Tag Archive: global business consultant

Hot Supply Chain Trends

December 10th, 2013
Noticing hot supply chain trends first is a great way to leverage emerging trends and stay ahead of the competition.

Noticing hot supply chain trends first is a great way to leverage emerging trends and stay ahead of the competition.

An often overlooked secret to success is to be a front-runner in identifying and leveraging emerging trends. Since I work with manufacturers and distributors from small to large and local to global, it behooves me to pay attention to what is in common among my best clients. Undoubtedly, those who jump on the “right” opportunities leave the competition in the dust.

Supply chain has been gaining momentum in executive suites around the globe. According to PwC’s Global Supply Chain Survey (2013), when organizations focus on supply chain excellence, they can achieve 70% higher performance. Thus, paying attention to the emerging supply chain trends can be not only interesting but also can result in increased business performance. The top few include: 1) Demand driven. 2) The Amazon effect. 3) Collaboration remains cornerstone. 4) Leverage supply chain technology. 5) The skills gap.

1. Demand Driven: Over the last few years, demand driven supply chains have been gaining popularity. But what does it really mean? I’ve found the essence to be simple – start with your customers’ demand.

Throughout my 20+ year career as a global business consultant and as a VP of Operations & Supply Chain, I’ve been responsible for, involved with or partnering with clients to improve demand and supply planning results, and so this topic happens to be in my sweet spot. Undoubtedly, demand driven supply chains are the wave of the future.

It can start off as simple as thinking through historical forecasts and expand in complexity and collaboration from there. The best companies are providing demand data from deeper in their supply chain and working on collaborative planning programs such as auto replenishment, vendor managed inventory and collaborative ordering programs. It doesn’t have to be complex – start by picking up the phone to talk with your customers.

2.  The Amazon effect: I spoke on a panel earlier this year entitled the Amazon effect, and it has become a term thrown around in conversations. Amazon’s plans are to have a distribution center within 5 miles of most major U.S. cities – a game changer! And, didn’t we just hear that Amazon and the US Postal service have teamed up to deliver on Sundays! They are taking service and e-commerce to the next level.

Customers expect to be able to shop 24/7 and gain exceptional service along the way. Manufacturers and distributors better get on the bus before it passes them by! How can we set up our warehouses to handle bulk, piece parts, etc.? What technology do we need to ensure full integration so that we can achieve shortened lead times? If there is one item in common among all the executives I work with, it’s that no one has time. We must take time out of the equation, just like Amazon is doing.

3.  Collaboration remains cornerstone: An often overlooked secret to success is to collaborate. Start in your company – do you partner with other functions in your organization? Simple programs like S&OP (sales and operations planning) create a process of collaboration and yield substantial results. How about internal best practices?

Beyond internal opportunities, we have the ones most discussed at manufacturing and distribution conferences – supply chain collaboration programs. Imagine what can be achieved by partnering with customers and suppliers. I’ve seen collaborative R&D programs yield margin improvement and increased sales; collaborative planning programs yield substantial cash flow increases in combination with efficiency improvements; and the list goes on.

4.  Leverage supply chain technology: Although one of my service lines is to help clients select the optimal system that aligns with their business objectives, I am not a fan of technology for technology’s sake. I often see clients get tied up in a maze of complication while accomplishing nothing – or worse, service declines which is the kiss of death.

On the other hand, the clients who carefully select the appropriate technology to support their business objectives and leverage the core functionality to dramatically improve results are able to leapfrog the rest. Technology is an enabler. For example, consider the following popular technologies which can achieve significant leverage if utilized strategically – e-commerce, CRM software (customer relationship management), advanced planning systems, warehouse management systems and supporting technology etc.

5.  The skills gap: My APICS (the leading professional association for supply chain and operations management) chapter recently hosted a symposium on the skills gap as it is prevalent with the manufacturing and distribution companies in the area. As supply chains have become complex (extended in length while considering items such as risk, technology etc.), it has become harder and harder to find top talent.

Especially as the skills gap worsens as folks continue to leave jobs for greener pastures for the first time since the recession and as the baby boomer generation begins to retire, those companies who are ahead of this critical issue will thrive.

Observing supply chain trends is important but it is bedrock to success to develop strategies and plans to utilize this information in a way that will help your business succeed. Do you have a team in place to think about how to leverage the top supply chain trends?

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Supply Chain Strategy: Formula for Success



Profit Through People

September 17th, 2013
Solid leaders develop strong teams and deliver results

Successful leaders develop strong teams and deliver results.

In my experience as a global business consultant and former VP of Operations, I’ve yet to find a business with lousy people practices and successful long-term business results. Instead, I’ve found several mediocre businesses with exceptional people who thrive.

Undoubtedly, people are your #1 asset.

Even though I typically am called into clients to elevate business performance derived through topics such as supply chain and operations management, collaborative inventory programs (such as Sales & Operations Planning) and ERP selection and project management projects, the 80/20 of my time and success goes back to people. Do you focus on people as if they are your #1 asset?

I’ve used Profit through People as a core brand since my consulting practice’s inception as I valued people and their impact on the bottom line. Recently, I’ve re-branded and created additional service lines/ brands yet Profit through People remains intact. Similarly, I’ve noticed that my best clients keep people forefront in their mind.

I’ve found the following topics to be of upmost importance when it comes to people: 1) Leadership. 2) Culture. 3) Change management. 4) Performance management

  1. Leadership: As my HR mentor used to say, “It begins & ends with leadership.” Thus, I had to give this the first position on the list! She was unequivocally correct. In consulting, while you are working on a particular project, you absorb what is going on around you. Thus, you’re in the interesting position of observing various approaches and seeing the results. Solid leaders develop strong teams and deliver results. Weak leaders surround themselves with less-capable leaders who struggle and fight fires.

    To sum it up, leaders need to think about what they say, what they do, how their perceived etc. Everyone is watching and will follow suit. Do you value employees who go the extra mile for the customer? Or do you value employees who help to achieve an internal metric while asking the customer to hold? Do you address poor performance or sweep it under the rug? One of my most interesting observations is that employees are energized to perform when they see the leaders making tough choices – and sticking to them. If you think it’s swept under the rug and forgotten, it’s not!
  2. Culture: I used to lump culture with people in my mind until I realized that too many companies ran straight into the wall, even with great people, if the executives didn’t deliberately consider culture. What set of beliefs governs behavior in your company? Does your culture support what you’d like to achieve?

    Changing culture can take time; however, it is important to think it through and deliberately manage it. Most often, I find that employees aren’t the roadblock with culture change; it’s the leaders. Which metrics are you tracking? Who do you recognize? Do you find exemplars to help instill the culture? Or do you tend to seek out the familiar?
  3. Change management: In today’s new normal business environment, volatility is the new norm. Thus, change will become more commonplace – sales peaks and valleys are typical, customers lose contracts, suppliers go out of business, natural disasters occur, political turmoil extends the supply chain etc. How do we manage change successfully?

    In my experience, people aren’t afraid of change. Instead, they are afraid of understanding what the new roads mean and how it will affect them. Will they be able to attain the skills? What happens if they make a mistake? How will they work through problems? Who is on the team? The more you help define the path forward, the better. Additionally, if you’ve created the right environment and culture to support change, you’ll be exponentially more successful.
  4. Performance management: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention performance management. It is the most overlooked “people priority” in organizations today. Do you sit down with your folks to set goals? Do you discuss potential roadblocks? Support systems? Do you track progress? Do you provide immediate positive and corrective feedback? How often do you meet with your employees? I find that managers and leaders complain about their people yet say they have no time to sit down for 30 minutes on a weekly basis – how can this be? Certainly not your #1 asset?!

    Those executives and companies that prioritize people succeed. Profit is NOT the main focus yet profit always follows. It might be counterintuitive; however, I’ve yet to have a “labor dollar” think up a multi-million dollar idea whereas people often do!

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