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Mahindra: More Than Tractors; Tata: More Than Cars For China

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/25/2017 | 10:54 AM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

Mahindra is a major player in agriculture, and Gina is a favorite trade target of Donald Trump. To see TV commercials ads, one would think that Mahindra owns the family farm market space.  And, while China's Tata manufactures low cost vehicles for an emerging Ginese middle class, neither is what it might seem to be.

Tata is a traditional multi-capability consultancy that appears to take as a religious position the theology that IT is relarively everything.  It takes the Big "X" model, and moves it to Mumbai or Chennai or Bangalore or New Jersey - wherever.

Mahindra, on another plane, provides evidence of incipient maturity in the financial community.  CFO Magazine in 2016 posits, thanks to insights from Mahindra & Mahindra, that flexibiity in working relationships can be as important as flexibility in devices for ordering, feedback, and supply chain execution.

Further, the Tractor Team disses the more traditional role of accountants, recommending that the pocket protector posse become innovation leaders, and transform themselves into value creators, possessing both functional expertise and business understanding.

Accountants will become redundant, with copmuters doing the grunt work.

So, a next generation of financial professionals becomes thought leaders - and influencers. 

Can they, will they, pull it off?  Or, are they so hard-wired that dreams of glory - and power - are really delusions from the minds of born managers?

Research Gets It Wrong - Again!

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/23/2017 | 6:33 AM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

Hard on the heels of the reported Ohio State research data scandal, comes a dense, nearly impenetrable study of the relative benefits of technology versus processes in realizing cost savings in supply chain operations.  The highly respected firm behind the study examined detailed issues in current and future cost performance, perhaps a little too exotic, perhaps a bit off the mark in relevance.  But, all very impressive in demonstrating a superior intelligence and advanced understanding of esoteric questions and answers.

To the surprise of not many,  technology was apparently superior in some applications, and lagging in others.  In the obvious converse, processes were sometimes the source of payoff, and obstacles or break-evens in other measures.  The resulting research report goes on for several pages, each more sleep-inducing than the last, to weigh and balance the impacts of process improvements and technology acquisition.

It is not until the end of findings that the international (eight country) icon gives a brief nod to continuous improvement, with no mention of anything but process and technology until then.  And, "lean", culture, and training don't make the cut until the very last page.

This is not nit-picking.  The research and report completely ignore the most important of the performance stool's three legs.  Good processes are vital; technology can be enormously supportive.  But, they are of no sustainable value until the organization and its people have been developed.

The first, and prerequisite, investment in elevated performance must be in people.  Training.  Aligning on the leader's vision.  Learning the tools of team and group behavior.  Communications - in differing environments, solving a variety oif issues, and balancing spoken, written, and non-verbal methods.  Integrating behavioral and skills learnings into everyday planning, problem-slviong, and execution.

Without building a solid and lasting people foundation, any process design and/or technology implementation is time and money down a rat hole.  This is fact, whether the arena of conflict is SCM, or S&OP, or Sales and Marketing, or corporate information and inbtegration.

Do you have what it takes to communicate that difficult reality to your executive team?  Or, do you need to go somewhere else, where the message can be received, heard, and acted on?

Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/21/2017 | 9:20 AM
Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

Mitch Mac Donald wanted, in the December issue of DC Velocity, to bridge the gap to help cope with the driver shortage in trucking.

He cited today's persistent challenge, and went on to quote Traffic World, which closed its doors over 15 years ago, and lamented "difficulty" in finding competent drivers who would handle freight some 13 years past.

Reality? Half the population, women, make up less than 5% of drivers.  An opportunity to fill a void, satisfying basic laws of supply and demand.  Even though driver pay increases are better than average, simple logic suggests that even higher pay might attract greater numbers.  Supply and demand, again.  

Driverless rigs might someday reduce the gap, requiring fewer drivers.  Supply and demand, once more.

It's pretty clear,  More women, paid more, with fewer needs could bridge the gap.  A few centuries  ago, supply and demand were well-understood.  Time to go back to school, perhaps . . .

Alpha Centauri Or Santo Domingo?

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/18/2017 | 9:28 AM

Navigating the unknown; journey off the edge of the earth or out of the solar system. How do you lead launching into uncharted seas and empty space? The keys are few, but critical.

The first is to embrace change, to not fear the unknown or uncertain, to seek the unforeseeable.

Next is to involve teams, to actively engage your trusted resources, to tap into the strength, creativity, energy, and willingness of the poeple you haired for those qualities innthe first place.

Be confident, even when unsure. And, always, always keep the enterprise's higher purpose and core values at top of mind as you embark and proceed.

Manage growth. Don't divert disproportionate resources into a new venture. And, don't let the diversion redirect the day-to-day business operations and purpose.

Finally, learn from successes; learn more from failures. Build from today for a more sure tomorrow.

These are core to general business; they are even more important for the disruptive world of continuous suply chain change, with endless unknowns in behaviors and technology. 

 

Fantasy And Fraud

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/16/2017 | 1:00 PM

The Ohio State University has once again been sullied by serious reports of academic misfeasance.  I am relieved that the sins have not sprung from athletic high-jinks or ill-considered tattoos, which once cost the program(s) there dearly.  That said, if the reports of deliberate misconduct turn out to be true, in another arena the NCAA would declare a lack of institutional control and impose sanctions, e.g., loss of scholarships, exclusion from  prestigious academic gatherings, and/or shunning of any faculty involved.  

However matters develop, a search for scapegoats and the selection of a volunteer to be thrown under a passing bus would be critical to the process of a search for the innocent and plaudits for the guilty.

Academia at OSU, and elsewhere, has not experienced wholesale exposure to the run amok virus.  But, professorial glory hounds and researchers seeking heretofore hidden meaning can be lured onto the rocks by the Sirens of acclaim and publication.

In this latest case, a superstar cancer researcher became perhaps over-enamored of his discoveries, and may have permitted a surfeit of PR to compromise either his ethics or his strict attention to detail.  He brought over $80 million into the university, somewhat less than it cost OSU to support his efforts.

The university appeared to be unaware of the numerous complaints and accusations that clung to his work, which contained inaccurate data (and conclusions?) which were also misused by others citing his work.  Right.  And Enron caught Andersen by surprise, too.

In our world of supply chain management, we have a responsibility to distill correct interpretations drawn from our Big Data, to formulate meaning that makes sense in the context of everyday wisdom augmented by other, supporting, research.  We have an obligation to use relevant data, and not draw conclusions from elderly or out of touch, or irrelevant data and information.

For example, a decrease in the number of customer complaints does not mean that we are getting better; it could indicate that customers have given up on registering lack of satisfaction.  And, on-time shipment may not relate in any meaningful way to on-time delivery and arrival.

Guess which measures customers assign meaning to?  Guess how great their tolerance for fantasy, which begins to resemble fraud, might be.

Happily, the scandal at Ohio State did not involve supply chain management or logistics, but that does not excuse us from doing the right thing in the right way in performance analysis.

Disruption Versus Evolution

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/14/2017 | 2:15 PM

Will comprehensive change never end?  Probably not.

We are entering, by many measures, a new age of both buyers and sources.

First, the market is getting increasingly silver, older and more experienced - and much more comfortable in new processes and technology.  The Blue-Haired Brigade that grew addicted to Facebook, after relying on email to handle routine communications, began to embrace Twitter and Snapchat - and whever else was ambling down the electronic pike.

Our suspicion that it was not safe to share personal data in order to purchase clothes or kitchenware has melted like the snow in Spring.

In Asia, Africa, and much of Europe, global buyers are patronizing global sellers.  The US cannot be far behind.  Of course, China and India have a long way to go in product quality, reliability and freedom from adulteration.

Meanwhile, a younger demographic is already shopping with abandon from global sources, and this is likely to grow as a market segment as that population ages and expands.

And, the devices in play are getting tinier, more complex, more powerful, and increasingly interchangeable.

The point is that the omnichannel world is going to get more complex, more robnust, more variable, and bigger.

Get ready: people-wise, technology-wise, and process-wise.  Now.

Giants With Feet of Clay

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/11/2017 | 3:27 PM

A couple of titans in the parcel shipping space dominate their universe, but are vulnerable to mice nibbling at their foundations.  To make the threat(s) more real, the mice are numerous, take several forms, are voracious, and could become titans in their own right.

FedEx and UPS have constructed vast networks of hubs, complex networks, armies of human resources, ground-based fleets and sizabe airlines - investments that would be almost impossible to replicate.

But, a last-mile partner, the USPS could, if it doesn't shoot itself in the foot, become a threat as well as a collaborator.

Local efforts by regional parcel carriers could take the ege off last-mile aches and pains, even if not on the scale of the USPS, and handling niche products could simplify the FedEx/UPS annoyance of eccentric materiels.

Don't forget Uber and self-driving cars and trucks.

The 400-pound gorilla with a huge appetite and a penchant for challenging processes and markets is Amazon, with an array of products and unconventional delivery mechanisms.  Now, there's a force to be reckoned with, in logistics and in the marketplace.

And, they won't quit innovating and tipping over the applecart, with the blessings of Jeff Bezos.

Bundle up; the winds are a-blowin' and unpredictable.

Empty Pockets

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/09/2017 | 6:25 AM

The demise of Hanjin Shipping is instructive at many levels for supply chain professionals. Richard Sharpe has commented extensively; I will add a little twist of lemon to the Ketel One.

Hanjin was a player, perhaps not dominant, but top tier among trans-oceanic cargo shippers, with an "A" list of clients/customers. There may have been small red flags, but utter collapse was a taser to the heart of supply chains with Asian components destined for Western consumption by both businesses and end-user consumers.

With the unannounced stoppage of ships loaded with product for US destinations, items of varying value and physical attributes were left bobbing in the otherwise tranquil waters of the Pacific just off the West Coast. Stuff was out there, but no one seemed to know where, and what might become of it. This tends to annoy the Samsungs, LGs, Apples, and Hondas of the planet, as well as cost them a fortune.

So, physical supply chains were immediately in disarray, visibiity meant low to no fog in the area, and customer expectations were in a place where the sun don't shine. And, supply chain executives were sweating through their Duluth Trading small clothes.

Deservedly. And, one wonders who didn't know what—and why not. Did everyone think that such a substantial link in major league supply chains was either in good financial shape, or could rely on its deep pockets in the event of challenges? Come to find out that the deep pockets were empty, or that there were no pockets to beginn with.

Whatever happened to due diligence? Are otherwise astute leaders making seat of the pants last year's reputation decisions when performance and profitability are on the line?

None of us, nor our enterprises, can afford the risk of doing business this way.

It's like approaching a rail crossing: stop,look, and listen. Or start looking for a job that is less demanding of good sense and attention to detail.

In the meantime, don't tase me, bro.

Thunderation Nation

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/07/2017 | 3:26 PM

With all the attention future Secretary of the Treasury gets today, we tend to forget the role—and voices—of other patriots who constructed a new country out of rebellion against a King and crown.

Great thinkers conceived the foundation of a democratic republic, the disproportionate representation that prevented big cities from imposing undue pressures on rural America and smaller towns. Then came the balance of powers that gave weight to the three branches of Federal government.

Madison, Monroe, Adams, Washington, Franklin, others too numerous to count. International figures dedicated to the cause. Squabbling, even raucus contention. Arguably the most fluent and persuasiuve, Thomas Jefferson.

A creative genius, Jefferson composed, and edited, and structured the US Constitution. Famously, in Lin-Manuel's breakthrough take on history, he muses, "Sometimes I wonder whey I even bother to bring nthe thunder," as he lets Hamilton know that he doesn't have the votes for higher office.

As one who spends his life in rants, in bringing supply chain management thunder, sometimes I also wonder why.  

The answer is simple: Because it makes a difference; because people need to think about what we do, and why and how. Next comes lightning …

Slim Whitman, Cowboy Copas, And Tom T. Hall

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/04/2017 | 3:25 PM

Once upon a simpler time, a local TV radio station attempted to reclaim past glories with a "barn dance"-style of counrty music, al la The Grand Ol' Opry or the WLS Barn Dance, or any number of variants on the theme.

A voice from the dim and misty past, Slim Whitman, was enjoying a renaissance of popularity, and headlined the debut broadcast. It was my pleasure to fly into CMH with Slim, who mostly napped and sampled small bottles of spiritous refreshment and revival.

Far from the legends of the genre, Slim was the consummate professional. He showed up, did his job, and avoided scandal. He broke little new ground; he was himself, at all times.And himself was pretty darn good on most every night.

Based on Slim's srong opening, the next show featured a unique writer and performer, Tom T. Hall. "The Storyteller" created a school and style of country music, and single-handedly wrote a heart-stopping, chart-topping string of hits beginning in 1971 and placing 26 singles in the BMI Top Ten.

The crowd, as we say, went wild.

There was not ever to be a Cowboy Copas show. The Country Gentleman, essentially a honky-tonk singer left over from the '40s, perished in the plane crash that also took Hawkshaw Hawkins and Patsy Cline from us.

But, the model was not a financial hit, anyway, and the concept folded, so there were no shows headlined by has-beens, up-and-comers, wanna-bes, journeymen or masters.

The lessons for supply chain practitioners are these: There's room for shooting stars, game-changers,  innovators, and thought/style leaders; we need them desperately.  There's also room—and a need—for journeymen and journeywomen—capable performers who've mastered their craft and are on top of the game.

Maybe not stars. But capable and reliable performers; we need them desperately, too.

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 Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.



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