Archives for December 2010

An Uncertain Auld Lang Syne

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/29/2010 | 6:42 AM


As the Yule log burns low, and  we prepare for the ball to drop at midnight, mein frau reminds me that I usually drop about three hours earlier.  So much for the Golden Years.

A friend of many years (sounds better than "an old friend"), Tom Andel, recently wrote about the uncertainty monster(s) we will be facing - ready or not - in 2011.  Infrastructure?  Taxes?  Under-educated practitioners?  Health care?  Costs?  Customer losses?  More pitfalls than opportunities, it seems.

My take, from the vantage point of dotage, is that uncertainty has always been with us - major, business-wrecking uncertainty.  But, we had lots of buffers to cushion us from the body blows a few years ago.  High inventories, plenty of people resources, an almost-continuously growing economy, loads of capacity, more buildings than we knew what to do with.

In today's world, with Lean and Six Sigma, cost reduction pressures, over-worked management and staff, rationalized distribution networks, capacity constrained carriers, pressures to overcome past price concessions, a flatter economy (even in recovery), there's little room for error and less for accomodating unanticipated small swings of the pendulum.

It all looks like another argument for building strong customer/supplier/service provider relationships, and investing even more in them in tough times.  Wild concept, huh?  Looking five years down the road instead of over-reacting to the last five minutes.

So, raising yet another cup of eggnog, and launching into another quavering  stab at "Should auld acquaintance be forgot," I wish you all an abfab 2011.

Will The Magi Take Back Their Gifts?

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/21/2010 | 7:12 AM

No, no, not those Magi.  At this time of year in the Western tradition, we automatically think of three guys on camels following a star.

But, over the past several months, one magus or another has decried the negative impacts of fuel costs and capacity limitations on shipper/carrier relationships and the potentially impaired ability of companies to deliver on the promise of their brands - at least in a timely and cost-manageable way.

Other magi might suggest that building genuinely collaborative supply chain relationships in the past could have spared forward-thinking companies the capacity pain, even if there's not much to do about the costs.  But, only a few have heeded the lesson, and the focus of attention has been on the negative rather than the positive.

Maybe that's the way journalism works, even in the trade press, and maybe there's more good proactive stuff going on out there than we know about.  But, for the moment, some magi are depressed, and their camels are restive.  Animals do read and react to  their owners' states of mind, you know.

Actually, anyone who had built solid carrier relationships in the past as, among other things, a good way to get through challenging times, would be a star worth following.

Gone Fishin'

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/14/2010 | 11:48 AM

John Gentle recently wrote about the shortcomings of using the same old ways of doing business to get business, drawing parallels with fishermen using the wrong bait and no visibility into the possibilities beneath them.  His conclusion, in the world of shippers and carriers, was that customers' value propositions could land superior service carriers, rare as they might be these days.

Imagine that - buyers luring sellers.

But, just maybe, the equation is making a seismic shift.  And, just maybe, building mutually value-adding relationships within the supply chain will be seen as the hallmark of supply chain leaders.  Meanwhile, bottom fishing will continue to be less and less rewarding, perhaps even not sustainable as a survival strategy.  Waiting to see if I'm right or not may not be a prudent option when we reach the day when there are no more superior providers left for the also-rans.

Yada, Yada, Yada; Yoda, Yoda, Yoda

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/06/2010 | 10:41 AM

I confess to being a little freaky about wordplay.  But, I do find it curious that the yada refrain so popular on Seinfeld a few years ago is used to obscure or conceal details.  Yoda, on the other hand, evokes the wisdom - and clarity - of the masterful trainer of Jedi knights.

What bring me to this bug-eyed, sweaty, state are the current calls for collaboration among supply chain partners.  Yada, yada, yada.  There's precious little detail and clarity about what collaboration really means or how to bring it about as a natural and everyday consequence of building business relationships within supply chains.

So, I pose these, for some magus to enlighten us.  Collaboration to what end?  To whose benefit? With what end-state consequences? How sustainable over time?  In what context of deeper working relationships?  Built on what foundation?

Yoda, Yoda, Yoda - where are you?

Back To The Future?

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/04/2010 | 7:16 AM

Until recently, I thought that a 'hood was that fabric attached to the neck of a sweatshirt.  Then, the oldest grandchild, a Florida State freshman, introduced me to a whole 'nother vocabulary.

With that in mind, we might ask, "What up, UPS?"  We love logistics?  This from a company with a supply chain organization approximately the population of Wyoming?

We spent many years - and countless tears - redefining and rebadging our professional organization as the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, leaving behind the limiting, outdated, and incomplete terminology of logistics, as in the Council of Logistics Management.

I'm baffled.  It's more or less okay for Fox Sports to use images of warehousing, rack, conveyors, and a delivery truck door to introduce NFL football on Sundays.  I'm guessing that they think we get it - and they don't actually say "logistics."  But, "we love logistics?"

Some have encouraged me not to worry; the ads are B2B-directed.  Of so, why are they shown in so many B2C venues?

In simplistic terms - my specialty - we can communicate with outsiders when we say "supply chain."  People can visualize a chain (even if it's a value chain or a demand chain).  But, who can visualize a logistic?"  Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?  Does a logistic make a good family pet?  Can we imagine how logistics adds value, even when UPS says it does?

Am I tilting at windmills?  Are we returning to the past?  Has UPS really muddied the waters?  Is this move accidental or deliberate?  If deliberate, what's the point?

What's your take?

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.


Popular Tags

Subscribe to DC Velocity

Subscribe to DC Velocity Start your FREE subscription to DC Velocity!

Subscribe to DC Velocity
Go digital