Tag Archive: technology

Supply chain strategy: Modernization tips from Lisa Anderson

March 27th, 2020

As Published in:  Ratelinx

For business leaders looking to modernize their supply chain, the technology investment is the easy part: Evaluate solutions, calculate the ROI, make your business case, and take delivery. Sure, it can be tricky to get sign off on these tech investments, but it’s a business problem with a logical solution.

The more challenging part is preparing your organization to take full advantage of that investment. That means getting people on board, ready for the change, and developing new processes that take full advantage of the new tech.

“High tech must be accompanied with high touch,” says Lisa Anderson, supply chain consultant and President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. “The most successful supply chain leaders will remember that people are their number one asset.”

We asked Lisa for her perspective on the current state of supply chain, the key trends that are driving change, and how you can prepare your team for what comes next. Read on to learn what she had to say.

Modernizing Your Supply Chain Strategy

The right supply chain strategy includes technological investments, process refinements, and a change management plan for your team. It should be detailed enough to act upon, but flexible enough to account for changing trends. Here’s how to get started.

Key Trends Driving Supply Chain Modernization

For most businesses, there are two factors that make modernization essential. First, there’s sustainability: Consumers are looking to buy from sustainable companies. That means companies are under pressure to not only work with sustainable suppliers, but to prove they’re doing so.

The second factor is perhaps an even bigger driver for change: The demand for near-instantaneous, free shipping for ecommerce. “In the next five years, customers will be expecting Amazon-like service levels at affordable rates, regardless of the high levels of disruption,” Lisa says. “Reshoring, near-sourcing, and sourcing reevaluation will be major concerns.”

Lisa predicts high levels of adoption for new technologies to meet these demands. “The use of technology such as artificial intelligence, IoT, predictive analytics and other technologies will enable meeting these customer needs while maximizing profit and cash flow,” she says.

 

“In these early stages, it’s important to focus in on the
most relevant data to drive decision-making. ” 

Getting Started with a Modernization Strategy

The actual nuts-and-bolts process of building a strategy is the same as solving any problem in your organization. “Start with the outcomes you’d like to achieve,” Lisa says, “then perform an assessment and gap analysis of your people, processes and technology. Assess your change management capabilities to achieve your outcomes. Finally, design the solution and build an implementation team.”

The process may be familiar, but knowing where to start can be a challenge. The first step should be getting a clear picture of your current supply chain. “Start simply and create a dashboard or availability screen that shows your supply chain status; however, remember that if you don’t pay attention to process disciplines, garbage in will result in garbage out,” says Lisa.

In these early stages, it’s important to focus in on the most relevant data to drive decision-making. But don’t try to boil the ocean: “Data plays a vital role; however, do not get sidetracked and overwhelmed with data. Start with your No. 1 priority, find directionally correct data and enable visibility,” Lisa says. “Once your team and supply chain partners understand this data, move to the second largest priority.”

Once you have your supply chain mapped out, you can start to implement solutions that will pay off in the short term and in the long run. A.I. and IoT initiatives have the potential for a quick win. Lisa says in her consulting work, she’s seeing “Artificial Intelligence and IoT used in predictive analytics and forecasting as top priorities. Getting ahead of customer demand drives significant supply chain value.”

Train and Hire the Right Skill Set

For Lisa, the human element is an often-overlooked, but crucial, part of supply chain modernization. “I’ve found that a more dramatic ROI can occur by aligning the people, even more than the data and the process,” she says.

When bringing in new talent, Lisa recommends looking for data science fundamentals. “Data analytics, the ability to leverage ERP systems and think through down-the-line impacts as well as tying business process to systems design are all part of the equation,” she says. “But we should also look at soft skill requirements, such as the ability to collaborate.” Collaboration, big-picture strategizing, and lateral thinking are all essential characteristics of a modern supply chain expert.

The ROI Potential of Supply Chain Modernization

Remodeling your supply chain is not without risks, and it’s a process that takes time and resources to ensure success. But the rewards are worth the effort. “It depends on the situation, of course,” says Lisa, “but it isn’t uncommon to see a five or 10:1 return on investment from supply chain transformation improvements.”



Going Live on a New ERP System and the Importance of People

March 16th, 2020

With a client going live on a new ERP system shortly, it is top of mind. As is ALWAYS the case, as you get close to the finish line, issues pop up and it feels like one nightmare after another. With that said, the team is doing well and we are tackling what arises.  I am confident that we’ll be successful!

Yet, going through the process certainly highlights the critical importance of people during projects of significant organizational change. All people matter in these types of significant projects – the business owner or executive, the ERP project team, sponsors, the day-to-day troops and related parties.

 

How do you respond as you are sleep deprived and maxed out? Perhaps we should all think twice about how we respond to situations and whether we let bias and the lack of sleep cloud our judgement because it certainly has an impact on people!

For example, on the positive side, the business owner we are working with is very supportive to the team. He showed up with Customer Service to key orders on the weekend and is willing to spend money on tools and technology that will make it easier for his team. He also tailors his style to the person. For example, he saved a particular type of coffee for one of the project team members because she mentioned she would like it. This type of support goes a long way to encouraging the team to carry on through the typical trials and tribulations. On the other hand, there is always a negative Nellie or stress creator.

How do we navigate these types of waters successfully? And do we realize the power of people?

One Tip to Implement This Week:
Take a step back from what you are doing and think about how you are perceived. In our experience, people do not perceive themselves the same way that others perceive them. In fact, they might think they are fine but the frown on their face, the tone of their email or their attitude carries a different story. We find that people see through non-genuine comments. For example, if you say one thing but it is clear the opposite is how you really feel, what you really feel is going to shine through. You also have to be consistent or people wonder what is going on even if you are good with them.

The opposite also holds true. There have been times when it is clear the executive was concerned about something but presented a positive, can-do attitude, and the mood shifted to a bright outlook. In this case, the executive truly believed the situation can be navigated even though he didn’t know how (at the moment), and so his belief in the future shone through. Your attitude will spread. Have you checked yours lately?

Remember the power your comments, attitude and actions have on others. Are your going to spur the team to success or hold them back? Each person makes a difference. Don’t think because you aren’t the project manager or the business owner, you don’t have an impact. You will!



Special Report: 2020 Predictions

March 12th, 2020

We received such a positive response to last year’s predictions report that we wanted to add to that value in 2020. It was an exciting process to see what CEOs, executives and thought leaders of manufacturing and logistics organizations think about the current trends, what’s coming, and most importantly, what to do to get ahead of the curve.

A special THANKS goes to our contributors. We’ll be discussing these topics much more in our March newsletter to build upon their predictions and ways we can THRIVE amidst the ambiguity.

For our Profit through People subscribers, we are pleased to provide a direct link. Feel free to forward to your colleagues and friends by sending them our download link.

A Few Highlights
Please pay special attention to my introduction (page 2). I believe we are at a critical juncture in our field. To succeed in 2020, manufacturing and logistics organizations need to become agile, proactive and even disruptive, to merely survive. The most successful organizations are going to do a deep dive into human capital, technologies and strategies that will achieve the trifecta – a superior customer experience, profitable growth and improved working capital, simultaneously.

With the promise of additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence, IoT, robotics and blockchain, technology can play a pivotal role.  However, technology alone is NEVER the answer. Instead, it is the smart application of the appropriate technologies by top talent, aligned internally and across the extended supply chain and following a well-thought out strategy that wins the race.

I thought the insights, predictions and recommendations from our experts are worth noting – and taking action! We were careful to gain perspectives from manufacturing and logistics executives and thought leaders, spanning industries (from food and beverage to building products and logistics), specialties (trade, sourcing, technology, human capital, economic development and more), and size and complexity (from family-owned to private equity to large, complex organizations). I’d love to hear your feedback and areas you’d like to deep dive further.

We will continue our webinar series with future-proofing topics and thought leaders, as well as our video series of timely topics such as the coronavirus. We will continue to explore these topics in our blogs and newsletters, as well.

Please contact us if you’d like to discuss your situation and how you can future-proof your manufacturing operations and create a resilient supply chain.



Future-Proofing Your Skills Gap

February 17th, 2020

Since talent has become a strategic topic for any executive who wishes to thrive in 2020 and beyond, it should top of mind for every manufacturing and distribution business owner or executive. Have you put time aside to think about this critical topic with your top team? If not, stop now and do it!

We have recently re-surveyed manufacturing and distribution executives, hiring managers, and related trusted advisors.  There is unanimous agreement that the skills gap remains. We also talked with business owners and executives from a wide range of manufacturing and distribution industries.

Talent is a hot topic for several critical reasons:

  1. Demographics – As baby boomers retire, it is leaving a gap in experience and expertise. It is a struggle to absorb or replace adequately.
  2. Technology – With the increase in technology required to run our businesses while providing not only a superior customer experience to grow but also with high levels of profitability and working capital, having talent with the skills to maximize the use of technology is essential. It is also changing the makeup of the talent required.
  3. Skilled Trades – There is a significant gap in the skilled trades such as CNC operators. There hasn’t been enough focus on the high school and community college career path into the sector. Those that find a way to bridge this gap have a leg up on the competition.
  4. Leaders – Whether high-tech or low-tech, leaders play a pivotal role in performance. It is FAR too often we see executives trade down to save money instead of looking at the return on investment over a multi-year period!
  5. Complexity – We live in a global, complex world with increasing rules and regulations to navigate.

How can we future-proof talent? There are a few priorities we should pursue immediately.

  1. Think Ahead: Don’t hire, retain and train for what is needed today. Instead, focus on where you’ll need to be in one year to thrive.
  2. Partner: If you need skilled trades, technology savvy resources and the like, consider partnerships. Successful executives have set up programs with local community colleges, partnered with trade associations such as the Association for Supply Chain Management (APICS – listen to the video below), collaborated with a makerspace academy such as Vocademy, brought in trsuted advisors, collaborated with competitors and more.
  3. Evaluate Technology: Evaluate which technology will provide a return on investment and spur profitable growth. There is no need to chase shiny objects but you should think prudently about how to accelerate success.
  4. Mentor: There is little better than establishing a mentoring process. Although training can be effective, people learn quickest through behavioral change modeling and feedback.
  5. Be attractive: You are in competition for your talent – both retaining top talent as well as finding new talent.

Proactively addressing this Skills Gap and future-proofing your manufacturing operations and extended supply chain is cornerstone to growth plans.

Lately, we’ve seen an increase in interest for an organizational structure and talent assessment to ensure the organization is shored up to deliver performance plans. If you’d like assistance in evaluating your readiness to meet business objectives, please contact us.

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

Future-proofing Your Manufacturing SuccessEagle Eye Strategic Focus

 



U.S., China Sign Historic Phase One Trade Deal

February 3rd, 2020

According to the National Association of Manufacturers press release, the U.S and China trade deal is an unprecedented phase one win for manufacturers.  Previously the NAM CEO lamented that “China has proven one of the most troubling markets in the world for manufacturers, due to its lack of commitment to free markets, fair competition and reform.” Thus, this statement was high praise for the deal, “It is a remarkable turning point for manufacturers, with the unprecedented and enforceable commitments on critical intellectual property protections to which China has agreed.

There are a myraid of issues in trade with China for manufacturing, and there is debate whether “phase one” went far enough or too far (as both extremes exist); however, according to my recent discussions with international business attorney and China expert John Tulac on future-proofing your manufacturing supply chain, there is quite a bit of risk in China to navigate.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

Certainly this trade deal relates back to tariffs. Of course, the U.S. agreed to cut tariffs of $120 billion in Chinese goods by half. They also held off on tariffs in December with expectation of the trade deal. Not surprisingly, economists expect this to positively impact growth.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, China agreed to ramp up purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over the next 2 years. Agricultural products will go up by $32 billion over that period, and China agreed to steps that will provide market access for dairy products, poultry, beef and more.

Most importantly to many manufacturers, there is strong language preventing thefts of trade secrets. That is certainly a huge frustration to manufacturers! We definitely aren’t too comfortable relying upon this but it can be seen as progress and eases some concerns. There is also agreement to create a dispute resolution office as well as to not manipulate currency. The bottom line is there is a host of positive outcomes and progress which provides a base to build upon.

By no means should we jump on expanding manufacturing in China as there are plenty of issues of concern. With that said, this trade deal might provide time for you to evaluate what will make the most sense for your business objectives while reducing negative impacts of tariffs. As costs have gone up in China and working capital increases in importance, manufacturers are starting to look at moving operations closer to customers to support quick turnarounds and a superior customer experience. Technology might provide a strategic advantage with 3D printing, AI, IoT, robotics and more. Commodity products with minimal freight costs are moving to other low cost countries. For example, Vietnam loves manufacturing and is rapidly expanding. There are plenty of options to ponder.

At a minimum, continually re-evaluate your supply chain road map and think through related impacts. These topics certainly relate to our new LMA-i, LMA-Intelligence series including the Amazon Effect, the Resilient Supply Chain and Future-Proofing and contact us if you’d like an assessment path-forward plan to accelerate your bottom line and customer performance.