mobility 21, there were some interesting statistics throw out:

  • AAA has 60,000 service calls per day
  • Transportation has a $700 billion dollar economic impact on Southern California and accounts for 1/3 of the jobs in Southern CA!  
  • 350 billion miles each year are driven in California
  • The number of trucks is expected to go from 1.8 trillion to 3.9+ trillion by 2045
  • And the list goes on….

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
At a minimum, why not take a step back to think about your transportation network?  What does it look like? How do you receive materials and products? Do you use the ports?  Air? Rail? Undoubtedly, you use trucks! How expansive is your network? Are there many players involved?  Since it could cause your operations to cease, it makes sense to find out!

Next, think about what you’d like your transportation network to deliver.  Do your customers expect rapid deliveries and “above and beyond” service? If so, who is your partner in ensuring this occurs?  

Your transportation partners are your last face to your customer. And, in today’s marketplace, there is a significant demand and challenges your transportation partners must navigate.  If you plan to be successful, you must stay on top of your transportation network and partners. Are you attractive to them? Perhaps we better think about that further….



Disruption, Innovation, Global Trends & the APICS-IE Symposium

November 20th, 2018

Lately, I’ve attended various conferences and participated in a few events/ panels on a diverse set of topics with different groups (ranging from transportation to public policy to manufacturing and supply chain to consulting to universities/ students to women leaders).  Aside from it being a whirlwind of fascinating conversations, I’ve seen a few themes emerge across every one of these events – disruption, innovation and global trends.

In today’s Amazonian and Uberian environments, disruption is the new normal.  For example, at Mobility 21 (Southern CA transportation coalition), autonomous vehicles and Uber/Lyft type transportation/trucking concepts arose.  At the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM/ APICS) international conference, the idea the IoT, artificial intelligence, Netflix type disruption and more arose.  And at the Society for Advancement of Consulting local event held at Harvey Mudd, almost 50% of the attendees were originally from out of the country and key discussions occurred around global trends and disruption.

Thus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t invite you to join us at the APICS-IE executive panel & networking symposium with an amazing panel discussing “Advancing Innovation and Navigating Global Trends” on Nov 3rd at Harvey Mudd in Claremont.  Click here to learn more and register.

One tip to implement this week:
Since disruption and innovation go hand-in-hand, there are many ways to think about this topic.  One suggestion is to gather your team and business partners/trusted advisors and brainstorm about what disruptions are likely to impact your industry.  Also consider which disruptions are likely to come down the pike. Understanding your environment and how you are positioned is a great starting point – and you’ll be better off than most organizations who might already be known in innovation circles to repeat this exercise on some sort of regular basis!

Additionally, join our unique networking and educational event on “Advancing Innovation and Navigating Global Trends”.  We have an amazing panel including the deputy executive director of the port of Los Angeles, the COO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Chairman/Dept of Surgery at the City of Hope, a senior executive in aerospace and a senior director of supply chain & operations.  It should stir up some really engaging discussions on innovation and global trends! The event is on Nov 3rd in Claremont, CA from 8-11:30am. I hope to see you there.  Learn more and register.

 



UPS, the Rise of e-Commerce & Peak Season Multiples!

November 16th, 2018

Recently, I went on a tour of UPS’s Ontario hub with the Inland Empire Economic Partnership‘s Regional Leadership Academy.  It was a blast seeing their 2nd largest hub!  The numbers are staggering as to the impact of e-commerce and therefore the holiday season peak.  One supervisor said he went from a daily throughput of 4 planes a day to 26 or 32 (now I forgot which but either is a massive difference!) during peak season.  Now that’s seasonality!

UPS Ontario has a great retention rate.  If you add that with the HUGE seasonality peak, you know people must like working there!  Interesting how it always seems to go back to people, similar to our thinking with our original brand and newsletter, Profit through People!  

 

UPS handles 299 million packages per year!  The average package is handled 5.6 times, and here’s a shocking statistic: if you can save a tenth of a package handle, it is $25 million in savings.  That certainly puts efficiency gains in a new light!

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

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that again and again, our most successful clients and the most successful and profitable companies put their attention on people.  

Have you thought about your people lately? Would they stay if the competition offered them a raise? Remember, people leave people; not companies.  So, if you are in the same salary range, you better start thinking more about your people.  If you aren’t in the ballpark, you better start paying attention to your marketplace.

For the peak season, UPS has to hire a HUGE amount of temps and ensure efficiencies aren’t harmed in the process, given the serious impact to the bottom line.  If that situation doesn’t require resiliency, I don’t know what does! It is quite similar to one of our clients, QC Manufacturing/ Quietcool.  They have a HUGE summer season, and I’ve always thought their success can be traced back to their attention to people and innovation.