Tag Archive: focus

Interview with Fender Guitar Executive

February 7th, 2020

Can people and robots work side-by-side? It seems to be the hot topic lately.  Fender Guitar’s Senior VP of Operations, Ed Magee and I talked about talent, technology and transition after the Manufacturing Summit. At Fender, skilled craftsmen and craftswomen are critically important.  Yet, Fender also automates where it makes sense. Technology working hand-in-hand with your #1 asset, your people, can assist in improving the craftsmanship, as well as safety. Ed considers training and development to be a key to success.

We also talked about potential recessions and disruption. Certainly, in today’s Amazon-impacted environment with global volatility, there will be continued ebbs and tides to navigate. Ed mentioned the importance of creating community and flexibility. Invest in your employees during times of boom AND bust. Don’t be afraid of the cycle and keep the lessons in mind as you think through your business cycle, and you’ll future-proof your manufacturing operation. Maintain focus, don’t cut back on training and development when everyone else does and you’ll be likely to speed by the rest.

Watch our interview to learn more and gain a few insights. What are you doing to future-proof your manufacturing operation and related supply chain? What should you be doing? Ed and I concur. If you aren’t starting with your people, nothing else will matter.

No matter how high tech key clients go, the most successful and sustainable clients accompany high tech with high touch. You’ll gain some strategies for people in our Profit through People archives as well as with our new LMA-i, LMA-Intelligence series, Future-Proofing Your Manufacturing & Supply Chain. Contact us to discuss further.

 

 



Priorities, Priorities, Priorities

November 21st, 2019

When teaching a CSCP class for a large Target distribution center recently, one of the managers asked me about what drives results across all clients. One of the great benefits of speaking and teaching is that attendees stimulate new ideas and/or insights. I gave him what popped to mind immediately.

However, it got me thinking. Why not share these with my clients as it might stimulate ideas across the board! Here’s what popped into my mind: We gained the biggest benefit when figuring out where to focus attention to achieve the desired end result (such as increasing revenue, profit or cash flow). In essence, what is the priority?

Unfortunately, this sounds so obvious that most people think they have it covered but they do NOT! I’ve yet to meet a client with the following situation:

  • Just a few key priorities that were best suited to drive the results they desired
  • Key players in the organization (and perhaps key supply chain partners) were aligned on this same page.

More typically, there are FAR too many priorities AND the issue is that they all sound like priorities.

  • The Board wants x.
  • Our key customer is demanding y.
  • There are projects to launch new products.
  • There are projects to save costs.
  • Employees need education and training to know how to grow the business.
  • And the list goes on.

So what should we do? If it were easy, it wouldn’t be so commonplace. Yet, it is doable. We start at the end and work our way back. What are the desired results we need x months or years into the future? Then we look at how we get from where we are to where we need to go. Again, it sounds quite simple but, of course, it isn’t. And then, we look over what we see as priorities and how they fit into what we need to get from here to there.

Next, we look at three aspects:

  • What is the impact of the priority?
  • How urgent is the priority? This is often confused with impact. Often, they are NOT the same.
  • If we did nothing, what would happen? Would the situation get better on its own, stay the same or get worse?

Re-think your priorities. Why are you doing what you are doing? I was just reminded of this recently by a partner. She asked about the results we were achieving jointly and wondered if the level of effort was worth the outcome. I had to say, she was right! What were we thinking? Consequently, we are re-evaluating our priorities.

How about you?  It also often takes an outside view to stir the pot to re-think priorities. Are you comfortable? If so, you might want to take another look.



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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Strategy Isn’t Long Term!

September 6th, 2019

As I meet with countless CEOs and P&L leaders at clients, via connections, at speeches, etc., I pay attention to what is top of mind. Strategy is always top of mind for the most successful business leaders! After all, if a CEO makes in the millions (the top 10 paid CEOs from 2018 made between $66 million and >$500 million), he/she is being paid for more than just executing the plan. Certainly, strategy is integral to the future success of the organization.

Yet, I see a lot of confusion about strategy. It isn’t complex. Strategy is figuring out the ‘what’. Whereas, tactics is the ‘how’. Strategy isn’t necessarily long-term. Who says ‘what’ should be long-term? In fact, some of the most successful CEOs are now focusing on rapid and agile strategy. Isn’t that what we need to succeed in today’s Amazon-impacted, rapidly changing business environment?

Focusing on the ‘what’ focuses on the outcomes and goals. In essence, where should your business end up? As Peter Drucker would say, strategy is “doing the right things”; whereas tactics is “doing things right”. Take a step back and think about his profound thinking. It is easy to spend all your time “doing things right”, isn’t it? It certainly is for me, and I am an expert in strategy!

What do you think Jeff Bezos is thinking? How to execute the best logistics plan or how to control the logistics landscape, just like a chess game? Of course, strategists need managers who are good at both strategy and tactics to make any strategy come true. And it is also true that strategies rarely fail in composition. Yet, more often than not, they fail in execution. Thus, it seems we must have both! We better know which is which and not be thinking strategy and tactics are long-term vs. short-term, or we will go the way of Sears and Toys R’ Us. (Quite sad as I still remember going to Toys R’ Us as a child around Christmas to explore all the possibilities. It was truly an experience!)

Have you thought about your strategy lately? If not, you better get on it before the next Amazon passes you by. And, let’s not get cocky, Sears used to be the Amazon in my lifetime. You never know who the next Amazon will be. If you are interested in a strategic assessment, contact us.

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Trump Signs Order Prioritizing AI Research

March 18th, 2019

According to the White House, President Trump signed an executive order directing the U.S. Government to prioritize artificial intelligence in its research and development spending. The focus is on ensuring that AI develops in sync with U.S. values and that training for the future workforce is prioritized. This is a culmination of meetings with Google, IBM and Microsoft and reflects the  commitment to focus on leading edge technologies. From an industry point-of-view, this focus is applauded.

The talk is that AI will transform entire industries. There is no doubt that without a focus on advanced technologies and the associated training and workforce efforts, you will be left in the dust, similar to looking for a payphone along the side of the road. Whether in a meeting with CEOs or the consortium for supply chain and advanced manufacturing excellence or at a client focused on increasing demand, AI is a part of the discussion.

I just so happen to be attending a Microsoft Dynamics Day to stay up-to-speed on the latest technologies.  AI has already arisen as a key topic and focus area. Microsoft is building AI into their tools. Here is a press release explaining AI in the recent release of the software. Of course, Microsoft is just an example as every leading edge technology player has at least some level of focus on AI.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
There is no doubt about it. AI will impact every industry in some way, whether directly, through suppliers or customers or in terms of service and cost expectations. I never recommend jumping on a bandwagon blindly. After all, how many companies outsourced when it was “the craze” and now regret that decision because it didn’t make sense when looking at the full picture? Plenty! On the other hand, you must be informed and consider the options and implications for your business.

There are many opportunities to learn about AI and its potential impacts so that you can integrate in your strategy. For example, our APICS Inland Empire chapter‘s upcoming Executive Panel and Networking Symposium will be on the topic, “Manufacturing & Supply Chain Talent Transformation: People or Robots?“. Join us for this education and networking opportunity. However, this is just one option. Ask your CEO group. I see this as a valuable benefit from collaborating with peers! Contact me if you’d like a referral. Attend a trade or industry conference. Read industry magazines and the Wall Street Journal. Pay attention to the news related to your industry, your suppliers, your transportation partners and your customers. Talk with an expert and/or ask your expert to assess your situation and provide recommendations.

In our view, keeping key technologies such as AI top of mind is part of creating a resilient supply chain. Without a doubt, those with a resilient supply chain are far more likely to succeed in these changing times. To learn more about how to create a resilient supply chain to navigate disruption and achieve peak performance, check out our new series or contact us for customized expertise.