Tag Archive: technology

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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2019 Predictions Report: What to Expect and Where to Focus

March 26th, 2019

I’m thrilled to launch our 2019 Predictions Report, “Manufacturing & Supply Chain in the New Normal: 2019 Predictions from Manufacturing & Logistics Executives” discussing what to expect and where to focus.

We assembled this based on these types of questions:

  • How do we increase profitability in today’s new normal environment?
  • Do we see growth or recession? Or something in the middle? What should we do?
  • There are so many technology options with the promise to transform entire industries. Should we be pursuing? Which ones?
  • Customers expect quick delivery with changes along the way (even while intransit), excellent on-time-delivery (OTD) results and more. Where should we focus?
  • Trade wars and global sourcing – what to do?!
  • How is it trending in our industry? Are there any hot buttons, like talent?

Discussions with several manufacturing and logistics executives and experts are included in the report. Feel free to pass on this link to colleagues and friends to get a free copy of the report.

With that said, since you are already on our newsletter list, here is a direct link just for our newsletter subscribers.

Thank you to our clients and colleagues who participated with their predictions and advice! Please share your feedback. We would love to gain your insights, concerns etc. We’ll incorporate into our upcoming interview and article series.



What do UPS, Shamrock Foods, Amazon & a 3PL Have in Common?

March 14th, 2019

In touring multiple facilities, ranging from package shipments to cold storage food service delivery to the e-commerce behemoth to 3PL organizations, it despite the conversations that take place about labor costs and other daily concerns, the #1 concern across the board is transportation costs. The numbers support this sentiment. According to CSCMP, transportation costs are 65% of total logistics spend.

Logically, it also makes good sense. No matter your business, materials, parts sub-assemblies and/or products need to arrive at your facility. Often, especially in industries such as aerospace, the parts make multiple trips around the area (unless you are unlucky enough to require sourcing outside of your local area) for outside processing services such as anodizing and painting. Lastly, every work-in-process part or finished good must go to the next stop along the way to the customer such as a final assembly customer, your distribution center, your customer’s distribution center or the end customer. That makes for quite a lot of transportation, often involving multiple modes of transport from air freight to ocean freight to rail to trucking.

Given these alarming statistics about transportation costs, the question becomes: What can we do to proactively manage these costs as well as reduce the impact on the environment? After listening to several experts on these tours and experts from Georgia Tech, APICS (learn more about the critical importance of logistics in our APICS-IE CLTD, certified in logistics, transportation and distribution certificate program) and CSCMP SoCal (at the state of the industry event), a few ideas emerged.

  1. Collaborate with strange bedfellows:As recently published in an I’ve Been Thinking article, collaborating with strange bedfellows can achieve 1+1+1 = 25 minimally. In terms of transportation, there is no doubt maximizing the space used in your truck, container or plane is vital. Why not collaborate with another business to increase your utilization?
  2. Take the holistic or systems view: It is quite challenging to see the forest for the trees as the old slogan goes. We have all been there! I have worked with clients for extended periods of time and found myself with this same issue.  So, I have to deliberately shake it up to maintain the systems or bird’s-eye view. For example, don’t worry about saving a few pennies on a non-essential element of your transportation infrastructure when you are missing the key point that your mix of modes of operation or something like that is costing you millions.
  1. Utilize technology that focuses on the critical transportation factors: In every case (at every tour, event and in every conversation), leveraging technology where it makes sense came up. Certainly, artificial intelligence is the new craze since it has the potential to transform entire industries including logistics. However, robotics are being considered even in industries such as 3PL where they never were previously due to the nature of managing different customers and products. Of course, IoT is prevalent in the world of logistics and transportation as well as topics such as alternative fuels and automation. And what about the basics of a solid ERP system and TMS (transportation management system)? Don’t panic over the horror stories. Contact us if you want to overcome them.
  1. Be customer friendly:Interesting how often being customer friendly arises, no matter the industry or size company (small family owned to private equity backed to large complex organizations).  With rising truck rates and a shortage of drivers, if you aren’t a preferred shipper, you might just be out of luck no matter how much you spend. What does it take to be a preferred shipper? It depends on your business, carriers, locations and more. However, it starts by thinking about what is important to your carrier (not you). Are they looking for flexibility? A quick turnaround time? Fast payment? Good treatment for their drivers?

Since transportation costs are, at minimum, 65% of your total logistics spend, it requires further thought. With the vast amount of technology options available, the best approach is to start with your foundation (your ERP system) and ensure it is stable. Once you have a scalable base, find the ‘right’ technology for your situation to maximize the value of your logistics infrastructure. However, remember the 80/20 goes back to people. What are you doing to develop strategic partnerships and to ensure you are customer friendly and a preferred shipper? Given the impact, don’t leave this to chance or make assumptions. We all like to think we are preferred but what can we do to take it an extra step further?

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

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The Stock Market, The Economy & How They Do Not Align

February 12th, 2019

Key research groups are starting to talk about their predictions for the economy, and everyone is interested. It feels like everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop. After all, we have been in an expansion mode far longer than is typical and there is plenty of volatility and uncertainty in global trade, the U.S. Shutdown and more. Last week, I heard a research expert from City National Bank and did an informal poll of trusted advisors (CPAs, attorneys, consultants, commercial bankers etc.). The bottom line = continued growth.

The City National Bank expert said that they study about 20 economic indicators, and all are firing on all cylinders. The only one that has consistently shown some potential for hesitation is geopolitical risk –  which isn’t new. As much as the U.S. Shutdown, global trade tensions, Brexit and more has the stock market jittery, it hasn’t impacted the economic forecast. Businesses are growing and the economy is doing well! The hot topics being discussed include asset protection, the talent shortfall, the technology transformation and cyber security risks. There are always lots of details to consider but the common theme is growth. Thus, a key question becomes, are you prepared for scalable, profitable growth?  

One tip to implement this week:

What I’m seeing as a differentiator to success in these strong yet uncertain times is the ability to ‘stay the course’ and be resilient.  With each new emerging news story, I’m seeing the stock market choke and people panic. Unfortunately, this can lead to short-term, erratic changes in executives’ decisions. No one wants to be put into the same position as they were in during the last recession. So, the tendency is to overreact. Yet, the most successful clients provide stability and a platform for scalable growth.

They are willing to make hard decisions, ranging from investing in top talent to systems and technologies (even when their peers are hesitant) to addressing the sacred cow (every business has at least one!) to thinking about how their business model might be evolving and what they might need to change (even when they are currently profitable and seemingly successful).

It might make good sense to take a step back and avoid overreacting to the latest news. Stay aware and on top of trends. Ask questions and consider down-the-line impacts on your business. Instead of getting caught up in the latest drama or fad, put thought into how to build agility into your plans. How can you ensure your navigation system is rock solid and will weather whatever storm occurs next. If there is one constant, it will be continued volatility and uncertainty.

Prepare to be resilient. Check out our new resilient supply chain series and contact us if you’d like to have an assessment of your organization.



What’s Ahead in Technology?

January 30th, 2019

To think about what’s ahead in technology, it is important to put it in perspective with what’s ahead in business.  Read our article, “What’s Ahead in Business?” for details on the key trends impacting business:

  1. Importance of the customer experience
  2. Taking the holistic view has become a “must”
  3. Volatility is the new norm
  4. The coming power of manufacturing and supply chain

What’s ahead in technology lines up with these same themes. In order to achieve scalable, profitable growth, technology is an important enabler. The most relevant technology trends include:

  1. ERP Upgrades – More and more companies are realizing that their system infrastructure must keep up with business requirements and customer expectations. As tough as an ERP upgrade can be, it is one of the only ways to make the leap from manual, labor-intensive processes to providing a superior customer experience efficiently.
  2. E-commerce/ Customer Portals – Amazon. Alibaba. Customer collaboration. Need we say more?
  3. Business Intelligence & Data Analytics – We are overwhelmed by mountains of data. We are so anxious to gather data yet we don’t seem to have the appropriate information at our fingertips when we need it. That’s where data analytics comes into the picture. Beyond that, predictive analytics is gaining steam.
  4. Artificial Intelligence – Even my Mom counts on Alexa! In addition, who wouldn’t want a car that self corrects? Predicting customer patterns and behaviors is becoming more important. AI is set to transform many industries over the next several years.
  5. IoT– Smart factories. Smart homes. Connected devices and machines. According to NEWGENAPPS, 60% of global manufacturers will use analytics data tracked using connected devices to analyze and and optimize processes.
  6. Robotics & Automation – Robots may not be taking over the universe tomorrow morning, but they are working hand-in-hand with people to achieve many benefits – improve safety, increase speed and consistency, improve customer satisfaction, fill capacity shortfalls and and increase productivity.
  7. Autonomous Vehicles – Beyond self-driving cars and trucks, autonomous vehicles are used widely in manufacturing and distribution environments.

Are you thinking about which of these technologies will support your business objectives?  Or which are likely to impact your industry?  Consider technology as a key part of your strategy and plans. If you’d like an expert to evaluate which, if any, of these technologies will be relevant to your business, contact us.

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AI, Robots, IoT, Blockchain, Hike!