Tag Archive: shipping

Amazon Disrupts Again

April 5th, 2019

According to Bloomberg, Amazon disrupts again. They have abruptly stopped selling products from their wholesalers and are instead encouraging suppliers to sell on their marketplace, transferring the purchasing, storing and shipping of products to the supplier. The marketplace business is already estimated at $250 billion in value which is more than double the online retail business. They also pulled volume from some suppliers less than $10 million annually. If you are in either of these positions, this could be a substantial disruption especially with no notice!

According to the Journal of Commerce, Amazon is also disrupting container shipping with its increased use of its ocean forwarding arm. For example, with its non-vessel-operating common carrier (NVO), Amazon is gaining greater control over its internal supply chain but the key is whether it is thinking about building a supply chain platform.

Amazon isn’t the only disruptor. Are you proactively thinking about navigating disruption?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Hardly a day goes by without some sort of disruption, natural disaster or other event such as the Boeing 737 Max concerns. There is no way you can be prepared for every potential issue that will arise. With that said, it is remiss not to consider the most likely and relevant risks. Do you have a process to incorporate these into your strategy and execution plans on a frequent basis? Gone are the days of the 5 year strategy, updated once a year. Business is moving at a much quicker speed!

In addition, start looking at how to build an agile and resilient end-to-end supply chain. Start internally. Are your people prepared for the daily, weekly and monthly changes most likely to impact your business? Do they have backup plans? Or will it take a lengthy approval process to get a critical decision made to navigate disruption? Don’t just assume you are covered. Go and find out. If you’d like some tips for managing disruption, take a look at our resilient supply chain series.


What Do Sears and Amazon Have in Common?

October 10th, 2017

Thanks to my client Dan Vest, I read a fascinating article about Sears and Amazon. Who knew Sears and Amazon had so much in common? Pretty startling! The Reader’s Digest version is as follows: Sears was the former Amazon about 100 years ago, growing 50-fold within a decade with its world-famous catalog and then transforming from a mailing company to a brick-and-mortar giant. They were the everything store with an uncanny feel for consumer demand. Sound familiar? So what might we learn from history and paying attention to trends?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

Perhaps Sears isn’t something to be totally ignored… As transformative, customer-focused and growth-oriented as they were 100 years ago, they stopped looking for the next customer-focused innovation and have suffered mightily. Clearly, if you lose track of your customer, you are likely to lose track of your growth and profits. It is also easy to get lost as you get big – suddenly what used to be innovative is replaced with ridiculous rules and bureaucracy with no glance in the direction of the customer. Walmart came on the scene with amazing service and low costs. And now Amazon is the 80 pound gorilla.

There is another interesting development to note. Amazon tends to choose strange bedfellows and has partnered with the brick-and-mortar giant. Amazon will sell smart technology such as the Echo in Sears stores and the Sears flagship Kenmore brand product line will be sold online through Amazon. Unique collaborations seem to be driving success.  Just look at the partnership of innovative Amazon with “not-known-for-its-innovation” United States Postal Service (USPS), yet it works. Do you see postal trucks delivering on Sundays? I do.

In short, pay attention to history, trends and never stop thinking. Add collaboration into the mix and you might just hit a home run.


Staples & the Power of Customer Service

August 11th, 2016

supply chain

When I’ve needed customer service the most, Staples has been there! A while back, my house burned down. When that happened, the manager of the local Staples went WAY out of her way to help dig up old invoices to assist with the arduous accounting process. However, the reason I’m thinking about Staples now is because they came to my rescue again.

Last weekend, I attended the APICS district meeting in Newport Beach. After Friday’s Presidents meeting, I went to dinner with two colleagues. I left my laptop sitting on the desk in the hotel, knowing I had to write a proposal upon my return. When I got back to the room, my laptop was DEAD. I tried all sorts of things to make it work, looked up solutions on my phone, etc. It was hopeless. Thus, instead of writing a proposal, I was searching on my phone for a new laptop and sending emails to IT support resources to try to get help. Of course, my laptop would crash on Friday night with no provocation.

I have to say, several of my IT trusted advisors responded Saturday morning (nice to work with the best!); however, I couldn’t do much more until Monday. I planned to miss a session on Saturday to find a Best Buy. I looked out the window in the morning and saw Staples.

The tech guy at Staples (who was also an Assistant Manager but he came to help because the regular tech guy was tied up) was EXTREMELY helpful and tried all sorts of things to get my laptop working. He went over and beyond and made me feel much better. Although he couldn’t fix it while there, he set me up with the right hardware and people to save my data and work next steps. And he charged me $0. I left with a broken laptop — and happy.

After the meeting, I stopped at the Ontario Staples on the way home to pick up an interim laptop I purchased. Unfortunately, it turned out, it was in Ontario, Oregon; not Ontario, CA, but they were so helpful and made sure the LaVerne store was prepared for my arrival the next day that I felt good about my experience anyway. They even offered me free items for my trouble. Next, the LaVerne tech guy actually found the magic formula (that no one thought existed) and got my laptop working — same day, on a Sunday. More than the laptop help, they shined when it came to customer service. I will be back!

One tip to implement this week:

None of these folks were technically in customer service yet I will return to Staples because of their customer service. They were exceptional. They made me believe that my laptop troubles and helping me with my problem was their most important item of the day. Do you make your customers feel that way?

If you are in customer service, sales or an executive, you are on the front lines with your customers. Believe me, they always have a choice. Customer service will help you stand out from the crowd.

If you are in any other support position, you still have customers. For example, if you are in production, you probably have shipping and warehousing as your customers. If you are in production planning, customer service, operations and accounting are your customers. Everyone has customers. Do they want to work with you? This is certainly something where you can make an immediate impact. Think of how you want to be treated. What would stand out for you? Pass on the goodwill.

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…”

I Can’t Find What I Need in My Warehouse!

July 15th, 2016
inventory accuracy

Inventory accuracy depends on so many moving parts. But a top-to-bottom understanding of the process combined with speedy adjustment responses would dramatically improve accuracy, thus, boosting business results.

How many times have we heard this? Or, perhaps your inventory resource will keep looking until he/she finds it; however, it took them 3 times as long to pick product to ship or materials to supply the line? Perhaps the line shuts down…..not good! Unfortunately, in my experience with manufacturing and distribution companies over the last 25+ years, it happens every day. Logistics managers are constantly struggling to keep their inventory intact. The problem is that inventory accuracy is dependent on several factors spread across multiple functions:

  • Transaction timing – it is not good enough to eventually (perhaps the end of the shift) “ship an order to the customer, enter production, transfer inventory, receive an RMA, address an item in quarantine and so on. Conceptually it is quite simple – the system transaction coincides in timing with the physical transaction. In reality, life gets in the way.
  • Transaction accuracy – even the best of typists make mistakes. Is the work being checked? I can’t tell you how many times a transfer of 100 might end up as 1000. Certainly could cause an issue!
  • Transaction understanding – even if you are accurate with typing, you might not understand the correct sequence of steps or the method to get the system to accept the transaction properly. This can lead to much confusion. The worst case scenario is that the system can get screwed up and require IT to fix it. The typical case is that the transaction accuracy is affected. Here’s a key question – do you know how to fix incorrect transactions? Think about how many of your resources know how to do this properly.
  • Coordination of resources – it is rare that one person owns every transaction performed within an area. Actually that creates a new set of problems as any time the person is out, everything goes awry. Typically, there are multiple people shipping, entering production, transferring items, etc. Transactions can get duplicated or forgotten with the best of intentions without clear-cut coordination.
  • Scrap/other adjustments – these create havoc for most of my clients more than anything else. Pay special attention to these.

It’s no wonder every organization struggles with transaction disciplines – and ultimately inventory accuracy. On the other hand, we’ve worked with dozens of clients on inventory accuracy and brought 50% – 60% (and unknown figures for untracked inventory accuracy levels) consistently to the high 90%’s.  Suddenly, customer service improves, productivity increases, and profit even follows – nice reasons to think about the importance of inventory accuracy.  If you’d like to talk further about your inventory accuracy struggles, please contact us.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your organization:

Transaction Criticality 

Why Care About Systems Transactions?


How to Be Prepared for GROWTH!

June 24th, 2015

supply chain

If you are related to aerospace, you’ve probably heard the GREAT news that the world fleet will double in size over the next 20 years. Based on which news you read, the estimates are between 32,000 and 37,000 planes. Now that is growth!  The same type of growth is occurring in other industries as well. For example, building products companies are taking off again. What are you doing to make sure you are prepared?

Growth is exciting and fun but it can also be deadly. According to my clients, it is far easier (even though unpleasant) to navigate a downturn than it is to navigate aggressive growth. My most successful clients are thinking about leveraging SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) as it is a great vehicle to help successfully prepare for growth. Currently, I am working with multiple clients doing just that.

One tip to implement this week:

To prepare for growth, you don’t have to jump into anything complicated on day one. Take stock of where you are and what levels of growth you expect. Undoubtedly, preparation action items will pop to mind. This action alone can give you an edge over your competition.

If you are not in the executive suite, ask about growth. Read trade magazines. If you see that your industry is growing, think about how you can prepare. For example, if you are in Shipping, think about how to increase the number of shipments per hour and per day. If you are in Manufacturing, think about whether you can increase efficiencies, staffing or cross-training opportunities. A big part of success goes back to mindset.

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…”