Tag Archive: supply chain

Holiday Sales are Expected to be UP by Double Digits in E-Commerce

December 17th, 2018

Black Friday has already gotten off to a strong start!  According to Coresight Research, holiday sales are expected to be up by 4% whereas e-commerce will be up 16%!   Target had a goal to hire more than 120,000 people for the holiday season which is a 20% increase. UPS planned to hire 100,000 which is up 5,000 from last year (maybe because they had to spent $125 million extra last year to fix delays because they were short staffed).  And FedEx planned to hire 55,000 additional seasonal workers which was a slight increase from last year (and they expect a record-breaking year).

Is your business seasonal?  What are you expecting? Is anyone in your supply chain focused on seasonal business?  Perhaps you should find out!

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Are you prepared for the holiday season?  I find this is somehow a common issue among clients.  The smartest of clients tend to miss holiday season trends.  For example, I worked with one client for several years and key workers took off during the holiday season for extended vacations every year.  Yet, it seemed to be a constant surprise when we struggled to keep up with demand.  Of course, our customer’s demand didn’t decrease, even in a non-holiday industry. Of course, clients focused on consumer products always struggle to predict holiday sales as you cannot start producing in December! When I worked with Coca-Cola Enterprises, employees only got Christmas day off because holidays were always BIG.  

Think beyond your company.  Given the statistics above, do you think your carriers might be a bit busy during the holiday season?  How about your suppliers that might supply other holiday-intensive industries? Your trusted advisors? No matter the supply chain partner, perhaps a heads up surrounding holiday activity and expectations would be a good idea. Holiday season volatility is another good example of why you should create a resilient supply chain to navigate disruption and achieve peak performance.

Check out our new video and article series as well as our soon-to-be offered Rapid Resilient Supply Chain Assessment service.



The Resilient Supply Chain: Should We Invest in Technology

December 7th, 2018

In today’s Amazon-impacted, Uberian environment, technology opportunities abound!  Beyond ERP and related subsystems, there is IoT, blockchain, robotics, autonomous vehicles, predictive analytics and much more.  Should we invest or not?

Clearly, if we invest in every one of these opportunities, we could “go broke”. How do we decide? And, will it help us create a resilient supply chain?

 

The answer:  It depends!
Our best clients follow a similar process and answer the following questions:

  1.  What is the state of the industry?  What disruptors are likely to impact the industry?  What trends are occurring? Where do we see it going?
  2.  How do we stand in the industry?  How are we positioned?  What is our unique value proposition?  What differentiates us from the competition?
  3.  What is our technology/ IT infrastructure?  Does our ERP system support our current needs?  Does it support our growth? Is our ERP partner aligned with technology partners that can help in expanding our future technology capabilities?  The bottom line – where are we starting?
  4.  What is our vision?  Understanding where we want to go is relevant.  What will it take to achieve our vision? Do we know what people, processes, systems/ technologies and culture change will be required to attain our vision?
  5.  Is the technology required to achieve the vision? (given our competitive differentiators and changes occurring in the industry)  Adding technology that doesn’t support our vision might be exciting but doesn’t support the future whereas not investing in technology required to support our vision is also problematic.
  6.  What are the priorities?  If there are several technologies required to support progress, which are required first in terms of sequence (if relevant), which have the greatest impact, and which are urgent to meet a customer need or avoid a negative consequence?

The Bottom Line:
Don’t invest because everyone is investing.  Invest because it supports scalable, profitable growth.

 



Supply Resiliency: Video Interview on Disruption in Logistics

December 4th, 2018

Next in our supply chain resiliency value series, we are excited to share an interview with BJ Patterson, President of Pacific Mountain Logistics.  Thanks to B.J. for sharing his expertise on the Manufacturing Summit’s panel “Amazon Effect: Pass or Play – the New Sales & Distribution Game and How it Affects Manufacturing”.   

B.J. is responding to a question related to supply chain resiliency on disruptions in logistics.  In essence, the key question is: How to maintain margins throughout the supply chain when:

1) We ship a single item vs. a pallet of items in terms of warehousing/material handling inefficiencies

2) Customers’ orders require many more truck trips than ever before

3) Truck space is at a premium and we are shipping a lot of air since Amazon-like shipments often have 1 item in a large box on a truck.  

Certainly, there are no easy answers.  However, we must be thinking about how we’ll create supply chain resiliency so we can thrive with these changing market conditions.

 


With an increasing frequency, supply chain partners are pulling together to find solutions to these types of challenges.  Moreover, the strategic use of data is at a premium. If you can better coordinate all of these ever-changing market conditions to gain visibility and efficiencies within your extended supply chain, you just might take the lead in your industry.  

Our most successful clients don’t wait for these disruptors to crush them.  Instead, they are always looking for potential disruptors and searching for solutions.  They take proactive approaches to take the lead position instead of disappointing customers in an era where the customer experience is of paramount importance.  

What are you doing to navigate these logistics disruptors? We are always interested in feedback and ideas to share.

 



The Resilient Supply Chain: Do You Have Vendors or Partners?

December 1st, 2018

Since we did research on “The Squeeze” for a speech on the the squeeze in aerosapce (meaning:  how does the supplier in the middle between the Tier 1 suppliers who supply final assembly parts for an airplane and the powerhouse mills survive, or preferably thrive), we have been thinking a lot about the supplier relationship.  Coincidently, we also heard a lot on this topic at the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM/APICS) international conference as it is a hot topic across all industries. There was an almost identical discussion occurring with retail and the consumer goods industry. Last but not least, all of our clients are seeing the relevance of this topic.

What is the “right” answer?  Of course, it depends!
To manage “the squeeze”, one of the keys is to create partnerships with your key suppliers.  The rest can be vendors since they are not core or significant to your success. However, your key suppliers must be partners and collaborators.  For example, one of the best ways to handle the middle position in the aerospace world is to bring your customers and their demand together with your suppliers and their capabilities.  

Here are a few ideas that all depend on being a partner:

  • Collaborate with suppliers on new ideas/design concepts to reduce materials and waste for you AND up your supply chain.
  • Become a partner of your customer and gain access to demand information as it becomes available and help translate that into a benefit for your customer, you and your supplier.
  • Leverage pricing and volume across the supply chain for a win-win-win.

Although these ideas relate to aerospace, the same concept applies with every client.  When I was VP of Operations and Supply Chain for an absorbent products manufacturer, we used these same concepts to find win-win-win solutions in your supply chain.  We partnered with key vendors to redesign materials (that performed better at a lower cost), redesign packaging, reduce waste in our manufacturing process which required teaks and collaboration with both material and equipment suppliers and more.  By following a partnership route instead of the “vendor” negotiation/beat up on price route, we turned our situation around from bad to good.

We found private equity backers who wanted profitable growth.  However, soon after, the market changed and oil and gas prices were continually rising which significantly impacted our material costs (and were unavoidable) while our private equity investors still expected the same profit improvements as before.  Our business was also heavy in transportation cost since the product was bulky which was also an issue with rising oil and gas prices. Thus, we collaborated with customers, material suppliers and freight suppliers for win-win-win solutions. It “worked” and we were able to offset the price increases while growing the business in a profitable and scalable way.

These types of situations are common in today’s business environment.  

Do you view your suppliers as vendors or partners? And who are you hiring to manage these relationships?  Transaction-oriented purchasing folks or strategic relationship procurement resources?

 



The Resilient Supply Chain: Does Your Environment Support Fear?

November 27th, 2018

In today’s Amazonian environment, customers expect rapid delivery (same day/next day is preferred regardless of industry), 24/7 accessibility, easy returns, innovative collaborations and much more.  Add disruptors popping up all over (such as Uber, Netflix and more), trade war impacts and technology disruptors to entire industries (such as artifical intelligence to the accounting industry), it is quite clear we are in a new ballgame.  One of the keys to successfully navigate this environment is to rely on your people.

When it comes to your people, if they don’t feel empowered, they will not take a leap of faith and bring up ideas, test theories etc.  In essence, they need to overcome fear to rise to the occasion. What is the environment like in your office? Here are a few questions to ponder:

  1.  Will employees be shunned if they go against the grain?  For example, if employees bring up an idea that isn’t popular or one that the manager thinks puts him/her in not-as-good a light, will they get shunned?  Before leaping to the answer of “of course not”, perhaps take a second look one or two levels below you. You might find a different answer than you wish.
  2.  Is failure celebrated?  Of course, we don’t mean multiple failures repeating the same mistakes but is a single failure/learning experience celebrated?
  3.  Would failure still be celebrated if it impacts month-end numbers? Unfortunately, that is when it will occur.  It is just luck of the draw.
  4.  Is it OK to help a project team?  For example, if an employee helps a project team that requires his/her expertise even if it isn’t relevant or supportive to his boss’s success, will it be OK?  Worse yet, if this person is busy (which will always be true), is it OK if he diverts a few hours to help the project team for the greater good even if it doesn’t help his manager?  Will the manager answer the same way if he didn’t know you were listening?
  5.  Do you provide tools and training?  Some employees will take the leap on their own whereas others want the extra support to feel qualified to provide ideas and advice.  Are you willing to invest in these?
  6.  Will you provide mentoring and support? Beyond tools and training, ongoing mentoring and encouragement is needed to facilitate the process.  Whether formal or informal, do you have a process in place that provides this support?

It is definitely much harder than it appears to have your employees overcome fear when you aren’t looking.  

Are you willing to invest time and money into this effort to enable the growth of your employees and the scalable, profitable growth of your business?