Tag Archive: customers

Why Inventory Will Matter Again

June 8th, 2019

I was on a bit of a trip down memory lane over the holidays as I reconnected with former colleagues from when I was VP of Operations and Supply Chain at PaperPak, an absorbent products manufacturer for healthcare and food products.  I recently talked about healthcare manufacturing with a group of powerful women (and a few brave men) at the Professional Women in Healthcare event.  When inventory arose as a hot topic, I thought about paper rolls (pictured).

Actually, inventory was a hot topic as we partnered with key customers to develop collaborative forecasting models, implement vendor managed inventory programs to dramatically reduce inventory and free up cash while improving service levels and to maximize storage and efficiencies in our operations, distribution centers and, most importantly, throughout our transportation system (since absorbent products are bulky and freight intensive).

In our view, inventory is circling back in importance and will become a hot topic again as customers expect immediate, customized deliveries with the expectation of easy returns and last-minute changes to orders in production, in the warehouse or in transit. What are you doing to get ahead of this ‘new normal’ assumption?

To throw out a few ideas to get your juices flowing:

  • Get demand further into your supply chain – what are your customers’ customers selling or using of your product?
  • Be collaborative with strange bedfellows – I’ve written several articles recently on this topic as the most successful executives see the value in finding the ‘win-win-win’
  • What talent do you have focused on having the ‘right’ inventory at the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time? You could double your inventory and decrease service if you don’t know how to navigate these treacherous waters.
  • How sure are you that your demand and supply (labor, skills, machine capacity, buildings/ storage capacity, cash flow) are aligned and will remain aligned?

This topic reminds me of one of my early articles, the Million Dollar Planner. Although that sounds insane, it might be worth thinking about conceptually. If you maximize your customer experience, profitability and cash flow, the return is frequently in excess of a million dollars. Most importantly, what could you do with an extra million dollars? Invest in new products and services to spur growth? Build your infrastructure to enable scalable growth? Build your talent base to create sustainability? The possibilities are limitless.

Contact us if you’d like to discuss further.



The Beauty of the World & Why It Relates to Work

June 5th, 2019

This is the Piazza IX Aprile in Taormina, Sicily, which is a square known for the breathtaking view of the azure Ionian Sea and of the Mount Etna. I adored this night view from a nearby rooftop (of course while sipping limoncello, an Italian lemon liquor known in Southern Italy).

I came to Sicily to meet my strategy group.  We had some excellent sessions.  However, that isn’t the tie that I refer to in the title of this blog. Seeing the world absolutely relates to business. Of course, this would be done ideally in person but you can also absorb quite a bit watching TV or by reading magazines. Understanding different cultures, business customs and what’s relevant to a country or area will come in handy. We live in an interconnected world with customers, suppliers and other trusted partners throughout the world. I cannot think of a client that doesn’t have a material that originates in another country somewhere down-the-supply chain or one that sells to other countries at least somewhere up-the-supply chain. Can you?

Understanding what is important to your customers, suppliers, employees (as they also come from around the world or have related interests) or colleagues is quite relevant to bottom line business results.

One tip to implement this week:
Why not ask your top customer, supplier, employee or colleague about what is important? You could ask about materials relevant to your supply base. Undoubtedly, you’ll find out about something relevant or interesting to build a stronger relationship at a minimum. You could ask your customers about where they sell your product or how it is perceived in another country, etc.? Of course, your question will relate to what type of product or service you provide, so you should make it relevant to your business.

And, lastly, why not talk bring the topic up with your employees and colleagues. You might find that they have customs that are important to them or something quite relevant to doing business in that country or area. Just by posting pictures on Facebook, I found quite a few contacts who love Taormina. Who knows what will happen when I ask them about it!



What Tours Have You Gone on Lately?

August 27th, 2018

In the last month, I have attended quite a few tours of manufacturing and distribution operations.  The pictures below were taken at an APICS Inland Empire and ProVisors tour of Southwest Traders Foodservice Distribution and Do It American Manufacturing.  Both were excellent.  And I walked away with great tips!

Tours are a great way to see different ways of doing business and gain insights and ideas to apply in your company.  I find that what I see and learn will provide value to clients somewhere down the line.  As often as I hear clients request a consultant with knowledge in their specific industry, I have found that we often-times provide even greater value when we can apply a concept that we’ve seen in a completely different industry that looks like it could be an ideal solution.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
How recently have you gone on a tour?  You might want to start by going on a tour of your company.  As strange as it sounds, it can be eye opening if you take the view of an external tour and see what you observe.  Better yet, take others with you and see what they observe.

Beyond your facility, there are many options for tours of manufacturing and distribution operations.  You can go to customers and suppliers to better understand their operations. Not only will you gain ideas, but you’ll learn about companies that tie directly to yours and collaborate with supply chain partners.

You can also tour by joining a trade association like APICS (trade association for supply chain and operations management), the DMA (distribution management), ISM (supply management), CSCMP (transportation) and more.  Last but not least, why not ask friends and colleagues for a tour.

While you are touring, observe and ask questions.  You are likely to see new techniques, learn about new technologies, see different equipment (such as narrow aisle forklifts which we saw at Southwest Traders), observe robots in action (which we did at Do It American), discuss metrics and dashboards and much more.

Step out.  Take a Tour.  Learn from Others.



Ireland’s Lean, Green Forklift Plant Proves Robots & IoT Not Required

August 22nd, 2018

 

According to a new an Industry Week article, you can achieve amazing growth and success without robots and IoT! Combilift has used innovation, creativity and the customer experience to go it alone with amazing results! Safer, simpler, smarter is their tag line. Check out their video….

 

 

An Interesting Example of Improving Process AND Going the Extra Mile for Customers
Combilift is revolutionizing the way companies handle and store materials especially long and awkward loads (sounds like several of our clients….). Most interesting is that they are successful through their attention to customers. They have an eagerness to provide the perfect solution for their industrial customers’ needs.  They “go the extra mile” to provide superior customer experiences in a customized way. Do you?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Certainly if you are in the forklift industry and sell into niche markets, watch out! Just kidding.  Really, we should be able to learn quite a few lessons that we can immediately apply from this intriguing example.

Do you have signs posted about the importance of customers or do you LIVE your passion of the importance of customers? Remember, there is no way you can do any of this without passionate employees so start there.

Next, although it is important to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and which might apply to your company’s future, do not get sucked into that black hole? Instead, remain focused on “what makes sense”, whether that is technology, lean processes, or just plain common sense.

We have partnered with key clients to solve seemingly significant complex issues with a good dose of common sense. Why not take a step back and think about whether what you are doing makes sense.

 



What’s Next in the Supply Chain?

August 10th, 2018

Our most successful clients always ask “What’s next?” as they want to stay ahead of the curve.  It is quite clear that staying on top of current trends and what is expected down-the-road is essential to successfully navigating your business to scalable, profitable growth.

For example, if you think your industry might develop a new way of servicing customers, you need to attack it quickly as you afford to be left in the dust.  Clearly, providing an exceptional customer experience is important but so is developing this new service method in a scalable, profitable way. It will be much harder if behind the eight ball. Are you thinking about what is next?

With our definition of the supply chain from creation to customer, there are countless topics to be thinking about when it comes to What’s Next:

  • New Products and Services: What new products and services will your customers want?  We have found that most customers (just like most of our clients) might not know yet.  You better be thinking about it and prompting ideas!
  • Suppliers: What new materials, components and supplies will you need to improve performance at a lower cost? (These win-win successes require innovation and collaboration.)
  • Transportation: What’s next in transportation?  Think of the relevance – from suppliers to manufacturers, from manufacturers to manufacturers, from manufacturers to distributors, from distributors to end customers, from one facility to another facility, and so on.
  • Technology:  What’s next in technology as it connects each of these people along with equipment, and much more (think IoT) with data and information flows.  We find that this often-times can be the bottleneck to achieving scalability.
  • Manufacturing:  What’s next in manufacturing?  Even if you aren’t thinking about using 3D printing, you should be considering the impacts if your competition, your suppliers, your customers and more start using this additive manufacturing capability.  It is likely to impact every step of the supply chain. What else is likely to happen in your industry?
  • Distribution:  What’s next in distribution?  In your industry, what is essential?  To think about distribution, you must think about your customers’ needs.  You also should be thinking about the rest of your supply chain. For example, if 3D printing takes off, it changes the distribution model.  If e-commerce continues to be important, your entire setup would change if you are more traditional currently. Do customers want you to take over worrying about what to stock and where to stock it?  Perhaps you should suggest taking on VMI/ replenishment.
  • Customers: What’s next with your customers?  How about your customers’ customers? Are you even talking with your customers’ customers?  Do you understand the industry trends throughout your chain? If you aren’t getting out of your office with an internal focus, you won’t.  Who have you called lately? Who have you visited? Do you ask questions? Attend conferences?
  • People:  What’s next with your colleagues and partners?   Nothing else will be achievable if you don’t have the best people on the team.  It wasn’t that long ago we thought virtual meetings were a big deal. Now they occur daily.  (Remember, illennials often-times like coming into the office for the community – and prefer the Google-like environment.)

Thinking about what’s next can distinguish you from your competition.  Eventually, a decision will arise that requires this knowledge. If thinking of the future is part of your daily culture, you’ll pass by the rest!