Tag Archive: technology

Will Technology Gain Critical Mass in Manufacturing in 2020?

January 6th, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to an Industry Week article, recent predictions say we are headed into the year where technology gains critical mass!  That is truly exciting for manufacturers as people and robots work in collaboration to achieve profitable growth and success. Of course, it isn’t all about robots but it provides a good visual for the conversation.

 

There are all sorts of technologies to consider including robots, collaborative robots, wearables, IoT, additive manufacturing, 5G, AI and more. By NO means should we jump on the next fad.  Yet, we should be aware of these technologies, the progress of the technologies and be ready to take advantage of opportunities. Your smart competition will be! When technology gains critical mass, not only will your competition have the edge but it will accelerate the rate of progress.  This means you will be left inching your way from the start gate when your competition passed you in the victory lap with profitable growth, superior customer experiences and happy employees. Are you considering your technological footprint?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Without a doubt, shift into high gear when it comes to getting educated on the technologies that support your industry and your supply chain partners. You do not need to throw bunches of money at this issue but gaining prudent proactive knowledge is a must. Understand your landscape and which technologies might provide an advantage in the marketplace. Be willing to invest in testing and trials.

Involve your team and extended supply chain partners in collaborating and brainstorming on win-win-win strategies to achieve key objectives. We live in a collaborative world.  We need to see our partners as partners – not vendors and the competition. From this point-of-view, in my ProVisors group of trusted advisors, the most successful members believe in referring business they could do themselves if they think it is slightly better off with their competitor. It is counter intuitive and ends up turning 1 + 1 into 4 with more business for all. The same will hold true with your supply chain partners.  With that said, being collaborative is not an excuse to be negligent. You have to watch out for cyber security and a host of other issues that could arise.

At a minimum, re-evaluate your technology roadmap.  Remember, this is identical to strategy in 2020. A strategy looking 5 years out is pointless, even a year out is suspect. Instead, you need a roadmap of guidelines with the flexibility to be resilient and the attentiveness to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. In essence, future-proof your manufacturing organization and extended supply chain.

Check out our new LMA-i, LMA-Intelligence series including Future-Proofing and contact us if you’d like an assessment path-forward plan to accelerate your bottom line and customer performance.



Food & Beverage and Future Proofing Your Business

November 27th, 2019

As I have been thinking about the food and beverage industry (and process manufacturing) and future proofing your business, I see several examples of proactive clients and colleagues future proofing their business.

As this is my latest, hot-off-the-press LMA-i, LMA Intelligence topic, I thought we’d explore a few trends related to food and beverage.

First, the industry as a whole does provide some level of future proofing because it is more recession proof than other industries. After all, we all need to continue to eat!

Next, since I talked to several attendees of the PMA’s (Produce Marketing Association) Fresh Summit, I was intrigued with the level of technology and complexity. For example, one apple expert (spanning multiple tiers in the supply chain) was keeping up with an incredible amount of detail with crops in a database as it was integral to the view 9-12 months into the future and how he could navigate for success. In essence, he was using predictive analytics to position his company for success in his specialty area. He also mentioned keeping up with technology to evaluate trade-offs to handle the skills gap, costs and more. He was keenly focused on future proofing his extended supply chain. Are you?

Technology and sustainability continue to pop up when looking at future proofing. For example, according to PMA CEO Cathy Burns, the top 5 trends include conscious capitalism, a focus on emotional health and megatrends shaping the industry (which both link back to produce and floral), and how corporate sustainability and technology matter.  Also, certainly all of the largest food and beverage companies are exploring the ‘right’ technology and systems upgrades to improve performance. They know that in order to future proof their business, they have to lead the pack with technology that will return value to their customers, investors and employees. And NONE of these higher level concepts are unique to food and beverage!

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
First, how are you up-to-speed on what is happening in your industry, technology impacting your industry and what you need to do to successfully future proof your company? If you don’t have a plan that is part of your daily, weekly or monthly business cycle, you better re-think your plan!

Next, are you trying to navigate on your own? You certainly are less likely to succeed. I also talked with additional experts who had a clear strategy of partnership and collaboration to maximize impact and minimize risk. Of course, you must choose wisely. Similar to a ‘bad spouse’, a bad partner is definitely worse than no partner at all. Yet, I’m seeing more executives realize that as much as they require more control and even vertical integration to control the customer experience and associated costs, they also need to find ways to make 1+1 = 22.

In today’s Amazon-impacted marketplace, the fast prevail. How can you leverage your extended supply chain and network for exponential success?

And, of course, a big part of future proofing your business goes back to creating resilience. Check out our many articles with ideas to create a resilient supply chain on our blog. Why not pick 2 or 3 ideas and run by your trusted advisors and collaboration partners…

 



Blockchain, IoT, AI, Big Data. Will Anything Stick?

November 11th, 2019

Client Question
Should I really invest time and resources into technologies I don’t know will pay back?

For example, there is a lot of conversation about the value (or lack thereof) of blockchain, IoT, AI and more. This concern continues to arise and is on every executive’s mind. They do not want to be left in the dust “holding the bag” (old and slow) while their competitors race by. On the other hand, they do not want to dump all sorts of money into technology that might not prove effective in their industry. And, in some cases, what they could invest would be a drop in the bucket. It would be like trying to refill the Pacific Ocean with a pail. Remember that fabulous song by Harry Belafonte “There’s a Hole in the Bucket“?

My colleague Diane Garcia and I set out to find the latest answer to this question at the Association for Supply Chain Management International Conference. There were several panels and presentations on each of these topics, along with several exhibitors talking about the latest and greatest technology integrations.

The Answer
Undoubtedly, there is a lot of noise about these technologies. According to Gartner, AI augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion in business value and recover $6.2 billion hours of work productivity. So, it is easy to see why AI is gaining investment with the large companies and with leaders of large organizations.

I love this quote from Harvard Business Review, “Over the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t.” That about sums it up! We need to at least be aware so that we can make good decisions when it comes to these technologies.

As it relates to AI, according to McKinsey Quarterly, across all functions, respondents report that the most significant benefits come from adopting AI in manufacturing! Coming in second is risk with supply chain management just behind in third place. So, if you are in manufacturing, you cannot afford not to at least consider the opportunities. Do you need to do this on your own? NO! We are seeing small companies come together to share resources and invest jointly to drive scale with results (and so they can compete with the large companies). There are also groups that facilitate this type of collaboration. At the most digitized companies, the adoption of AI capabilities is greater including machine learning, virtual agents, robotic process automation, computer vision and more.

According to Forrester, 90% plan greater investments in data and according to MIT Sloan, 85% view AI as a strategic priority. These two technologies cross over and seem to have the upper hand with the most immediately applicable technology.

With that said, there were even more sessions about blockchain and whether it was hype or hope. The bottom line on blockchain is that it is a real opportunity for certain industries such as the food industry (related to food safety).  It is still in early stages and will require a consortium of companies to come together to bring to reality.

According to a leader from FedEx, whether big or small, no one company will be successful on its own. Yet all the “big guys” are interested and participating. Stay tuned to see where it goes. Last but not least, IoT is integrated into many conversations about big data, AI, autonomous vehicles and more because it connects technologies. In manufacturing, IoT is connecting machines and data for predictive maintenance and the possibilities abound.

The bottom line: pay attention but resist exploring technology in isolation. Learn to collaborate.

Food For Thought
As much as these technologies should be on your radar, don’t get carried away and forget your fundamentals.

Do you have a scalable ERP system to support your business growth and profitability? If not, start there!

Do you have reporting and business intelligence systems so that you can slice and dice information to make instantaneous, informed decisions as key customer questions or business opportunities arise? If not, start there!

How about a simple CRM solution? Certainly in the Amazon Effect era, we must pay attention to customers.

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What is Ahead for Technology?
AI, Robots, IoT, Blockchain, Hike!
Systems Pragmatist



Taos & Unplugging from Technologhy

November 4th, 2019

I went with my mom and aunt to visit my aunt (mom’s best friend) and her sister in New Mexico. First, it is interesting all of the things we assume and take for granted as a frequent traveler (a note for another day!).

Next, we drove to Taos, New Mexico for two nights. It is an interesting mountain art town with one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the U.S. (the Pueblo). Although this Native American tribe of Puebloan people have members who live with modern amenities outside of the Pueblo, there are several families still living there without water and electricity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our way to the Pueblo, our phones went out because the cell tower went down. Since almost everyone used Verizon or services that went through Verizon, we were out of touch with the world.  And, service finally came back up (hotel included) the next day. It is amazing the number of items we use our cell phones to look up (symptoms of altitude sickness for one of my aunts, a decent place for lunch, directions to the Pueblo, a call to my mom’s other sister to see how a procedure went and a call to a client)! Odd timing perhaps that we were left on our own devices (except for my mom’s “old person phone” that my brother gave her which worked on T-mobile from time to time) as we visited an ancient pueblo. I had to text by clicking multiple times on numbers to try to reach my cousin and client. What a great story… you couldn’t plan this if you tried!

Have you thought about unplugging?

One Tip to Implement This Week:
Although I do not wish to lose technology again anytime soon, it certainly makes you think and prioritize who you are going to text (as it might take at least 20 times longer), what you need to know and how else you might find the answer and more. I barely recall when I first started working and would pull over to use a pay phone to return a call from my beeper to the plant about what to do about a scheduling issue. Can you imagine?!

Losing technology makes you think, observe and prioritize. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to prioritize how we spend our time anyway? At the airport in Albuquerque on the way home, I sat at the bar with my laptop (as it was the only place that had a plug), and the guy next to me was complaining about a couple who sat near us who apparently had been staring at their phones and not talking the entire time he was there. Have we forgotten how to talk? I can definitely say that our clients experience communication challenges from time to time. Actually, don’t we all? Perhaps we should practice more often!

Why not put technology aside for a few hours and observe and listen? You might experience an entirely different situation than you ever have before!

 

 



When Is It Time to Upgrade?

July 5th, 2019

A Client Question
A client didn’t feel prepared to launch into an ERP system upgrade as they had just bought the business and had invested significant funds into the transition.  Yet, this client was also starting to worry about scalability and the risk associated with old technology. After all, this old technology was directly supporting their day-to-day business and customer experience. Although the CEO was reluctant, he agreed to an assessment of his ERP system and readiness.

The Answer
In their case, they needed to upgrade to modernize their technology infrastructure and gain additional functionality that is required to support their business growth and meet current standards. However, we found a way to make small key improvements to their ancient system to support enough progress to ‘buy time’ for the teams to gain an understanding of process disciplines required to support a successful upgrade. It also gave them time to educate the workforce.

During the next year, significant efforts were made to roll out process improvements and system functionality to standardize functions such as pricing and raw material ordering. About a year into the process, we “hit a wall” in terms of the ERP capabilities with critical functionality considered a “must” in supporting the business. Thus, we were prepared to make a quick selection of an ERP system and partner and eventually gained corporate alignment to pursue the upgrade to support continued growth and profitability.

Food For Thought
We are often asked to look at ERP systems that clients think they should throw out.  It turns out that that were perfectly fine and scalable, just poorly implemented.  We usually aren’t asked to look at ERP systems on their last leg where we had to make a strong case to executives to even look at the topic. And whether a new system was needed or not, the organization might not be prepared. Determining whether there is time to prepare or whether you should follow a rapid preparation route can be tricky. There are typically risks on both sides, whether you move too slow or too fast. Take time to assess what makes sense in your case. Be careful of ‘shark’ salespeople as there are tons in this field. It is quite confusing so that even well-intentioned executives and salespeople can mislead organizations. If you are interested in running your situation by us, contact us.

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ERP Selection: Why It Has Become a Strategic Priority