Tag Archive: inventory

The Strategic Benefit of SIOP

June 26th, 2019

SIOP (Sales, Inventory, Operations Planning) should not be relegated to the Planning Department. Although the planning group is a key participant and might lead the process, SIOP touches upon several strategic issues while creating alignment with Sales, Operations, R&D/ New Product Development, Finance, Purchasing, and others. As a CEO, you must become interested!

We have worked on countless SIOP projects with clients across industries as diverse as building products, food and beverage, healthcare, and aerospace.  It has proven to be the most effective at achieving the win-win-win of enabling growth while maximizing service, cash flow (inventory) and profit. For example, at one aerospace client, we put the fundamentals in place to support SIOP (scheduling, planning systems MRP/MPS, forecasting) and then rolled out a SIOP process involving all key aspects of the organization. Although our objective was to bring service levels from the 60%’s to the high 90%s, we not only accomplished that metric but we also improved margins by 5% and increased morale and engagement. What’s not to like with these results!

Critical Aspects of SIOP
Let’s start with just those elements that are most important to achieving results:

  • Can you get executives involved? Of course, it is better to gain executive involvement upfront.  However, I have found that it is quite doable to gain the involvement over time as well. For example, in one client situation, a key executive was not on board at any level at the start.  So, as we rolled out a pilot process, we convinced him to give the process a try. Once he sat in on the executive SIOP meeting, he became more interested because strategic issues arise such as make vs. buy, changes in sourcing, impacts to sales strategies and more.
  • What do you have to do to get directionally-correct information for making decisions? By NO means do you need perfect information.  In fact, if you wait for perfect information, your decision will be long past. Yet directionally correct information is imperative so that you can make fact-based decisions and/or gain approval from corporate or your Board for what you know must be done to succeed. I cannot think of a client situation where I couldn’t gain access to at least directionally correct information after an assessment, no matter how ancient their ERP system.
  • Will you involve all relevant departments in the SIOP process? If you focus on data and not the people, you will not succeed. The 80/20 of success is to bring typically disparate groups together to align on 1 plan/ path forward. It is much easier to say than to accomplish, and so those clients that do this well have a far higher success rate than the rest. You should involve Planning, Purchasing, Operations, Logistics, Customer Service, Sales, Finance, New Product Development, and any key area of your operation.

SIOP is not a quick resolution.  However, you can make quick interim progress . Similar to safety, it must become part of your day-to-day culture. As business conditions change, roadblocks naturally arise through the process. We’ve found that they have a FAR higher chance of being averted or minimized when they arise as part of the process instead of related to one person or department who typically is seen as the “problem”. Strategic issues also arise naturally through the process so that they are proactively addressed instead of resulting in a reactionary panic.

You can start the SIOP journey with an assessment of readiness with recommendations for improvement. Several clients have started with this approach so that they knew which building blocks to put in place and whether the benefits would drive a substantial return on investment at this juncture. If you are interested in this type of assessment, contact us.

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Why Inventory Will Matter Again

June 8th, 2019

I was on a bit of a trip down memory lane over the holidays as I reconnected with former colleagues from when I was VP of Operations and Supply Chain at PaperPak, an absorbent products manufacturer for healthcare and food products.  I recently talked about healthcare manufacturing with a group of powerful women (and a few brave men) at the Professional Women in Healthcare event.  When inventory arose as a hot topic, I thought about paper rolls (pictured).

Actually, inventory was a hot topic as we partnered with key customers to develop collaborative forecasting models, implement vendor managed inventory programs to dramatically reduce inventory and free up cash while improving service levels and to maximize storage and efficiencies in our operations, distribution centers and, most importantly, throughout our transportation system (since absorbent products are bulky and freight intensive).

In our view, inventory is circling back in importance and will become a hot topic again as customers expect immediate, customized deliveries with the expectation of easy returns and last-minute changes to orders in production, in the warehouse or in transit. What are you doing to get ahead of this ‘new normal’ assumption?

To throw out a few ideas to get your juices flowing:

  • Get demand further into your supply chain – what are your customers’ customers selling or using of your product?
  • Be collaborative with strange bedfellows – I’ve written several articles recently on this topic as the most successful executives see the value in finding the ‘win-win-win’
  • What talent do you have focused on having the ‘right’ inventory at the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time? You could double your inventory and decrease service if you don’t know how to navigate these treacherous waters.
  • How sure are you that your demand and supply (labor, skills, machine capacity, buildings/ storage capacity, cash flow) are aligned and will remain aligned (review your SIOP plans)?

This topic reminds me of one of my early articles, the Million Dollar Planner. Although that sounds insane, it might be worth thinking about conceptually. If you maximize your customer experience, profitability and cash flow, the return is frequently in excess of a million dollars. Most importantly, what could you do with an extra million dollars? Invest in new products and services to spur growth? Build your infrastructure to enable scalable growth? Build your talent base to create sustainability? The possibilities are limitless.

Contact us if you’d like to discuss further.



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.

 

 



We Are All Salespeople

May 13th, 2019

Do you think of yourself as a salesperson? For most of us, the answer is probably ‘no’; however, every successful executive, manager, professional and person is a salesperson.  

Last week, I participated in a consulting conference, and our Society for the Advancement of Consulting ambassadors (pictured here) filled the role of salesperson to spread the word on the value of SAC. We had a great time and many value-added discussions. I find the key to ‘selling’ is actually providing value; not selling people products and services they do not need!

When I think back, I have always been in sales even though I thought I had no idea whatsoever about sales at the time. The way I got my first job was talking about the value of a senior project and how it was applicable to performing a planning role. I had NO idea that this was actually selling but it is how I successfully landed a great job out of college. Early in my career, I found system settings that would make our Coca-Cola facility’s process better, and I had to sell IT and others on why they should support this change. Later at a plastic injection molder, I had to sell management on why we should focus on certain inventory initiatives.

Lastly, as a VP of Operations of an absorbent products manufacturer, I absolutely spent 90% of my time selling my team on how they were valuable to the vision, suppliers on how they could have a part on creating a win-win, customers on how we could create collaborative vendor management inventory initiatives that would increase their service and profit (which would also improve our revenue growth, inventory and efficiencies), the Board of Directors on why we should focus efforts on material projects to drive profitable growth (even though they wanted me to focus on reducing labor costs instead) and the list goes on. In consulting, 80% of project success (partnering with the client to make sure results occur) relates to selling and positioning. After all, doesn’t it all stem from successfully navigating change?

Think about your career and daily job responsibilities. I bet you are selling every day as well!

One tip to implement this week:

The key to success in sales is to provide value. As I read in a book by my consulting mentor when I decided to start consulting, selling consulting services is simply finding ways to provide value to clients by helping them to increase the value of their businesses. Somehow, increasing the value of businesses sounded FAR simpler to me than selling people on hiring me as a consultant (after all, who budgets to hire a consultant?), and so I went for it (and am celebrating my 14th year anniversary in May).

Of course, it isn’t exactly that simple; however, it is absolutely true. The crux of all sales is in providing value. Think about when you purchase products and services. Why do you purchase? I used to think I was quite logical and not influenced by typical sales techniques; however, it is human nature that logic makes us think and emotions make us act. Although I am never tempted by clothes (except as I know I need to look decent to be successful), I realized I spent quite a bit of money on education to be successful in my consulting practice. Clearly, I saw the value and ‘went for it’. How can you show value more often in your job, your company, and of your products and services?



The Resilient Supply Chain: Can You Get Trucks?

October 3rd, 2018

Are you able to find trucks?  This is quickly becoming a major question that needs to be answered.  Every driver has at least 12 options. Why will he/she take your load?  Are you attractive to carriers? That is the key question. After all, you can carry inventory so you are responsive (assuming you planned well and have the right inventory at the right place at the right time) but if you cannot deliver, it was all for naught.

According to the Journal of Commerce, truck rates are up in the low double digits half way through the year.  And, they are expected to go up to 15% before slowing down to 7-10% increase in 2019.  However, these rate hikes are quite the shock to businesses. Many clients are tell us that there are times they cannot find a truck, whether they pay 15% more or not. What are you doing to ensure you have a resilient supply chain?

Here are a few questions to ponder:

  • Do you view your carriers as partners or vendors? – Undoubtedly, if you view them as vendors, you probably aren’t delivering on-time or are paying double or triple the going rates.  
  • Do you have a backup carrier? – I learned this lesson from the Director of Purchasing who worked with me at PaperPak.  He kept a backup supply of our critical material so that if anything went wrong in the supply chain, he could “turn it on”.  This meant we were paying higher prices on an ongoing basis to keep this backup supply. Naturally, our board members were not happy about the increased cost.  However, he was “right on”.  Eventually there was a strike at the ports and our supply was delayed. Because we had been bringing in backup supply all along, we were able to turn up the production and cover our needs seamlessly.  Do you have a backup in place you are confident will be there when you need them?
  • Are you proactively partnering with your carriers? – When supply chain challenges arise, do you proactively collaborate with your carriers to resolve the issues?  Are you willing to think outside the box and try new and innovative ideas?
  • Are you an attractive customer? – How you treat people will either make or break success.  People tend to do business with people they know, like and trust. Are you finding ways to improve your customers’ conditions?  Remember you cannot just decide to become attractive when you need your suppliers. It is a way of doing business.
  • Do you need trucks at all?– Perhaps it’s time to re-think your strategy.  Should you consider rail, air or another method?  Can you partner with your customers or suppliers in a new way?  How about collaborating with competitors? Or, you could consider insourcing vs. outsourcing. 

Think outside the box and start early.  Waiting until there is an issue is no time to think about resolving one. 

It seems such a basic element to have trucks where you need them and when you need them.  Yet it often isn’t viewed as a priority.  Why not take stock of where you stand and put some thought into your path forward?

You’ll be more likely to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations with this proactive approach to supply chain resiliency.