Tag Archive: Union Pacific

Collaboration in the Supply Chain

May 31st, 2018

To succeed in today’s Amazonian environment, we must keep strange bedfellows.  We just love the Amazon example of innovation – partnering with the U.S. Postal service – known as one of the least-innovative organizations out there.  But it works! Who ever thought you’d see a U.S. postal service mail truck delivering on Sunday for Amazon?

cross-functional teams

 

At the Southern California E-Commerce and Logistics Summit, there were several intriguing collaborations:  

  1.  Union Pacific and BNSF Railway – Although there was a healthy competition over resources (not surprisingly since both are experiencing a skills gap), there was also much collaboration over issues.
  2.  The AQMD and Staunch Opponents of Indirect Sourcing – Although there is little compromise in the widespread concern over indirect sourcing, there were panelists who are working to bridge the gap.
  3.  Political leaders and Business Owners – Working together for progress, even with the distractions and disruptions that occur on a daily basis.
  4.  Amazon and their Latest Partner – Doesn’t it seem like there is a new intriguing partner announced every week.  Kohl’s could be considered a foe but partners for win-win results but it is ‘old news’.  Recently, Amazon announced another competitor partnership with Best Buy. Who will be next?  Are you thinking about how to partner with competitors?
  5.  Technology companies and all others – In the era of data and technology, people like Google, Microsoft and Apple are collaborating with everyone – car companies, IoT devices and machinery manufacturers, systems providers and many more.  

Are you taking a hard look at your collaborations and partners?  Perhaps take a more innovative approach to what you might have “assigned” to procurement last year, so you’ll be around next year.

 



The Skills Gap Emerges as #1 at Prominent Supply Chain Conference

May 28th, 2018

At the Southern California Supply Chain and Logistics Summit conference, there were several keynote speakers from industry icons such as Amazon, UPS, Union Pacific and more.  One might expect quite a lot of interesting insights into the latest supply chain trends yet the most common theme among the presentations tied back to the skills gap. It boils down to having the “right people” for success – both in terms of employees and supply chain partners.

 

Several of the themes emerged the supply chain summit:

  1.  Automation: Friend or Foe? With the advances of automation in the supply chain, there is much worry over the impact on people. Yet, several speakers said they HAD to automate and leverage technology just to have a hope of keeping up with the expected growth over the next several years.  When adding in the retirement of baby boomers, will you have the skills to support your business growth?
  2. Someone has to be behind the robot – Even though some robots use artificial intelligence concepts, they aren’t programming themselves.  There is someone behind the robot – programming, maintenance and more. Are you preparing for a job that can be replaced by a robot or are you programming the robot?
  3.  Robots and people side-by-side-  There are some tasks that robots can automate and improve upon whereas there are others it makes sense to employ workers.  Are you preparing your resources to see value in both?
  4.  Matching skills with roles – How does your company stack up?  Another topic of much discussion – mentioned by panelists and attendees alike – the vast majority of executives feel they are falling short when it comes to gaining the skills they need to run their business at the “right” margins.  How clear are you on what you need to successfully run your business? Or are you living on hope it will all work out?
  5.  The rise of flexibility – With the rise of e-commerce, we have BIG spikes.  We need to be thinking about how to incorporate flexibility into our thinking. How flexible are you?
  6. Would you want to be in the role?  There are some jobs set up to be thankless (such as drivers in several environments).  If you wouldn’t want to do the job, how can you expect to keep your workforce?

Since having the “right” talent in the “right” place at the “right” time is #1 to success, investing in talent could be your most important investment of the year.  Do you spend as much time thinking about your people (whether current or new) as you do a major machine or technology purchase? You should!

 



Why Care About Rail?

May 8th, 2017

This past weekend, my APICS (premier association for supply chain and operations professionals) Inland Empire chapter had its spring executive panel and networking symposium on the topic of “Disruptive Innovations in Logistics”. We had an amazing panel of experts covering trucking, rail, import/ export, distribution and policy. It was clear that rail can have a profound impact on logistics, and there is much more involved in rail than obvious at first glance.

rail industry

For example, Union Pacific (represented on our panel) and BNSF are the two core freight rail lines supporting the U.S. There is an amazing amount of disruption and innovation going on in the rail industry to increase fuel efficiency, decrease emissions, enhance safety and improve outcomes for customers. For example, the new train configuration emits 15% less emissions/improves fuel efficiency. There are initiatives going on to stop any train from having an accident with any other train technologically. However, it is never as easy as it sounds. Will the tracks support it? Will the technology and satellites support it? Will the infrastructure support it? There is an amazing amount of money being invested as well. For example, a tier 3 locomotive costs around $1.5 million whereas a tier 4 environmentally-friendly locomotive that also maintains power and performance is double that amount.

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

You might wonder if rail matters to you. For the vast majority of companies, rail will impact the end-to-end supply chain in some manner which will impact them. On Friday, I met with a client who was re-evaluating their supply chain network. Rail is and will remain a key aspect of their network because it is an efficient way to transport goods across the country in combination with trucks, ports, etc. In this case, they transport finished goods; however, in many cases, it might not be that direct (and obvious). Many of our clients’ suppliers use the rail system extensively. When I was a VP of Operations and Supply Chain, rail was one of the modes of transportation we utilized (as it was lower cost and reliable, albeit a little slower), and of course, our suppliers definitely used it as well. Undoubtedly, it will impact you in one way or another.

Thus, it is helpful to be aware of what’s going on in the rail industry. Stay in tune with what issues are affecting your logistics system as these topics will impact costs, service and visibility at a minimum. Also, what disruptions are likely to occur? Are you ready for them? Are there risks associated with these areas? Certainly, natural disasters can have a profound impact, let alone strikes, accidents, etc. Within the last year, the freight rail systems largely came to a halt in Southern California due to fire. What backup plans do you have? And, do you understand how you are impacted by the rest of your logistics systems?