Tag Archive: Wall Street Journal

Robots Taking on Pharmaceuticals & Food?

July 28th, 2018


According to the Wall Street Journal, robots are taking on pharmaceuticals and food preparation.  In pharmaceuticals, companies like Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline are investing heavily in automation to radically change the process of drug discovery.   If robots can handle thousands of samples around the clock (although costs will decrease or be reallocated to more valuable tasks), these results pale in comparison with the vast opportunity to develop drugs quicker!

Are you radically re-thinking and innovating with speed in mind?

Meanwhile, a burger joint will open in San Francisco that makes $6 burgers entirely by robot.  Creator is betting that robots can create burgers more efficiently and better (with techniques borrowed from Michelin-star chefs) than humans.

Now the question will become – when the robot curious wears off, will people frequent a robot run burger shop?  Regardless, the question really becomes – are you considering whether robots or automation might benefit your customers and business value?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
As much as we warn our clients not to get “too” carried away with robots and technology (as it is easy to chase these ideas down a rabbit hole leading nowhere), it is certainly worthwhile to think about the strategic use of technology as it relates to innovation, providing a superior customer experience and in improving performance.  If it fits with your strategy, doesn’t distract from your priorities (or preferably compliments and enhances them) and generates a return on investment, why wouldn’t you consider every option?

One client leveraged the use of robots (designed uniquely for them by internal expertise) so that they could run a critical operation around-the-clock.  They couldn’t find employees with the appropriate skills to run more than first shift and overtime.  And, they were constantly struggling to keep up with orders.  Once the robot was up and running, the bottleneck was virtually eliminated and customers received what they needed when they needed it.  The people on first shift took on the complex tasks, set the robots up to run at night and remained extremely valuable (even more so).

Have you thought about these type of unique innovations to propel your business?  We’ll be starting a new video and interview series, “Innovation: Fast-tracking growth and profits” shortly.  We’d love to hear about your suggestions and innovations.



Do You Have an Eye to the Future?

February 9th, 2018

Do you have an eye to the future?  Don’t just answer yes and move on.  Take a few moments to consider this question.

In today’s Amazon-impacted world, if you miss a few months buried in your isolated internal world no matter the reason, you might miss a noteworthy event, trend or comment that could put you behind the 8 ball with no hope of catching up.

A 3-5 year strategy session once a year NO longer cuts it.  We are all in a strategic sprint.  In most industries, even going beyond one year out is a wasted exercise.  Instead, we should keep an eye to the future and build agility into our strategy setting process.  So, what are some ways we can keep an eye to the future?

  1. Pick up the phone and call a customer – Those clients who talk frequently to their top customers are far more successful than those who don’t.  Of course everyone is busy.  Offer value and make it is your customer’s best interest to keep in touch.  You’ll know more about what’s going on in the marketplace than those buried in month-end numbers, Board meetings and strategy sessions.  
  2. Attend an industry conference – Why do all the work yourself?  Network with those who are uniquely positioned to keep track of the latest trends and what might impact your industry.
  3. Have lunch with an old alumni friend –  You might wonder how this would help if your friend isn’t in a related field or isn’t a business owner or executive.  Keeping an eye on what’s happening in the world around you and gaining insights from trusted colleagues in different industries can provide some unique perspectives you won’t gain anywhere else.
  4. Involve your team in keeping an eye to the future – Certainly, if you provide the vision to your team (no matter the level), explain how the company is performing and encourage them to keep an ear to future trends, people will be happy to contribute to success.  We find that the best trends can come from unlikely places – the secretary you didn’t even notice or the person shipping orders who talks with UPS drivers.
  5. Watch the latest trends globally, economically– We are often surprised by how seemingly unrelated events throughout the world will impact suppliers, transportation channels, exchange rates or something else that will have a direct impact on business.  Subscribe to newsletters that can keep you up-to-speed on highlights, read the Wall Street Journal, talk with colleagues etc.
  6. Go visit a supplier– Don’t assign this to your procurement professionals solely.  Suppliers and trusted advisors can provide a wealth of knowledge that can help you navigate your path forward successfully.
  7. Join a CEO or key executive group – The problem with being at the top is that there is no one to talk to.  Find a new group of peers to ask the hard questions and keep you on track.

When you have a good idea of the future, you will position your company, your people, your processes, your infrastructure, your supply chain and more for success!

Tariff News & Impacts….Whirlpool Adds People; LG Raises Prices

January 29th, 2018

Supply Chain Briefing

Tariff News & Impacts….Whirlpool Adds People; LG Raises Price|
President Trump just announced that the U.S. would impose a tariff up to 50% on large residential washing machines.  Almost immediately, the news started to emerge.

According to an Industry Week article, Whirlpool plans to add around 200 jobs in their Ohio facility and announced plans to increase investment.   On the other hand, according to the Wall Street Journal, LG announced the intention to increase prices and they also plan to open a factory in Tennessee later this year.  No matter the exact outcome, trade decisions are changing our landscape significantly.  


Trade Decisions Will Impact Your Business
Assuming you are not in the washing machine business, the key question is how will these seemingly unrelated trade decisions impact you and your business?  Without a doubt, it will impact you in more ways than you can imagine!

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Thinking about some of the more likely impacts to you and your business from this tariff, let’s start with people.  If you manage a manufacturing company in Ohio (near Whirlpool), you might be in fierce competition for people. 

Currently, we have many clients struggling mightily to find top talent.  Thus, it would be wise to pay attention and get ahead of this curve.  If you are in Ohio, perhaps you should look at how to retain top talent, as well.  The same holds true in Tennessee – certainly starting a factory will require a ramp up of talent.

Impacts in Addition to human capital
There are vast impacts regardless of your location. 

  • Do you use the same materials in your manufacturing process?
  • Have you checked in with your supply chain lately?  
    • Will they be geared up to support you or have you ignored them and don’t know what might happen as production ramps up in the U.S.?  
  • Have you provided a forecast lately? 
  • How about the impacts on your transportation and logistics infrastructure?

Other Impacts
Pull your team together every so often to think about what is going on in your industry and extended supply chain and what is likely to impact your business.

Be proactive to leverage opportunities instead of chasing your tail.


Mother Nature Adds to Supply Chain Risk

September 2nd, 2016
quoted in Wall Street Journal

California wildfires have the potential to disrupt the flow of US commerce. A report from the Wall Street Journal quoting Lisa Anderson.

Supply chain risk has increased exponentially over the last several years. Mother nature is unpredictable which is the antithesis of what the supply chain needs to perform predictably and profitably. For example, the California wildfires created a logistical nightmare – trucks were parked along the 15 freeway, rail cars were stacked up and being re-routed as best as possible, trucks in and out of Southern California were affected and even the ports were impacted. I was asked to comment about the fire in a Wall Street Journal article. This occurrence was not an isolated incident. There are almost too many examples to choose from; however, one that pops to mind is the Japan earthquake. It sent ripples throughout the world in supply chain disruption. In the U.S., hurricanes, tornadoes and floods can have a dramatic impact. Certainly everyone remembers the impact of Hurricane Katrina. And this doesn’t even begin to address other supply chain risks such as the port strikes and political unrest.

Successful executives will not hide their heads under a rock! Instead, executives will incorporate these risks into their strategic plans and risk analyses. Some of this is uncommon common sense. If you have a key supplier located in a hurricane zone, you should develop a backup. If you want to make sure supply will remain largely uninterrupted, it will require ongoing relationships with multiple suppliers. You can also work with your suppliers to strategically position inventory. There are a host of options. The bottom line is that pre-planning will work. Panic after an event will just create unhappy customers and give your competition a definite advantage.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to Profit Through People and join me in my appreciation of the people who have helped LMA Consulting Group to continue to grow.

Why Care About Supply Chain Risk?

SIOP beyond Borders


Forget About Cost Savings: Look for Process Opportunities

July 19th, 2016
process profits

Have you ever thought about how easy it is to uncover process opportunities? Most executives tell me ‘no’ as it seems much harder than it is most of the time yet they are very interested in these opportunities to improve their business.

As interested as they are in these opportunities, they seem to always ask their teams to look specifically for cost savings – although there is much to be said for good cost savings projects, they can miss the boat.

Certainly, when I was a VP of Operations and Supply Chain for a mid-market manufacturer, the Board of Directors could not get enough cost savings. It made no sense as growing the business and improving margins is what achieved a significant return on investment yet they always asked about cost savings. With the CEO’s support, we prevailed and looked at the bigger picture of results vs. cost alone; however, these demands are not uncommon. Our clients, especially those from large multi-national companies talk non-stop about cost savings. “Corporate demands we find 10% savings.” Have you ever heard that before?

What would you say? How would you go about it? Well, first, let us caution against blind cost savings. Push back. If margin improvement is the true objective, the same priorities might not be pursued. If cash flow is more important, there’s no doubt the same priorities wouldn’t be pursued in most cases. If growing the business is #1, perhaps priorities related to growth should be pursued which might or might not relate to the same cost savings projects. Dig into the request so you work on the right priorities.

Next, follow the easy path – don’t wait for some sort of mandate. Doesn’t it make sense to always be on the lookout for what makes sense for your company? Whether that is finding ways to support business growth or reducing costs, there is no reason to wait for someone to ask!

The great news is that there are several ways to uncover process opportunities:

ASK – simple yet effective. Of course it is not simple unless you care and are interested in the responses. The people closest to the processes will know how to improve them.
Look around you – it doesn’t have to be complex; merely take a look at what seems to be working around you. Have you toured facilities like yours? What did they do? Find the best of customers, suppliers, facilities from other types of industries. Undoubtedly, there are more ideas than you can implement at your fingertips.
Read – read the newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, trade magazines and the like. You’re bound to gain ideas.

The best process opportunities come from the easiest of places. We are frequently called in to resolve issues or raise the bar, and we gain 80%+ of the ideas from the people at the company. We are yet to go into a company and not see untapped potential…have you asked about process opportunities? If you’d like help in rattling these cages to shake ideas loose and speeding up the identification and implementation of process opportunities, contact us.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist

Hidden Opportunities for Process Improvement

10 Ways to Stay Focused on the Critical Path