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Dip please, do not swipe!

By Steve Simmerman | 05/13/2015 | 6:25 PM

Many of you have probably started to see these tiny chips appearing on new versions of your debit and credit cards...so what's the big deal?

Chip Card

The big deal is that according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal www.wsj.com - "Some 575 million of the new cards--representing about three-quarters of U.S. credit cards and about 40% of debit cards--are expected to be in the wallets of American consumers by year-end, making it the biggest rollout of new cards in decades."  While the chip cards have been in use in Europe, Asia and Canada for years, the program is now hitting the US and has an October deadline that has many smaller banks and retailers scrambling to be in compliance.  Retailers must upgrade or replace their payment terminals to accept the new cards. Come October, under certain circumstances, the liability for fraudulent transactions will shift to the retailer from the issuing banks.  With the new payment terminals, the chip cards are dipped into the reader vs being swiped like a traditional mag stripe reader.

One card manufacturer - Oberthur Technologies claims on their website that "The 2013 Federal Reserve Payments Study reported that in 2012, $2.1 billion –  or 57 percent –  of total credit card fraud was committed through card-present transactions like counterfeiting, lost or stolen cards, mail fraud and identity theft. In 2013, the U.S. alone accounted for 51% of worldwide payment card fraud costs."  That's a big deal!

Oberthur is a French company but their plant in Exton, PA is working like crazy to keep up with the demand for new cards - to the tune of a capacity of 20million cards/month being produced!  Employment at the plant is up 68% since 2013 and they are now running round the clock to keep up.

According to the Oberthur website - 95% of payment terminals in Western Europe support the new EMV cards (Europay, MasterCard, Visa - EMV is the global standard for integrated circuit cards or "chip cards") while only 14%, yes 14%, are EMV compliant in the US. That's 14% of 11.8 million terminals!  That's a big deal!  The exposure for continued fraudulent activity is huge.

So with only a fraction of the payment terminals able to support chip cards, tens of thousands of retailers falling behind and many smaller banks already admitting that they can't issue the new cards until next year there are clearly some potential impacts to the supply chain.

As I like to talk about all things related to people, process and technology, this EMV mandate certainly has lots of complexity to it, but at the end of the day, let's not forget about one of the apparently simpler tasks - think of all of the retail associates that have to be trained to help customers with the new terminals and cards and politely remind them to "Dip please, do not swipe".

80,000 Jobs - Blending People, Process & Technology

By Steve Simmerman | 03/12/2015 | 11:54 AM

The Home Depot recently announced that they are looking to fill 80,000 jobs to meet the needs of their customers during peak, seasonal business.  These jobs will fill needs in the stores as well as the distribution centers.  They have very masterfully crafted a hiring message that involves technology (FIRST phone), people (benefits, teamwork) and process (customer service enablement) in order to attract the best possible candidates and they have done so in a very proactive and prominent manner on their website and in the press.

FIRST Phone

Photo courtesy of - http://builtfromscratch.homedepot.com/first-phone/

With recent job growth across many sectors, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good, qualified candidates. Companies are battling to find quality candidates and are fighting to position their company as an 'employer of choice'.  This is one of the first examples where I have seen a major employer promote the need to hire people as well as blend in how technology will be made available to the associates to help them in their jobs.  Home Depot has done a very effective job of positioning these jobs. In particular, in their press release, they refer to:

  • how these jobs will be part of energetic teams with a passion "home improvement innovation" and "great customer service"
  • they are appealing to a broad swath of job candidates including retirees, college students and veterans
  • they talk about how time on these jobs will accumulate toward full time benefits as part of a larger "Success Sharing" program, tuition reimbursement, etc. if the associate transitions to a full-time position
  • and they talk about how 40,000 FIRST phones will be deployed to help their associates deliver valuable services to customers on the store floor to assist with:
    • mobile checkout in the garden department
    • "line busting"
    • internet access to Home Depot's website for product lookup, inventory availability and product features
    • the FIRST phone will also feature phone and walkie-talkie capabilities to aid in delivering excellent customer service

So it seems that Home Depot has raised the bar when it comes to hiring. It will be interesting to see how other organizations shape their hiring strategies and tactics in this increasingly competitive job market. If you have seen other innovative approaches please let us know.  New hires want to work for great companies and expect to have great technology available to help them succeed - the game is indeed changing.

 

Some technology never dies...

By Steve Simmerman | 02/12/2015 | 5:38 PM

As I prepared to board my flight the other day with my new Surface Pro 3 in anticipation of using the WiFi onboard the plane, it struck me that I had some pretty amazing technology at my disposal.  I also saw baggage handlers on the ground feeding bags into the cargo area of the plane using handheld RF devices busily scanning bar codes as they worked.  Pretty impressive technology surrounding me.  But, as the traffic in the jetway backed up, I stood waiting to get on the plane and I noticed some very interesting technology being used by the airline. 

It wasn't tablet-based, it wasn't wireless, it wasn't touchscreen, didn't use Bluetooth, wasn't Cloud-based and didn't even use Windows! Imagine that!!  But it worked and it seemed like perfectly good technology for the job at hand.  Could a new system be installed with state-of-the-art technology?  Probably so, but as the old saying goes, "if it ain't broken...." What really struck me was not the dust shields on the monitor and keyboard, but I was drawn to the printer sitting on the shelf below. You may not be able to see it in the photo, but the printer is a Microline dot matrix printer. 

I did a little research on the history of Microline printers and found out that OKI made the first model in 1978 in a deal with Radio Shack. It turns out that Radio Shack needed a source for low cost printers for their personal computers, thus the Microline 80 was born and has enjoyed a very successful evolution as a workhorse dot matrix printer still being sold today!  It's funny that the Microline line of printers has stood the test of time, while we see Radio Shack on verge of collapse. According to this history of the Microline printer, it truly is a workhorse with an MTBF of 20,000 hours - that's nearly 10 working man-years!  The printhead has a 200 MILLION character life and the ribbon has a 3 million character life - pretty impressive, no wonder they are market leaders in low cost, high quality dot matrix printers around the globe. So while it may not be sexy looking technology supporting the flight operation, it sure looks like it's delivering the functionality needed to do the job.  Now I realize that this workhorse will likely be replaced with some tablet-based, wireless printing solution at some point in time, but I find it hard to imagine that when this system was first installed that anyone on the development or implementation team would have believed it would last this long. 

Send us some examples of workhorse technology that has stood the test of time at your place of work.  And if you happen to include an example using a Microline 186 we might just feature that in our next blog!  Delivering a solution to address a business need does not always imply that it has be the sexiest technology available - just remember that the next time you board a plane.

Microline 186

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes it's the simple approach that is needed

By Steve Simmerman | 11/14/2014 | 11:06 AM

We've all struggled with some of the complexities of technology in our daily lives - thank you early VCRs (not that anyone has one today, but did anyone really ever figure out how to program a VCR?). Sometimes it just takes a little creativity and simplified thinking to make big improvements in processes.  I toured a DC recently that was absolutely immaculate thanks to a very simple but thorough implementation of 5S techniques.  No technology was deployed, no extensive training, just simple visual cues throughout the facility to help with organization, cleanliness and preparedness to complete the various jobs in the building.  Simple, clean and highly, highly effective not to mention the benefits of safety and improved employee morale.

So as you look to implement process changes, don't overcomplicate things, step back, look at the bigger picture and don't overlook the obvious small, simple changes that could dramatically improve the process and results.

A friend of mine shared this video with me recently and I was struck by the sheer engineering simplicty applied to a very labor intensive process - chopping wood.  The solution did not involve lots of people, did not involve sophisticated technology or machines, but rather some simple laws of physics applied to a tough job.  Compare this solution to the people that have engineered, built, sold and purchased gas-powered engines (and the on-going maintenance) that supposedly made chopping wood easier!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV9xrhAXR4I

A simple car spring, some weight and a lever sure made this guy's day a lot better.  No gas powered log splitter, no engine maintenance, no gasoline to purchase...you get the picture.

Let the DC Velocity readers hear about your process improvements!  If you have a good example, let us know we'd appreciate your feedback!

Tragedy Strikes Supply Chain

By Steve Simmerman | 07/31/2014 | 5:29 PM

Today was a sad day for many of us in the supply chain software marketplace.  Steve LaVoie, CEO of Arrowstream was gravely injured in a shooting incident at the Arrowstream offices in Chicago.  A disgruntled employee was allegedly involved in the incident and subsequently killed himself.  I ask that all of you please take a moment to pray for Steve, the victim, their families and all of our colleagues and friends at Arrowstream.  Workplace violence is often tragic and it is a sad day when it strikes so close to home.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/31/chicago-shooting-bank-america/13408617/

 

Lessons from Grand Prix Racing

By Steve Simmerman | 03/31/2014 | 12:12 PM

I had the opportunity to attend the Grand Prix race in St. Petersburg, FL this weekend.  You talk about the intersection of people, processes and technology - I'm not sure there is a better example out there.

The qualifying races to determine the pole position resulted in Takuma Sato winning the pole by a mere .7049 seconds!

The final race was ultimately won by Will Power (no pun intended) with a margin of victory of 1.9 seconds over a race that covered 198 miles (110 laps with 14 very difficult turns).

It struck me how these racing teams are a reflection of many of the teams I have seen in the world of supply chain.  With supply chain becoming an increasingly competitive world (like Grand Prix racing), it is imperative that our technology, processes and  people are completely aligned and prepared to execute flawlessly.  The race is on, are your teams prepared to win?

 

 

People, Process, Technology - It's a race for People!

By Steve Simmerman | 03/06/2014 | 3:34 PM

As presented in earlier blog entries, technology, process and people are all critical components of any strategic initiative in today's competitive supply chain world.  This was made painfully apparent to many of us today with the story that broke about Apple and the hiring spree they are on in Asia.  Apple is looking to dramatically improve their new product release by hiring hundreds of engineers and supply chain managers based on a story in the Wall Street Journal.  As also reported by WIRED, the move underscores how important the global supply chain is to Apple and how critical it is to improve coordination and flow from design to manufacturing to distribution.  According to the stories, it's all about adding efficiency for Apple.  With over 600 engineers and supply chain people now in China, and even more in Taiwan, the story points out that many of those people in Taiwan are "poached" from smartphone competitor HTC.

So while many of us look at 'cool' technology that companies like Apple provide, and we dream about how we can apply this technology to improve our processes, in fact, it is now a 'cool' technology provider (Apple) that is looking at PEOPLE to improve their processes.

Competition for qualified, skilled engineers and supply chain practitioners is reaching a fever pitch and with moves like this, it appears the battle has only just begun.  How will you compete with Apple in order to recruit and retain skilled resources when it comes to improving your supply chain efficiency?  Apple clearly is addressing one of the weaker links in the people, process and technology triad - how about you?  Is your talent pool being poached?

 

 

 

People, Process, Technology - It's a race for People!

By Steve Simmerman | 03/05/2014 | 5:34 PM

As presented in earlier blog entries, technology, process and people are all critical components of any strategic initiative in today's competitive supply chain world.  This was made painfully apparent to many of us today with the story that broke about Apple and the hiring spree they are on in Asia.  Apple is looking to dramatically improve their new product release by hiring hundreds of engineers and supply chain managers based on a story in the Wall Street Journal.  As also reported by WIRED, the move underscores how important the global supply chain is to Apple and how critical it is to improve coordination and flow from design to manufacturing to distribution.  According to the stories, it's all about adding efficiency for Apple.  With over 600 engineers and supply chain people now in China, and even more in Taiwan, the story points out that many of those people in Taiwan are "poached" from smartphone competitor HTC.

So while many of us look at 'cool' technology like Apple provides and dream about how we can apply this technology to improve our processes, in fact, it's a 'cool' technology provider looking at PEOPLE to improve their processes.

Competition for qualified, skilled engineers and supply chain practitioners is reaching a fever pitch and with moves like this, it appears the battle has only just begun.  How will you compete with Apple in order to recruit and retain skilled resources when it comes to improving your supply chain efficiency?  Apple clearly is addressing one of the weaker links in the people, process and technology triad - how about you?  Is your talent pool being poached?

 

 

 

Late Christmas Deliveries = Social Media Backlash

By Steve Simmerman | 12/26/2013 | 8:47 AM

Didn't get what you wanted for Christmas due to a late or missed delivery?  It seems lots of people turned to social media to lash out and blame UPS and FedEx.  According to a story by NBC, online spending jumped 9 percent, to $37.8 billion, between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15.  A FedEx spokesperson said they handled 275 million shipments between Thanksgiving and Christmas. FedEx said the volume of air shipments exceeded the capacity of their network, while UPS called it an "extraordinary event". The story went on to say that Amazon apologized to customers with regard to the UPS "failure" in a Christmas morning email and offered various incentives to offset customer's bad feelings.

Nonetheless, disappointed customers turned to social media including the Facebook pages of both carriers as well as Twitter to voice their opinions. It's true that weather did affect delivery capabilities in some parts of the country, a late November Thanksgiving shortened the shopping season and certain shoppers will always procrastinate. But what lessons can we all learn from this "extraordinary event"?

  • Can the network ever handle surges like this?
  • Should online stores incent customers to buy (and ship) sooner rather than procrastinate?

It's hard to say, but one thing is for sure. Online shopping will continue to increase, shoppers will always procrastinate, delivery expectations for online purchases will not subside and social media outlets will continue to be the voice of frustrated shoppers.

And just when you think we are all past the hurdle of buying, picking orders, packing orders and delivering orders in the race toward Christmas joy, many of us in logistics and the world of online shopping now get to prepare for what will likely be another surge in the form of returns. It is a viscous cycle, but the good news is that we have a year to prepare for the 2014 holiday shopping season - we'll see if anything changes this time next year.

 

 

Black Friday, iBeacon, Connected Glass and more holiday technology

By Steve Simmerman | 12/10/2013 | 7:19 AM

It's hard to be believe that Gray Thursday and Black Friday have passed, but the competition among those in retail for consumer dollars is getting even more interesting.  There have been some fascinating developments in technology that several retailers are experimenting with.  Here are some new technologies being piloted:

"Connected glass" by EBay - EBay is piloting 10' x 10' interactive touchable screens where shoppers can browse a variety of products, enter their phone number and get a text message to complete the transaction through their smartphone.  These interactive shopping devices are being used where a new store is being built vs the traditional boarded up window with a sign on it.  EBay also plans to use these connected glass panels inside existing stores.  Think of the possibilities of the 'store within a store' where vendors can have their own connected glass shops within a larger store!

iBeacon by Apple - Apple is currently running this new iOS 7 technology across all 245 of their U.S. stores.  Small Bluetooth transmitters are inconspicuously placed under store shelves and 'sense' when a shopper is nearby and thus sends messages to the shopper alerting them of special offers, etc.  Using Bluetooth provides more precise location information than currently available with GPS.  Retailers such as Macy's are also piloting programs using iBeacon in partnership with Shopkick.  I expect app developers out there to open a whole new world of location based shopping apps.  Major League Baseball (MLB) is also piloting the technology to enhance the fan game day experience.

One last technology related retail experiment happening is what Google Winter Wonderlab is providing to shoppers are various malls.  Google is setting up seasonal stores in the mall to give shoppers a really fun (and focused) shopping experience where they can look and play with the latest gadgets and software sold by google.  The Winter Wonderlab also includes a life-sized snow globe where you can create your own video!

Really innovative and fascinating concepts that are sure to expand and lead to even bigger and better technological advancements and shopping experiences for all of us.  "E" commerce is truly on a torrid pace - not just the fulfillment side of the retail supply chain, but the shopping experience as well.

Happy Holidays!

 

Technology, Productivity and Profits

By Steve Simmerman | 09/08/2013 | 12:15 PM

According to a story in the LA Times this morning, "the $518 billion grocery store industry hasn't made a major leap forward since the bar code scanner was introduced in the 1970's".  Well, there seems to be lots of new ideas being implemented and research being done to help increase productivity at the grocery store and to help improve the overall customer experience.  According to the LA Times story, 'Grocers have to invest.  Their business models have been under so much pressure, they're fighting for their lives." It's easy to see this in any local grocery store, especially with increased competition from big-box retailers and on-line grocery shopping/delivery alternatives available today.  The LA Times story goes on to say that grocery industry revenue has declined 0.4% in each of the last five years - thus increasing the pressure to improve top line revenue, cost savings, productivity and customer experience.  Technology is clearly seen as being an enabler to drive these improvements.

Ralphs, one of the Kroger banner stores, has been installing infrared cameras to track body heat in order to direct checkout clerks to the cash registers in response to the foot traffic in the store. The system, QueVision from irisys, has trimmed the average time it takes to get to the front of the line to roughly 30 seconds from the national average of four minutes according to a Ralph's spokesperson.

British retailer, Tesco, is said to have more than 5,000 technologists working in its Bangalore, India technology center working on new ideas to improve store operations and performance in what CEO Philip Clarke calls "a new wave of creativity" that has been unleashed.

The article talks about a host of other technologies such as fingerprint scanners for payments from technology firms such as PayTango. France's Auchon and Leroy Merlin stores did a fingerprint scanner trial involving nearly 5,000 transactions.  94% of participants said they would be willing to use the payment option for future purchases.

One firm, Chaotic Moon, is developing SmarterCart technology along with Whole Foods to optimize the shopping experience including integrated real-time food safety information so that SmarterCart can notify shoppers if they have a recalled item. Imagine the impact on overall productivity, responsiveness and reach into the market for any food manufacturer or retailer in the event of a recall!

While the LA Times story focuses on the grocery market, there are all sorts of innovative technology developments happening across multiple industries. It was fascinating to read this story and think about how some of this technology can be applied to other areas of supply chain.  Technology, people, process improvements must all work together to help drive operations and business results. As the story concludes, "technology can be useful but it is not a replacement for the old-fashioned values of good prices, strong service and quality products" in the grocery, or any market.

 

 

 

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman is a Senior Director with JDA. Simmerman has more than 25 years of experience in the supply chain industry including software, consulting and material handling. He has focused his efforts on working with clients to achieve high performance supply chain results through partnerships and creative solutions. He is a member of CSCMP, WERC, and MHIA and is a regular contributor to several industry publications and events. Simmerman holds his undergraduate and MBA degrees from The University of Notre Dame.



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