Tag Archive: Amazonian

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 Resilient Supply Chain: Global Trade Unrest

September 30th, 2018

In today’s Amazonian environment, the customer experience is of paramount importance.      Nothing else matters if the customer isn’t happy. Thus, all the conversations going on about trade really just come back to the customer.  What is the best way to service your customers?

 

 

In manufacturing circles, there are many elements converging to strengthen manufacturing in the United States:

  • There are lots and lots of customers in the U.S. and they all want products and services delivered rapidly (making it less conducive to producing half way around the world).
  • Customers change their minds frequently and last minute changes aren’t conducive to long transit times.
  • The new tax law has made the tax rates much more comparative to other nations.  
  • Deregulation has definitely made manufacturers more on par with other nations.
  • Technology improvements have made it more cost effective to produce in the U.S.

Globally Interconnected
Even though manufacturing is surging in the U.S., we live in a globally interconnected world.  Very few, if any, clients source 100% of all materials within the U.S. If you go to suppliers twice removed, you’ll definitely be in global territory.  Thus, global trade remains a key issue.

Tariffs
In logistics circles, there is a lot of concern about the impacts of tariffs on global trade.  Will customers still bring in the same level of imports? If not, how will that impact the ports, distribution centers and transportation?  

Interesting that it hasn’t slowed down yet. The ports are having a record breaking year. We’ve seen price increases start to occur as they are passed on to the next person in the supply chain.  However, the question remains – is this good or bad? And will it substantially change the supply chain in any way?

Global Trade
Certainly there are a lot of heated discussions surrounding global trade.  We have clients who are positively impacted because it just makes them more competitive and on par with the rest of their industry.  And we have clients who are up in arms because their raw material prices are increasing and they are concerned about how to pass it on to their customers.  Will this put them at a disadvantage vs. a competitor who doesn’t source from overseas? Or does it just even the playing field?

Strategic Questions and Decisions
Strategic decisions are beginning to be impacted as well.  For example, Ford decided to not produce a new small car in China.  With the 25% import tariffs, it no longer made financial sense. A few clients are thinking about whether to expand into Mexico and the U.S.  There is uncertainty with NAFTA . However, the experts believe something will carry forward. Perhaps with a resilient supply chain, the key is to not guess and focus on your customer.  If your customers are in the U.S., Mexico is closer to the U.S. than China. That is a fact that won’t change. One thing is definite – things will continue to change and evolve.

Have you built resiliency into your supply chain so you can successfully navigate ever changing business conditions?



Let’s Spur Innovation

September 24th, 2018

Last month, I led a manufacturing roundtable on the topic of innovation.  Undoubtedly, if we want to be successful over the long-term, we must innovate. Problem solving only gets us back to our standard level of performance.  Although necessary, it will not be enough!  Instead, to exceed our customers’ expectations while enabling profitable growth in today’s Amazonian marketplace, innovation is a requirement.

Innovation is raising the bar to an entirely new level of performance.  It doesn’t require you to develop the next iPhone or 3M’s famous sticky pad.  In fact, the best innovators might not even think they are creative.  The great news is that everyone can innovate.  It doesn’t have to require significant investments.   What it does require is a culture that enables innovation.

An Innovation Culture
Here are a few “musts” when creating an innovation culture:

  1. Engage your people -You aren’t going to be successful innovating in isolation – at least not for long!  Involve your employees – view each employee as a valuable asset.  You never know what ideas can be unleashed if you have a culture of innovation that values each employee’s input and ideas.  Start here. Until your people are engaged, there is no point in going further.  How long do you think you’ll have happy, innovative customers with unhappy, not engaged employees?  NOT long.
  1. Engage your customers – One of our clients is creating an innovative culture.  They recently purchased a clay manufacturing company and are working to raise the bar.  The owners and executives value the input of their people and extend that to their trusted advisors, customers and suppliers.  I happened to be in Hawaii last month and my best friend wanted to see a pottery shop of an artist she really liked.  So I went along for the ride. When we arrived, I brought up my client because I thought the owner know of them. They were so excited.  They said they were a customer for life of Laguna Clay  (my customer) because they provided exceptional service.  They proceeded to provide input, ideas and much more. I took pictures and texted them back to my client. My client had engaged their customer in the innovative process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Provide opportunities– Next, provide opportunities for innovation.  Do you provide a “safe zone” for your employees, partners and others to collaborate and innovate?  Most importantly, you’ll have to set aside time for them to focus on this priority.  Beyond time, provide your vision and get the process started by spurring idea generation and give them a few guidelines.
  1. Stick by your commitment –  Innovation will create failures which is why guidelines are helpful so the failures can be isolated within a reasonable tolerance.  There is something wrong if failures don’t occur. Thus, be prepared for them and celebrate the progress. Don’t be disappointed, or worse, beat up your people. That will mark the end of their innovation.

Creating an innovation culture is “the” key to innovation. Start there. End there.  We’ll talk through more of the details in the middle in future editions (or feel free to contact us to help you accelerate progress); however, this is the 80/20 of success.  It’s well worth raising the bar of performance.



Conflict & Collaboration in the Supply Chain

August 5th, 2018

Have you thought about the role of conflict and collaboration in the supply chain?  When thinking of supply chain from creation to customer, there are many links and connections.  In the current supply chain model, there are connections between and among suppliers, transportation partners, manufacturers, outside processors, distributors, customers, end consumers, and much more.

Within any of these connection points, there are another set of links and connections between new product development/ R&D, sales, operations, finance, HR/ staffing, and any more.  Given the sheer number of variations of connections, it becomes a critical link in achieving success.

Therefore, the concepts of conflict and collaboration take on an elevated level of importance.  In the modern supply chain, even competitors collaborate. At a recent Harvey Mudd executive roundtable, we had a discussion on competition.  After stimulating the discussion, it turned out that almost everyone had an example of collaborating with the competition in order to thrive in today’s Amazonian, customer-focused marketplace.  

So, the question becomes: Should we encourage conflict or collaboration?  

We say “both”. To keep a healthy debate and focus on evaluating options including those we are likely to dismiss, we must encourage conflict and a difference of opinions.  Our most successful clients put various people from different functions, geographies and backgrounds together to stimulate healthy conflict and new ideas.

For example, in one client, a non-technical person from the office asked the key question that prompted the idea for a technical solution to improve the performance of the key operation that held up orders to customers.

On the other hand, learning the art of collaboration is bedrock to sustainable success.  

For example, in order to find a win-win with a competitor, it requires innovative and collaborative thinking.  Are you deliberately putting you and your team into the position to collaborate with those who might not have the same view?  

So long as you set up guidelines and an overarching high-level objective, they’ll find a way to collaborate to new heights.



Trends: Are You Looking for What’s Coming?

March 28th, 2016

My most successful clients are constantly searching for what’s around the next corner. You cannot become complacent! Unfortunately, while you are resting on the sidelines, your competition will pass you by. Instead, be vigilant about looking for what is coming around the next corner and spotting trends.

A Supply Chain In a State of Flux

In supply chain, the world is constantly changing. Strikes occur. Storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and the like are very hard to predict. Natural disasters strike. Political unrest is significant. Costs evolve, especially in comparison to one another. Imagine how complex things get with currency fluctuations! Countries struggle – just look at what’s been going on in China. Oil and gas prices can have a great impact. Just look at products and countries dependent on the oil industry. The products cost less to produce but the countries and companies with significant oil exports are struggling. And the list goes on…

There are also strategic changes taking place. Amazon has created quite the stir with immediate deliveries and a membership model. This has created havoc in the distribution industry as e-commerce has become a necessity which also drives completely different warehousing and fulfillment operations to maintain efficiency. The green and sustainability movement has created many new requirements as well. How about water? Talk about a hot topic in California!

APICS-IE Event to Examine Supply Chain Trends

APICS, APICS-IE, Symposium, trends, supply chain trendsWhat is next on the horizon?  To be successful, you must keep up!  Join APICS Inland Empire for our executive panel and networking symposium on “Emerging Supply Chain Trends” at Eagle Glen golf club in Corona on April 30th.  We welcome members and non-members alike.  You’ll walk away with new ideas from top executives and supply chain gurus.  RSVP before it sells out.