Tag Archive: client

Made in Vietnam?

January 19th, 2020

Vietnam has been the hot topic lately. After a visit recently, I saw first-hand the potential along with the challenges. Clients are definitely evaluating changing the source of supply to Vietnam. And the question is: should they? Or, alternatively, the question is: Are they moving fast enough?

Although there are infrastructure issues, the most successful clients are already ahead of the curve and seriously considering Vietnam. Of course, it is not best for all products and situations, just as China wasn’t best for all situations previously. If you are starting to see price increases in China and are concerned about the quality and reliability as China is struggling, it is definitely something to consider. Consider this fact – many Chinese companies are moving production to Vietnam.  Obviously there is something to be said for evaluating this source of supply.

Vietnam likes manufacturing and the United States. One of my proactive clients has been moving a significant portion of their supply from China to Vietnam over the last year. They started the process before the tariffs because they expected to save significantly with Vietnam production.  However, they really looked like heroes to their Board when they also beat the Chinese tariffs with the move.

This does NOT mean it will always make sense. We also have clients who outsourced to China a long time ago when it was the latest “fad”. In fact, the tide turned over the last several years.  The total cost of the product as well as the gains in customer satisfaction of sourcing closer to customer demand (typically in N.A.) makes a lot more sense.  Unfortunately for them, most of the companies in this situation haven’t changed supply yet due to capital and infrastructure costs and related efforts to move the source of supply. Yet it can be done. Our client reevaluated and started the transition to Vietnam. Recently, the tariffs are forcing several to re-think the China strategy, but is it “too late”? Are you going to wait for the next tariff scenario where you are on the defensive or are you gong to proactively reevaluate your entire strategy?

Certainly part of what you’ll need to evaluate is your working capital requirements. How does China compare with Vietnam? Both require an extended supply chain. Generally speaking, the longer lead times to cross the ocean carry working capital requirements. As customers become more demanding, you’ll need to consider inventory as a key component to your sourcing decisions. Pick up some tips and strategies in our recent article ” Inventory Management as Fashionable as Automated Intelligence for Distributors” for ACHR News.

Getting ahead of the curve might be the only avenue to success. When looking at China vs. Vietnam, it is quite clear that China is significantly larger and has far more manufacturing capability.  Yet, those early to Vietnam won’t have to worry about this particular issue.  And, of course Vietnam is racing to catch up.

Whether you have sourcing in China, Vietnam or neither, the underlying point is essential. Are you constantly revisiting your supply chain strategy? If not, you’ll likely be left following your competitors. Instead, consider future-proofing your manufacturing and supply chain business. Stay tuned and read more about it.

If you are interested in discussing a supply chain assessment, please contact us.

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Have You Thought About Whether You are Maximizing the Use of Your ERP System?

December 19th, 2019

Before jumping to conclusions and pursuing a system upgrade, should we explore whether we are maximizing the use of our current system? Or, is it just not modern enough to support our growth in a scalable, profitable way?

This is often the subject of a client call. After all, no one in their right mind would want to embark on an ERP upgrade unless absolutely necessary. The issue is that the situation can be quite complex. How do we separate what’s important vs. what’s not? In this case study, a client knew they had to upgrade because their system was long out of maintenance. The only question was how compelling was the upgrade to support their customers’ requirements and an efficient operation?

The Answer
Although they clearly required an upgrade to get into the current century, the question we explored is whether they could continue to improve performance using their current system to a degree large enough to delay the upgrade until they were better prepared. Unfortunately, since they had let their current system go for ‘too long’, it was highly dependent on current technical resources, partly tailored to their business processes and customized to their needs. At first glance, that doesn’t sound bad! However, the issue was that it was by no means scalable, would require significant education on concepts so that folks started thinking instead of following the process designed into the current system and they were highly dependent on resources that could leave or “get hit by a bus”. Doesn’t that sound like something you say but it doesn’t happen? Not so> One of my clients had that exact situation occur, even though it is just a phrase for a myriad of issues that could arise.

After digging into their business requirements (current as well as a few years into the future), we found ample opportunity to further leverage already existing functionality to meet customer requirements and delay the upgrade for several months. However, that still wasn’t enough. We also had to take actions to secure at-risk critical resources to the degree feasible (since we clearly cannot plan 100% for the ‘hit by the bus’ scenario). We were successful in proactively addressing the situation so that we didn’t have to leap before we knew if we had a net. Yet, we weren’t 100% comfortable, so we also put together an aggressive plan for ERP selection to find the best fit system to meet their needs (without customizing) and equally important a best fit partner that could proactively understand and think through their education needs (which were VERY different from training needs).

Food For Thought
Although we found a solution, the CEO was on pins and needles once he realized the extent of the situation. Don’t leave your infrastructure to chance. Even though all can seem quite fine at the high level, it is important to know whether you are being held up by a solid foundation or a nice-looking pile of straw. That is before considering what you’ll need at least 18 months into the future. You will not select the best system to support your plans or you’ll skimp on implementation. Every client that cut corners overspent by 20-100% and that is before considering the impact on customer service. Do you have a scalable ERP system to support your business growth and profitability? If not, start there!

 

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Is Demand Planning/ Sales Forecasting Hype or Valuable?

September 9th, 2019

According to Gartner statistics,significant bottom line results can occur with just a 1% improvement in forecast accuracy. In fact, there are staggering improvements in lead time, inventory reduction and margins, so why not at least explore the idea? There are lots of worries expressed by clients and contacts:

  • We cannot predict what our customers will order!
  • Customers don’t even know what they will order! (And, in seeing these ordering patterns, I concur that this is often-times an accurate statement.)
  • Since we are using lean, our lean consultant told us we no longer need forecasts.
  • We are a small company and don’t have resources to focus on forecasting
  • And my favorite, “Why in the world would our significant sales team listen to you?”

I just have one question, if depending on the industry and study, a 1% improvement can lead to a 2.7% to 7% improvement in cash flow and minimally a few percentage points cost improvement in key categories such as freight, wouldn’t you be remiss if you didn’t consider your forecasting process? Of course you would be!

We have yet to run across a client that couldn’t improve the forecast, no matter how daunting the task seemed. Since the outcomes are substantial, it was worth the effort.  And, the effort was typically minimal compared to aligning the people on the forecast.

A few tricks of the trade in driving results with forecasting:

  1. Let your tool (whether Excel or a sophisticated system) do the work for you – From an 80/20 standpoint, there is no doubt that a simple tool will perform far better than even your best person. Develop your base.
  2. Focus on exceptions – On the other hand, your team is best equipped to provide insights and feedback on exceptions. Use their strengths.
  3. Drive results, not blame – Remember, the definition of a forecast is that it will be inaccurate. I’ve yet to run into a client with a perfect forecast. With that said, the three most impressive were across the board – a $100 million dollar facility of a multi-billion dollar aerospace organization with a manually generated forecast, a close to billion dollar consumer products company with a home grown system and smart people, and a rapidly growing <$10 million dollar manufacturer with an Excel-based system with smart, agile and process-oriented people. None of these folks ran around blaming anyone with forecast inaccuracy yet they all outperformed their competitors.

Perhaps it’s time to take a second look at your sales forecasting process. Who is responsible? How does it work? You never know what you’ll discover as you shine a flashlight on the process. If you’d like to discuss forecasting and demand planning further, contact us.

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How to Keep Your Team Engaged

August 31st, 2019
Every client is concerned about how to engage the team. Some executives are thinking about how to ‘keep good people’, others are thinking about how to enable ‘smart people to share what they know’, and still others know they need engagement to ensure customers are happy and bottom line business results occur.
According to Gallup, there is some positive news in that engagement is on the rise and is at an all-time high of 34%. With that said, there is such a long way to go to fully leverage already existing assets – our people! Time and again, the most successful companies actively engage employees in their work. The actively disengaged is down to 13% while ‘not engaged’ is 53%.
A few ideas to consider:
  • Tie each person’s work to the result (for the company, customer etc.) – Wouldn’t you like to know WHY you are doing something?
  • Take each employees’ ideas into consideration – Simply asking can go a long way if you truly care about the answer.
  • Don’t treat each employee the same – don’t we each have different goals and interests?
  • Are you developing your employees? – a little investment into your employees can go a long way.
  • Do you address poor performers? – one of the biggest issues we see if letting poor performers carry on. Everyone knows it and is less motivated. Why not just proactively address? Provide an opportunity and swiftly address if necessary.


Amazon’s Deal with Party City & More Competitors

September 8th, 2018

While I presented on the Amazon Effect to a specialty group of ProVisors (trusted advisors) members focused on manufacturing and distribution recently, Amazon was firming up a deal with Party City to offer an assortment of items. This is just the latest in a stream of retailers collaborating with the competition.  Party City follows Kohl’s (see the sign in the picture below), Sears, Nike, Chico’s and more. This is especially interesting because at our recent Harvey Mudd executive roundtable event, almost every CEO mentioned a time when he/she collaborated with the competition.  Perhaps we should be keeping our mind open to the possibilities?

 

 

 

 

 

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

Since Amazon is willing to search for win-win deals with the competition, who knows what will come next?  Are you impacted by Amazon? Every client we work with has said they are impacted in one way or another – yet 1% actually work or compete directly with Amazon.  They have certainly become a disruptor! Perhaps that’s why such an ‘old’ topic is still requested by several groups in speaking circles.

Who is the Amazon of your industry?  Or, can your company take on that role?  It can be easier to create the rules than to follow behind.  Yet, if no one follows, that can be an equally significant issue, as well.  

It may be worth asking questions of your employees – are they paying attention to what’s going on in the industry and with your supply chain partners?  Do they have ideas that might revolutionize your customer experience? How do you know if you haven’t asked? Or encouraged innovation?

In 100% of our clients, we’ve found employees with ideas that management knew nothing about.  9 times out of 10, the ideas have some merit. You never know…..it may very well lead to being the  disruptor.