Archives for November 2011

Tanks A Million

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/21/2011 | 6:52 AM

I know what week this is, and continue to have much to be thankful for. But, I'm actually thinking of tanks.

We often reference the Roman Empire as a very early example of logistics in action, using water transport to get to faraway places, then building road networks to reach the far corners of the realm (or the soon-to-be-realm). But, those roads and waterways were critical in reverse logistics, too, meeting the need to get men and materiel back to Rome

In those days, of course, elephants and chariots were involved, rather than tanks and Humvees. And, there was a downside to a returning army. Julius, for example, was merely a general before he was a Caesar. His relationship with the Senate was definitely built on a foundation of intimidation, and not collaboration.

This tended to make the Senate receptive to the idea of a new Caesar, often - surprise - another returning general. The populace was, perhaps, less enthusiastic about these power plays, unless the bread had run out and the circus was getting old.

But, the magnitude of the reverse logistics challenges faced by the military, especially our military, is staggering. It casts aside all we think we know about reverse logistics in the normal B2B and B2C worlds, with returned apparel and product recalls.

All this comes to mind, just a couple of weeks after Veterans' Day, in the wake of continuing drawdown in Iraq, and a not-too-distant exit from Afghanistan, with the consequent reverse logistics movement - tanks, elephants, weaponry, and the rest.

All political issues aside, this is probably as good a time as any to be thankful for those who serve or have served, whether they rode in tanks (or other vehicles), flew, sailed, marched, or supported all the others.


Purple Prose

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/16/2011 | 6:43 AM

One of the mission-critical roles of 21st-century supply chain managment is that part of S&OP that balances, reconciles, and/or overcomes mis-matches between supply capability/capacity and marketplace demand requirements. One of the greatest of such mis-matches outside of our profession has pancreatic cancer at its core.

Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest of the major cancers in the US; relatively uncommon numerically, it is the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths. The five-year survival rate is 6% (or less), which has not improved in over forty years. In short, the amount of education and research going into the problem is trivial, and completely unrelated to the severity of the need. In short, shameful.

Currently, we don't talk much about ten-year survival rates, or cures, or victory. The challenge will intensify, with today's 44,000 annual diagnoses expected to significantly increase, possibly on pace with rampant growth in the number of diabetics.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has designated November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and has succeeded in getting proclamations so declaring issued by state, county, and city governments all over the country. In addition, we have mounted a campaign, that is getting real traction, to get US Senators and Representatives to co-sponsor or support upcomung legislation to fund an appropriate level of planning and funding at the Federal level to escalate the war on this disease.

This coming Sunday will see PurpleLight observances all across this nation to commemorate those who have fallen to pancreatic cancer, and to celebrate the few who have survived. We believe that we are on the road to finding a better balance of capability, capacity, and need in this great struggle. And, with your support, we expect to have future messages of hope to replace today's dreadful statistics.

Is It Too Late For Hospice?

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/09/2011 | 7:17 AM

My hero, Mitch Mac Donald, recently asked "Can the USPS survive?" He cited several dismaying statistics and observations regarding the venerable service's future. My question is, "Does the USPS deserve to live?"

That the entity dates to the time and ingenuity of Benjamin Franklin doesn't mean that it has earned eternal life. For example, I haven't been able to subscribe to The Saturday Evening Post (also attributed to Franklin's fertile imagination) for many years. And, we no longer have to fly a kite to gain access to electricity.

If no bold steps are taken, the "post office" will surely die a lingering, long, and painful (not to mention expensive) death. It's strength is it's weakness - the network that reaches every home and business in the nation. As competing modes of communication continue to take away the need for letters with stamps and envelopes, the service will suffer from adverse selection, with the poorest, least sophisticated, and most inaccessible populations relying on it.

It has been reported (with uncertyain accuracy) that first class service actually makes money. If true, a reasonable step might be to charge more for services that don't. But, that might drive volumes to lower levels. Another perspective suggests that there is a value-adding role in the world of parcel shipment, in last mile delivery for the major (and profitable) carriers, and as intake in reverse logistics networks (again leaving more profitable applications to the private sector).

Seems like a lose-lose operation that is only going to get sicker, but at an accelerated pace. As a former colleague used to say, "It's too big to replace, and too broke to fix." As if the Congress would have the will to actually fix it.

So, here's my plan: let it go, and dissolve with some dignity left. Re-invent an organization to fulfill the primary mission of the service - and privatize it immediately. The successful postal operations, globally, are those that have gone that route, and have been free to make business decisions that make sense - and money.

This is a supply chain component that affects people and organizations, and needs a 21st-century version to help smooth human and business interactions.

Talk Dirty To Me

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/01/2011 | 9:06 AM

So, I was blissing out to Florence + The Machine and contemplating my latest (but by no means last) comeuppance. A colleague had been complaining that the room got decidedly chillier when, after some warm and lively discussion, it was discovered that her company has the dreaded word "consulting" in its name.

I've had much the same reaction when a well-meaning friend has identified me as a consultant. The recoil is slightly greater than if it had been "pedophile" and somewhat less than if it had been "congressman." Which is distressing, in that I've been a consultant for some forty-plus years (and neither of the other two).

I grew up believing, and still maintain, that real consulting is an honorable, even occasionally noble, calling. But, somewhere along the line the term has been tarnished, become debased. Has it been the result of the excesses of the always-on-the-make mega-firms, who foist busloads of over-educated and under-experienced staff on clients who only later discover that they've actually come, not to solve a problem, but to sell the next seven- or eight-figure engagement?

Are the endlessly over-promising and under-delivering sales types, who disappear after the deal is made, at fault? How about the IT implementation techno-geeks who style themselves "consultants"? Or, the desperate unemployed functional managers who may hang out a shingle, only to see it blow away in the first strong wind?

Whatever the cause, it does seem that more firms are eschewing the use of the "consulting" term. Some simply go by a name that describes or implies nothing in particular. Others have retitled their consulting divisions as "advisory" services. Here's a tip. If they do business in the same old way, "advisory" will fall into disrepute, as well.

I'm not ready - nor would I be credible - as a business "coach" and "fixer" already has a negative connotation. For the moment, I'll stick with "consultant" and hope that, like my skinny ties from the '50s, what's old will become new again.


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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