Tag Archive: resources

Blockchain, IoT, AI, Big Data. Will Anything Stick?

November 11th, 2019

Client Question
Should I really invest time and resources into technologies I don’t know will pay back?

For example, there is a lot of conversation about the value (or lack thereof) of blockchain, IoT, AI and more. This concern continues to arise and is on every executive’s mind. They do not want to be left in the dust “holding the bag” (old and slow) while their competitors race by. On the other hand, they do not want to dump all sorts of money into technology that might not prove effective in their industry. And, in some cases, what they could invest would be a drop in the bucket. It would be like trying to refill the Pacific Ocean with a pail. Remember that fabulous song by Harry Belafonte “There’s a Hole in the Bucket“?

My colleague Diane Garcia and I set out to find the latest answer to this question at the Association for Supply Chain Management International Conference. There were several panels and presentations on each of these topics, along with several exhibitors talking about the latest and greatest technology integrations.

The Answer
Undoubtedly, there is a lot of noise about these technologies. According to Gartner, AI augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion in business value and recover $6.2 billion hours of work productivity. So, it is easy to see why AI is gaining investment with the large companies and with leaders of large organizations.

I love this quote from Harvard Business Review, “Over the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t.” That about sums it up! We need to at least be aware so that we can make good decisions when it comes to these technologies.

As it relates to AI, according to McKinsey Quarterly, across all functions, respondents report that the most significant benefits come from adopting AI in manufacturing! Coming in second is risk with supply chain management just behind in third place. So, if you are in manufacturing, you cannot afford not to at least consider the opportunities. Do you need to do this on your own? NO! We are seeing small companies come together to share resources and invest jointly to drive scale with results (and so they can compete with the large companies). There are also groups that facilitate this type of collaboration. At the most digitized companies, the adoption of AI capabilities is greater including machine learning, virtual agents, robotic process automation, computer vision and more.

According to Forrester, 90% plan greater investments in data and according to MIT Sloan, 85% view AI as a strategic priority. These two technologies cross over and seem to have the upper hand with the most immediately applicable technology.

With that said, there were even more sessions about blockchain and whether it was hype or hope. The bottom line on blockchain is that it is a real opportunity for certain industries such as the food industry (related to food safety).  It is still in early stages and will require a consortium of companies to come together to bring to reality.

According to a leader from FedEx, whether big or small, no one company will be successful on its own. Yet all the “big guys” are interested and participating. Stay tuned to see where it goes. Last but not least, IoT is integrated into many conversations about big data, AI, autonomous vehicles and more because it connects technologies. In manufacturing, IoT is connecting machines and data for predictive maintenance and the possibilities abound.

The bottom line: pay attention but resist exploring technology in isolation. Learn to collaborate.

Food For Thought
As much as these technologies should be on your radar, don’t get carried away and forget your fundamentals.

Do you have a scalable ERP system to support your business growth and profitability? If not, start there!

Do you have reporting and business intelligence systems so that you can slice and dice information to make instantaneous, informed decisions as key customer questions or business opportunities arise? If not, start there!

How about a simple CRM solution? Certainly in the Amazon Effect era, we must pay attention to customers.

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What is Ahead for Technology?
AI, Robots, IoT, Blockchain, Hike!
Systems Pragmatist



Should I Upgrade Now or Later?

October 10th, 2019

A Client Question
Since we have a simple reorder point system largely in place and we plan to focus on an ERP upgrade in the coming year, should we continue to roll out MRP (material requirements planning) and DRP (distribution requirements planning) or should we just put our efforts into the new ERP system?

In this case, there is still much of the planning process that is done manually. However, a manual process could be good or bad. Employees forced to perform manual processes learn the process in detail yet they might not understand why they are doing what they are doing. Would there be a larger benefit in learning the process in the current system and then re-learning in the new one or vice-versa? After all, resources are limited and the people performing these roles understand key customer requirements in detail. How should we best utilize their time for maximum benefit?

The Answer
In this case, resources are limited. So, the key question becomes how to best leverage the planners to meet customer expectations while getting ready to support the future. Since the simple reorder point works but only to a degree (since they cannot see their bill of materials explosion) in this case, the rest has to be manually calculated. When looking at a configure-to-order situation across multiple sites not connected by DRP, inventory disappears and the complexity of planning materials increases. Also, unfortunately, the only resource that gains an understanding of MRP / DRP concepts is the material planner. The production planners remain unclear as to how these concepts apply. So, it makes sense to roll out the concepts in the current system so that the team gains exposure to how it works. This understanding will prove valuable in implementing the new system, and most importantly, if the material planners do not have to spend countless hours manually calculating numbers, they can provide better service to customers, as well as contribute valuable input in setting up the new system for success.

Food For Thought
Although the MPS/ MRP module of ERP systems can be valuable in improving service and reducing inventory, they do not always make sense. Take a step back to look at the complexities in your planning process. Have you overbuilt the process? We also find that simplifying creates substantial improvement for almost every client. Perhaps you should simplify rather than add complexity, even if you already own the system or your key resources think complexity is needed. At least 80% of the time, we simplify to some degree.  We might take what seems like a step back to simplify in order to take a giant leap forward.

If you are interested in running your situation by us, contact us.

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Which Inventory Planning Method is Best?
Systems Pragmatist



ERP Selection: Why It Has Become a Strategic Priority

April 18th, 2019

In today’s Amazonian environment, customers expect rapid delivery, over and beyond from cradle to grave, collaborative service, 24/7 accessibility and last-minute changes. Executives are realizing they must upgrade their technology infrastructure to meet and exceed these customer expectations while driving bottom line improvement.

Your ERP decision will be one of the most significant investments your company will undertake, and these projects are wrought with risk. 80% fail to achieve the expected results yet waiting “too long” can put you out of business.

Selecting an ERP System is a Strategic Priority
Because of the significant customer and bottom-line benefit and steep, unintended consequences associated with these projects, the most successful clients realize they must be a strategic priority. By no means should the decision by relegated to a technical expert or project manager. Involve your best and brightest on the team and ensure your executive team is on top of preparation, progress and the inevitable pitfalls – beginning with preparation:

  • Understand business processes: Start by understanding what occurs on a day-to-day basis. One of the top failure points is to assume that people can make the leap from current processes to what every ERP provider claims to be “best practices” on day 1 with no roadmap.
  • Gain strategic and cross-functional input – Since all systems will perform the basics well, success will boil down to what drives your strategy and supports your cross-functional and cross-organization collaboration.
  • Identify critical requirements – Countless hours wasted on typical business requirements (which all systems generally cover); instead, focus 80% of your attention on the requirements unique to your business, industry, and company. Think customer differentiation & profit drivers.
  • Prepare data and be realistic evaluating your process disciplines – No matter how well you prepare, your system will only be as good as your data and process disciplines.
  •  Dedicate appropriate resources – Be an exception. Supplement your resources, bring on appropriate expertise early on and be willing to invest in what will ensure success and mitigate your risk.

5 Critical Factors in Selecting ERP Software

As complicated as most companies seem to make it, the critical factors in software selection boil down to a select few:

  1. Your business objectives – Don’t worry about everything required in every module to run your business. Instead, take a step back and focus on what you need to meet your grow and profit plans.
  2. Cloud or not?  It depends. Dig into the details. Develop your own spreadsheets with paybacks. Consider your technical resources, adeptness with topics like cyber security and the latest technology, and your ability to navigate disruption and risk.
  3. Understand your culture – What are your cultural norms when it comes to change? Do your employees have an entrepreneurial spirit or do they require strict procedures? These answers will be integral to aligning culture and technology.
  4. Think about design upfront – Not thinking through down-the-line implications will derail the best of projects. Incorporate design and a holistic systems-view upfront.
  5. Ballpark estimates and ranges – Get a ballpark upfront, and never accept the first estimate. It’s typically too low! Worse yet, two suppliers that should be within 10% of one another can be 100% different. Ensure you are comparing apples to apples, and remember implementation, not software, is the 80-pound gorilla of ERP success.

ERP is a tough topic! Clients worry they are “too small” or it will be “too expensive”, and in the interim, the competition passes them by since having the technology that supports a superior customer experience without breaking the bank is a “must”, no matter your size or industry. With that said, we have seen clients ready to “throw out” a perfectly suitable ERP system as they think it is the system, not the process or people that is the issue when it isn’t.

If you’d like an expert to assess your situation to partner with you to achieve these types of results, contact us. 

      

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Supply Chain Management is Evolving: How Will It Affect Your Enterprise?

What’s Ahead for Business?

 



The Importance of Being Top of Mind

July 30th, 2018

 

Last week, I led my Ontario ProVisors group meeting.  It is a top notch group of trusted advisors that I’m thrilled to lead – not only is it a great group of people (professional, smart and funny) but they also provide my clients with “just what they need when they need it”.  It is surprising (and exciting) how often a client will ask for a specific (oftentimes obscure) resource or question, and I can help him/her because I know the best person to answer his question or fill his need.  If you have a need, please feel free to contact me.

Last week, we were brainstorming the best ways to be visible so that clients can find us and the idea of being “top of mind” came up.  I have certainly found being top of mind important as clients need to remember you when the issue arises.

It is quite surprising how visibility plays into success.  I had a few core group members I thought I would NEVER forget because they were awesome, integral to the success of the group and helpful to me personally.  Both moved away/took a different job of sorts.  Fastforward two years later: when I was asked for a referral, they didn’t pop to mind first.  Hard to believe when I realized how true it was!

Later that night, I went to another ProVisors meeting.  One person mentioned that although he sees me on LinkedIn, when he saw me in person, he remembered he had clients that needed my expertise.  Glad I was top of mind!  Are you?

One tip to implement this week:
No matter your role, it is important to be top of mind for your customers, clients, Board members, peers, and more.  Do you purposefully find ways to be top of mind (in a positive way of course)?

For example, do you check in on your key customers every month, week or whatever time frame is appropriate?  Do you send your key supplier a card for an important occasion?  Do you find a way to remember key dates related to your employees, peers etc.?

CRM isn’t required.  Use Outlook.  Write it down on a piece of paper.  Pick up the phone.  The great thing about being top of mind is that it doesn’t require money and resources.  Instead, it requires a little effort!  Do you appreciate the effort others take when you are top of mind to them?  Return the favor.

 



The Skills Gap Emerges as #1 at Prominent Supply Chain Conference

May 28th, 2018

At the Southern California Supply Chain and Logistics Summit conference, there were several keynote speakers from industry icons such as Amazon, UPS, Union Pacific and more.  One might expect quite a lot of interesting insights into the latest supply chain trends yet the most common theme among the presentations tied back to the skills gap. It boils down to having the “right people” for success – both in terms of employees and supply chain partners.

 

Several of the themes emerged the supply chain summit:

  1.  Automation: Friend or Foe? With the advances of automation in the supply chain, there is much worry over the impact on people. Yet, several speakers said they HAD to automate and leverage technology just to have a hope of keeping up with the expected growth over the next several years.  When adding in the retirement of baby boomers, will you have the skills to support your business growth?
  2. Someone has to be behind the robot – Even though some robots use artificial intelligence concepts, they aren’t programming themselves.  There is someone behind the robot – programming, maintenance and more. Are you preparing for a job that can be replaced by a robot or are you programming the robot?
  3.  Robots and people side-by-side-  There are some tasks that robots can automate and improve upon whereas there are others it makes sense to employ workers.  Are you preparing your resources to see value in both?
  4.  Matching skills with roles – How does your company stack up?  Another topic of much discussion – mentioned by panelists and attendees alike – the vast majority of executives feel they are falling short when it comes to gaining the skills they need to run their business at the “right” margins.  How clear are you on what you need to successfully run your business? Or are you living on hope it will all work out?
  5.  The rise of flexibility – With the rise of e-commerce, we have BIG spikes.  We need to be thinking about how to incorporate flexibility into our thinking. How flexible are you?
  6. Would you want to be in the role?  There are some jobs set up to be thankless (such as drivers in several environments).  If you wouldn’t want to do the job, how can you expect to keep your workforce?

Since having the “right” talent in the “right” place at the “right” time is #1 to success, investing in talent could be your most important investment of the year.  Do you spend as much time thinking about your people (whether current or new) as you do a major machine or technology purchase? You should!