Tag Archive: profitability

2019 Predictions Report: What to Expect and Where to Focus

March 26th, 2019

I’m thrilled to launch our 2019 Predictions Report, “Manufacturing & Supply Chain in the New Normal: 2019 Predictions from Manufacturing & Logistics Executives” discussing what to expect and where to focus.

We assembled this based on these types of questions:

  • How do we increase profitability in today’s new normal environment?
  • Do we see growth or recession? Or something in the middle? What should we do?
  • There are so many technology options with the promise to transform entire industries. Should we be pursuing? Which ones?
  • Customers expect quick delivery with changes along the way (even while intransit), excellent on-time-delivery (OTD) results and more. Where should we focus?
  • Trade wars and global sourcing – what to do?!
  • How is it trending in our industry? Are there any hot buttons, like talent?

Discussions with several manufacturing and logistics executives and experts are included in the report. Feel free to pass on this link to colleagues and friends to get a free copy of the report.

With that said, since you are already on our newsletter list, here is a direct link just for our newsletter subscribers.

Thank you to our clients and colleagues who participated with their predictions and advice! Please share your feedback. We would love to gain your insights, concerns etc. We’ll incorporate into our upcoming interview and article series.



Kaizens & the Importance of Metrics

December 20th, 2017

My colleague and I led a Kaizen workshop on metrics last week with a process manufacturing client.  It is always interesting to brainstorm which metrics are the most relevant in tracking a company’s success.  They are NOT always the same.  Companies are in different industries; they are different sizes; the profit drivers of the business are different; executives’ focus is different…..and the list goes on.   

However, every business should take a few minutes to strategize on metrics.  Do you know what you are doing AND whether the metrics you are tracking are relevant to your success?

One tip to implement this week:
As we said in kicking off the metrics Kaizen, it can be a great place to start by taking stock.  What are you tracking already?  Why?  Do you make decisions based on the metrics you track?  If not, why not?  In essence, take a pulse.  Next, it can be quite valuable to gain feedback on what should be tracked.  Have you asked the people talking with customers on a daily basis?  How about those producing and shipping to your customers?  I bet they will have something to say!  Certainly, executives always have a wish list for metrics.  Do you know which metrics are on the list?  

Although you might be tempted to jump on the long list you are likely to generate in talking with all the stakeholders in the organization, don’t do it!  Make sure to understand the impact.  Which will lead to decisions that will impact customers?  Which are likely to drive profitability?  Start with a small number.  Prioritize and start using for decision-making before you move on.

 

 



Case Study in Spotting Hidden Opportunities

February 7th, 2017
collaborate for profitability

To take a profitable path forward engage a team to spot hidden opportunities and reward the whole team for its collaborative efforts.

How could they see them? They tried getting together for retreats, sponsoring lean initiatives like kaizen events and several other promising programs but the diamonds in the rough didn’t emerge.

Path Forward: Spotting hidden opportunities is oftentimes a team effort. However, few organizations have true teams. If one member can succeed and gain a big bonus while another performs at an average level and is rewarded accordingly, you have a committee; not a team. A team will sink or swim together.

Thus, there is no reason to get together at a fancy off-site retreat. Instead, what is required is to commit to mutually agreeable objectives and look for opportunities that are best for meeting those objectives regardless of how good or bad for your individual goals. Collaborate and turn 1 + 1 into 5.

For example, if the team found great potential in an exciting new product yet the VP of Operations’ results would decline substantially for a period of time due to new product development trials, should the VP be rewarded for this weaker performance? Absolutely!

Of course, it isn’t a free ticket, and declines in performance can be estimated and tracked. Think about this — as a Board member or a corporate executive walks through the facility with the VP of Sales and mentions issues with operations, how will the VP of Sales respond? Will he/she take the easy road, agree and accept the congrats on the sales growth — or just not respond and focus attention on sales? Or will he/she defend the VP of Operations? Act in accordance with the team and results will follow.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

Hidden Opportunities for Process Improvement

The Hidden Benefit of Observation 

 



Strategic Pricing

October 31st, 2016

supply chain

I’ve been working with a new client recently on digging into costs; however, we aren’t taking the traditional cost-cutting approach. Of course, the more efficient and less costs required to run a manufacturing operation, the better, assuming customer service, cash and other metrics remain intact. However, if you take the big picture, cross-functional view of costs and process improvements, you are bound to find opportunities.

In this case, if we can find opportunities, we can go from being a small player in a new market with significant potential to being a going concern. If we are losing deals because of pricing, there might be an opportunity to think differently and design a new formula for success. Lower prices across-the-board is rarely better. Instead, think strategically about pricing.

For example, we followed a strategic pricing strategy when I was a VP of Operations for a mid-market manufacturer. In that case, we knew that if we covered variable costs and strategically priced while considering the break-even point and contribution margin, we could cover key costs, grow the business and increase profitability. We followed the plan and results followed. If we had kept going down the current path, we would never have sold the business for a significant profit because results would have been “too slow”. In today’s Amazon-paced world, you can miss your opportunity in a blink of an eye.

One tip to implement this week:

For this week, depending on your position and expertise on pricing, my suggestion is to learn about pricing. How significant a variation does your company provide in pricing? Why? Are there certain volumes, combinations of items or special circumstances that reduce costs so that you can pass on some of the savings to your customers? Do you know what market pricing dictates

If you are already on top of pricing, take a step back and think about pricing from a strategic standpoint. How important is pricing as a reason your customers buy from you instead of the competition? What is most important to them? Are there certain customers or products where an increased level of sales would make your company more attractive to investors, customers and other stakeholders? What are your trade-off’s with profitability? Have you thought about pricing differently based on ABC customers and/or products? Gather your team and discuss. Golden nuggets might just arise.

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”

 



Keys to Successful Growth

April 29th, 2016
successful growth

Though gratifying, periods of business growth can be the most challenging to manage. The keys to successfully manage growth are people, simple project timelines and follow-up.

My clients across all manufacturing and distribution-related industries ranging from small, family-owned businesses to multi-billion dollar corporations have one item in common – growth. 

More than 80% are experiencing relatively substantial growth while the remaining 20% are muddling along with slight growth figures. When companies grow, projects can become even more critical. Cash is needed to fund growth. Customer service must remain intact, even though it can be more challenging to succeed during periods of significant growth. Profitability needs to continue to grow to support the growth and to leverage assets. Keeping up with the people requirements can be a challenge. Thus, we need to be stronger in periods of growth to ensure success. I’ve found that the key to success is to get back to the core: 1) Start with people. 2) Develop a simple project timeline. 3) Follow-up is vital.

  1. Start with people –The project leader is number one to whether your project will deliver the expected results. Your team is a close number two. Unfortunately, I often see project leaders and teams come up in the last position. In these cases, people are an after-thought. Often, the issue is that everyone has full-time jobs to do already. And, in times of growth, most top quality potential project leaders are already maxed out.

As a former VP of Operations, I fully understand this dilemma. Instead of assigning those who are available to what could be a project that could have far-reaching impacts that add up much faster than you’d ever think ($500,000 – $1,000,000 isn’t uncommon) and directly impact key customers, take a step back and think about the best person to lead the project. There are countless ways to handle the talent shortage, so don’t let these challenges dictate your decision. For example, you could reallocate work, bring in outside help, or provide tools to support the team. Don’t let this be an excuse for not staffing your critical project properly.

The project leader doesn’t have to be a full-time resource – it all depends on the project. And, do not get caught up in thinking that your project leader has to be a guru in creating complex project timelines, as it has little to do with success. Instead, ensure that your project leader has the leadership skills and experience to effectively lead the project team, collaborate with all related parties, and is organized and focused on the project outcomes/results. In my experience with multiple $1 million+ successful projects, this is will make or break success.

  1. Develop a simple project timeline– There is no need for complex project timelines that require a complicated software program to develop and a Ph.D. to understand. Instead, develop an understandable timeline with major milestones and accountabilities. Keeping it simple works!

In working on countless projects over the years, I’ve found the critical aspects of the timeline to be the following: 1) clarifying the key dependent tasks; 2) the critical path milestones; 3) clear, agreed-upon ownership and accountabilities. It is amazing how many times I’ve seen the timeline fall apart either by focusing on non-critical path tasks to the detriment of the critical path tasks or due to a lack of clarity about the accountabilities. An easy yet effective rule of thumb is that a team cannot own a task. Instead, assign the task to one task owner. This owner can coordinate with as many participants as needed to get the task done; however, there should be one, ultimate owner who is accountable.

  1. Follow-up is vital –Undoubtedly, my number one secret weapon to achieving success on-time, on-budget, and on-results on wide-ranging projects consistently is follow-up. This seemingly simple yet often overlooked action achieves amazing results. Does your project leader follow-up?

What are the keys to success with follow-up? And when should you follow-up? Follow-up with your project team on critical path milestones. Start by making sure they are clear and accountabilities are established.  Then, follow-up on critical path tasks and milestones just prior to the start of the task. Do what makes sense.  If resources are required, follow-up so that you have enough time to work through potential issues so that they can start on-time.  Do not waste time on non-critical path tasks, as they will become a major distraction to the detriment of the critical path. Keep the team focused on the critical path. Remind critical path task owners when their deadlines are approaching. Ask if they have questions, concerns, roadblocks, etc. Don’t wait until the project falls behind. Instead, proactively follow-up to ensure the critical path stays on schedule.

Aggressively tackle any roadblocks in the way of achieving the critical path. Encourage, appreciate and thank the project task owners. Remind them how their task fits into the big picture and how the project’s outcomes are of value to the organization. Follow-up on critical finances. Don’t get lost in a debate over a few dollars. However, be extremely vigilant on the critical expenditures and those related to the critical path.

Every executive wants to continue to grow.  Thus, they need projects to deliver results on-time and on-budget.  Instead of getting bogged down in the latest, complex project planning software and process, continually follow these three key steps, and you’ll achieve significant project results – and grow your business.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist

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