Archives for June 2012

Another Pie, Pork This Time

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/27/2012 | 8:22 AM

Not that there's no pork on a pizza, but . . .

I was cynically critical of the last round of Federal TIGER grants, which pointedly excluded the one Ohio project that was clearly a strategic infrastructure application in a (supposedly) favored rural area.  Instead, the Ohio money went to replacing an urban commuter rail station and a questionable urban streetcar development, both in areas that generally support the incumbent administration.

The latest round, however, has put $16 million into Central Ohio for the (rural) connector that would connect our inland port with major highways - the application ignored in the earlier round.  Immediately, I thought I had caught a whiff of election year pork politics in a swing state.

Giving props where due, though, this round of grants appears to be directed at genuine infrastructure projects all over the country, with only a few suspect areas.  It is about time.  But, we'll take the money and leave off the whining and complaining.

Despite this forward step, though, the grants were simply for a loose  - and unconnected - collection of apparently useful  efforts in disparate locales from sea to shining sea.  We still have a critical need to formulate a unified and integrated approach to infrastrucure upgrades that address long-term priorities and future needs.

Piecemeal salves as temporary and limited solutions to local wants do not serve the interests of supply chains or of the nation.

The Incredible Shrinking Pizza

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/21/2012 | 11:38 AM

Despite all the hand-wringing over a looming and enormous driver shortage in the world of supply chain management, the reality is that we are short of projected - and current - talent needs in just about all dimensions.  We need more leaders, more managers, more analysts, more supervisors, more planners, more DC staff, and, yes, more drivers of all types.

That we also need them to be stronger, faster, smarter, and more business-savvy is an issue for another day.

Many companies are making strong moves to attract and retain talent at all levels.  SiriusXM radio is overlaoded with commercials from trucking companies touting higher pay, more benefits, elevated quality of work life, and a measure of R-E-S-P-E- C-T that would satisfy even Aretha Franklin.

Forward-looking enterprises are investing unparalleled resources in efforts to develop and reward employees at all levels and in all functions.  The impetus is, fundamentally, to attract the best and then fight like steers to keep them from defecting to competitors.  Frankly, the companies that choose to not make such investments are going to see crippling talent run-off as recovery from the Great Recession continues.

At the end of the day, though, these initiatives are all attempts to get a bigger slice of a pie that, while perhaps not getting smaller, is certainly not getting big enough to meet the needs of our collective national supply chain.  As my neighborhood pie-maker might say, "It don't matter if you cut it into six pieces or eight, it's still a fourteen inch pepperoni."

And, what we really need is an eighteeen inch meat-lover's special.

So, my question is, "What are we doing to create the eighteen inch pie that will feed us all?"  How long before we realize that the zero-sum get-my-fair-share initiatives must be replaced with a playing field that supports multiple winners?

Randy Lewis and Walgreens have led a magnificent development that has discovered and leveraged a heretofore unknown workforce that can fill many roles in supply chain execution and management.  The realization that we have a vast population of people with disabilities who can be highly productive pieces in a bigger pie is a huge awakening.

But, it's not enough.  We need comprehensive and broad initiatives in education, training, retraining, retention of talent from other lands, and leveraging other non-traditional talent sources to build a sustaining solution to the problem.

When we get that figured out, I'll be ready to go for a sausage, pepperoni, green pepper, black olive, extra cheese eighteen inch thin crust piece of heaven with onion on only one half.

To Infinity And Beyond: Speaking Finance Is Only The Beginning

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/14/2012 | 11:06 AM

A few weeks ago, I was moved to rant about the importance of relating what we do in the supply chain world to its several contributions to business success.  But, there's a more elemental need at play in our world - broad understanding of what the core elements of supply chain management are all about.  If we  - all of us - don't get that, seductively cooing into the CEO's shell-like ear about ROA, ROI, ROE, and such-like is like to only get us (deservedly) slapped.

The challenge takes on a couple of primary dimensions.  One is for everyone in an organization that lives or dies with its supply chain performance to understand what all makes up supply chain management, and logistics, how the pieces fit together, and how they impact financial performance, customer relationships, brand image - in short, how markets (financial and otherwise) view the company.

So, a collection of functions that we don't usually think about really could benefit from some fundamental, but comprehensive, education in the basics of supply chain manmagment.  Legal, Real Estate, Finance, Accounting, Sales, Marketing, R&D, IT - the list goes on.

Another dimension that might surprise you is the need for the supply chain organization itself to understand the basics of supply chain managementy and how the chain's elements inter-relate.  In far too many places, even in this enlightened 21st century, "supply chain" is only a name.  Functions are still independent and siloed.  Their metrics are not synchronized, and may even be in opposition to one another.

That's got to stop.  Functions must get integrated, metrics must get aligned, and each functional practitioner must understand what his or her peers are doing and why.

Happily, some companies get it.  They wake up one bright and sunny morning, stretch, yawn, and in a blinding epiphany, realize,"Holy Moley, we aren't in the health care business, we are in the supply chain business!"  "We have to get really good, really fast, at supply chain managment."  It's a variant of Southwest Airlines' contention that it is a customer service company that happens to run an airline.  Or Zappos with shoes and accessories.  Or WalMart.

The key to actualizing such a new vision lies in education, though.  Good intentions will not make supply chain masters out of yesterday's operational functionaries.  For those who have not started on this path, it is time.  The supply chain foundation is a necessary precursor to establishing the value context in financial terms.

The Parking Lot - A Vital Link In The Supply Chain

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/08/2012 | 9:43 AM

Meeting facilitators have apparently all been trained to list items they'd rather not deal with at the moment on a flip chart titled, "Parking Lot Issues."  Whether anything actually happens in the parking lot is a matter for speculation, often involving parties to an office romance.  But, enough of that.  My own hypothesis is that the flip chart self-destructs on a random timetable, vaporizing the issues captured there.

The subject rises because of recent publicity in our very fine local business journal, Columbus' Business FirstThe Ohio State University is in the process of awarding a 50-year lease to its parking operations for an up-front price tag approaching - hold on to your hats - a cool $500 million.  The item was categorized as falling into the Logistics and Transportation category.  At first, I snickered, then deteriorated into full out guffaws.

But, I had failed to consider the criticality of parking in supply chain and logistics operations.  Parking can be an overlooked key to success in supply chain execution.  To begin with, working associates need to have adequate places to park, including allowances for shift overlap.  Failure in this area leads to lost productivity and facility throughput.

Further, there needs to be enough space to handle any influx of seasonal workforce build-ups, with the risk, again, being a loss of cost-effective performance in facility operations.  The problem has elements of building a church for the most holy days, which is considerably larger than the everyday norm in attendance.  But, most of all in peak seasons, performance cannot be put at risk.

The concept of "idle" space goes even farther.  Any distribution facility needs to have adequate square footage to handle easy flows of both inbound and outbound transportation.  In high volume operations, plenty of land for drop and hook locations for trailers can be critical in maintaining the flow of goods

 One of the more depressing days of my life was spent in watching a major retail grocer attempt distribution out one of its private label manufacturing facilities, which was located in an urban residential neighborhood.  Trucks could not get in; neither could they get out.  And, the neighbors were trapped in their homes.

Even inside a facility's four walls, "parking" space is highly desirable.  For openers, to stage and organize inbound products and materials, and even more important, to stage loads to fill customer orders.

So, don't forget "parking lots" of several types in the design of suply chain operations.  You will be glad you did not scrimp on space, for either people or goods.

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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