Tag Archive: Amazon effect

Supply Resiliency: Video Interview on Disruption in Logistics

December 4th, 2018

Next in our supply chain resiliency value series, we are excited to share an interview with BJ Patterson, President of Pacific Mountain Logistics.  Thanks to B.J. for sharing his expertise on the Manufacturing Summit’s panel “Amazon Effect: Pass or Play – the New Sales & Distribution Game and How it Affects Manufacturing”.   

B.J. is responding to a question related to supply chain resiliency on disruptions in logistics.  In essence, the key question is: How to maintain margins throughout the supply chain when:

1) We ship a single item vs. a pallet of items in terms of warehousing/material handling inefficiencies

2) Customers’ orders require many more truck trips than ever before

3) Truck space is at a premium and we are shipping a lot of air since Amazon-like shipments often have 1 item in a large box on a truck.  

Certainly, there are no easy answers.  However, we must be thinking about how we’ll create supply chain resiliency so we can thrive with these changing market conditions.

 


With an increasing frequency, supply chain partners are pulling together to find solutions to these types of challenges.  Moreover, the strategic use of data is at a premium. If you can better coordinate all of these ever-changing market conditions to gain visibility and efficiencies within your extended supply chain, you just might take the lead in your industry.  

Our most successful clients don’t wait for these disruptors to crush them.  Instead, they are always looking for potential disruptors and searching for solutions.  They take proactive approaches to take the lead position instead of disappointing customers in an era where the customer experience is of paramount importance.  

What are you doing to navigate these logistics disruptors? We are always interested in feedback and ideas to share.

 



What Should We Be Thinking for the 2nd Half of the Year?

August 15th, 2018

As hard as it is to believe, we are almost half-way through the year.  As a result, we should be thinking NOW about what to stop, start and continue for the second half of the year.  I learned this exercise from my HR mentor (a P&G-trained guru) as we performed it with our team with great results (thanks Debra!).

Stop, Start, Continue  

Here are the questions to ask yourself and your team:

  1.  Stop – What should we stop doing?  This is actually the hardest. Not only do I find it hard to stop doing things I’ve included in my daily and monthly routines, my clients seem to find this quite challenging as well.  Are you selling to a customer and losing money? Or, does this customer always create some sort of hardship for your team? Is your team putting together reports because they always have even though they are no longer necessary?  Do you open them and make decisions based on them? If not, stop. Are you hanging on to that so-so supplier because you’ve developed a nice friendship even though they are no longer delivering or are at high cost? Perhaps you should have a discussion with them about it.
  2.  Start – Let’s assumed you’ve stopped something.  Now you have time to start something new. I am bad at this sometimes as well – just add, add, add but not stop.  Are you falling into that trap as well? I am going through my activities currently and making sure to stop more (or at least equal) to the start activities.  Start those activities that you think will yield an improved return on investment. Undoubtedly, there are several of these opportunities if you look. We find that our clients have many more ROI opportunities than they realize when we perform an assessment – every time without fail.
  3.  Continue – Thank goodness, not everything we are doing should stop or start.  Continue those activities that add value and contribute a result. Do you measure success by activity (time) or by result?  I definitely advocate for the latter – you’ll double your success.

Put it in Context with Market Forces
Although it is always a good idea to take stock of what you should start, stop and continue, it will be helpful to put it in context with market forces.  Here are a few questions/priorities to consider.

  • Amazon Effect – No matter your business, you are being impacted by the Amazon Effect.  Elevated customer expectations, immediate deliveries, 24/7 accessibility, easy returns and more.
  • Customization – Who doesn’t want a product or service tailored just for them?  We all would. I am an executive platinum status on American Airlines and they always offer me a complimentary meal as a thank you for my status.  It’s a small thing but I do appreciate it.
  • Resurgence of Manufacturing – Somewhat in response to the Amazon Effect and the desire for customization, executives are discovering it makes sense to locate manufacturing and last minute customization close to the customer.  For example, even though California is not the state anyone would think for manufacturing, it makes imminent sense when you consider that it is the 5th largest economy in the world. If only we could get CA politicians to support us!  
  • Additive manufacturing – What could be closer to your customer than 3D printing on the fly?
  • Logistics rules -Again, when considering the impacts of the Amazon Effect and customization, it is quite clear that warehousing close to the customer is also desirable.  However, there are vast cost pressures.  So, you need to be thinking about how to take performance to a new level.  The same is true with transportation – if you even can source a carrier. The last mile is certainly gaining a lot of attention. “Last mile. Last minute” is my new favorite expression.
  • Global – We are in a global world.  Are you making global considerations as well as local ones?

What else do you think we should consider?  Drop me a line as I’m interested. No matter what – give the second half of the year some thought and you’ll increase your chances of success.

 



Warehousing Strategies for Success

July 12th, 2018

The Amazon Effect is creating elevated levels of stress in the warehousing and distribution world. The key question is how to provide immediate deliveries, customized service, easy returns, and more for a reduced cost – a very good question indeed!

A few considerations to ponder:

  •  Storage capacity -What is your storage capacity?  How does that compare with your requirements?  And how can you maximize what you can store in your warehouse?
  • Flow – Are you running in circles around your warehouse to support your customers?  Similar to a manufacturing environment, flow can be an essential ingredient to warehousing success – or not.
  • Productivity – Have you automated what makes sense and will increase your speed/ throughput? If it doesn’t improve speed (and accuracy) to your customers, is it really more productive?  Similarly, is outsourcing truly more productive?
  • Equipment – What equipment is built into your warehousing strategy?  Would an upgrade provide a return on investment?
  • Data – Are you using predictive analytics and data analysis to make informed decisions to stay ahead of your competition?
  • WMS tools – Whether “poor man’s” or sophisticated, do you have a way to pick, put away and sort efficiently?
  • Inventory – Don’t ever forget inventory.  Without having the right product in the right place at the right time at the lowest system-wide inventory (and potentially end-to-end supply chain network inventory), what else will matter?

We have yet to come across a warehousing or distribution client that didn’t have at least a 20% improvement opportunity.  Have you looked into your opportunities lately?  Most likely your competition is!

If you need help thinking through your warehousing and distribution strategy, contact us.

 



Should I Move?

July 9th, 2018

Our clients frequently call with questions such as:

  1.  Should we renew our lease?
  2.  Should we move to a lower cost area?
  3.  Should we move to a lower cost state?
  4.  What considerations should we think about when evaluating our manufacturing and logistics network?
  5.  Should we outsource?

Thus, we thought it would be prudent to address some questions and themes that should be evaluated from a strategic point-of-view when discussing supply chain network assessments.  

Let’s start by saying that our top clients begin THINKING about these topics several years in advance. Similar to selling a business, it isn’t the best plan to evaluate whether to renew a lease at the last minute or to be forced into a particular partner or location because you started preparing “too late”.   

Instead, why not think ahead….

  1.  Where are your customers?  – As much as we all want to reduce costs especially in today’s Amazonian environment, we also need to remember that customers expect rapid deliveries, change their mind frequently (and expect agility) and desire easy returns.  Thus, where are you located in comparison to your customers?
  2. What are your customers’ expectations?  – Lead times. Personalized service.  Return policies. Vendor managed inventory.  Future forecasts. What will they expect a year from now?  Are you already planning for these needs?
  3.  Where are your suppliers?  – Similar to your customers, it is important to consider where your suppliers are located as well.  Do you receive product from the ports? If so, what volume is related to the ports?
  4.  What access do you have to people? – We evaluated Nevada for one of our clients. However, when we talked with local contacts to estimate building / lease costs, we also discovered that as low as the overhead might be, freight aside, there were no people.  Tesla had absorbed them all and there were requests to supply people from Southern CA to support current workloads. People can certainly be relevant!
  5.  What type of freight partners/ rates are in place? –  No matter how close you might be to your customer, freight can add up – and, more importantly, delays to your customer are VERY costly (lost business, charge backs from customers such as Walmart, ill will and more).  Just because you have carriers with your current situation, it does NOT mean that will be true with your new situation. Freight is tight and rates are going up! And, remember last mile considerations are complex. Last mile. Last minute!
  6. What type of transportation network is required to support your business?  – In addition to freight considerations, will you need to think about parcel, rail, ocean freight, and other modes of transportation?  Or should you be considering these options?
  7.  What inventory levels are built into your network?  – Inventory = cash tied up.  

There is quite a bit more to think about than solely a cost cutting exercise.  Most clients call due to concerns about cost – as important as cost is, taking the strategic / high-level view can ensure your service, total cost (including hidden costs) and cash flow are maximized.  

Have you started thinking ahead?  If you are interested in our newly upgraded service offering in response to the Amazon Effect of warehousing/ supply chain network assessments, contact us.



Buried in Data. Dig Your Way Out & Leverage for Success

June 7th, 2018

90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. Mind boggling!  Of course, we are getting buried in data and aren’t sure how to dig our way out and leverage for success.

If you just think about your first few hours after waking up in the morning, you’ve received millions of messages and data:  1) News reports from the radio. 2) Text messages and emails on your phone. 3) Most likely you’ve driven by billboard messages on your way to work.  4) The TV might have been on in the background while getting ready for work. 5) People are calling on the phone. 6) Nightly reports arrived in your inbox.  7) Customer orders came in overnight. 8) Your machines have provided data on breakdowns, waste etc. 9) And more….

How can we dig our way out of all this data?  As with almost everything in business, the key is which data to prioritize.  

Have you thought about the strategic use of data?

Here is a short video of me answering a question on the strategic use of data at an Amazon Effect panel at the Manufacturers Summit:

A few insights into digging your way out of data:

  1. Leverage Technology – Don’t manually try to dig your way out of data.  After all, if 80% of the world’s data has been created in two years, there is no hope to dig yourself out byte by byte.  Employ the appropriate use of technology to synthesize data.
  2.  Remember: Garbage in, Garbage out – Just because you put a fancy collection system in place does not mean you are collecting valuable data.  Perhaps you are just collecting garbage. Develop processes to quickly assess the gems from the junk.
  3. Directionally Correct – We are known for using this phrase because we find it is core to success especially when it comes to data.  Don’t even think about making sense of every byte. Gain a directionally correct conclusion and make progress.
  4. Slice and Dice– Data alone is “too much”.  Set your data up so that you can slice and dice the data to dig into what is meaningful for your business.  For example, if you plan to grow in the northeast by 25%, start with the sales growth figure. Then, view it by state or customer. Check the largest increases and decreases in more detail – are there certain customers or items that are over or under performing?
  5.  Take the Bird’s Eye View – We cannot tell you how many clients end up with a great-looking report that doesn’t “add up” – not necessarily in the literal sense but in whether the information makes sense in conjunction with other indicators.  Take a step back and ask questions to make sure it “adds up”.

Our most successful clients pay attention to data.  A few years ago, an award-winning company asked us to help with a SIOP (sales and operations planning process) and an ERP selection process.  They were fanatics when it came to analyzing sales data. It certainly seemed to correlate to part of their success. If you need help thinking through your data strategy, contact us.