Tag Archive: capacity

Top Trending Client Request: Reduce Inventory

October 7th, 2019

More than 50% of client requests in the last several months have related to inventory. In fact, it seems to be a trending hot topic! In today’s era of the Amazon Effect where customers expect more and have ZERO patience to wait, there are challenges like a volatile environment with tariffs and concerns about space, costs and more, more inventory is needed to grow the business yet businesses cannot afford it. Learning how to reduce lead times and improve service levels while reducing inventory and costs is of utmost importance.

In partnering with several clients on just this topic, we’ve found the same ingredients to success yet the mix and proportions can be quite different. Several of the top contributors behind inventory success include:

  1. Demand planning: It turns out there is a lot to be said for fine tuning your demand plan (sales forecast). How well do you understand your customer requirements? We’ve seen that even in the best of clients, there is a gap between perception and reality. In 80% of our clients, there is a path to significantly improve the forecast with a direct correlation to inventory reduction
  2. Production &/or material planning: Not surprisingly, there is no ‘magic process’ that works for every client.  However, there are general themes that are identical. In every case, there is some sort of logical combination of master scheduling/material requirements planning (MPS/MRP) and kanban processes. How we figure out the right mix, proportions and formulas is the trick. It depends on the manufacturing/distribution type, people, processes, systems, customers, suppliers and related capabilities and more.
  3. Distribution planning: Similar to production and material planning, we’ve seen a significant opportunity with several clients to leverage a more proactive yet simpler distribution planning approach. The process will involve concepts from DRP (distribution requirements planning) and kanban. Often, this simple process can provide the visibility required to better manage inventory levels.
  4. Lead Times: Certainly, none of these can be viewed in isolation. Customer lead times will dictate the requirements of your network, whereas supplier lead times must be built into your planning processes. Distribution lead times and options (mode of transportation) could also make the difference between OTD (on-time delivery) or OTIF (on-time-in-full) and late delivery as well as profit and loss.
  5. Capacity: Understanding your capacity (skills, labor, machinery, space, and more) and how it relates to your requirements is of paramount importance. This process of aligning demand with supply across your organization and supply chain is termed SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning).

In our experience, clients can reduce inventory by 20-30% on average without negatively impacting customer service. In fact, we often find that a win-win-win can be created: improved service, inventory turns and cost/margins simultaneously.

Read more in an upcoming article I’ve written for Distribution Trends.  Feel free contact us to discuss your situation in detail.

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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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Ideas to Fill Peak Capacity Periods

February 27th, 2019

As we toured several e-commerce facilities such as UPS and Amazon, it became obvious that the sheer volume during peak season presents a huge dilemma. For example, UPS goes from 250-300 containers per night to 450 during peak season. Now that is quite a surge! Amazon has similar surges and stated facts such as 68 million orders on Cyber Monday.

Peak season occurs in other industries, as well. For example, building products companies tend to have a summer season since there are more issues to navigate in winter conditions. Since working with a large number of these companies, we’ve seen it range from a low of around 10-20% surge to almost 70% of the year’s volume sold during the summer. That can definitely be a challenge to navigate!

In this case, we are talking about labor but the same issues relate to machine capacity, storage capacity, transportation capacity and many others. We find that this area alone can achieve a significant return on investment as companies better align demand with supply. In fact, in 80% of our clients, these types of programs do the best job of achieving bold customer promises and profits simultaneously.

We have found several ideas to fill peak capacity periods. Of course, there is no one formula for success.  Each company has unique circumstances that require different solutions. However, a few ways to meet peak capacity include:

  1.  Hiring temporary workers for the peak season – of course, this strategy sounds like an easy win. If only it were that easy! UPS starts hiring seasonal workers prior to the holiday season in order to provide training. In 2018, they expected to bring on 100,000 seasonal workers. Over the last 3 years, 35% were hired into a full-time role after the peak season, creating an interesting enticement. Since every e-commerce related business needs seasonal workers, you need to provide some sort of benefit or enticement to fill these positions.
  1.  Overtime – of course, this is commonly used throughout manufacturing and logistics organizations. We’ve seen many aerospace firms running at high rates of overtime for many months, even years, in a row. It can be a tricky issue as employees become accustomed to higher paychecks, and the costs add up. On the other hand, people get tired and can get less productive and want a break. Counter-intuitively, it can also be the better financial decision given the learning curves associated with complex manufacturing roles. Of course, the answer is, “It depends”.
  1.  Hiring people with developmental disabilities – as our Inland Empire Economic Partnership leadership regional academy toured Goodwill and we have worked with clients such as Oparc, we have learned that people with development disabilities can be an ideal solution to fill peak capacity.  Thanks to Oparc for their research statistics: 1 in 7 people have intellectual or developmental disability, yet, only 19% participate in the labor force, leaving a significant opportunity to supplement the labor force. Studies show that these folks rate higher in reliability, productivity and loyalty. For example, a DuPont study showed that 90% of employees with Disabilities rated average or better on job performance. According to Walgreens, disabled employees had 40% lower accident rate, 67% lower medical treatment costs and 78% lower overall costs associated with accidents. And, Marriott shows a 6% turnover rate vs. 52% overall. It is worth checking this option out! Please contact us for a referral.
  1.  Partnering with companies with counter cyclical peak seasons – again, have you thought about partnering with strange bedfellows? Why couldn’t an e-commerce company with a winter peak season collaborate with a company in the building products industry with a summer season? In a way, the 3PLs follow this model. Having counter cyclical clients is an important aspect of maintaining a strong workforce as a 3PL.
  1. Outsourcing – one of the advantages of outsourcing and overflow capacity is that you can use it when you need it. Of course, you’ll pay a premium but it can still provide maximum value in several cases and meet the peak season requirements.
  1. Leveraging your extended supply chain – you never know what collaboration might make sense with your suppliers, customers and other supply chain partners until you ask. Explore the possibilities.

One thing is definitely true. You will not succeed during peak season if you wait until it hits to address your capacity shortfalls. Be clear on your strategy and make sure to build it into your plans. It isn’t all about peak season. Perhaps off-peak is “the time” to upgrade your infrastructure such as your ERP system, your business processes and to explore your customer collaboration opportunities. If you’d like an expert to weigh in on your plans, contact us.

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The Resilient Supply Chain: Do You Have Resilient Employees?

October 24th, 2018

Resiliency isn’t easy,  If it were, every organization would have already perfected it.  Yet, in today’s volatile, Amazon impacted, disruption-heavy environment, you must build resilience.  

What is Resilience
Let’s start by talking about our meaning of resilience.  In addition to having the ability to adjust and recover quickly to changing business conditions.  A company must also have the capability to proactively think through the most likely disruptors and develop strategies to thrive amidst the chaos.   

Are your employees resilient?
If a customer changes his mind, how does your team handle it?  Do they see it as a challenge or a chore? Do they complain or start asking questions to understand what’s behind the change and whether it is likely to impact future orders?  Do they communicate upstream and downstream so all parties are in the loop and aware of what is coming?

If a supplier runs into a capacity issue and is late to deliver, what do your employees do?  Actually, let’s back up – do they know about the delay in advance? If so, has it been communicated?  What approach is taken with the supplier in these circumstances? Do you know whether your demands are realistic or not?  Or are you overloading your low cost supplier so you don’t get beat up for purchase price variances? Think about these questions and then go back to answering the resiliency question.  

Learning from Failure
Here is another key question:  What does your team do if they fail?  Do they look for the person to blame? Does the leader blame the weakest link?  Or does the leader blame “them” (next level management)? Or does the leader accept responsibility even if it isn’t his/her fault?  No matter who is at fault, how does the team react? Do they jump on the situation and look for solutions? Will they be more likely or less likely to collaborate upstream or downstream to find answers or ideas to test?  Perhaps most importantly, will they hide under a rock or spur into action?


Start by understanding your resiliency culture.  Then, you can purposefully change it to focus on resiliency.  



Transportation Capacity Tight & Rates on the Rise

April 6th, 2018

Supply Chain Briefing

Transportation capacity is tight and rates are on the rise. And,  it doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon!  The lack of qualified drivers, tighter enforcement of driver work rules and the dramatic changes brought on by e-commerce are creating challenges for shippers not to mention higher rates.  According to the Journal of Commerce and the 2018 TPM Conference, impacts abound with “rollover freight”, dropped tenders and longer transit times.

The last one is key – in today’s Amazon-impacted market, customers expect quicker deliveries; not extended ones!  Are you thinking about transportation trends and the impacts on your company?

 

Spot market rates are up 30% year over year.  Intermodal is up as well. According to Truckstop.com, partial freight is up significantly.  Shippers cannot wait to build full truckloads. Capacity remains at 20% below pre-recession levels.  Events have created even more demand – starting with the hurricanes last fall, followed by the new mandate for electronic logging devices (ELD) in December. Drivers definitely have the upper hand. Are you driver friendly?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Have you thought about the state of your transportation infrastructure lately?  The majority of our clients do not have fleets.  However, even with a fleet, you still need drivers and might suffer from effects caused by tight capacity and higher rates.  

Have you taken stock of your transportation partners?  Are you treating them as a vendor or a partner? In this environment, it could make quite the difference to delivering on-time with a superior customer experience.  Remember, your trucker is a face to your customer. And with Walmart driving change in consumer products as well as unrelated industries by charging fees for late deliveries, your lack of a transportation infrastructure could add up quickly!

Do you have backup transportation built into your model?  Are you considering additional transportation partners such as third-party logistics providers (3PL) and brokers?  Perhaps they shouldn’t be considered a last resort.