Tag Archive: collaborate

What do UPS, Shamrock Foods, Amazon & a 3PL Have in Common?

March 14th, 2019

In touring multiple facilities, ranging from package shipments to cold storage food service delivery to the e-commerce behemoth to 3PL organizations, it despite the conversations that take place about labor costs and other daily concerns, the #1 concern across the board is transportation costs. The numbers support this sentiment. According to CSCMP, transportation costs are 65% of total logistics spend.

Logically, it also makes good sense. No matter your business, materials, parts sub-assemblies and/or products need to arrive at your facility. Often, especially in industries such as aerospace, the parts make multiple trips around the area (unless you are unlucky enough to require sourcing outside of your local area) for outside processing services such as anodizing and painting. Lastly, every work-in-process part or finished good must go to the next stop along the way to the customer such as a final assembly customer, your distribution center, your customer’s distribution center or the end customer. That makes for quite a lot of transportation, often involving multiple modes of transport from air freight to ocean freight to rail to trucking.

Given these alarming statistics about transportation costs, the question becomes: What can we do to proactively manage these costs as well as reduce the impact on the environment? After listening to several experts on these tours and experts from Georgia Tech, APICS (learn more about the critical importance of logistics in our APICS-IE CLTD, certified in logistics, transportation and distribution certificate program) and CSCMP SoCal (at the state of the industry event), a few ideas emerged.

  1. Collaborate with strange bedfellows:As recently published in an I’ve Been Thinking article, collaborating with strange bedfellows can achieve 1+1+1 = 25 minimally. In terms of transportation, there is no doubt maximizing the space used in your truck, container or plane is vital. Why not collaborate with another business to increase your utilization?
  2. Take the holistic or systems view: It is quite challenging to see the forest for the trees as the old slogan goes. We have all been there! I have worked with clients for extended periods of time and found myself with this same issue.  So, I have to deliberately shake it up to maintain the systems or bird’s-eye view. For example, don’t worry about saving a few pennies on a non-essential element of your transportation infrastructure when you are missing the key point that your mix of modes of operation or something like that is costing you millions.
  1. Utilize technology that focuses on the critical transportation factors: In every case (at every tour, event and in every conversation), leveraging technology where it makes sense came up. Certainly, artificial intelligence is the new craze since it has the potential to transform entire industries including logistics. However, robotics are being considered even in industries such as 3PL where they never were previously due to the nature of managing different customers and products. Of course, IoT is prevalent in the world of logistics and transportation as well as topics such as alternative fuels and automation. And what about the basics of a solid ERP system and TMS (transportation management system)? Don’t panic over the horror stories. Contact us if you want to overcome them.
  1. Be customer friendly:Interesting how often being customer friendly arises, no matter the industry or size company (small family owned to private equity backed to large complex organizations).  With rising truck rates and a shortage of drivers, if you aren’t a preferred shipper, you might just be out of luck no matter how much you spend. What does it take to be a preferred shipper? It depends on your business, carriers, locations and more. However, it starts by thinking about what is important to your carrier (not you). Are they looking for flexibility? A quick turnaround time? Fast payment? Good treatment for their drivers?

Since transportation costs are, at minimum, 65% of your total logistics spend, it requires further thought. With the vast amount of technology options available, the best approach is to start with your foundation (your ERP system) and ensure it is stable. Once you have a scalable base, find the ‘right’ technology for your situation to maximize the value of your logistics infrastructure. However, remember the 80/20 goes back to people. What are you doing to develop strategic partnerships and to ensure you are customer friendly and a preferred shipper? Given the impact, don’t leave this to chance or make assumptions. We all like to think we are preferred but what can we do to take it an extra step further?

Did you like this article? Continue reading on this topic:

Systems Pragmatist

 The Sheer Relevance & Impact of Transportation (a Billion Here, a Billion There)The Resilient Supply Chain: Should We Invest in Technology?

 



How Resilient Are Your Business Partners?

December 20th, 2018

As we kick off our new series “The Resilient Supply Chain”, we are thinking about resiliency from all angles that will impact success.  One of the first that pops to mind is the resilience of your business partners.  You and your company could be 100% proactive and resilient; however, if your business partners aren’t, you’ll still crash and burn!

In thinking about recent client examples of disruptions and volatility, there are many!  Here are a few, along with some questions to think about:

 

  • Tariffs started impacting suppliers.  If/when this happens to you, do you know broadly how to handle it?
  • Capacity shortages starting to increase throughout the supply chain.  This has been especially true in aerospace.  Do you know in advance and have backup plans and partners? Or, are you surprised when this occurs?
  • Sales revenues increased more than expected.  A bit of unexpected success can be a nice lift but it also can create several unintended consequences to keep service levels intact. Are you proactively communicating with your supply chain partners?  And, how about your trusted advisors, such as your bank?
  • Transportation shortages have been creating havoc.  The conversation is no longer about price and saving pennies, it is about finding trucks.  Moreover, the key question is whether you will get the truck or whether your competitor will.  Are you the preferable partner to do business with?
  • Shifts in e-commerce and direct to customer have been changing industries. What are you doing to stay on top of these trends and share them with your business partners?
  • New technologies are creating disruption, obsoleting industries and bringing profit opportunities to the surface.  Do you have a plan?  Are you talking with technology trusted advisors, as well as finding ways to collaborate with supply chain partners to find the win-win?
  • And, what about your negotiations with suppliers?  According to APICS 2018 International Conference speakers from companies like Cisco, AkzoNobel, McDonald’s and NASA, it is no longer about negotiation.  It is about win-win collaboration.

This list could go on and on.  At our most recent Harvey Mudd executive roundtable, the CEOs discussed how culture (with employees and business partners) was the key to growth.  Making sure you are partnered with the “right” business partners who share your goals and are resilient might just make or break your success.

It pays to give it some thought!

 



The Resilient Supply Chain: Can You Get Trucks?

October 3rd, 2018

Are you able to find trucks?  This is quickly becoming a major question that needs to be answered.  Every driver has at least 12 options. Why will he/she take your load?  Are you attractive to carriers? That is the key question. After all, you can carry inventory so you are responsive (assuming you planned well and have the right inventory at the right place at the right time) but if you cannot deliver, it was all for naught.

According to the Journal of Commerce, truck rates are up in the low double digits half way through the year.  And, they are expected to go up to 15% before slowing down to 7-10% increase in 2019.  However, these rate hikes are quite the shock to businesses. Many clients are tell us that there are times they cannot find a truck, whether they pay 15% more or not. What are you doing to ensure you have a resilient supply chain?

Here are a few questions to ponder:

  • Do you view your carriers as partners or vendors? – Undoubtedly, if you view them as vendors, you probably aren’t delivering on-time or are paying double or triple the going rates.  
  • Do you have a backup carrier? – I learned this lesson from the Director of Purchasing who worked with me at PaperPak.  He kept a backup supply of our critical material so that if anything went wrong in the supply chain, he could “turn it on”.  This meant we were paying higher prices on an ongoing basis to keep this backup supply. Naturally, our board members were not happy about the increased cost.  However, he was “right on”.  Eventually there was a strike at the ports and our supply was delayed. Because we had been bringing in backup supply all along, we were able to turn up the production and cover our needs seamlessly.  Do you have a backup in place you are confident will be there when you need them?
  • Are you proactively partnering with your carriers? – When supply chain challenges arise, do you proactively collaborate with your carriers to resolve the issues?  Are you willing to think outside the box and try new and innovative ideas?
  • Are you an attractive customer? – How you treat people will either make or break success.  People tend to do business with people they know, like and trust. Are you finding ways to improve your customers’ conditions?  Remember you cannot just decide to become attractive when you need your suppliers. It is a way of doing business.
  • Do you need trucks at all?– Perhaps it’s time to re-think your strategy.  Should you consider rail, air or another method?  Can you partner with your customers or suppliers in a new way?  How about collaborating with competitors? Or, you could consider insourcing vs. outsourcing. 

Think outside the box and start early.  Waiting until there is an issue is no time to think about resolving one. 

It seems such a basic element to have trucks where you need them and when you need them.  Yet it often isn’t viewed as a priority.  Why not take stock of where you stand and put some thought into your path forward?

You’ll be more likely to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations with this proactive approach to supply chain resiliency.

 



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.

 



Gaining New Ideas to Increase Business Value

August 8th, 2018

Every executive we work with is interested in increasing the value of the business.  Whether a small closely-held business with an owner who might want to sell the business or exit with an ESOP, a private-equity backed company aiming to achieve the ideal exit strategy per the private equity agreement or a large, complex organization working to increase shareholder value, increasing the value of the business remains a unanimous top priority.

Understanding this objective is quite different from fulfilling it.  There is a reason the most successful businesses have teams of people rather than one person who has to come up with every idea – it is certainly more sustainable!  

So, how can we encourage these ideas? Here are several ways that we’ve seen success achieved consistently over 25+ years in both the corporate and the consulting world with manufacturers and distributors.

  1. Engage your employees – Definitely one of the “easier said than done” items; however, it is also one of the most consistently successful.  As the Gallop polls show, those companies with a higher percentage of engaged employees significantly outperform the rest.
  2. Involve your customers – Who can better than your customers to generate ideas that will ensure a superior customer experience while increasing the value of the company?  Don’t just go to your top 10 customers in volume. Think about your long-term customers. It can also be worth it to collaborate with customers on the brink of being an unprofitable and prompt ideas to turn it around or end the relationship on a “good note”.  You never know what might happen. We’ve seen dramatic turnarounds, just as often as we’ve seen the rest of the company improve when getting rid of the “rotten apple customer”.
  3. Collaborate with your suppliers – Aside from your customers, who else might have a substantial impact on your performance?  Your suppliers! If you can devise new win-win approaches together, imagine the possibilities.  For example, when I was a VP of Operations and Supply Chain for a mid-market manufacturer, we collaborated with suppliers to develop a new material so that we could reduce our usage (increasing our profit) and provide a benefit to our customers (better performance/ higher value for them).  We became a closer partner with our supplier and grew each of our businesses and profits while enhancing the value to our mutual customer. A win-win-win.
  4. Ask colleagues outside of your area of expertise – Just because your colleague is in a different function doesn’t mean he/she won’t have a great idea.  Take the time to explain an important project to related colleagues outside of the project or your area of expertise.   Ask for their thoughts, watch-outs and the like. You never know where the next great idea will come from.
  5. Consult with experts / advisors – Attend trade association meetings.  Dig into industry journals. Ask questions of LinkedIn groups. Pursue alumni colleagues.  Consult with an advisor, consultant or financial expert. Join a peer group.  

There is no doubt that the most successful executives utilize all of these techniques to make sure they generate a seemingly never-ending stream of ideas to increase the value of their business.  Set aside time on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to priorities these activities.  Do not expect an immediate payoff.  However, if you are consistent, you’ll find success one day down-the-road.  After all, it may only that one idea to make a significant impact!