Tag Archive: service

Why Supplier Management is More Important Than You Think

June 17th, 2019

Supplier management has been a theme this week. I taught a CSCP (certified supply chain professional) class session about supplier relationship management and SRM software recently. An attendee had a great example of the impact of poor quality.  Her company was sending an entire container load of product back to Asia with defective parts.  This was bound to have negative impacts on the customer. After all, they were already delayed.  Now, they were spending another month on the water to start over again. That led us to discussions on backup suppliers.

Next, I spent quite a bit of time on webinars and calls one day talking about the critical importance of supplier lead time, reliability, safety stock, lot size and how these factors impact our ability to maximize service, profit and cash flow. And, I presented to APICS Ventura on “The Resilient Supply Chain” We had intriguing discussions on the trends of vertical integration, supplier consolidation, allocation of key materials (and how consumer products are gaining priority access with the leftovers being allocated to industrial companies), the impact of tariffs on sourcing, and several more topics.

The bottom line of each of these discussions is that proactive management of suppliers is of ever-increasing importance in today’s Amazon impacted business environment. If you don’t have what you need, when you need it, where you need it, in good quality, and within cost guidelines, you are likely to lose vs. your competition. And, this includes last minute changes! Do you consider your supplier your partner or someone to negotiate with and gain an advantage over?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
It is NOT all about cost. Of course, the hot topic on executives’ minds is how to achieve scaleable growth, so profit and cost are important topics.  Yet, smart executives realize it is quite easy to sacrifice the future by saving pennies in the present. Similar to the mistakes made several years ago when it didn’t matter whether it made cost-sense or not (ie. Boards were demanding outsourcing regardless of the financials), many Boards are demanding supplier concessions without looking at the extended supply chain impacts. Instead, stick up for looking at total cost and taking the value viewpoint! Of course, this means you’ll be focused on costs but it won’t be your sole focus.

We talked about several scenarios where you had to invest financially upfront in order to achieve longer-term success. For example, we talked about keeping a more expensive backup supplier and giving them 20% of the volume. Boards and private equity backers weren’t too happy with the extra cost yet this risk mitigation technique saved the day on more than one occasion. When the material went on allocation, the main supplier struggled or the ports/transportation infrastructure broke down, those who planned for the inevitable bump in the road had uninterrupted supply from the backup supplier and satisfied customers while the competition fell further behind. Are you thinking about your suppliers like a cost or a partner?  You’ll find more information on these types of topics on our resilient supply chain series.

 



Let’s Spur Innovation

September 24th, 2018

Last month, I led a manufacturing roundtable on the topic of innovation.  Undoubtedly, if we want to be successful over the long-term, we must innovate. Problem solving only gets us back to our standard level of performance.  Although necessary, it will not be enough!  Instead, to exceed our customers’ expectations while enabling profitable growth in today’s Amazonian marketplace, innovation is a requirement.

Innovation is raising the bar to an entirely new level of performance.  It doesn’t require you to develop the next iPhone or 3M’s famous sticky pad.  In fact, the best innovators might not even think they are creative.  The great news is that everyone can innovate.  It doesn’t have to require significant investments.   What it does require is a culture that enables innovation.

An Innovation Culture
Here are a few “musts” when creating an innovation culture:

  1. Engage your people -You aren’t going to be successful innovating in isolation – at least not for long!  Involve your employees – view each employee as a valuable asset.  You never know what ideas can be unleashed if you have a culture of innovation that values each employee’s input and ideas.  Start here. Until your people are engaged, there is no point in going further.  How long do you think you’ll have happy, innovative customers with unhappy, not engaged employees?  NOT long.
  1. Engage your customers – One of our clients is creating an innovative culture.  They recently purchased a clay manufacturing company and are working to raise the bar.  The owners and executives value the input of their people and extend that to their trusted advisors, customers and suppliers.  I happened to be in Hawaii last month and my best friend wanted to see a pottery shop of an artist she really liked.  So I went along for the ride. When we arrived, I brought up my client because I thought the owner know of them. They were so excited.  They said they were a customer for life of Laguna Clay  (my customer) because they provided exceptional service.  They proceeded to provide input, ideas and much more. I took pictures and texted them back to my client. My client had engaged their customer in the innovative process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Provide opportunities– Next, provide opportunities for innovation.  Do you provide a “safe zone” for your employees, partners and others to collaborate and innovate?  Most importantly, you’ll have to set aside time for them to focus on this priority.  Beyond time, provide your vision and get the process started by spurring idea generation and give them a few guidelines.
  1. Stick by your commitment –  Innovation will create failures which is why guidelines are helpful so the failures can be isolated within a reasonable tolerance.  There is something wrong if failures don’t occur. Thus, be prepared for them and celebrate the progress. Don’t be disappointed, or worse, beat up your people. That will mark the end of their innovation.

Creating an innovation culture is “the” key to innovation. Start there. End there.  We’ll talk through more of the details in the middle in future editions (or feel free to contact us to help you accelerate progress); however, this is the 80/20 of success.  It’s well worth raising the bar of performance.



Should I Move?

July 9th, 2018

Our clients frequently call with questions such as:

  1.  Should we renew our lease?
  2.  Should we move to a lower cost area?
  3.  Should we move to a lower cost state?
  4.  What considerations should we think about when evaluating our manufacturing and logistics network?
  5.  Should we outsource?

Thus, we thought it would be prudent to address some questions and themes that should be evaluated from a strategic point-of-view when discussing supply chain network assessments.  

Let’s start by saying that our top clients begin THINKING about these topics several years in advance. Similar to selling a business, it isn’t the best plan to evaluate whether to renew a lease at the last minute or to be forced into a particular partner or location because you started preparing “too late”.   

Instead, why not think ahead….

  1.  Where are your customers?  – As much as we all want to reduce costs especially in today’s Amazonian environment, we also need to remember that customers expect rapid deliveries, change their mind frequently (and expect agility) and desire easy returns.  Thus, where are you located in comparison to your customers?
  2. What are your customers’ expectations?  – Lead times. Personalized service.  Return policies. Vendor managed inventory.  Future forecasts. What will they expect a year from now?  Are you already planning for these needs?
  3.  Where are your suppliers?  – Similar to your customers, it is important to consider where your suppliers are located as well.  Do you receive product from the ports? If so, what volume is related to the ports?
  4.  What access do you have to people? – We evaluated Nevada for one of our clients. However, when we talked with local contacts to estimate building / lease costs, we also discovered that as low as the overhead might be, freight aside, there were no people.  Tesla had absorbed them all and there were requests to supply people from Southern CA to support current workloads. People can certainly be relevant!
  5.  What type of freight partners/ rates are in place? –  No matter how close you might be to your customer, freight can add up – and, more importantly, delays to your customer are VERY costly (lost business, charge backs from customers such as Walmart, ill will and more).  Just because you have carriers with your current situation, it does NOT mean that will be true with your new situation. Freight is tight and rates are going up! And, remember last mile considerations are complex. Last mile. Last minute!
  6. What type of transportation network is required to support your business?  – In addition to freight considerations, will you need to think about parcel, rail, ocean freight, and other modes of transportation?  Or should you be considering these options?
  7.  What inventory levels are built into your network?  – Inventory = cash tied up.  

There is quite a bit more to think about than solely a cost cutting exercise.  Most clients call due to concerns about cost – as important as cost is, taking the strategic / high-level view can ensure your service, total cost (including hidden costs) and cash flow are maximized.  

Have you started thinking ahead?  If you are interested in our newly upgraded service offering in response to the Amazon Effect of warehousing/ supply chain network assessments, contact us.



People Rule

July 4th, 2018

Why does Southwest Airlines outperform the competition by a long shot in employee turnover (7% vs. 25% industry average)?  People!

As our long-term readers know, we believe that people rule!  There is just no doubt about it – our most successful clients are similar to Southwest and JetBlue as it relates to people – executives view them as assets; not costs.  Instead of stifling creativity and success, they encourage it!

We have to imagine that no one sets out to stifle creativity when they leave for work in the morning (it sounds like a miserable existence) . Yet that is what we find in the vast majority of companies.  Sometimes, it is due to the rules and regulations that are supposed to protect threats.

For example, recently we received dismal service from a major bank.  Certainly, the employee helping us with the transactions meant no harm and wanted to help. However, her overriding need was to remain employed which meant following rules to the T….and beyond.  Taking zero risks while servicing customers is clearly celebrated and we felt the pain. Our account kept going on hold for no reason. Checks bounced. Silly requirements were communicated (we ‘the bank’ missed a space on this form and so you must jump through 10 hoops so we can get our paperwork in order). The list wents on. We went up the chain to no avail. We must follow the 10 hoops, avoid cracks on the sidewalk (reminded me of Jack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets), swim the English channel and more…

On the other hand, a business bank focused on service was able to navigate the same federal and state requirements remotely and immediately.  What was blamed on rules and regulations were clearly bank policies. Are you making your customers avoid the cracks in the sidewalk to work with you?  Or are you rolling out the red carpet? It didn’t cost more at one bank vs. the other, although we would have paid more by the time we went through the first few hoops.  

Do you care about what your customers care about or do you care about rules for the sake of rules? Or, put another way – do you care about the customer result or the process used along the way? (assuming no bad motivations)

Related statistics
According to Gallup, 85% of employees are not engaged at work.  Yet, companies with highly engaged workers outperform their peers by 147%.  

We have no doubt the employee at the large bank fell into the 85% category whereas the business bank is more likely in the 15%. We know the banker at the business bank will go over and beyond.  

Which employee would you rather have service you and your firm?

 



San Antonio’s Riverwalk and Creating a “Destination”

October 24th, 2017

I've Been Thinking

As my California best friend’s parents would say, “Remember that time we went to San Antonio’s Riverwalk…”. It was a fabulous trip with the beautiful riverwalk and surrounding area (which was also definitely improved with the hotel’s free breakfast which somehow makes everything so much better!) whereas when they had been to San Antonio previously, it was definitely not something to write home about. In fact, they had a hair raising experience checking into a hotel.  I have fond memories of repeated trips to the Iron Cactus for guacamole with them (they were great sports with my love of guacamole). So, when I was in San Antonio for APICS 2017, I definitely searched out the Iron Cactus and took a picture. With that said, I figured readers would prefer the beauty of the riverwalk. The oldest restaurant in town, Casa Rio, is featured below and of course I tried the guacamole! Have you thought about how the city of San Antonio transformed this area into a top notch tourist destination?  

One tip to implement this week:

Perhaps you are thinking that creating a destination isn’t something that applies to your business; after all, we aren’t a “city” (although a few of us might work for one). Regardless, it absolutely is something we should ponder. Wouldn’t you like your customers to consider your company, your Customer Service team or your service a compelling “destination”? When most people get a new iPhone, don’t you think they see it as a new “destination” of sorts? Everyone gets in line to buy one and social media buzzes. Quite similar, if you ask me!

So, how can we create a destination?  Let’s start by considering our customers and clients. San Antonio had to think about what would appeal to their tourists and citizens. Where would they enjoy spending time? How could they make what they have into something attractive? Start by thinking about those same questions. Undoubtedly, everyone has a talent, and there is something good to find in every company. What is it? Can you build upon that strength? Obviously, San Antonio had to start with a river which not every city has. Stretch your thinking and run your ideas by your colleagues. What do you think would really entice your customers? Find out and let me know in the comments!

Save