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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.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Apple App Store

By Steve Simmerman | 07/11/2013 | 3:09 PM

Hard to believe that the Apple App Store is 5 years old this week especially when you consider that it started with a mere 500 app when launched.  The numbers are staggering:

  • 50 billion apps have been downloaded
  • that's 800 apps/second
  • more than 2 billion apps a month

and there is no end in sight. It's exciting to see how many apps are making it into the supply chain software world these days.  I did a simple google search for "supply chain apps" and an amazing 31,500,000 results were found. So I guess supply chain apps are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

If you have a particularly good supply chain app, let us know.  Just post a comment to this blog and share it with the rest of us.

Happy hunting out there in app world!

 

System Fit & The NFL Draft

By Steve Simmerman | 04/25/2013 | 11:34 AM

It's time for the NFL Draft and just about every sportscaster in the world has a multitude of opinions and advice.  I'm sure the Fantasy Football fans are on the edge of their seats just waiting to see who they can draft this upcoming season as well.


Todd McShay, well known football analyst, had an intersting observation last night.  He talked about "system fit" and no matter how deeply NFL teams assess talent, skills, physical and mental preparedness, one of the most important elements of a successufl draft pick is "system fit" according to Todd.  Draftees have to buy in and fit into a particular team's "system" or they and the team risk ending up with a draft "bust".

It struck me that the supply chain is really no different, especially when it comes to people.  I've talked about people, process and technology all having to mesh well together in order to deliver optimal results, and Todd's comments really helped drive that home.  How often do companies really look at overall "system fit" when they are looking to implement software, install some material handling systems or hire employees?  It goes well beyond the internal perspective as well.  How will planned systems, software, people "fit" your overall "system".  Is everyone bought in, do they share the vision, is there cultural alignment among the stakeholders.  And what about external players in your "system" - I'm talking about vendors, customers and trading partners.  Are those external members really fitting into your "system"?

So like the NFL teams do, I encourage you to weigh all options when it comes to implementing systems, processes, people and make sure you carefully consider "system fit" in your decision matrix.  "System fit" could cause some options to move up or down on your draft board.  Good luck with your draft this season!

Big Business in the Cloud - Part 2

By Steve Simmerman | 03/22/2013 | 7:51 AM

In my last blog I talked about how big the stakes are in the cloud computing marketplace.  I wanted to share this story with DC Velocity readers regarding a potential $600 million cloud computing contract - yes, that's right, $600 million contract.  As reported by Frank Konkel on http://www.businessinsider.com/cia-600-million-deal-for-amazons-cloud-2013-3#ixzz2OHMGbE00, the CIA is on the verge of signing a cloud computing contract with Amazon, worth up to $600 million over 10 years.

As the story goes on to say, this would have a huge competitive impact on other cloud providers such as VMware and Citrix.  The contract is reportedly for a private cloud vs. a public cloud. I'm sure we'll be seeing more in the near future as companies explore cloud options including the choice between private and public cloud offerings. No doubt, the cloud is here to stay...stay tuned.

Think Cloud Computing is not big business...think again

By Steve Simmerman | 02/05/2013 | 12:03 PM

A very interesting story about the battle for cloud computing market dominance came out today. The battle is on, and Google, Microsoft and Amazon are really slugging it out.  Pretty astonishing numbers at play as well.  Research firm IDC was guoted in the story saying that estimates for ' "public cloud" services are among the fastest-growing areas of information technology, with a total market size of $40 billion last year.'  That's right 40, as in BILLION, 40 BILLION!

The battle is a nasty one involving pricing wars, poaching employees (leading to lawsuits) and more.  On the pricing front, Amazon has cut prices 25 times on it's AWS (Amazon Web Services)!  The story goes on to say that these companies "companies immediately began battling in pricing. Within roughly one week last fall, Google announced it was dropping prices on its computing-storage by about 20%, to a starting price of 9.5 cents a month for each gigabyte. Amazon quickly matched Google's lowered starting price, prompting Google to announce a further price cut to a starting monthly price of 8.5 cents per gigabyte. Microsoft followed a few days later by announcing it was slashing Azure costs to similar levels."

The battle for developers and customers in the cloud is on! The economics are certainly worth looking into.  The story goes on to present findings by McKinsey & Co. who "last fall calculated a small computer server would cost a company an average of $31.55 a month to buy and maintain, while a comparable amount of cloud service from AWS or others costs an average of $16.06 a month."

What is your experience with cloud computing and how do you see this battle helping your organization?  We'd love to hear from those of you that have ventured into the cloud.

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 Vice President with TZA. Simmerman has more than 25 years' experience in the software, consulting and supply chain industry. He is a member of CSCMP, WERC, and MHIA and is a regular contributor to several industry publications.



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