Tag Archive: growth

The Resilient Supply Chain: Do You Have Vendors or Partners?

December 1st, 2018

Since we did research on “The Squeeze” for a speech on the the squeeze in aerosapce (meaning:  how does the supplier in the middle between the Tier 1 suppliers who supply final assembly parts for an airplane and the powerhouse mills survive, or preferably thrive), we have been thinking a lot about the supplier relationship.  Coincidently, we also heard a lot on this topic at the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM/APICS) international conference as it is a hot topic across all industries. There was an almost identical discussion occurring with retail and the consumer goods industry. Last but not least, all of our clients are seeing the relevance of this topic.

What is the “right” answer?  Of course, it depends!
To manage “the squeeze”, one of the keys is to create partnerships with your key suppliers.  The rest can be vendors since they are not core or significant to your success. However, your key suppliers must be partners and collaborators.  For example, one of the best ways to handle the middle position in the aerospace world is to bring your customers and their demand together with your suppliers and their capabilities.  

Here are a few ideas that all depend on being a partner:

  • Collaborate with suppliers on new ideas/design concepts to reduce materials and waste for you AND up your supply chain.
  • Become a partner of your customer and gain access to demand information as it becomes available and help translate that into a benefit for your customer, you and your supplier.
  • Leverage pricing and volume across the supply chain for a win-win-win.

Although these ideas relate to aerospace, the same concept applies with every client.  When I was VP of Operations and Supply Chain for an absorbent products manufacturer, we used these same concepts to find win-win-win solutions in your supply chain.  We partnered with key vendors to redesign materials (that performed better at a lower cost), redesign packaging, reduce waste in our manufacturing process which required teaks and collaboration with both material and equipment suppliers and more.  By following a partnership route instead of the “vendor” negotiation/beat up on price route, we turned our situation around from bad to good.

We found private equity backers who wanted profitable growth.  However, soon after, the market changed and oil and gas prices were continually rising which significantly impacted our material costs (and were unavoidable) while our private equity investors still expected the same profit improvements as before.  Our business was also heavy in transportation cost since the product was bulky which was also an issue with rising oil and gas prices. Thus, we collaborated with customers, material suppliers and freight suppliers for win-win-win solutions. It “worked” and we were able to offset the price increases while growing the business in a profitable and scalable way.

These types of situations are common in today’s business environment.  

Do you view your suppliers as vendors or partners? And who are you hiring to manage these relationships?  Transaction-oriented purchasing folks or strategic relationship procurement resources?

 



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!



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.

 



Are Your Ready for a Systems Transformation?

August 12th, 2018

The topic of Systems Transformation seems to be arising more frequently lately.  How do you know if it is time to consider a systems transformation?

Let’s start by defining a systems transformation.  In essence, a systems transformation is an upgrade to the way you perform business – inclusive of your people (allocation of resources, skillsets, etc.), processes, systems and information flows/ collaboration partners.  

Although there is never a bad time in terms of elevating your business performance, the investment and disruption might not be ‘worth it’.   In other words, does the return on investment make it the ‘right’ time?  

Here are questions to ponder in answering that question:

  1.  What are your growth plans? – If you are performing well and growth is slow, you are unlikely to require a systems transformation.  However, if you expect solid levels of growth, you’ll need one. There are two reasons: 1) Even if you are providing an exceptional customer experience currently, to maintain that with growth is a different ballgame.  2) As you grow, if you don’t want to add people to support each new level of growth, you’ll need to devise systems to grow in a scalable, profitable way.
  2. Will your margin levels sustain your business needs?  – Of course, no one would complain about increasing margin.  However, the key question is what has to be done to achieve the result?  Take a look at whether your profitability and margin levels are sufficient to satisfy stock price expectations, investor needs, reinvestment plans, business valuation goals etc.  We have run across “cash cow” businesses that yield enough profit for the owner’s lifestyle and objectives. There might not be a reason to invest in an upgrade. After all, there is risk and disruption with every activity of this magnitude.
  3.  What are your customers’ expectations? – No matter your growth and profitability, if your customers’ expectations are changing or increasing (as they often are in today’s Amazonian environment), the key question is whether you’ll be able to meet them with your current setup.  We see that it can go either way – depends on the industry, your customers, the marketplace etc.
  4. What are your employees expectations and capabilities?  – Will your employees stick with you if everything remains status quo.  This can completely depend on your employees. We have run across people who prefer “what works” and are quite happy not to upset the apple cart.  On the other hand, we have also seen many job seekers look for new opportunities because the executives weren’t interested in growth – the company’s or the employee’s.  It is important to think through what will happen. If you choose the status quo and your employees don’t align, it might force you into a different strategy, and you’ll be worse off for not thinking proactively.

On another note, if you don’t have employees capable of leading a systems transformation, you will need to shore up your team.  Certainly you can supplement with short-term resources to fill in gaps and consultants to advise on skills not required over the long-term but you might also need to fill in gaps within your team.  Don’t overlook this critical component but also don’t let it deter you from making the leap.

  1.  Do you have the funds?  This is the one that deters most executives.  It is quite tempting to hold off until later when it seems like it is a ‘better time’.  However, are you defining better time as one when you feel better or one as defined by the questions above?  As my consulting mentor says, there is always money. It is a matter of priority. Recently, we ran into a client that has never borrowed money.  It can be a smart and prudent strategy if it supports your business objectives. However, the CEO was questioning whether he should continue this strategy.  If it is the ‘right time’ for an upgrade and it will provide a return on investment over the long-term, he should absolutely borrow to fund the near-term investment to gain the value down-the-line.  

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should dig a hole the size of the Grand Canyon to fund your systems transformation.  We have seen many executives accidentally throw money out the window when it wasn’t the best timing or get carried away and spend ‘too much’.  In these cases, you might never recover from your upgrade! Gain advice from experts with an eye to return on investment. Keep in mind that taking prudent risk will be required!



Manufacturing & California are on Fire!

August 1st, 2018

According to Industry Week and the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturing is on fire!  

Manufacturers’ optimism registered 95.1% – the highest level EVER recorded! Manufacturers are projecting historic growth in investments (4.1%), hiring (3.1%) and wages (2.7%).  Projected wage growth is the fastest in 17 years.

The bottom line – manufacturing is on fire!

 

 

 

 

 

Now to turn general perceptions on its head, Industry Week did a study of the top states for manufacturing jobs and California was #1! Clearly, this was accomplished in a state that doesn’t favor manufacturing jobs (even though they pay well).  Manufacturing accounts for 11% of the total output of the state, and the state is larger than all but 5 countries (if it were a country). Why aren’t we singing this from the rooftops?!? Are you thinking of ways to leverage this advantage?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
It is our passion that not only is Southern CA #1 in terms of manufacturing but it is “THE place to be”!  You are probably wondering if I had too many Mai Tai’s in Hawaii. Yet, there is a compelling story behind this passion:

  • Customers and consumers –  Southern California is the epicenter of manufacturing and can supply consumers and customers of what would be the 5th largest country in the world same-day
  • Mass customization – The ability to meet changing customer expectations rapidly and customized on the fly
  • More than 40% of imports come in through the Los Angeles ports – Many of these are raw materials and components to supply manufacturers
  • Access to a significant talent pool in Southern California
  • Access to high tech, automation, robotics and more
  • Access to logistics networks
  • Additive manufacturing changes the game
  • Innovation is prevalent – just to overcome the environmental standards, we have to be better!  Imagine if we can get some help with our laws….
  • With wages increasing in Asia, freight costs going up and customers demanding immediate deliveries and frequent changes, manufacturers are seriously considering bringing non-commodity manufacturing back to the U.S.  Why not Southern CA?

Think about how to leverage this massive opportunity and blaze a trail.  If you’d like to strategize with us about how to achieve scalable, profitable growth and maximize your manufacturing power, contact us.