Ramping Back Up

August 22nd, 2020

We are seeing business just beginning to ramp up. As said in our eBook, Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19, this is not an on/off switch. We should turn the dial carefully (as quickly as possible while accounting for the end-to-end supply chain). Every situation is different.  Yet, common concepts exist and preparation is required. A few highlights include:

  • Employee readiness: There are several rules and regulations in addition to considering your employees’ mindsets and readiness.
  • Customer readiness: Clearly, without predictable sales volume (at least to an 80/20 standpoint at a high level), it is impossible to know what to produce, purchase, store, prepare cash reserves etc.
  • Supplier readiness: Of course, no matter how ready our customers and employees, if our suppliers aren’t ready (and our suppliers’ suppliers), nothing will be accomplished.
  • Financial readiness: It sounds obvious but we also need the cash to operate our end-to-end supply chain successfully.
  • Risk tolerance: We are pushing clients to assess risk to make prudent decisions.  Yet, in order to be successful, they will have to take on additional risk. A no risk policy will result in bankruptcy!
  • Resiliency: Start the process of future-proofing your manufacturing and supply chain and make a commitment to continuously improve. Without this mindset, do not turn the dial.

Your most important job in the foreseeable future (minimally 9-12 months) will be to navigate this ramp up to the new un-normal, and even more critically, the most successful clients will take the bull by the horns and create their future.



The Future of Technology

August 20th, 2020

Technology is a tricky topic. On one hand, almost everyone has put technology and ERP implementations on hold due to concerns about COVID-19 impacts and to conserve cash. On the other hand, it is the best time to gain employees’ attention and focus on upgrading technology to scale the business, create a superior customer experience and deliver bottom line results.

Kellogg or Post?
As I said in my eBook, Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19, the Kellogg vs. Post story from the Great Depression provides an excellent example to ponder. In the 1920’s, Kellogg and Post dominated the market for cereal which was still a relatively new and untapped market. Post reigned in expenses and Kellogg doubled its ad budget and pushed its new cereal. Even as the economy hit bottom, Kellogg’s profits rose 30% and they become the dominant player.  Do you want to be Kellogg or Post? The morale to the story is NOT about dollars invested. It is about the opportunities of investing resources (which can be simply in the form of employees’ focus) in future success.

Which Technologies Provide Immediate and Long-Term Value?
Of course, the answer depends on your industry, company, current infrastructure, your customers’ evolving needs, your suppliers’ evolving needs and more. Why not perform a rapid assessment of what makes the most sense for your business and take one important step forward? As I said in my eBook, Newton’s Law is relevant. Objects in motion stay in motion whereas objects at rest will stay at rest. You must take steps forward, no matter how small.

Let’s highlight a few of the more likely technologies to provide immediate value and long-term value:

  1. Further utilize & expand your ERP system: No one uses 80% of their system.  Most organizations utilize only 20%. Find the next 1% that will yield a significant benefit to your customers or bottom line. Clients are gaining significant value from this simple step.
  2. B2B customer portal/ B2C e-commerce: No doubt about it. The ONLY growth area across the board is e-commerce. In addition, what could be more important than visibility of orders for your B2B customers? Delays will result in lost opportunity!
  3. Business Intelligence (BI): We are overloaded with data. The issue isn’t having data, it is making meaningful decisions and formulating plans based on the interpretation of data. BI will bring meaning to your data that translates into customer and profit opportunities.
  4. Artificial intelligence (AI) & Human Learning: In today’s environment, predictive capabilities produce VASTLY greater results than simply analysis and static plans. Demand planning/ forecasting, predictive maintenance, cash flow forecasting, and the automation of tasks are enhanced with AI.
  5. CRM: There has never been a time when understanding, staying in touch with and being on top of evolving customer needs has been more important.
  6. Digital Twins: Virtual replicas of physical devices that technology gurus can use to run simulations before actual devices are built and deployed. Read a fascinating article about the applications in logistics.
  7. Systems to gain efficiencies: WMS (warehouse management), TMS (transportation management), rate shopping, MPS (master production scheduling)/ MRP (material requirements planning)/Inventory planning, replenishment including VMI (vendor managed inventory) and more.
  8. 3D Printing/ Additive manufacturing – If you can produce a customized product on demand close to customers, you win in today’s Amazonian environment. Either way, it speeds up R&D.

Read our eBook, Future-ProofingiManufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19 to read more about technology as it relates to successfully emerging and thriving post-COVID-19. Explore these concepts further as you start thinking through your technology roadmap.

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The Rise of E-Commerce & WMS Popularity During the Pandemic

Systems Pragmatist



Automation or Autonomous?

August 16th, 2020

While leading a panel “Building Resiliency in the Supply Chain” with gurus from Georgia Tech, the leading experts in global logistics and associated research, several intriguing concepts arose.

My Association for Supply Chain Management group led a series of webinars on “Navigating through Volatility” including discussions with several logistics experts from distribution, the ports, transportation, technology and more. Many strategies for success arose during these sessions.

And, last but not least, both my top-notch trusted advisor network, ProVisors and our clients have brought strategies to light. A a result, it seemed prudent to share a few highlights.

Automation vs. Autonomy
Automation is definitely on the rise as organizations determine how to thrive post COVID-19. Statistics show that the automation market is expected to almost double in the next 5 years, and experts show that plans to automate are being accelerated. For example, the automation expected in the Inland Empire in the next 10-15 years will likely be compressed into the next five. On the other hand, automation isn’t all its cracked up to be! For example, when one part of the production line breaks down, you could end up with a pile up of product and waste at the bottleneck. On the other hand, will you be the last person typing on a typewriter? What are your automation plans?

The Georgia Tech experts made the case that automation is analogous to the typewriter. The new concept is autonomous so that machines and vehicles can operate independently of human control or supervision. Could these autonomous vehicles take on roles not previously possible, practical or cost effective? Almost all modes of transportation are candidates for autonomous vehicles. We typically think about trucking convoys, cars, drones and sometimes aircraft but are you also considering the impact of autonomous fork lifts, container ships, high speed trains, cranes, last mile delivery, cargo resupply and more? With the dramatic rise in e-commerce, autonomous drone resupply could be quite the win.

What are the Impacts?
Client examples abound. A small aerospace manufacturer automated a critical production process. Prior to automating this process, the area was a constant bottleneck. Work-in-process was stockpiled in front of the work station as high-skilled workers tried to keep up with the incoming flow of material. They ran as much overtime as feasible to try to keep product flowing to the next process step so that they could meet the customers’ ship date, but it was a never-ending battle with no end in sight. After automating the manufacturing process, the high-skilled resources set up the machines to run throughout the night autonomously. Suddenly, our client was running a three shift operation with the same resources, and customers didn’t experience delays. There was upfront investment in machinery and equipment as well as setup and education.  However, it paid back almost immediately with increased output and sales.

From a logistics point-of-view, WMS systems are gaining traction in the current environment. There are countless options for automation, as well as autonomous capabilities within the warehouse. For example, clients have installed conveyor systems which connect directly to the WMS systems and shipping systems which connects to ERP systems to manage order fulfillment processes. With the rise in e-commerce (and the number of small packages and associated labor requirements), automation can be even more relevant to the bottom line. In fact, there are several options to replace pickers with automated processes. The future will look to automation and autonomy. Will a drone resupply trucks that delivering e-commerce orders?

What Should We Do?
Get up to speed on the possibilities and potential of automation, as well as autonomous machinery and vehicles. As you hear about additional examples, think through the concepts, look for additional applications and brainstorm with colleagues on how these concepts could help your company and/or industry. The best ideas come from those who are willing to voice their ideas, test them under controlled conditions and move forward no matter the obstacles. Create this type of environment at your company, and soon suggestions for automation and autonomous processes will rise to the surface.

We discuss these types of strategies in our eBook on Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19. Additionally, follow IEEP, APICS Inland Empire and LMA Consulting as we communicate progress on the consortium for logistics and advanced manufacturing success Check out our articles and webinars, and contact us if you’d like to brainstorm these concepts further.

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Should We Be Reshoring?

August 14th, 2020

Are you thinking about your product supply strategy? You certainly should be! I was asked to talk on Bloomberg’s “What’d You Miss?” about reshoring since it is a hot topic in the news. I was also on a webinar with other CEOs and thought leaders recently about the Future of ManufacturingThe reshoring conversation took the majority of the hour because it was top of mind for manufacturers as well.

The surveys are ‘adding up’:

  • According to an EY survey, 83% of executives expect a regionalization of the supply chain.
  • According to Supply Chain Dive, 64% of manufacturers say reshoring likely following the pandemic.
  • According to Thomas Industrial Survey, 64% of manufacturers are likely to bring manufacturing production and sourcing back to N.A.

It doesn’t matter which survey is your favorite, at least review your product supply strategy in light of your current and most likely future conditions. As I said in my eBook on product supply strategies, there are many reasons compelling manufacturers to look at this topic. A few highlights include:

  • Customer demand: Customers don’t care where we produce or source what. They expect immediate delivery of customized products and services.
  • Customer changes: Customers expect to change their orders as their customers’ demand changes.
  • Total cost: Total cost is in alignment for non-commodity products. Mexico and the U.S. provide good alternatives for customer demand in N.A.
  • Working capital: Cash is relevant.  When you account for disruptions in your end-to-end supply chain as well as changing demand, it can become a significant number to watch.
  • Risk & Disruption: Look no further than COVID-19 to understand the impacts. Asia shut down for a few months. Mexico and Europe were unable to supply essential businesses in the U.S. according to multiple panels (aerospace executives, large CPG etc.)

With all this said, as I commented on Bloomberg, NOT all situations make sense for reshoring (and certainly not at 100% by tomorrow morning). Instead, use uncommon common sense, conduct a rapid assessment and develop a strategy and path forward. Also, put triggers in place to proactively manage and adjust as needed. If you’d like to discuss further, please contact us.



Why SIOP is Critical to Thriving During & Post COVID

August 12th, 2020

COVID-19 has disrupted every business. Some are growing far faster than supply can keep up, while others have dropped like a rocket. Still, others have almost identical dollar volume yet double the number of orders at half the order size, creating significant disruption in warehousing, shipping and transportation. And yet others might have less severe changes in volume with certain customers thriving and others dormant – all creating mix disruption.

The supply side is no different. Previously reliable suppliers can be suspect at best. Previously high-quality, low-cost suppliers have skyrocketing costs as airfreight is required to keep customers’ satisfied. Risks have increased dramatically with the uncertainty of cash flow and long-term ‘institutions’ of the industry are disappearing overnight. With this high level of disruption across both demand and supply, misalignment has run rampant, costs are increasing and customers are frustrated.

SIOP (Sales, Inventory Operations Planning) Cuts through the Disruption
You know the story. The busier we get, the less we have time for improvement yet we spend double or triple the time to achieve the same outcome because we can’t set aside the time required to start or maintain an improved process. I’ve been there and am familiar with the excuses! With that said, STOP and look around you. You are on a hamster wheel with no end in sight. Implementing SIOP, even if simplified to what is achievable under current conditions, cuts through the disruption to stabilize your supply chain.

What is SIOP?
Quite simply, SIOP is about finding a way within your environment to realign demand with supply. You have to start with demand or you will forever chase your tail. To simplify the best practices across industries (aerospace and defense, building and construction products, food and beverage, healthcare products), geographies, company sizes that apply to manufacturing, supply chain, logistics and service organizations with supplies, you should focus on these keys:

  1. Proactive management of demand: Talk with customers.  Find out about your customers’ customers and every customer type within your channel until you get to the end customer (consumer, business using your product, patient). Ask about and observe evolving customer needs. Review historical trends.  And, put a stake in the ground with a starting point forecast. Outcome: typically 12-18 month rolling forecast
  2. Proactive management of internal supply: Talk with your internal teams. Understand changing capacity and staffing levels (manufacturing, warehousing). Realign temporary and contract assistance.  Understand your resiliency to changing demand (overtime, increasing staffing, efficiency improvements, maintenance and engineering support, etc.). Realign with R&D/product development requirements and your support resources. Outcome: typically a capacity plan (production, storage), high-level staffing plan and key decision plan (make versus buy, product/customer transitions, machinery and equipment plans) for at least as long as your longest lead item – 12-18 months.
  3. Proactive management of supply partners: Talk with suppliers. Find out about your suppliers’ suppliers capabilities, their likelihood to meet schedules, ability to meet cash flow needs and risk of shutdown (whether temporary due to COVID-19 or another disruption or permanent (going out of business)). Outcome: typically a sourcing and supply plan by key suppliers/ commodities for at least as long as your longest lead item – 12-18 months.
  4. Proactive management of your logistics network partners: Talk with transportation partners, brokers, 3PL/ 4PL partners and understand the extended supply chain, potential risks, possible options as disruptions occur, etc. Outcome: typically a logistics network and goods movement plan for at least as long as your longest lead item – 12-18 months.
  5. Take stock of inventory: Do you have strategic stock of critical items? Items without a robust backup supplier? Items in countries of higher risk of shutdown? Are you so busy running in circles that your slow moving and obsolete is expiring under your nose? Outcome: typically an inventory investment plan for 12-18 months.

Pre-COVID-19, clients went through a SIOP cycle with a monthly cadence. The typical processes included:

  1. Demand review meeting
  2. Supply review meeting
  3. Alignment of demand and supply (not always requiring a meeting)
  4. Inventory review meeting (often incorporated into the supply meeting)
  5. Executive SIOP review meeting (in some cases, quarterly made sense)

During COVID-19, we have taken these same concepts and adjusted to changing conditions. No two clients are alike in what makes sense to rapidly realign demand and supply and maintain this alignment.  Yet, there is one item in common across the board:

A weekly alignment on just the critical customers, internal resources, suppliers, logistics network partners and review of inventory

Read more about SIOP and related concepts in our eBook, Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19. If you’d like a rapid assessment and recommendations for your situation, please contact us.

 

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Future-Proofing Your Supply Chain

Eagle Eye Strategic Focus