Tag Archive: impacts

Automation or Autonomous?

August 16th, 2020

While leading a panel “Building Resiliency in the Supply Chain” with gurus from Georgia Tech, the leading experts in global logistics and associated research, several intriguing concepts arose.

My Association for Supply Chain Management group led a series of webinars on “Navigating through Volatility” including discussions with several logistics experts from distribution, the ports, transportation, technology and more. Many strategies for success arose during these sessions.

And, last but not least, both my top-notch trusted advisor network, ProVisors and our clients have brought strategies to light. A a result, it seemed prudent to share a few highlights.

Automation vs. Autonomy
Automation is definitely on the rise as organizations determine how to thrive post COVID-19. Statistics show that the automation market is expected to almost double in the next 5 years, and experts show that plans to automate are being accelerated. For example, the automation expected in the Inland Empire in the next 10-15 years will likely be compressed into the next five. On the other hand, automation isn’t all its cracked up to be! For example, when one part of the production line breaks down, you could end up with a pile up of product and waste at the bottleneck. On the other hand, will you be the last person typing on a typewriter? What are your automation plans?

The Georgia Tech experts made the case that automation is analogous to the typewriter. The new concept is autonomous so that machines and vehicles can operate independently of human control or supervision. Could these autonomous vehicles take on roles not previously possible, practical or cost effective? Almost all modes of transportation are candidates for autonomous vehicles. We typically think about trucking convoys, cars, drones and sometimes aircraft but are you also considering the impact of autonomous fork lifts, container ships, high speed trains, cranes, last mile delivery, cargo resupply and more? With the dramatic rise in e-commerce, autonomous drone resupply could be quite the win.

What are the Impacts?
Client examples abound. A small aerospace manufacturer automated a critical production process. Prior to automating this process, the area was a constant bottleneck. Work-in-process was stockpiled in front of the work station as high-skilled workers tried to keep up with the incoming flow of material. They ran as much overtime as feasible to try to keep product flowing to the next process step so that they could meet the customers’ ship date, but it was a never-ending battle with no end in sight. After automating the manufacturing process, the high-skilled resources set up the machines to run throughout the night autonomously. Suddenly, our client was running a three shift operation with the same resources, and customers didn’t experience delays. There was upfront investment in machinery and equipment as well as setup and education.  However, it paid back almost immediately with increased output and sales.

From a logistics point-of-view, WMS systems are gaining traction in the current environment. There are countless options for automation, as well as autonomous capabilities within the warehouse. For example, clients have installed conveyor systems which connect directly to the WMS systems and shipping systems which connects to ERP systems to manage order fulfillment processes. With the rise in e-commerce (and the number of small packages and associated labor requirements), automation can be even more relevant to the bottom line. In fact, there are several options to replace pickers with automated processes. The future will look to automation and autonomy. Will a drone resupply trucks that delivering e-commerce orders?

What Should We Do?
Get up to speed on the possibilities and potential of automation, as well as autonomous machinery and vehicles. As you hear about additional examples, think through the concepts, look for additional applications and brainstorm with colleagues on how these concepts could help your company and/or industry. The best ideas come from those who are willing to voice their ideas, test them under controlled conditions and move forward no matter the obstacles. Create this type of environment at your company, and soon suggestions for automation and autonomous processes will rise to the surface.

We discuss these types of strategies in our eBook on Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19. Additionally, follow IEEP, APICS Inland Empire and LMA Consulting as we communicate progress on the consortium for logistics and advanced manufacturing success Check out our articles and webinars, and contact us if you’d like to brainstorm these concepts further.

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

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Where is the Toilet Paper?

April 6th, 2020

I started receiving calls after the lockdown with the key question on reporters’ minds, “Where is the Toilet Paper?”. Thus, I thought I’d share a few conversations with you. First, I was on Rip City Sports Radio about just this topic. It was a lot of fun! I love the fact that we talked about toilet paper on sports radio!

Next, I was on Supply Chain Chats on the supply chain implications of coronavirus. Of course, we talked about toilet paper as well, and we went into more detail about the supply chain impacts and potential lasting effects.

Last but not least, toilet paper is also of keen interest in written news. I was quoted by the Santa Clarita Valley Signal on “Restocking shelves amid the novel coronavirus” and I’m thrilled to be quoted in a positive article related to toilet paper by Courthouse News Service, “Texas Grocery Chain Does a Bang-Up Job Against Coronavirus“.  Did you ever think we’d have so many conversations about toilet paper?One Tip to Implement This Week:

I’m in the process of putting together a whitepaper / e-book on successfully navigating the manufacturing and supply chain impacts of coronavirus, and so stay tuned. With that said, all the conversation about toilet paper brings up the significant impact of spikes in demand on the supply chain. We have been schooled for quite some time to think about lean philosophies. If you took that literally, you would be out of toilet paper almost immediately as supply shortages arose due to the spike in demand.

Thus, my first tip is to remember common sense. Don’t take any concept literally or 100%. It doesn’t matter if it is good or bad, anything in extreme is likely to have gaps. Instead, listen to the experts and apply common sense for your situation, your team, your family etc.  As my brother said, I guess this is when his hoarding tendencies come in handy! But, of course, hoarding in general creates a new set of problems.

Stay safe and healthy. We continue to post coronavirus resources, write blog articles on navigating coronavirus as well as “beyond lockdown” strategies, and we are sponsoring APICS Inland Empire‘s “Navigating Through Volatility” webinar series. Join us and learn more here. As an executive director of SAC, we are also hosting a “Thriving Through Ambiguity” webinar series with a nominal fee for non-SAC members. Let us know if you have topics you’d like addressed. We would love your feedback.



Beware of New Data Law in China & Its Impacts

February 27th, 2020

According to the Epoch Times and International Business Attorney, John Tulac, China’s new cybersecurity law poses a big risk for anyone doing business in China. In essence, if you send data to or from China, your data can be audited at any time. It certainly is concerning from many standpoints such as intellectual property, trade secrets, and more. Listen to my short video on this new law and impacts to consider.

John and I talk about this law as well as many other topics related to doing business in China, alternatives to China and the new USMCA trade deal. Listen to our new interview in our Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain series. Undoubtedly, you’ll pick up a few worries along with ideas/ potential solutions. Let us know what you plan to do.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Many of our clients do NOT import from China.  So you might be thinking, why does this apply to me? If companies start leaving China in a mass exodus, you will certainly be in competition for new manufacturing options such as Vietnam, skilled labor in the U.S. and Mexico, technical skills to automate, use 3D technology, etc. And this is before thinking about indirect impacts. If the supply chain moves away from China, where will it move? There could be dramatic impacts on ocean lanes, political unrest throughout the world, raw material supply and supply and demand. We have never met a client unconcerned about these topics. After all, profitable growth is the name of the game!

At a minimum, no matter whether your supply chain relates to China, we recommend you re-think your manufacturing operations and extended supply chain. Are you dependent on any core suppliers? Are you spread too thin among suppliers? How are you selecting suppliers? And that is just the first topic in a line of many when re-evaluating your end-to-end supply chain. How about the broader topics of whether your manufacturing and supply chain is agile? Fast?

Start by re-evaluating your manufacturing and supply chain road map and think through related impacts. These topics certainly relate to our new LMA-i, LMA-Intelligence series including the Amazon Effect, the Resilient Supply Chain and Future-Proofing and contact us if you’d like an assessment path-forward plan to accelerate your bottom line and customer performance.

 



Manufacturing Adds the Most Jobs in the New Year

February 1st, 2019

According to Industry Week, manufacturing employment increased almost 300,000 over the last year!  This is after increasing around 200,000 the year prior – more than a 40% increase. This is much more significant than the numbers alone convey because, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, for every $1 spent in manufacturing, $1.89 is added to the economy.  Manufacturing is hot and relevant.

Not only is manufacturing relevant to the economy, it is relevant to the customer experience.  Have you thought about how much more flexible you can be with your customers’ desires if you can manufacture on the fly? There won’t be a better time to ride this wave to success. Are you debating or jumping on?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Whether you are in manufacturing or related to manufacturing or impacted by manufacturing, you should pay attention. As manufacturing surges and takes on a new relevance in the economy and to your ability to provide a superior customer experience, you might have opportunities to grow and scale your business to new heights. Have you thought about how you’ll take advantage of these opportunities?  Will you be a follower or an innovator?

At a minimum, being informed about manufacturing and supply chain industries, latest trends and opportunities seems like a good idea.  Join an organization such as the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM/APICS) and participate with classes, tours and webinars, read articles on the topic (there are hundreds, if not thousands, in the archives), listen to experts, pick up the Wall Street Journal or attend an industry event. Why not kick off the New Year informed?  Being informed is part of what’s needed in creating a resilient supply chain. For additional strategies to create a resilient supply chain, check out our new series:



U.S. Small Business Optimism Climbs to 2nd Highest on Record!

September 12th, 2018

A National Federation of Independent Business survey reported that U.S. small business optimism is close to a record high and is at the highest level in 35 years!  Fueled by tax cuts, deregulation and robust consumer demand, business owners are optimistic about the future.  As a result, unfilled job openings rose to a new record. Not only did 23% expect to create new openings in the next three months but 23% also cited finding qualified workers as the single most important business problem, nearing the highest in 45 years.  Are you appreciating your talent?

 

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Definitely, we should all look at our talent with a fresh set of eyes.  Before we think about hiring, the key question to answer is “are you appreciating the talent you already have?”.  Your competition will if you don’t. Perhaps go a step further – are you appreciating them as you want to be appreciated or as they want to be appreciated?  

For example, giving someone who wants opportunities to advance his career a small bonus might not be as nearly appreciated as putting thought into the ‘right’ project to further his career.  A single mother might prefer a bit of flexibility in her schedule vs. either of those perks. And there are a surprising number of people who would secretly prefer you to remove non-productive and poor attitude employees out of their way.  It can be the single best thing you can do to keep good people by weeding out the poor performers.

Next, consider whether you’d want to be hired by your company.  Are you working on progressive initiatives? Does it look like a dungeon or a place you are proud to arrive at each day?  Are collaboration and teamwork encouraged? Or is it a dog eat dog world? What does social media say about your company? And, most importantly, people work for people; not companies.  Are your leaders a good representation of your company? Would you work for them?

Would you work for you?