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.



The Beauty of the World & Why It Relates to Work

June 5th, 2019

This is the Piazza IX Aprile in Taormina, Sicily, which is a square known for the breathtaking view of the azure Ionian Sea and of the Mount Etna. I adored this night view from a nearby rooftop (of course while sipping limoncello, an Italian lemon liquor known in Southern Italy).

I came to Sicily to meet my strategy group.  We had some excellent sessions.  However, that isn’t the tie that I refer to in the title of this blog. Seeing the world absolutely relates to business. Of course, this would be done ideally in person but you can also absorb quite a bit watching TV or by reading magazines. Understanding different cultures, business customs and what’s relevant to a country or area will come in handy. We live in an interconnected world with customers, suppliers and other trusted partners throughout the world. I cannot think of a client that doesn’t have a material that originates in another country somewhere down-the-supply chain or one that sells to other countries at least somewhere up-the-supply chain. Can you?

Understanding what is important to your customers, suppliers, employees (as they also come from around the world or have related interests) or colleagues is quite relevant to bottom line business results.

One tip to implement this week:
Why not ask your top customer, supplier, employee or colleague about what is important? You could ask about materials relevant to your supply base. Undoubtedly, you’ll find out about something relevant or interesting to build a stronger relationship at a minimum. You could ask your customers about where they sell your product or how it is perceived in another country, etc.? Of course, your question will relate to what type of product or service you provide, so you should make it relevant to your business.

And, lastly, why not talk bring the topic up with your employees and colleagues. You might find that they have customs that are important to them or something quite relevant to doing business in that country or area. Just by posting pictures on Facebook, I found quite a few contacts who love Taormina. Who knows what will happen when I ask them about it!



Do You Need An ERP Upgrade?

June 2nd, 2019

A Client Question
A client was getting a lot of complaints from her team about the ERP system used to run the business – from taking orders to ordering materials and producing product to shipping and invoicing customers and reconciling financials. She was ready to throw the computer out the window when she called to find a new system so that they could build value in the business instead of suffering endlessly.

The Answer
In their case, there was no need for a new ERP system.  This was GREAT news as this investment is often-times the most significant undertaking a company can make. When they go wrong, which is statistically over 80% of the time, they go wrong in a BIG way. Lost customers, hundreds of thousands if not millions underwater (depending on the size and scope), unhappy employees and more.

Although the situation was dire with no hope for resolution (financials that didn’t reconcile and it couldn’t be used in any meaningful way to manage production and inventory), all wasn’t lost. The system itself would work for their type of manufacturing environment although the way it was implemented wouldn’t.  As a result, we found a new partner who had significant impact.  The partner helped them navigate through the clean up of their system, upgrade to the latest version and learn how to utilize the upgraded functionality, which was key to going beyond the base to new frontiers that would increase the value of their business.

Food For Thought
This executive is one of my favorite executives.  I’ve known her since I started consulting 14 years ago. She has an extensive background and is a business valuation expert in addition to being a business leader. If she can get caught up in the ERP maze, anyone can. Take a step back and make sure your assumptions make sense. Should you reconsider how you are using your system or whether it is the right time for an upgrade? If you are interested in an ERP assessment, contact us.

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The Value of Alignment: Sales, Operations & Finance

May 30th, 2019

Alignment might sound like a fluffy concept, but it delivers bottom line results. Our most successful clients have achieved the most substantial results from alignment. Although SIOP (Sales, Inventory, Operations Planning) gets a wrap as a technical topic, in our experience, it is the alignment portion of SIOP that delivers the bacon!

For example, in one client project, the Sales Leader was concerned about service levels. He knew that service was the differentiator in the marketplace, and if they didn’t have quick lead times and responsive customer service, it would negatively impact his ability to grow the business. On the other hand, planning knew that sales tended to come in dramatic spikes which were hard to predict in advance and so strategic inventory could make sense. Operations wasn’t too keen on inventory since they had a lean mentality with the view that inventory was ‘bad’, and they were concerned about capacity and staffing. Accounting set rules on overhead rates as a percentage of sales on a monthly basis which caused HR and Operations to hire and fire temps continually (and sometimes full-time resources). Overtime wasn’t used as a rule of thumb and was seen as costly by management, In fact, it was the only client we’ve ever worked with that didn’t use at least some percentage of overtime on a continual basis. And, of course, R&D created new products and had no idea about the volume and the impact on capacity and staffing. In essence, no one was on the same page!

We created a demand plan based on historical forecasts with sales input, confirmed the capacity and staffing levels required to meet that forecast and determined that if we level loaded the forecast over a quarter, we could create a win-win: improved service during the sales spikes with improved margins (lower temp turnover, improved efficiencies etc.). But it didn’t matter if we didn’t align the team. That was the 80/20 to creating success (and is ALWAYS the hardest part). Fast-forward 3-6 months down-the-road: We shortened service dips from the sales spikes, increased the service levels and reduced costs.

These types of client results are commonplace with alignment no matter your position in the supply chain or the world. Have you considered whether your teams are saying they are aligned or whether they are truly using the same playbook? It often will make the difference between a happy customer and a disgruntled one (which isn’t something anyone wants in today’s on-line era), let alone the profit impacts. If you are interested in an alignment assessment, please contact us.

 

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Pricing & Profits: It’s Not All About Revenue

May 26th, 2019

According to CFO Magazine, Amazon’s profit doubled to a record $3.6 billion in the first quarter yet reported its lowest growth rate in quarterly revenue since 2015. In today’s Amazonian environment, subscription services such as Amazon cloud and Kindle services as well as disruptive forces such as the 3rd party seller services (clients worry about from the opposite viewpoint) are driving profitable growth for a company that once lost money continuously. Are you considering ways to ensure your pricing makes sense and delivers the results you intend?

 

It’s Not All About Revenue
Ask questions of your sales representatives, customers, marketing department, executives and competitors about pricing:

  • When is the last time you raised prices? Why are they at the level they are set?
  • Who sets your prices? Think carefully as this could lead to some interesting discussions.
  • Do you know how your prices compare to your costs? There are lots of reasons NOT to set prices this way but knowing this relationship is relevant.
  • How does your pricing stack up with the competition? Again, high or low is irrelevant but considering your strategy is key.
  • Since it has come up frequently lately, I’ll also throw in this one: Is your pricing so complex that your ERP system won’t support it? That would certainly be something to re-evaluate.

Pricing is an important topic, assuming you are interested in profitable growth. It is worth taking the time to ask a few key questions of your internal and external resources. Gather your executive team and put some focus on whether what you are doing makes sense and supports your strategy or if it is out of date. With the pace of change at an all-time high, reviewing this topic once every few years is by NO MEANS enough. If you’d like an expert to assess your situation to partner with you to achieve these types of results, contact us.

 

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