Archives for August 2010

Way To Go, Hugo

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/27/2010 | 9:12 AM

Softair Ag's CEO, Gabriel Weisskopf has hit another one out of the park.  In a recent parable from his Opinion column in Air Cargo World, he recounted the tale of an uncommon service provider, led by its CEO, Hugo First.

In contrast with the parade of usual suspects who took PowerPoint and bombast to new lows, glazing the eyes and numbing the senses of the selection committee, Hugo brought only a flip chart and a bizarre attitude.  After writing, "I am not here today to sell you anything," Mr. First admitted that he had really come "to find out what kind of buyer" he was dealing with.

Horror ensued.  No brochures, no testimonials, no incomprehensible "value propositions."  What was going on?

Actually, the approach is one that might signal bright prospects in a budding business relationship.  After all, what kind of business partner is interested only in: 1) itself, and 2) how to get you to buy something, and soon? 

Maybe the the right kind of service provider is one who's interested in the longer term, and how good the fit is between it and you.  Or art least, wants to take the time to understand you and your people before crafting approaches and solutions designed to actually solve real business problems in the supply chain.

Is this tactic sheer insolence on the part of a service provider, or an intelligent means of beginning to build the foundation of something sustainable - and valuable?

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/19/2010 | 11:03 AM

About a month ago, John Trentacosta wrote about a subject that no one wants to talk about.  Fact is, an otherwise phenomenal supply chain can be brought to its knees when one partner in the chain runs into financial trouble.  A business relationship with a pauper is not sustainable.

Some early warning signals with suppliers - the canaries in the coal mine - include: requests for price increases, early payments, accelerated terms, or even financing support; late deliveries or quality degradation; failures to appropriately invest in IT and/or other assets; maintaining spend during downturns; delinquent taxes, deteriorating receivables, and extended payables; and bad press, among others.

Due duiligence on the front end can help prevent problems on the back end, but sometimes bad things happen to good people.  That's when an early response team reaction to early warnings can pay off.  Sometimes, you've got to pull the plug.  But, often you can mutually develop work-out plans to let the troubled partner survive long enough to prosper  - and to keep your supply chain humming in an unrelentingly competitive marketplace.

Self-Inflicted Fatal Wounds

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/09/2010 | 8:17 AM

So, now I read that many carriers and service providers are struggling with capacity issues.  They cut back, mothballed, whatever, when the economy turned down.

But, we've been preaching the need to get ready for recovery for the better part of two years.  Those who didn't listen are now paying a price.  Those who did are clearly going to wind up ahead of those who chose not to develop rapid response capacity alternatives.

It's difficult to work up much sympathy for either extreme: those who spent like inebriated seamen in the teeth of recession, or those who refused to believe that down cycles are always followed by up cycles.  Either approach risks the success of the supply chains involved, and jeopardizes the market position of innocent partners in the end-to-end chain.

I should come as no great shock that the companies caught up in the failure to marshall capacity additions as volume picked up are likely not to be invited to next year's prom - plunging them back into the abyss of the depth of recession while the economy around them recovers.

Slide, Freefall, Collapse . . . Or, None Of The Above

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/01/2010 | 8:52 AM

A good friend of many years was recently bemoaning what he sees as the continuing decline of manufacturing in the US.  His biggest complaint was that, every time a plant closes, its engineers hit the streets newly badged as "lean" consultants.

"Lean" indeed - a larger population trying to capture bigger pieces of a shrinking pie.

I don't have the data to challenge his contentions.  Clearly, a lot of manufacturiung has left our shores over the past couple of decades.  But, we still manufacture many things, although perhaps not on the scale of what General Motors plants used to look like.  Certainly not at the employment and production levels of twenty years ago.  That said, we're still in the early stages of in-shoring and right-shoring movements, and productivity - if not production - continues to climb throughout the sector.

It's possible that my morose amigo has seen his consulting and training business shrink because, at least in part, of other factors.  More and better-educated and better-trained engineers and operators.  Radical shifts in learning and knowledge transfer paradigms.  Tired branding and terminology.

And maybe - just maybe - more companies are learning from one another in close relationships, and have focused, targeted, and empathetic partners to help them improve performance.  Or perhaps they are getting help from subject matter experts with different styles, with different kinds of client relationships, and with different approaches to salvation that go beyond traditional projects and programs.

Seems to me that part of staying in the game - and ahead of the pack - in the 21st century is continual reinvention . . . within a supply chain, within a company, within a product, and within oneself.  I'm just sayin' . . .

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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