Archives for September 2011

Canaries In The Coal Mine

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/29/2011 | 5:45 AM

For generations, and in many lands, caged canaries were kept in coal mines. That was before the days of surface mining, and denuded Appalachian mountaintops. The theory, and reality, was that lethal gasses would kill the little birds in a small concentration, warning the miners in time for them to scamper to the surface and safety.

So, a prostrate yellow bird was the early warning system, a small sacrifice in the interest of the greater good. Of course, the miners needed to be alert enough to notice the fallen angel fairly quickly, lest the warning not be early enough.

In the supply chain world we may have our own canaries, our early warning systems. Chuck Taylor, and Dr. Jim Giermanski, both friends of many years, have been relentless in telling us about the specter of peak oil and the sieve-like construct of post-9/11 supply chain security. One or both may not be right immediately, but the inexorable logic of their arguments suggest that both will be proven correct at some point, possibly one not all that far off.

It is curious that, in the energy sector, while working on all manner of long-cycle alternatives, we fail to leverage what could be accessible in the short term, and continue to design distribution networks with fossil fuel impacts as a secondary consideration. As for security, we have, in the people-moving supply chain, nearly perfected a program that permits pedophiles to pat down pre-pubescent passengers, while latent necrophiliacs get to grope grannies.

Meanwhile, no one would seem to notice marching bands crossing our southern border, and ocean cargo containers encounter little serious comprehensive scrutiny, and fail to use available detection technology. I'll explore the security question in a little more detail at a later date. Until then, who's watching the canaries?

Actually, we probably have canaries to watch in all aspects of supply chain planning, execution, and business relationships. What do you think some of the little yellow feathers floating to the cage floor might be to signal danger in other spheres?


By Art van Bodegraven | 09/20/2011 | 8:07 AM

It was not until watching the Emmy awards that I realized that I really didn't know the difference between Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. Except that Jimmy Kimmel is the funny one.

That breakthrough led me to consider the confusion that must surely exist when people hear the terms "Supply Management" and "Supply Chain Management." Is there a chance they might think the two are essentially the same, one being slightly funnier?

One is championed by sourcing and procurement practitioners, and their professional organization, ISM. Their positioning is that sourcing and procurement are the real drivers of supply chain managment, with an implication that they are really all about the supply chain. Perhaps the argument has merit if you separate the universe into supply chains and demand chains, one originating with suppliers, and the other responding to demand signals from customers.

But, for those of us who see integrated progressions from farm to fork or from mine to manufacture as holistic wholes, supply chain management is about functional and organizational partners, all of whose voices (including Procurement's) are heard in planning and execution to meet ultimate customer/user needs.

In that view, while both are vitally important, SM and SCM are not nearly the same, nor even comparable. In the end, I suppose that all this will get sorted out. In the meantime, the potential for confusion, both within and without the worlds of supply managment and supply chain manmagement, is real - and significant.

Oh, wait - Jimmy Fallon is the funny one.

The Man Who Would be King

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/16/2011 | 7:14 AM

Or woman.  I've got the sharpened stick out today to take pokes at CFOs.  The soon-to-be head of Advisory for KPMG International was recently quoted as calling the CFO "the closest confidant to the CEO" and the "clear number two to the CEO."  Of course, the quote was carried in CFO magazine, and maybe they thought no one else would be looking.

Certainly, control of the corporate purse does carry a lot of power (and potential for mis-use of same), and managing risk is a gig deal, particularly in globalized operations and markets.  But, in an era of aligned and collaborative senior management teams, and the burgeoning recognition that a stunning number of traditional companies are really supply chain enterprises at core, staking a claim to unique access and privilege in a hierarchy doesn't feel either right or in tune with 21st-century models.

I'm not suggesting that some other position ought to be number two; I am promoting a more positive view that all top executives are voices to be heard - and heeded - in planning and directing a business's present operations and future strategies.

There's an ugly reality to face for the CFO - and the COO, the CIO, the CLO, and any other member of the top management team.  Mere proximity to the seat of power, even when the monarch values one's unique strengths and contributions, is no indication of readiness - or capability - to move up when illness or defenestration create an opening.

And, clambering up onto the throne while the king is at the loo is both unattractive and unseemly.

Cogito Ergo Sum - Or Maybe Not

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/09/2011 | 5:17 AM

Colin Quinn, the razor-sharp and wonderfully literate comedian, observes in Long Story Short, "You can't think your way out of everything."  He's referring to the decline of ancient Greece, despite the legacy of intellectual firepower in the tradition of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

21st-century managers and leaders may face the same challenge.  There's never enough time to reason through universal and complete solutions, and there's certainly never enough data to be fully confident in decisions.  Whether we are comfortable or not with those conditions, we still must  make correct decisions and take timely action.

One research study discovered that managers spend less than nine minutes each on over half the issues they face on a daily basis.  Another study found that line foremen tackled nearly six hundred activities in an eight-hour shift, under fifty seconds each.

So, the romantic (to an engineer) notion of a scientific, systematic, reflective manager has not become reality.  Every long-term successful leader or manager must engage in a constant flow of intuitive decisions, keeping a vision of a bigger picture and a desired end state in mind.  That's good news for the right-brainers, not so much for the left-brainers.

And, our world of supply chain management is no less hectic, complicated, or challenging than what happens in general business - and may be more so.

Hey, think about it.  You've got nine minutes.  Go!

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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