Archives for April 2012

Welcome to My Charmin Soft World

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/26/2012 | 6:36 AM

I am beginning to feel slightly vindicated, a dangerous state of mind. Over the past couple of years, I've tried to quety promote the value and power of high-trust, high-collaboration business relationships - the so-called soft side of the supply chain.

Comes now DC Velocity, with an aboslutely on-point interview with Tracy Maylett and Peter Bradley's column hitting on exactly the same issues. As Bob Barker always said on The Price Is Right, "Come on down!"

The notion may be taking hold. There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence, and practitioner testimonials. There are plenty of consultant testimonials,as well, but those might be viewed with some level of cynicism. There is also research evidence that supports the core business outcomes of profitability and revenue growth as direct results of higher levels of collaboration among supply chain partners.

So, welcome to my world. There's fun to be had and money to be made in making a business difference with successful new paradigms on soft issues.

A word of caution, though. This soft stuff ain't easy to do; in fact, it is hard - perhaps harder than the hard stuff. It's not just about attitude, outlooks, and good intentions. There is rigorous technique in building the soft side to get hard results, and sustain them over time.

But, the effort, and the journey, are more than worth the price of admission. And, there are no unsightly bits of soft paper cluttering up the landscape and sticking where they shouldn't.


Don't Get Out Of The Pool!

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/20/2012 | 11:23 AM

We are, on balance, facing talent and resource shortages throughout the supply chain sector. Driver shortages? Everybody gets that. Distribution center associates? Short now in logistics hot spots, and woefully short of future needs when recovery and growth kick in. Capable visionary leaders? Everyone's looking for some of those. Brilliant young superstars? In very short supply, considering the overall need for new thinking, innovative design, and rigorous analytics. And, aggravated by our national failure to retain talent from other lands who have been educated in supply chain management at our finest universities.

The response in the industry has been generally either despair, accepting the inevitable, or enlightened comprehensive programs to attract, retain, and develop supply chain talent. In short, to capture a larger slice of a resource pie that is either getting smaller, or not growing fast enough. The approach has benefits, to be sure, in building more responsible and attractive workplaces. But, it does not begin to get at the core challenge.

How can we build a bigger talent pool for our profession? It would take a book to cover that topic, but some tactics might include:

- focused supply chain/logistics training/education, beginning in high school,

- aggressive programs (with government support) to retain foreign graduates,

- changes in driver qualification and experience criteria, and

- targeted integration of immigrants into the supply chain talent pool.

There is undoubtedly more, but this is a challenge we must step up to. Trying to stay healthier by eating from a competitor's plate is not a national success strategy.





Wait! Isn't Waterboarding Illegal?

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/12/2012 | 9:17 AM

For those who failed to remove their iPod ear buds for the duration of Gulf War II, waterboarding is an enhanced interrogation technique that simulates drowning in a most convincing way. Opponents maintain that is an un-American and inhumane practice. Also, that the intelligence (or confessions) it gains are generally useless, being desperate attempts to give interrogators what they seem to want. That is true.

Proponents maintain that it might be appropriate to terrorize terrorists. They also cite the value of the waterboard-induced contributions of Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), who sang like an 18th-century European castrato at the moment of truth. That is also true.

This came to mind the other day as I was thinking about different supply chain constructs and challenges. It struck me that companies like QVC and HSN generate self-induced supply chain waterboarding by the nature of their business models. The initial thoughts were reinforced as I surfed through the QVC world seeking a cubic zirconia bauble to adorn m'lady's graceful hand.

A few days later, it was made clear to me that it would have been wiser to have waited for a special on emeralds, and I returned the multi-carat CZ triumph of design (creating a reverse waterboarding moment back in the depths of QVC).

We all have moments of challenge in planning and executing in our supply chains. But, QVC and similar operations, of their own free will, create supply chain activity spikes a few times an hour, throughout the day, day after day, week after week. The pressures must surely mount when a celebrity is in on the promotion, and the death march to sell through tens of thousands of units in one swoop is on.

And, the product involved could be jewelry, frozen steaks, live plants, apparel, electronics - you name it. Imagine the receiving, putaway, pick/pack/ship implications.

And thank your lucky stars that you face neither waterboarding nor an unfulfilled life as a castrato.





Eyes On The Balls

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/05/2012 | 12:53 PM

The visiting parish priest was probing the moral character of the lad during dinner, and raised the issue of the Golden Rule. The head of the house tried a cue, "Come on, son, what is the Golden Rule?" The perplexed target of this unwanted attention responded, "Keep your eye on the ball?"

He turned out to be out first son-in-law, and we are pleased to report that he has been replaced, and sent down to the minor leagues.

We've lots - some think too many - balls in the air in trying to be compleat supply chain managers, and it's hard to know which ones to keep an eye on. I am very confident that cutting inventories as a supply chain focus is not the ball to be watching. The real challenge and responsibility is to find the right balance of inventories at a reasonable cost.

Further, cutting overall costs as a supply chain imperative is another wrong ball. As the late Don Bowersox reminded us, cost management in supply chains is not a differentiator, but table stakes - what it takes to be in the game. The real mandate is to elevate enterprise performance with value propositions (a very different beast than cost-cutting) to capture and hold profitable customers - and leverage the organization's assets and resources.

Those might not be what the CFO, under pressure, wants to hear, but they are truths for the long haul - the place to be in preparing for the stretch drive.

While you consider which are the right balls, do keep your eyes open. It is the wrong balls that roar in like 97 mph fastballs and catch you square on the kisser.










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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