Tag Archive: technology

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.

 



The Importance of Continual Learning

September 18th, 2018

Recently, we updated our website.  It prompted a lot of thinking about many aspects of business.  One is the importance of continual learning.  As you’ll see on our Continual Learning webpage, it is a priority.  With that said, I’ve noticed that the most successful people (clients, colleagues, fellow Board members etc.) have continual learning in common.  There is definitely something behind this trend!  It reminds me of one of our LMA Advocate winners, Valerie Ladd – her continual learning is quite impressive.  She never stops learning – and all with a positive attitude to boot.

 

 

 

 

When thinking about continual learning for LMA Consulting, we focus on three categories:

1) Future trends in business, the economy, the industry, our area of expertise etc.
2) Technology trends & disruptors
3) Local & global trends.

What are you learning?

One tip to implement this week:
There are countless ways to add or expand on your continual learning.  Instead of getting stuck in a sea of possibilities, just choose one or two and start there.  Don’t worry if they are the best ones or will provide the greatest benefit.  Just start!  Waiting for perfection is a LONG road….your competition will certainly pass you by.

With that said, if you’d like some ideas of where to go for continual learning, here are several that pop to mind:
1) Ask your mentor.
2) Talk with colleagues and ask what they are learning – or ask to learn more about their role and challenges.
3) Go to a trade association meeting.  For example, APICS Inland Empire provides programs, symposiums, tours and education to provide value to manufacturing and distribution professionals.
4) Go to an alumni meeting.
5) Attend a local chamber or business club.
6) Read the news, magazines and blogs related to your field.
7) Call a customer or supplier.
8) Join a mastermind.
9) Call a former colleague or manager.
10)  Attend a tradeshow.

What are you going to do?



Technologies: Paying Attention to What is Important

September 6th, 2018

There are so many new technologies and combinations of technologies, it is extremely hard to keep up.  How do you know which to pay attention to and which to ignore? Unfortunately, some clients have told us they get overwhelmed by it all and just go back to what they are expert in (running the business) and postpone the technology decision.

As much as we find that technology is NOT #1 to success, achieving scalable, profitable growth without technology is an uphill battle to be sure!  We also find some technology enthusiasts who get so bogged down in technology as the “be all, end all” to success that they actually struggle. Instead of either of these extremes, use a bit of uncommon common sense and determine which technologies are important.  A few points to consider:

  1.  Your Industry:  There is no point being an early adopter if unnecessary in your industry unless it is your competitive advantage.  Where is your industry headed? What would provide a benefit?
  2.  Your Position:  If your competitive edge is being on the forefront of delivering an exceptional customer experience, you better figure out what you need to succeed in this differentiator.  If this is the case, we bet you would need to invest in technology that would enable a superior customer experience. But it is unlikely you’d need other technology advances.
  3.  Return on Investment: As exciting as new technology can be, it pays to ensure you’ll gain an ROI.  Go through the exercise to determine if technology will enable growth, profitability, cash flow or another bottom line benefit.
  4.  Your Current State: A few of our clients have been in a position where they were limited in growth prospects without enabling technology.  Of course, they could grow by brute force with a stellar sales and marketing team; however, to grow in a scalable way, they will need to leverage technology instead of hiring just to ‘keep up’ with growth.
  5.  Your Strengths:  As with most priorities, focus on your strengths.   It can be tempting to “keep up with the Joneses” and buy the latest and greatest technology you think your competition is using.  However, instead of throwing good money after bad, think about your company’s strengths, your teams’ strengths and what makes the most sense to align those strengths with customer requirements.

In today’s Amazon impacted environment, evaluating technology to best support your business objectives is a “must”.  As much as can be accomplished through people and process alone, you will not thrive without at least thinking about technology.  

You want to be aware of what’s coming down the pike in terms of technology before you head over the edge in complete denial with your typewriter in hand.  After all, who would have thought network TV would trend towards becoming obsolete?



Ireland’s Lean, Green Forklift Plant Proves Robots & IoT Not Required

August 22nd, 2018

 

According to a new an Industry Week article, you can achieve amazing growth and success without robots and IoT! Combilift has used innovation, creativity and the customer experience to go it alone with amazing results! Safer, simpler, smarter is their tag line. Check out their video….

 

 

An Interesting Example of Improving Process AND Going the Extra Mile for Customers
Combilift is revolutionizing the way companies handle and store materials especially long and awkward loads (sounds like several of our clients….). Most interesting is that they are successful through their attention to customers. They have an eagerness to provide the perfect solution for their industrial customers’ needs.  They “go the extra mile” to provide superior customer experiences in a customized way. Do you?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Certainly if you are in the forklift industry and sell into niche markets, watch out! Just kidding.  Really, we should be able to learn quite a few lessons that we can immediately apply from this intriguing example.

Do you have signs posted about the importance of customers or do you LIVE your passion of the importance of customers? Remember, there is no way you can do any of this without passionate employees so start there.

Next, although it is important to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and which might apply to your company’s future, do not get sucked into that black hole? Instead, remain focused on “what makes sense”, whether that is technology, lean processes, or just plain common sense.

We have partnered with key clients to solve seemingly significant complex issues with a good dose of common sense. Why not take a step back and think about whether what you are doing makes sense.

 



What’s Next in the Supply Chain?

August 10th, 2018

Our most successful clients always ask “What’s next?” as they want to stay ahead of the curve.  It is quite clear that staying on top of current trends and what is expected down-the-road is essential to successfully navigating your business to scalable, profitable growth.

For example, if you think your industry might develop a new way of servicing customers, you need to attack it quickly as you afford to be left in the dust.  Clearly, providing an exceptional customer experience is important but so is developing this new service method in a scalable, profitable way. It will be much harder if behind the eight ball. Are you thinking about what is next?

With our definition of the supply chain from creation to customer, there are countless topics to be thinking about when it comes to What’s Next:

  • New Products and Services: What new products and services will your customers want?  We have found that most customers (just like most of our clients) might not know yet.  You better be thinking about it and prompting ideas!
  • Suppliers: What new materials, components and supplies will you need to improve performance at a lower cost? (These win-win successes require innovation and collaboration.)
  • Transportation: What’s next in transportation?  Think of the relevance – from suppliers to manufacturers, from manufacturers to manufacturers, from manufacturers to distributors, from distributors to end customers, from one facility to another facility, and so on.
  • Technology:  What’s next in technology as it connects each of these people along with equipment, and much more (think IoT) with data and information flows.  We find that this often-times can be the bottleneck to achieving scalability.
  • Manufacturing:  What’s next in manufacturing?  Even if you aren’t thinking about using 3D printing, you should be considering the impacts if your competition, your suppliers, your customers and more start using this additive manufacturing capability.  It is likely to impact every step of the supply chain. What else is likely to happen in your industry?
  • Distribution:  What’s next in distribution?  In your industry, what is essential?  To think about distribution, you must think about your customers’ needs.  You also should be thinking about the rest of your supply chain. For example, if 3D printing takes off, it changes the distribution model.  If e-commerce continues to be important, your entire setup would change if you are more traditional currently. Do customers want you to take over worrying about what to stock and where to stock it?  Perhaps you should suggest taking on VMI/ replenishment.
  • Customers: What’s next with your customers?  How about your customers’ customers? Are you even talking with your customers’ customers?  Do you understand the industry trends throughout your chain? If you aren’t getting out of your office with an internal focus, you won’t.  Who have you called lately? Who have you visited? Do you ask questions? Attend conferences?
  • People:  What’s next with your colleagues and partners?   Nothing else will be achievable if you don’t have the best people on the team.  It wasn’t that long ago we thought virtual meetings were a big deal. Now they occur daily.  (Remember, illennials often-times like coming into the office for the community – and prefer the Google-like environment.)

Thinking about what’s next can distinguish you from your competition.  Eventually, a decision will arise that requires this knowledge. If thinking of the future is part of your daily culture, you’ll pass by the rest!