Tag Archive: strategic

How Are You Keeping Up?

July 9th, 2019

In today’s Amazon-impacted, data overloaded world, it is one BIG challenge to just “keep up”. How are you keeping up with the latest industry trends, noteworthy products, emerging technologies and more?

It would be easy to spend 40 hours a week just “keeping up”. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend that as your competition would be happy to speed on by. However, this idea got me thinking about how executives should “keep up”.

Time isn’t a resource. We cannot make more time. On the other hand, time is a matter of priority. When we answer, “I don’t have time for that,” it means we aren’t prioritizing that topic or that person. We cannot prioritize everyone and every topic including how to stay up-to-speed.       

A few recommendations for executives to stay up-to-date on relevant information without taking “too much” time:

  • Make it a priority for your team to stay up-to-date.  If each of your team members is up-to-date on relevant information for his/her area, it will be half the battle. Ask for a bullet point summary of highlights.
  • Talk with customers.  One priority you cannot delegate is a certain amount of customer interaction and discussion on trending topics. How else will you steer the ship?
  • Attend key industry conferences. Typically, there is a flagship industry event our clients attend. No matter how busy, make room in your schedule to attend, meet with customers and suppliers and find out what is trending.
  • Focus some attention on your strategic differentiation. For example, a few clients are expert at sourcing. Thus, they better put some focus on this topic. Others are expert at manufacturing, e-commerce or a technical topic. Stay abreast of key trends.
  • Skim industry articles & the Wall Street Journal. Staying current on key events and how they could impact your industry and your company is essential.



People & Robots Can Co-Exist Successfully

May 23rd, 2019

We held an engaging executive panel discussion at our APICS Inland Empire spring symposium on the topic: “The Talent Transformation: People or Robots? There is quite a lot of hoopla in Inland Southern California as this geography is larger than all but 24 states (and soon will take over Lousiana) with a strong manufacturing and logistics base.  Yet, the threat and opportunity of automation is close at hand. According to a University of Redlands study, most large metropolitan areas are subject to losing 55% of their current jobs due to automation. In Inland Southern CA, that number expands to 62%. What will this mean? Disaster or opportunity?

According to a robotics expert with a background in industry, Carnegie Mellon and Harvey Mudd, the CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP), a Director at Honeywell and a recruiter and practice lead at Aerotek, we can rest assured that people and robots can co-exist successfully. Of course, this assumes we are proactive in thinking about automation, retraining and educating our workforce and providing the insights and collaboration opportunities such as the executive panel event.

We had some probing questions from the manufacturing and distribution professionals in the audience, but it was unanimous that a solution exists. We also talked about Middle Harbor which is a high-tech area of the ports. This has proven more challenging as negotiations have put some people out of a job yet still getting paid for it. With that said, there were many examples of success with business growing 3-fold while the company doubled the workforce and more. Hiding under a rock is definitely not the route to success. Instead, be a part of the collaborative effort.

As a Board member of IEEP and a supply chain expert, I am helping to lead a consortium for advanced manufacturing and logistics success to address just this topic (resulting from the Brookings study research). If you are interested in staying in the loop with updates, please email me. I’ve created a special interest list for this topic.

The students from Harvey Mudd presented some exciting robotics research they are conducting with industry on how to successfully navigate cluttered workspaces (as most manufacturing and distribution clients require). Much progress is being made.  And, robots aren’t going away. There are many positives in terms of consistency of quality, replacing competitive motion tasks, reducing workers compensation and labor risks in addition to cost savings. With that said, there are also some challenges to overcome such as what happens when technology goes wrong (like with the Boeing 737 Max). There is always risks to mitigate and people who are overlooked. The panel discussed the Challenger disaster and the employee who warned ahead of time to the technical glitch.

What are you doing to evaluate technology from a strategic standpoint? Will you be left in the dust? Grocery stores might have been a bit complacent before Amazon bought Whole Foods. Are you complacent? On the other hand, please don’t follow fads. When everyone thought outsourcing was great and Boards insisted on following the trend no matter the total impact, several companies outsourced and were sorry later when service went down and costs weren’t saved. If you’d like an assessment, contact us.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on this topic:

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The Talent Transformation: People or Robots?

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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. 

      

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

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Keeping an Eye on Global Markets

September 1st, 2018

If there ever was a strategic topic of critical importance no matter your position in the supply chain, it is keeping an eye on global markets.  We’ve worked with clients who ONLY source materials, components and products from U.S.-based suppliers.  Yet, even they must pay attention to global markets to thrive.  Are you making this a priority?

There are countless reasons to stay informed of global markets.  First and foremost, we live in a global society. It isn’t practical to go through a day without coming into contact with products, services, people, currencies and more from around the world.

A few additional reasons to keep an eye on global markets:

  • Interconnected world – We live in an interconnected world.  A political risk in Asia can impact the price of your materials.  Or, a shortage of oil or gas (as an example) in one country can impact the price and availability elsewhere.
  • Economy & currencies – Currency exchange rates will have an impact somewhere in your supply chain whether or not it touches your product or service.
  • Tariffs & trade – Tariffs certainly can have an impact.  The impact can be far reaching and can be from areas that don’t directly touch your organization. In this case, you might have short-term pricing impacts or long-term strategic impacts of where to locate manufacturing or which countries and markets to pursue.  Hopefully, you are considering both.
  • Global customers – There might be unique opportunities in one part of the world to utilize your product or service with a greater benefit realized than in another part of the world.  Are you considering your options and expanding your mind to the possibilities?
  • Risk – There’s no doubt that mitigating risk alone is reason to keep track of global markets.  For example, earlier in my career when there were issues getting materials out of Brazil, we wouldn’t have been able to service customers if we hadn’t planned for a backup supply elsewhere in the world.  Similarly, we would have gone out of business if we relied on only local suppliers when a major hurricane hit our manufacturing plant.  Every local business was under water except us and even with a plan we were affected – were shut down for a short period of time because our employees could not get in or out of our facility.

Keeping an eye on global markets can become a full-time job. Clearly, few, if any, clients can afford that.  Thus, pursue ways to collaborate with customers, suppliers, trade associations and more to leverage insights. Minimally, put aside some time on a daily basis to watch for key trends.

 



Hawaii and Strategic Thinking

July 25th, 2018

 

I met my global consulting group in Hawaii to talk strategy.  Have you thought about where you are going lately? More importantly, have you thought about why you are going there?  

It is quite easy to get caught up in doing whatever you set out to do a year or two prior when you set your strategy.  But don’t things change?  Certainly, the world stage continues to evolve.

Put dedicated thought into your strategy, set aside time to think and consider different viewpoints. In my case, gaining input from some of the best consultants from different countries and specialties while putting aside time to think surrounded by amazing views (see a few below) is bound to stir strategic thought.

One tip to implement this week:
Have you dedicated time to strategic thought lately?  Or are you too busy to even think, let alone dedicate time to strategic thought?  Perhaps you need to drive to the beach, mountains, or your favorite nearby setting and take 30 minutes to empty your mind.  Or, stay closer to work.

Deliberately put yourself in a work group of people with different ideas and viewpoints. Usually when I groan because I’m not sure I want to be in a group with someone.  Many times, it turns out he/she spurs me to new heights with new ideas.  

You don’t have to fly to Hawaii to broaden your view.  Take a look around regardless of your setting. There are countless amazing views we encounter on a daily basis.  Whether it is the local nursery, your neighbor’s yard, the hustle and bustle at the train station, an artist painting in the park or your dog jumping in excitement at your return home after a long day, you have interesting views to spur strategic thought.  

The key is to relate these views and put yourself in different situations that might spur strategic thought. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.