Tag Archive: efficiencies

The Future of Technology

August 20th, 2020

Technology is a tricky topic. On one hand, almost everyone has put technology and ERP implementations on hold due to concerns about COVID-19 impacts and to conserve cash. On the other hand, it is the best time to gain employees’ attention and focus on upgrading technology to scale the business, create a superior customer experience and deliver bottom line results.

Kellogg or Post?
As I said in my eBook, Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19, the Kellogg vs. Post story from the Great Depression provides an excellent example to ponder. In the 1920’s, Kellogg and Post dominated the market for cereal which was still a relatively new and untapped market. Post reigned in expenses and Kellogg doubled its ad budget and pushed its new cereal. Even as the economy hit bottom, Kellogg’s profits rose 30% and they become the dominant player.  Do you want to be Kellogg or Post? The morale to the story is NOT about dollars invested. It is about the opportunities of investing resources (which can be simply in the form of employees’ focus) in future success.

Which Technologies Provide Immediate and Long-Term Value?
Of course, the answer depends on your industry, company, current infrastructure, your customers’ evolving needs, your suppliers’ evolving needs and more. Why not perform a rapid assessment of what makes the most sense for your business and take one important step forward? As I said in my eBook, Newton’s Law is relevant. Objects in motion stay in motion whereas objects at rest will stay at rest. You must take steps forward, no matter how small.

Let’s highlight a few of the more likely technologies to provide immediate value and long-term value:

  1. Further utilize & expand your ERP system: No one uses 80% of their system.  Most organizations utilize only 20%. Find the next 1% that will yield a significant benefit to your customers or bottom line. Clients are gaining significant value from this simple step.
  2. B2B customer portal/ B2C e-commerce: No doubt about it. The ONLY growth area across the board is e-commerce. In addition, what could be more important than visibility of orders for your B2B customers? Delays will result in lost opportunity!
  3. Business Intelligence (BI): We are overloaded with data. The issue isn’t having data, it is making meaningful decisions and formulating plans based on the interpretation of data. BI will bring meaning to your data that translates into customer and profit opportunities.
  4. Artificial intelligence (AI) & Human Learning: In today’s environment, predictive capabilities produce VASTLY greater results than simply analysis and static plans. Demand planning/ forecasting, predictive maintenance, cash flow forecasting, and the automation of tasks are enhanced with AI.
  5. CRM: There has never been a time when understanding, staying in touch with and being on top of evolving customer needs has been more important.
  6. Digital Twins: Virtual replicas of physical devices that technology gurus can use to run simulations before actual devices are built and deployed. Read a fascinating article about the applications in logistics.
  7. Systems to gain efficiencies: WMS (warehouse management), TMS (transportation management), rate shopping, MPS (master production scheduling)/ MRP (material requirements planning)/Inventory planning, replenishment including VMI (vendor managed inventory) and more.
  8. 3D Printing/ Additive manufacturing – If you can produce a customized product on demand close to customers, you win in today’s Amazonian environment. Either way, it speeds up R&D.

Read our eBook, Future-ProofingiManufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19 to read more about technology as it relates to successfully emerging and thriving post-COVID-19. Explore these concepts further as you start thinking through your technology roadmap.

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

The Rise of E-Commerce & WMS Popularity During the Pandemic

Systems Pragmatist



Inventory or Capacity?

November 18th, 2019

Inventory has emerged as a hot topic lately. In today’s Amazon-impacted business environment, customers expect rapid, customized deliveries, the ability to change their mind anytime and easy interactions (placing orders, returns etc.). Since clients are growing, they are also concerned with keeping up with the increasing volume. Thus, they have responded  by stocking more inventory to support increased sales and to respond to these increasing expectations.

However, as clients are taking a step back, they see inventory tying up bunches of cash unnecessarily.  Just because they have more inventory doesn’t mean they have the ‘right’ inventory in the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time. Inventory not only ties up cash, but it also increases costs. We are hearing about concerns regarding space, efficiencies, transportation cost impacts and more. In essence, there is a double hit to cash and profit yet the appropriate level of inventory (varies by network and strategy) is required to meet customer expectations.

In addition to pursuing inventory improvement programs to maximize your service, cash and margins such as SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) and proactive vendor managed inventory/ collaborative inventory programs, you might want to consider your capacity.

We had a client a few years ago who called because service issues had started to arise and customers were angry. Leadership thought the the operations team was under-performing because there must be something wrong with them since sales revenues were not increasing over 5% a year.

As we dug into the issue, we found that the product mix changed significantly which drove a greater level of operations requirements for the same dollar volume. When this occurred in the past, it didn’t create a problem (lending support to the perception that the operations team was at fault).  Yet, it turns out that as people left, they stopped replacing them because they wanted to bring down costs.

In the past, since they had excess capacity (machinery) and a small excess level of trained, highly skilled direct labor resources, they could produce what was needed as conditions changed without a problem. They no longer could use this magic bullet!

Would it make sense to maintain excess capacity/skills in a key bottleneck area of your operation (whether manufacturing, technical or office)?

If you’d like to talk about your inventory and/or capacity situation further, please contact us.



Let’s Manage Inventory for Our Customers

May 16th, 2019

inventory managementAmazon is propelling this age-old topic into a new realm. Since the CEO of the Ontario Airport Authority used the phrase “last mile” has become “last minute” on a panel I facilitated last year, I have shamelessly reapplied his brillant quote.

If customers don’t even know what they want, how can we? Interestingly, we have found that many customers, even the seemingly most confused and  volatile ones, have a pattern to their demand. If we take a holistic view of their demand and inventory planning processes from beginning to end and from high level to the minute detail, solutions emerge.     

One strategy that has proven quite effective is to “remove the middleman”, the customer himself. Instead, with access to demand information direct from the customers’ customer or end user, you can not only manage the extended supply chain inventory better for a happier customer but you also can improve margins, efficiencies and cash flow to boot.

In consumer products circles, this strategy often termed, vendor managed inventory is usually dictated by the “big guys”.  In aerospace, it is also expected but termed differently, customer based ordering, min max and other names. It is also common in healthcare as we won “supplier of the year” for two years in a row because of what we accomplished with VMI for Cardinal Healthcare when I was VP of Operations at PaperPak. We decided to make it a strategy for key customers at PaperPak, even though Cardinal is the only one who requested it. Should you consider a strategy like this to get ahead of your customers’ demand?  It is just another aspect in creating a resilient supply chain. Check out our series on the topic.

 



LMA’s 2018 Advocate Award and Recognition

August 25th, 2018

On the 10 year anniversary of my business, I recognized 10 people for 10 years as LMA Advocates – people who have gone over and beyond, resulting in LMA Consulting’s growth and success.  I truly appreciate their support, expertise, ideas and feedback. I would not be here today without them – and certainly not leading a growing and leading edge consulting practice that partners with manufacturers and supply chain organizations to create BOLD customer promises and profits.  

Ever since my 10-year bash, I’ve recognized one person each year on the anniversary of LMA Consulting.  Recently, on my 13-year anniversary, I announced Kelly Ford as our 2018 LMA Advocate.

 

Kelly Ford and I have worked together at three separate aerospace organizations and at least double or triple that in terms of projects. We have achieved significant results together (improved customer service levels to support business growth, expanded capacity and efficiencies, and right-sized inventory levels to maximize the use of cash and capital), and, most importantly, she orchestrated it so that we achieved these results while valuing and engaging people.

I find Kelly a pleasure.  It is not often that I find a client who is interested in continual improvement, is willing to try new ideas and stick with them as the inevitable obstacles arise and is so well-respected by her team. (So much so, that everyone pulls together to “make it happen” and has fun during the process.)  

One tip to implement this week:
Are you recognizing people who have been instrumental in your company’s growth and success?  Don’t think about this only in terms of direct relationships. For example, don’t just recognize the sales person who bagged the elephant. Instead, think about each person’s contribution to growth and success. Is there someone who is invisible working in the background (perhaps taken for granted) who makes it happen on a daily basis?

Also, don’t just think about sales and revenue growth. Although revenue is clearly relevant, expand your viewpoint – is there someone who “passes the ball” to your sales team?  Most likely – yes! Who has the best pass percentages? Since I went to UNC Chapel Hill (Tar Heels), I have become accustomed to winning at basketball. Solid players that pass are invaluable to the team.

Find the gems in your organization and recognize them.  Thank them in front of their peers. Tailor their ‘award’ to what is meaningful to them.  Perhaps your winner wants to be on a special project team or attend a training session. Why not make it meaningful and demonstrate your appreciation for the contribution to success?

And, Thank You, Kelly Ford!



Who Cares about Process Disciplines?

August 9th, 2016
process discipline

Increased margins and company growth are easier to reach when process disciplines are emphasized within an organization

Who cares about process disciplines? All executives say they care but few are willing to focus the efforts on instilling process disciplines. It seems like a less important topic than creating a new product, expanding into new markets or increasing margins; however, it is at the crux of success! No improvements can be made in inventory, service, efficiencies and the like without starting here.

When we see a client with excellent process disciplines, we typically see the following:

  1. Clear understanding of roles and responsibilities
  2. Clear understanding of the process steps and related system transactions that support the business.
  3. Clear understanding of the timing, sequencing and interaction among process steps and functional departments.

We’ve seen some clients with books of process documentation yet very little success with process disciplines. Of course, having a documented process is a good idea; however, that alone will get you nowhere. Instead, think about and communicate the importance of process disciplines. Support the documentation of “what makes sense”. And results will follow.

After 11 years of consulting and 15 years before that in organizational life, I can communicate with absolute certainty that those who emphasize process disciplines will be more successful in growing the business and increasing margins than those who don’t. If you’d like to talk over how process disciplines could be strengthened in your business, contact us.

 

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