Archives for February 2011

Song From A Broken Record

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/26/2011 | 8:26 AM

KPMG, the public accounting behemoth, recently conducted an international Global Manufacturing Outlook survey, as reported by big4.com on 11 February.  The two major conclusions?  One was that focusing solely on cost has damaged business relationships.  No surprise there.

The other was that 66% of respondents also ranked cost as their first priority in managing supply chains.  "When will they ever learn?" sang the unattainable goddess of my mis-spent salad days, Joan Baez.  (Pete Seeger, who wrote the song, was attainable, but not nearly as fetching.)

Apparently never, although one executive survey respondent did caution that those following traditional low cost models risk losing market footholds.

We used to say that continuing to do the same things in the same ways and expect different results was a definition of mental illness.  I see no need to change that tune.

PS: Re: my last blog, any crude oil price per barrel number (e.g., $100, $125, $150) is not actually a barrier, but a milepost on the road to a bad place.

Burning The Midnight Oil

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/23/2011 | 11:30 AM

As developments in Africa and the Middle East threaten to engulf us all in flames, there's much at stake, not least the early arrival of the apocalypse Chuck Taylor regularly warns us about.  However badly things break, though, two things are clear.  One is that there's little to stop crude from cracking the $100 per barrel barrier, whether there's good cause or not.

The other?

This is not a time to point fingers among supply chain partners, nor is it a time to squeeze either suppliers or customers by making either assume the full burden of sure-to-increase fuel and transportation costs.  We had enough of that going on at the worst of the recent/current recession, and many business relationships have yet to recover from the beatings inflicted by the momentarily strong upon the transiently weak.

This is a time for all supply chain partners to put their grown-up pants on, behave responsibly toward one another,  figure out fair ways to get through whatever difficulties ensue from international political unrest and uncertainty, and stick together for the long haul.

Doing less sems a quick way to move from disaster to catastrophe, don't you think?

Two And a half Supply Chain Partners

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/17/2011 | 12:33 PM

A pivotal enabler for both business and personal relationships is trust.  Trust is developed at a personal level, even in business relationships.  A key to personal trust lies in the authenticity of the individuals involved.

So far, so good.  But, "authenticity" can be used as a rationale for outrageous actions, a condition which - at best - erodes trust, and - at worst - destroys relationships.

Run. Run like the wind when a relationship is, or would become, toxic because of authentic bad behavior.

You wouldn't want Blackbeard running your ocean shipping operations any more than you'd like to see Charlie Sheen showing up to date your daughter.

No Way To Treat A Lady

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/14/2011 | 7:35 AM

Those who don't follow such things might think that there's some collective relationship that links Lady Antebellum and Lady Gaga.  Big mistake.  Don't even get me started on Cee Lo.

Likewise, some might be inclined to think that there's some bond involving relationships and business relationships.  Bigger mistake.  Don't even get me started on golf and Maker's Mark as relationship ingredients.

Admittedly, there are qualities of connection, intimacy, personal qualities and authenticity that are important in both.  But, "relationships" are often about emotions, and more often, about ebbing and flowing connections (even in business settings).

Business relationships, in contrast, are - or should be - constructed around sound principles, and with focus on planned outcomes.  They are about facts, and truth, and reality.  Yes, there's intimacy, but it's business intimacy.  Yes, authentic personality is an important element, but it has a purpose beyond good feelings - and it needs to be a constant.

These are vital understandings in the complex world of supply chain partners, in which the breakdown of a hastily and/or partially constructed businesss relationship can bring down the entire chain.  Think no candy in the stores for Hallowe'en, or no toys delivered in time for Christmas, or the new season's line still bobbing somewhere in Pacific waters after the catalog has dropped.

Stop Watches Belong At Track Meets, Don't They?

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/05/2011 | 8:33 AM

The supply chain world appears to have been seduced by Labor Management Systems (LMS) and performance/productivity standards for the past couple of years.  That's cool enough; we all know that measurement is important and that goals are vital.

Lately - as late as last Tuesday - more attention is being paid to how standards are set, with a recent article waxing rabidly enthusiastic on matters of changing methods, changing work pace, and engineering alternatives.  The - as usual - missing ingredient was any inclusion of how to get a workforce to embrace and engage the use of performance standards and labor management systems.

Disclosure: I spent two decades doing little else but developing and implementing labor management systems in a spectrum of industries and environments.  I can attest that, while a winning personality can help achieve labor management success in the short term, there is no substitute for an organized and focused effort to include the workforce in the process, to get not merely buy-in, but to achieve sustainable participation.

Imposing standards and a program on people smells entirely too much like the bad old days of gimlet-eyed "efficiency experts" and speed-up efforts to wring more output from an over-stressed and under-motivated workforce.  Picture battalions of industrial engineers (many of them self-taught), armed with clip-boards and stop watches and treating workers like so many replaceable parts in the machinery of production.

Seems like we ought to know by now that left-brain solutions to whole-brain problems are not recipes for happiness, for either labor or management.  The logical extension of business relationship concepts ought to recognize that solid - and well-maintained - relationships with individuals are part of the foundation for building relationships with organizations.  And for building positive, continuously improving, labor management programs.

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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