Archives for July 2011

Old Mac Donald Had A Supply Chain

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/26/2011 | 7:36 AM

Not Mitch Mac Donald, E-I-E-I-O Mac Donald.  Tis the season for farmers' markets here in beautiful downtown Ohio.  I'm easily seduced by the concept of locally produced non-industrial foods.  Never mind that the nice lady from India making amazingly hot curries in her basement isn't exactly a farmer.  Or, that a frightening number of the "farmers" are buying in bulk at Costco and reselling in small batches on the town square.

I do get positively motivated when writers wax lyrical about a return to sustainable small scale farming - and the results can be wonderfully good.  But, thinking about the latest State of Logistics Report, and the realization that logistics costs, even rising, account for a mere 8.3% of the US GDP, made me appreciate that getting vast quantities of food from a relatively small number of "breadbaskets" to more than 300 million consumers makes our food much more affordable than in places that haven't industrialized agriculture.  That's even more important when times are tough.  Then, there's the occasional report that the carbon footprint for lamb from New Zealand is smaller than from a small producer a hundred miles away.

Where's the balance point?  I don't know.  It doesn't seem right, somehow, that only the more affluent among us should be able to enjoy high quality, more eco-friendly, and better-tasting food than the rest.  That could redefine "haves" and "have-nots" - and their relationships in the greater society.  And, the quality-of-life impact of - to pick a number out of the air - logistics costs double those of today for everyone's food doesn't seem right, either.

Maybe we'll find the balance point as agri-industry gets greener in all aspects of operations, and as more Temple Grandin designs are implemented in the meat production segment of the food supply chain.  What do you think?

Post-Anesthesia Dementia

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/22/2011 | 9:08 AM

And, all this time you thought PAD was peripheral artery disease . . .

Mein frau, while admiring her brand-new titanium knee was recently relaxing with a bowl of oxycodone while watching a gaggle of talking heads on an un-named cable news station.  She astutely observed, and here I quote directly, "Blah, blah, blah."  I couldn't have said it better myself.

I've been halfway between amazed and amused by how quickly people in our supply chain profession seem to have picked up on the importance of collaboration in the wake of the bitter confrontations that characterized the battlefields of the Great Recession, most recently in a piece from Chainlink Research on 21 July.  It's borderline gratifying to anyone who's been preaching this gospel to the heathen masses.  But, at the same time, it's a bit frightening, too.

The cause for unease lies in the reality that "collaboration" is only a word, easy enough to toss out when one wishes to appear to be insightful and au courant. The rest of the reality is that very few folks know how to genuinely collaborate, or how to learn ways to build trust and construct meaningful communications, cornerstones of collaboration in business relationships that are more than skin deep.

There are processes, methodologies, and disciplines involved, all of them logical and time-tested, and almost none of them easy.  I hope that this will be the next dawning realization for those who are committed to do more than merely throw out the "collaboration" word to see if it sticks.

Hold The Mayo

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/15/2011 | 1:19 PM

The 7-year-old has surfaced again.  Last week, upon two of his  Transformers falling into the trash compactor, he threw himself to the floor, screaming out "Mayonnaise, Mayonnaise!"  It took a little sleuthing to determine that he was meaning to  call "Mayday, Mayday!"

For those searching for signs and portents, it's easy to find cause for upset, if not outright panic.  In today's news, Moody's has downgraded its prognosis for the shipping industry, citing a growing imbalance in over-capacity for dry bulk, deterioration in the container segment, and slow recovery in tanker volume.  This on top of the bulletin indicating a 36% increase in marine piracy.

Sober reality is that the market will correct itself with respect to capacity and demand balances.  It'll just take longer than six months to get sorted out.  Can we please try a little harder to look slightly past the immediate horizon in thinking about what the future could really hold?

As to piracy, Somali and otherwise, that problem, too, will self-correct when the pain becomes sufficiently great.  Regrettably, the correction might be brutal and ugly.  But, the global transport community, and the governments involved, won't put up with this forever.

So, I'm not ready to jump up and holler "M'aidez, M'aidez!"  Not just yet.  It's a slippery slope, perhaps covered with mayonnaise.

Titans Walk Among Us

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/06/2011 | 6:59 AM

Our supply chain profession is young enough that many of the giants who formed visions of what it was and what it has become are still with us.  I am privileged to have known and learned from many of them.

We have lost one of the true originals, though.  Don Bowersox left us two days ago, I'd like to think to do battle one more time with the Olympians.  Donald J. Bowersox, PhD, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at Michigan State University, was a pioneer in the field.  Legions of academicians, practitioners, and consultants can trace their professional lineage back to Don, in much the same way that basketball coaches can find ties through the past to James Naismith.

Present at the creation, as we sometimes say, Don looked back, not to lament a lost Golden Age, but to find a reference point for the present.  His real focus was always on the future - where we are going, which developments are emerging trends, and what the next big thing might be.

Don Bowersox brought energy, passion, and curiosity to our profession.  And, in a world in which relationships are pearls of great price, he brought unfailing good humor and unstinting kindness.


The Plural Of Mongoose Is Not Mongeese

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/02/2011 | 8:10 AM

The late Archie Moore, poet, philosopher, historian, and brilliant pugilist, dominated the light-heavyweight scene for years, and was affectionately known as "The Mongoose."  Archie, a favorite of both boxing aficionados and the sporting press, often began his excursions into the lessons of the past with his signature opening, "In them days . . ."

Regrettably, "in them days" doesn't help us all that much in the world of supply chain management.  Yesterday's touchstones are today's pitfalls.  The old rules are turned inside out by continually evolving change in the scope and scale of our working universe, and by the roller coaster ride of violent shifts in the economics of both solutions planning and operational execution.

Not least, the pendulum swings both ways in how we manage business relationships within the supply chain.  We seemed to be moving toward positive change in the quality of relationships a few years ago, after generations of adversarial transaction-based combat among organizations that logically should have been collaborative partners.

Then came the Great Recession, with immediate capacity reductions in transport, unholy price demands from customers, and galloping fuel cost increases hard on its heels.  Combat was suddenly back in vogue, this time with AK-47s.

Now, things seem to be moderating a bit.  Capacity is still constrained, and fuel costs are still high, but slightly reduced from the peaks.  A growing number of leaders are saying the right things about making nice and playing well together with supply chain partners.

Will it stick this time?  Are we on the threshold of making enlightened relationships the accepted norm in supply chain management?  One can hope that at some point we'll be able look back fondly on the year the tide turned "in them days."

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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