Archives for November 2012

The Last Mile

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/28/2012 | 10:55 AM

Amidst the moaning about catastrophic shortfalls in revenue at the United States Postal Service, and not much action on health and pension benefits, staffing and scheduling, presence in sparsely populated areas, and service cutbacks (even the threatened ones), comes a ray of hope. 

UPS is using the USPS for home delivery of small parcels, shipping to the nearest physical post office for inclusion on the carrier's normal rounds.  Actually, in our part of the world, the Norman Rockwell image of a letter carrier with a pouch has been replaced by the driver of a small delivery truck (who may have been thrown out of NASCAR for un-necessary roughness).

No matter.  My earnest hope is that the Postal service has been able to price the service to: 1) not lose more money, and 2) keep UPS' margins at acceptable levels.  I have noticed that both Fedex and UPS have strangely business-like attitudes about profits.

So, there may be a sustainable value-adding role for the USPS in last mile delivery.  As a point of reference, there are at least two "last miles".  One is the ultimate leg of the journey to get product to a business or to  a consumer.  The other is the final walk taken by a condemned prisoner to a sit-down meeting with Old Sparky (or whatever means of dispatch may be favored in a particular state).

A lot may depend of the USPS death car driver (formerly a pouch-bearing carrier a la Seinfeld's Newman).  Our regular route-Nazi has clearly not absorbed the implicit "in one piece" objective of package delivery, and will either break the contents to fit into the mailbox, or - too delicate to alight from her war chariot - take the item back to the Post Office on some pretext on undeliverablity, or both.

Postal customers are reluctant to complain, lest misfortune befall other mail, such as checks or threatening letters from the IRS.  But, the USPS has got to get this right.  They'll be going the last mile, one way or another.  We are hoping it will be the good last mile.

'Tis The Season . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/20/2012 | 9:46 AM

For me, the holiday season begins with Hallowe'en, a sinful kick-off for a recovering diabetic.  Then comes Thanksgiving, when many are thankful that they are not forced to partake of tofu turkey.  Then, Christmas, Hanukkah, or other originally religious observance that has been subsumed by an orgy of secular consumerism.  Finally, the almost always hopeful New Year.  By then, I'm like the spent Yule Log, prostrate and warm, and not likely to flare up suddenly.

But, at this juncture, I do like to enumerate some really good reasons to be thankful, no matter what is happening in domestic politics or geopolitical misadventures.  The list doesn't change much from year to year; I am thankful for:

1) Being vertical most of the time, especially because permanent horizontality was once in the short-range forecast.

2) Enjoying the luxury of a 24/7 live-in caregiver and organizer, with 45 years of marriage under our collective belts.  Plus, she is very good-looking.

3) Terrific kids, each accomplished in his or her own right and with good minds, excellent senses of humor, and strong values.

4) Amazing grandchildren, each with special qualities, talents, and personalities.

5) The pleasure and honor to be a part of a great profession, with a host of good friends.

6) The freedom to speak my occasionally demented mind on subjects of personal and business interest.

7) The list could easily go on and on, but should probably close for now with a special thanks to my gifted surgeon, Edward Scissorhands, MD, who certainly was a big part of getting me to that desired state of verticality.

I'll make a side bet that each of you has a really good list of reasons to be thankful, as well.  That list, imho, is way more important than any recitation of reasons to not be thankful.

Trouble In Paradise

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/14/2012 | 8:18 AM

The Kid seldom appears in back-to-back blogs, but I'll give him a pass, what with holidays coming up, and all.  Plus, he has delivered another wake-up call to all of us.

Storm clouds were definitely on the horizon one afternoon after school.  His eight-year old heart was, ignoring Sean Hannity's advice, troubled.  Turns out that the love of his life had been seen in the company of a future delinquent, Muggsy, a strapping lad of very low tolerance for smaller persons and an IQ to match.  The Kid could not deal with the "why" of the lovely Ripley wanting to be around the class bully.

The Kid's mother tried to reason with him, regrettably citing the preference of some girls for bad boys, and the inevitablility of change.  The Kid was having none of it.  His approach was full frontal - he would face Ripley directly and hear from her own mouth what was going on and where their relationship stood.

He did.  The big discovery was that the "being seen" report had been way overblown, and that Ripley and The Kid remained an item.  There was, in fact, nothing to reconcile, and never had been.

What all this means is that there is no substitute for clear, direct, honest, and continuous communications between either romantic partners or organizations engaged in serious business relationships.  When communications are strong, the relationship remains strong, and there is no need to skulk off in a corner imagining - and fearing - what might or might not be going on.

I've got to find a way to steer this little guy into the supply chain world.  He has too much to contribute to stay with his current life objective of being the Lego King.

Cannons And Flyswappers; Fables And Foibles; Cabbages And Kings

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/07/2012 | 7:25 AM

I've spent the morning watching election results via DVR, playing and replaying on the off-chance that there is an alternate ending to the  movie that has escaped the talking head community.  In a brief return to nearly-real life, though, I contemplated alternatives in facing challenges, and The Kid's latest came to  mind.

As Summer waned and Fall clumped in with dried leaves and dirty boots, the last of the season's hardy flies sought refuge in the relative warmth of the screened porch.  This was not a welcome intrusion, in that we  were attempting a sort of al fresco mid-day meal there.

The eight-year old leapt from corner to doorway with a rolled-up magazine, dispatching the intruders to insect Heaven, and screaming, "Look at me; I'm a human flyswapper!"  We could  not disillusion him with exposure to the perfectly dreadful 1986 remake of The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis (at a better point in her career).  Of course, the 1958 original was even worse than the remake, so that option was truly out of the question. 

We've grown accustomed to The Kid's vocabulary, including the "limp" that brings us aerial shots of sporting events and "deva zhu", the sense of having experienced an event one or more times in the past (see Bill Murray in Groundhog Day).  But flyswapper was a wake-up call.

Of course, it is a useful concept in facing up to problems and challenges, the question of whether to use a cannon or a flyswapper.  And, this should be a reminder to not knee-jerk either extreme when obstacles pop up.  Each situation requires - demands - careful analysis in considering, adapting, and implementing action. 

The cannon can generate powerful backlash if mis-applied. And, the flyswapper can sap the power of images of strength and resolve if insufficient to the task. Over-use of the cannon can look like bullying (at best).  Universal application of the flyswapper can appear to be naivite and/or timidity.  Each must be used carefully, for optimal impact in both reality and perception.  This applies to supply chain practitioners and royal rulers alike.

Thanks, Kid.  I needed that.

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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