Tag Archive: ROI

Is there an ROI on a Forecasting System?

September 12th, 2019

A Client Question
Since forecasting can deliver significant benefits with increased levels of service, inventory turnover and margin improvement, the question that inevitably arises is whether it makes sense to purchase a forecasting or demand planning system. Of course, the answer is: “It depends”.

In one client situation, goods were manufactured in Mexico and purchased from Asia. Key customers were large retail outlets. Demand seemed to change daily.  Yet, lead times were in the months if the ‘right’ stock wasn’t in the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time. Of course, they could cover some small changes by adding freight costs but that isn’t a recipe for profit. Improving the forecast would improve their success. So, the question turned to whether a system would have a ROI.

The Answer
In their case, they could achieve a rapid return on investment by using a forecasting system. However, let me say upfront that more often than not, I do not recommend a system. It completely depends on whether it will drive the appropriate level of improvement and associated results or not. In this case, we could easily drive dramatic forecast accuracy improvement since we started out at such a low level of accuracy due to the business environment, industry and key customers. The people understood the importance of the providing forecast feedback and although the key customers didn’t have “good” forecasts to provide, they could provide data we could analyze. In these types of situations, we are able to reduce inventory by a minimum of 20%.  It should be noted, though, that results can be far greater.

Food For Thought
Although forecasting systems can be a great idea to drive service, inventory and margin improvement, they do not always provide a return. Take a step back to understand your industry from a forecasting point-of-view:

  • Is demand constantly changing?
  • Are you supporting small numbers of customer/location points with less than 25 items or is it 100 fold?
  • Are you able to gain key customer input and/or point-of-sale data?
  • Do you have anyone familiar with demand planning and forecasting to be able to make sense of what a system is telling you?
  • And, last but definitely not least, have you found the appropriate scale for your forecasting system?

Trying to kill a fly with an assault rifle is overkill. If you are interested in running your situation by us, contact us.

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Who Are Your Stars?

July 21st, 2019

In our 14 years of consulting experience and almost 30 years of working experience, we have found that 80% of executives spend the majority of their time with the 20% of employees who do not achieve results. Unfortunately, this means they don’t have time to spend with the stars who achieve 80% of the results. Do you fall into this trap as well? As executives commented in our 2019 predictions document, talent is a hot topic in today’s tight labor market. If you aren’t paying attention to your stars, they will jump ship to someone who does pay attention.

People don’t leave companies. They leave bosses!
As an executive, stop to think about what questions you are asking. Do you ask your direct reports about their stars? Could you identify the future stars of your organization? Or are you just addressing issues as they arise? Key customer issues. Board questions. Performance problems. Etc. If so, undoubtedly, you are receiving information from stars or they could be working behind the scenes, invisible to you. We find that these stars can be easily overlooked because they might not like the spotlight or they are likely to be the person to bring up unpopular topics. Does your culture support these stars or encourage them to stay hidden?

Here are ways to find your stars:

  1. Pay attention to who your leaders go to in order to get information. There is always a star behind the scenes who has the information when you need it. It is likely this person could be several layers below you and so you’ll need to pay attention.
  2. Have you asked old-timers for information or ideas lately? Ask employees who have been around a while. If they feel overlooked, they aren’t going to offer ideas and information until asked. However, when valued, you just might be surprised with some amazing results. We have had countless numbers of clients with this sort of hidden gem! Typically there is at least one person like this in every organization.
  3. Look for someone who might be unpopular in meetings because they’ll bring up issues. Frequently, there is someone who is willing to speak up about issues who becomes unpopular because the rest of the team doesn’t understand or think the issue will occur. This person is also seen as delaying the process. Sometimes, these folks are just problem employees but often they can be your stars. Stars are willing to speak up about issues, and if you listen to them, they will save you from all sorts of problems. Of course, if it was only that easy! Typically these folks might not be the best communicators, so they aren’t seen as stars by their managers. You’ll have to look hard.
  4. Look for the influencers. Although not typically in a position of power, the masses will follow them because they trust their judgment. This isn’t obvious because leaders aren’t involved. Look for who employees go to with questions or look for who they will go to if issues occur.
  5. Ask each employee about his/her ideas and/or create small group discussions. Once you gain trust, you’ll rapidly identify your stars.

Since your stars are responsible for 80% of the results and are the go-to people for any project worth doing, there is a dramatic ROI in finding your stars and embracing them. It certainly seems worth the effort of checking in on a few employees each time you walk through the office. Don’t stop and talk with your favorites or those with which you have common interests. Instead, stop at the first desk that wouldn’t part be part of your routine. Be interested and listen. We’ll bet you learn compelling ideas rapidly. Let us know how it goes and what strategies you find the most successful in finding your stars! We are always interested in this vital topic.

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The Right Combination of Technical & Communication Skills ROCKS!

February 20th, 2017

I am the Chair of the APICS West Coast student case competition, and we just wrapped up our 2017 event. We had 104 students from around the world fly into San Diego to compete. It was a really impressive group of students!

technical and communication skills

The competition is judged 50% on the technical score (the return on investment achieved after several rounds running a business simulation game) and 50% on the presentation to the Boards of Directors of the company. I have to say….some of the best presentations were those who didn’t perform as well on the ROI because they learned from it, took the positive attitude and used a creative mindset to show how they would improve in the future. With that said, just as is true in real life, you MUST have both the technical side (no empty suits can be successful long-term) AND the communications to back it up.

The team that won not only 1st place in the undergraduate division but ALSO was the top scoring team of undergraduates and graduates and so will represent us at APICS 2017 was Harvey Mudd College. Although I’m the chair of the competition and excited about how amazing EVERY team performed at the event, I am especially thrilled because Harvey Mudd is an APICS Inland Empire Chapter student team. CONGRATS Alexa LeJoe SinopoliShaan Gareeb and Katherine (Yoo Jeong) Shim! (And Kash Gokli, your academic advisor).

Harvey Mudd College

One tip to implement this week:

Take what these students did to heart and think about how you can continually improve your technical skills AND your communication/presentation skills. I find that my clients often think about investing in technical skills but rarely think about communication and presentation skills yet one without the other doesn’t work.

Deliberately sketch out a plan. Select 1 technical skill and 1 communication skill you’d like to improve. Even if you have a long list (we all do!), just select one in each category that you think will be especially beneficial to your career in the next year. My clients find that if they select intelligently and FOCUS in execution, they succeed. Let me know how it goes.

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…”

 



Why Looking at Return on Investment (ROI) is So Much Better than Cost

June 3rd, 2015

supply chainHow many times have you heard about managing cost (or saving money) in the past week? I bet quite a few, as almost all companies focus significant efforts on cost. In all functions, and certainly if you are in or responsible for Operations, a large portion of your responsibility is to reduce cost. Similar to real estate where it is “location, location, location”, I often hear about “cost, cost, and cost”. Certainly managing cost is vital to success; however, being solely focused on cost will drive you to failure!

Instead, I advocate thinking about return on investment. For example, if you spend $1000 instead of $100,000, yet the benefit is $1100 vs. $400,000 over the same time frame, which is better? Of course, when you spend $100,000, you quadruple your investment whereas you only gain 10% with the smaller investment. With that said, of course, it makes sense to minimize the $100,000 to $90,000 if it’s feasible so you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Although these numbers can be compelling, it isn’t the only reason to focus on ROI. If you are thinking only of cost, you will MISS opportunities to grow your business and innovate. Think of the “cost” in this case as an investment. Are you willing to invest in your success?

One tip to implement this week:

The great news is that no matter your position, you can start thinking about ROI. For every decision you make, consider the likely benefits and costs. Costs are not only financial; there could be hefty risks as well (with small or large investments). Most executives think this way for large capital investments; however, why don’t we think this way for the smaller decisions? We should!

It doesn’t have to be lengthy and time consuming. Just think about the benefits; ask a few questions (if you don’t know, you should find out anyway) and you’ll be much more confident that you’ll end up with a better result in the end. Those businesses that think about longer-term impacts (even if the return occurs within a quarter or year; it can seem longer-term at times) will thrive.

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…”

 



Business Process ROI

November 21st, 2013
Systems pragmatists focus on achieving exponential returns on investment (ROI) with a combination of top-notch business processes, systems, and people.

Systems pragmatists focus on achieving exponential returns on investment (ROI) with a combination of top-notch business processes, systems, and people.

Business process improvement is starting to make a comeback as executives are thinking about how to increase efficiencies. I’m a fan of selecting a few critical priorities and re-focusing resources on how to improve the process and related outcome. However, I’m not a fan of what many term “business process improvement” which turns into a wasted exercise of creating volumes of 1-inch thick binders of best practice processes that sit on the shelf and collect dust. If they were providing value, wouldn’t the employees use them?

Instead, take the pragmatic route and focus on how to achieve exponential returns with a smart combination of business processes, systems and people. What are a few keys to success? 1) Involve employees. 2) Value diversity. 3) Plan-do-check-act model.

1. Involve employees: It is critical to involve employees in the process from the start. The employees who perform the business processes which are being reviewed/ discussed should be the “stars” of the business process improvement initiative, and the leaders should be in a supporting role – after all, who knows the processes best? And, who will have the best ideas on how to improve upon what they do each day? The leaders who truly value their employee’s input and ideas and who can ask questions that help facilitate this process will far exceed their competition.

2. Value diversity: It is important to value a diversity of ideas. In one company I worked with, the most significant bottom line business results were generated through a spirited debate. There were divergent views (one division valued processes and procedures and the other division valued creativity and spontaneity); however, by engaging in a spirited debate, they were able to take the best of both worlds to create an optimal solution – one that delivered bottom line results in terms of dollars and customer service.

3. Plan-do-check-act model: The plan-do-check-act model provides a solid foundation for implementing the business processes so that the dust-collecting books turn into living processes. This model is as it sounds. Plan it, do it, check it (verify that the new processes accomplish what is intended), and act (standardize the process, continually improve it, etc.). And, to circle around to the first priority again – the employees are integral to the success of this model. Leaders provide the vision, resources and support. The employees lead the process improvement.

The latest trends, programs and technology might be exciting; however, they are not typically what will drive results. Instead, the right combination of people focused on business systems process review will typically lead to increased margins, efficiencies, service levels and cash flow. Will you take the time to achieve business process ROI?