Tag Archive: transportation

Automation or Autonomous?

August 16th, 2020

While leading a panel “Building Resiliency in the Supply Chain” with gurus from Georgia Tech, the leading experts in global logistics and associated research, several intriguing concepts arose.

My Association for Supply Chain Management group led a series of webinars on “Navigating through Volatility” including discussions with several logistics experts from distribution, the ports, transportation, technology and more. Many strategies for success arose during these sessions.

And, last but not least, both my top-notch trusted advisor network, ProVisors and our clients have brought strategies to light. A a result, it seemed prudent to share a few highlights.

Automation vs. Autonomy
Automation is definitely on the rise as organizations determine how to thrive post COVID-19. Statistics show that the automation market is expected to almost double in the next 5 years, and experts show that plans to automate are being accelerated. For example, the automation expected in the Inland Empire in the next 10-15 years will likely be compressed into the next five. On the other hand, automation isn’t all its cracked up to be! For example, when one part of the production line breaks down, you could end up with a pile up of product and waste at the bottleneck. On the other hand, will you be the last person typing on a typewriter? What are your automation plans?

The Georgia Tech experts made the case that automation is analogous to the typewriter. The new concept is autonomous so that machines and vehicles can operate independently of human control or supervision. Could these autonomous vehicles take on roles not previously possible, practical or cost effective? Almost all modes of transportation are candidates for autonomous vehicles. We typically think about trucking convoys, cars, drones and sometimes aircraft but are you also considering the impact of autonomous fork lifts, container ships, high speed trains, cranes, last mile delivery, cargo resupply and more? With the dramatic rise in e-commerce, autonomous drone resupply could be quite the win.

What are the Impacts?
Client examples abound. A small aerospace manufacturer automated a critical production process. Prior to automating this process, the area was a constant bottleneck. Work-in-process was stockpiled in front of the work station as high-skilled workers tried to keep up with the incoming flow of material. They ran as much overtime as feasible to try to keep product flowing to the next process step so that they could meet the customers’ ship date, but it was a never-ending battle with no end in sight. After automating the manufacturing process, the high-skilled resources set up the machines to run throughout the night autonomously. Suddenly, our client was running a three shift operation with the same resources, and customers didn’t experience delays. There was upfront investment in machinery and equipment as well as setup and education.  However, it paid back almost immediately with increased output and sales.

From a logistics point-of-view, WMS systems are gaining traction in the current environment. There are countless options for automation, as well as autonomous capabilities within the warehouse. For example, clients have installed conveyor systems which connect directly to the WMS systems and shipping systems which connects to ERP systems to manage order fulfillment processes. With the rise in e-commerce (and the number of small packages and associated labor requirements), automation can be even more relevant to the bottom line. In fact, there are several options to replace pickers with automated processes. The future will look to automation and autonomy. Will a drone resupply trucks that delivering e-commerce orders?

What Should We Do?
Get up to speed on the possibilities and potential of automation, as well as autonomous machinery and vehicles. As you hear about additional examples, think through the concepts, look for additional applications and brainstorm with colleagues on how these concepts could help your company and/or industry. The best ideas come from those who are willing to voice their ideas, test them under controlled conditions and move forward no matter the obstacles. Create this type of environment at your company, and soon suggestions for automation and autonomous processes will rise to the surface.

We discuss these types of strategies in our eBook on Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19. Additionally, follow IEEP, APICS Inland Empire and LMA Consulting as we communicate progress on the consortium for logistics and advanced manufacturing success Check out our articles and webinars, and contact us if you’d like to brainstorm these concepts further.

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JIT Might Not Be What it is Cracked Up to Be?!

April 2nd, 2020

Just-in-time might not be what it is cracked up to be! Certainly, the coronavirus impacts should give us reason to question this rule at face value. Are you running so tight that you only have one bin, pallet or small supermarket to keep your facility running? If so, the question extends to your end-to-end supply chain.

Let’s assume you are a critical manufacturer struggling to produce key items during this coronavirus pandemic. Your suppliers should not be on lockdown since they support a critical infrastructure business; however, that doesn’t mean you’ll be fine. There are many considerations to review:

  1. Source of supply: Are your suppliers located in Asia and unable to staff during the peak of the coronavirus? Do you know what type of delays you’ll experience? Do your suppliers have contingency plans?
  2. Your suppliers’ suppliers: Even if you have a good handle on your suppliers, do you know the status of your suppliers’ suppliers? In an interconnected supply chain, we are only as strong as our weakest link. Who is your weakest link?
  3. Your transportation infrastructure: Even if your suppliers have product, can it get to you? Within what timeframe?
  4. Backups: No matter how well you’ve planned, the question is whether you have backups for critical materials/ ingredients that will ramp up rapidly as needed. Hopefully your supply chain is diversified geographically.
  5. Your customers: Are you in lockstep with your customers so that you are proactively managing demand or are peaks and valleys a surprise? Of course, the coronavirus was unexpected but the degree you fully understand your customers will determine your reaction time to changes in demand.
  6. Positioning of inventory: Do you have critical inventory positioned throughout your end-to-end supply chain?
  7. Your digital supply chain: Are you able to see into your extended supply chain? It could provide quite a benefit at this point.
  8. Additive manufacturing & robotics: Are you able to keep running with less people, socially distanced people and/or print on demand?

Using JIT (or any concept for that matter) without taking a 360 degree view is a bad idea! The cousin of JIT is lean manufacturing. I gained the attention of Wiley by writing that lean is just uncommon common sense (which of course simplifies it in order to make a point), but perhaps it is something to think more about. Have you put all these trendy concepts through a common sense filter? How about a risk filter? Let’s hope so! Otherwise you can be in a critical business and still not producing and running customers out of stock.

What is the answer? It depends! If you have put thought into your supply chain strategy upfront, considered risks, diversified your supplier base, invested in quality checks and top talent, and treated your employees well, it is likely your version of JIT will prove successful. On the other hand, if you saw JIT as a way to reduce inventory and were short-sighted in looking at your end-to-end supply chain and treating your employees and partners as trusted colleagues, you will likely suffer.

Getting ahead of the curve might be the only avenue to success. Consider creating a resilient supply chain and future-proofing your supply chain. Stay tuned and read more about it, and If you are interested in discussing a supply chain assessment, please contact us.

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Collaboration is NO LONGER a Fluffy Topic

February 16th, 2020

I facilitated an executive panel discussion on “Collaboration for Advanced Manufacturing & Supply Chain Success” with diverse viewpoints from transportation (Ontario airport), manufacturing (AMETEK Ameron), technology for manufacturing and logistics from the global leader in GIS (ESRI), and innovation, incubator and accelerator gurus.  It was a fascinating discussion on the value of collaboration, to innovate or not, robots or people and other controversial hot topics.

The key takeaways included the following:

  • The Value of Partners – Several panelists talked about the value of choosing your partners wisely. No one person and no one company can do it alone. In fact, we often collaborate not only with “usual suspects” but also with ones we might not suspect, such as our competition. When you can find a way to collaborate with competition where you both “win”, a powerful outcome will result.
  • Fail Forward – This was a powerful insight from one of the panelists. As I always say in speeches on innovation, you have to fail to be successful in innovation. Do we see our failures as ‘failing forward’? Or do we hide under a rock?
  • Robots or People? – We had a bit of debate. Will robots replace jobs? Absolutely! But can they also create jobs? Fill gaps left by the retiring baby boomer? Increase the quality of manual tasks? And enable far greater capacity? Absolutely!
  • Is all Innovation Good?  –  Of course not! Again, if a topic is a good one, it will stir up debate.  Wasting lots of time innovating for non-existent returns on investment isn’t a smart move. On the other hand, the pure nature of innovation will require failure. How do we navigate when to innovate and when not to innovate?
  • Is all Collaboration Good? Again, absolutely NOT! Wasting time collaborating when a quick decision must be made is worse than a waste of time. On the other hand, if we can turn 1 + 1 + 1 = 33, it certainly seems worth it. Just don’t think about your standard partners only. Why not industry groups, educational institutions, and more?

Take a few minutes to think about collaboration. What have you seen work best? Actually, back up. No one should just think about collaboration. Instead, we should be thinking about our end result. Where do you want to go and what do you want to achieve? Now, think about the best use of collaboration, innovation, technology and other topics that will accelerate success.



Will Amazon Pass UPS & FedEx?

January 26th, 2020

According to a CNBC article, Amazon is already delivering half of its packages. It appears that Amazon is on target to pass by FedEx and UPS. They have had distinctly different strategies. FedEx curtailed its contract with Amazon in early 2019, and Amazon just retaliated by not allowing 3rd party sellers to ship via FedEx. On the other hand, UPS is doubled down with Amazon. Which will turn out to be better in the long run? And, as we know, USPS has been delivering packages for Amazon behind-the-scenes. Could they come out on top?

Or will Amazon just crush everyone? In recently touring the Ontario airport (the powerhouse in package shipping), it is clear Amazon has a long way to go to catch up in air freight but they are also known to speed by competitors. Amazon is slowly making inroads to ocean shipping as well. No matter who you think might win this race, if you ship or receive anything, you should pay attention!

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Simply think about Sears. They were Amazon prior to Amazon entering the scene. Unfortunately, they didn’t keep up with changes occurring, and they are largely out of business. That annoying but not worrisome competitor might just speed by you if you aren’t staying relevant!

Additionally, from a supply chain and logistics point-of-view, there are substantial impacts. With the sheer relevance of the last mile, transportation infrastructure, customer perceptions, technology advancements and much more are becoming relevant. Undoubtedly, no matter your industry, it will be impacted since everyone relates to logistics. Not only logistics, but many industries relate to oil and gas prices or would be impacted by delays in materials etc. The impacts are widespread and substantial. Have you thought through your strategy and positioning based on these factors?

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.



Lisa Anderson, Manufacturing & Supply Chain Expert, Sees Innovation & Collaboration Key to Advanced Manufacturing Success

June 7th, 2019

Manufacturing and Supply Chain Expert Lisa Anderson, MBA, CSCP, CLTD, president of LMA Consulting Group Inc. identifies innovation as a key driver in advanced manufacturing throughout 2019 and beyond. Driven by technology, AI and robotics, manufacturers are becoming more sophisticated in their response to changing customer needs.

“Customer expectations have changed as a result of what I call, The Amazon Effect. They want customized products with shorter lead times at ‘reasonable’ costs. This is a huge opportunity for manufacturers who make a commitment to reevaluate their processes, systems and the way they think about their product and customer” notes Ms. Anderson.

Successful manufacturers are turning their processes upside down from the inside out and strategizing new ways to proactively anticipate customer needs. “Manufacturers who choose to collaborate with their suppliers, as well as their customers, are making great strides.  From advanced customization and rapid response to distributive inventory, transportation and logistics, innovation and collaboration are becoming the cultural norm. In addition, there is a trend toward near-sourcing, vertical integration and agile strategies that proactively address these elevated expectations” she stated.

LMA Consulting Group works with manufacturers and distributors on strategy and end-to-end supply chain transformation to maximize the customer experience and enable profitable, scalable, dramatic business growth. With the rise of e-commerce, increasing transportation costs and global risks, sourcing experts are re-evaluating their global supply chains. Logistics is gaining in relevancy as transportation costs increase, sustainability efforts expand and managing inventory becomes a hot topic, and, accelerating cash flow becomes more relevant.

The outlooks and attitudes are positive as manufacturers rise to the challenges of ever-changing customer needs and increased expectations, tight labor and transportation markets and rapid growth. LMA Consulting Group recently released findings of executive predictions for 2019:  “Manufacturing & Supply Chain in the New Normal” (available at no charge).  “Technology goes hand-in-hand with innovation and collaboration resulting in customer success stories and bottom-line results” Ms. Anderson concluded.

About LMA Consulting Group – Lisa Anderson, MBA, CSCP, CLTD
Lisa Anderson is the founder and president of LMA Consulting Group, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in manufacturing strategy and end-to-end supply chain transformation. She focuses on maximizing the customer experience and enabling profitable, scalable, dramatic business growth. Ms. Anderson has been named a Top 40 B2B Tech Influencer by arketi group, a 50 ERP Influencer by Washington-Frank, ranked in the top 46 most influential in Supply Chain by SAP and named a top woman influencer by Solutions Review. She recently published, I’ve Been Thinking, an inspiring collection of 101 strategies for creating bold customer promises and profits. A regular content contributor on topics including providing a superior customer experience with SIOP, advancing innovation and making the supply chain resilient, Ms. Anderson is regularly interviewed and quoted by publications such as Industry Week, tED magazine and the Wall Street Journal. She recently was recognized as a Woman in Manufacturing by Inland Empire Magazine. For information, to sign up for her Profit Through PeopleTM Newsletter or for a copy of her book, visit LMA-ConsultingGroup.com.

                                                                      
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