Archives for April 2013

If A Tree Falls In The Forest And There Is No One There To Hear It . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/27/2013 | 12:23 PM

Your 'umble correspondent's latest Basic Training column in DC Velocity took on the outmoded concept that one size fits all in defining a supply chain and Its structure.  Truth to tell, our standard view of what a supply chain looks like is a quick rip-off of last generation's  CPG structure, and it has been the standard that we have taught to, and used to illustrate concepts, for a couple of generations.

It is over-simplified and over-used, and is no longer an adequate model.  Penn State's Assistant Professor, Jason Acimovic has taken the notion a significant step farther.  He defines the standard view as archaic, ineffective, and more wrong with each passing day in a multi-channel universe which encourages omni-channel technology applications in  B2B as well as B2C commerce.

His thought-provoking name for the "in the day" structure is arborescent, sometimes arboreal, to indicate a traditional pyramidal brick-and-mortar network of distribution facilities.  Newer structures, which aren't actually all that new, are: robust, asymetrical, flexible, and constantly evolving as technology and processes insert themselves into supply chain plannning and execution.

Maybe we should re-direct the focus of the traditional Arbor Day observance to recognize the diminuation of arborescent supply chains, and the need for creative thinking about challenges, solutions, and game-changers in supply chain management.

I am not sure what the opposiite of arborescent might be.  Maybe" briar patch" to illustrate the snags inherent in less structured, even uncomfortable, supply chain environments.  We'll have to ask Bre'r Rabbit about that.  Meanwhile, I'll not be looking at arboreal networks in nearly the same old way. 

Is Alabama Shakes On The Value Menu?

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/22/2013 | 6:56 AM

I promise you that the title above is grammatically correct.  And the answer is: "The odds are good."

Here's the deal.  If you are just catching up, Alabama Shakes is a leave 'em begging for more emerging rock band of fairly recent vintage.  The lead singer and guitarist will not be mistaken for Faith Hill (or even Lady Gaga) anytime soon, but has a voice and a style that surpass Janis Joplin at her best.

Another strong lesson in the folly of judging an artist on superficial qualitiies . . .

We experience parallels in supply chain management, encountering marvelously effective solutions that are: 1) not pretty; and 2) would frighten the trousers off someone who is more interested in appearances than in results.

So, following the theme, I would argue strenuously against dismissing a process or concept that works simply because it is not elegant, or does not square up with what we think we learned in SCM school.

The supply chain value menu is not always about compelling pictures of idealized burgers and sides, but might be surpassingly nutritious.  Alabama Shakes is more than high-fructose artificially-flavored calorie bombs.

Movin' On Up

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/17/2013 | 11:23 AM

Maybe the supply chain community hasn't reached the rare air enjoyed by George and Louise on 1975's solid hit spin-off of All In The Family, The Jeffersons.  Or, maybe it has.

When some of us started out in the mysterious universe of supply chain logistics, or whatever we chose to call it, a BA in English constituted over-education.  Our collective mandate was to "figure it out."  Subsequent generations built from a foundation of hands-on learning, in which one was expected to grasp the subtleties of transportation management by taking on a summer job dedicated to scheduling Teamsters to specific runs and assignments (hoping to not get beaten and humiliated by these estimable Knights of the Road).

"Those were the days," as Carroll O'Connor/Archie Bunker sang.

In a recent cameo appearance in front of a class at The Ohio State University, I took note of one student who was taking his coffee from a mug inscribed "Turkey."  As a one-time observer of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, I was impressed.  The student was blase, explaining matter-of-factly that he had interned on an S&OP project in the former Constantinople.

We have come a long way when a global assignment gets taken in stride, and the next generation of supply chain practitioners looks at a learning stage that was a rare accomplishment in an earlier age as simply a next step in personal and professional development.

Trust me on this - it is not a matter of too much, too soon.  It represents the level of practical sophistication that needs to characterize what we, in the collective, bring to the party, and to the success of the enterprise.

I am a bit envious, though, and - even at this stage of life - would cheerfully take on sourcing and procurement in the Grand Bazaar as a highly desirable next step in life and in work.

A Song Of Ice And Fire -

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/10/2013 | 7:21 AM

We see that the acclaimed HBO series, Game of Thrones, has opened a new season.  Big whoop.  To listen to the tittering critical community, one would think that George R. R. Martin's costumed dreck is actually literature, and that the on-screen version has been directed by Martin Scorsese under an assumed name.

The epic work is actually soft-core porn, cleverly interspersing horrific slaughter, magic, and nekkid ladies.  For it to pretend to be anything more would be akin to Peter Dinklage standing up really straight in hopes of being mistaken for the late (in the show) Sean Bean.

We face some parallels in the supply chain management realm, in which functions and concepts that some might hope constitute supply chain management, are elevated beyond their actuality, perhaps in hopes of being mistaken for being the same as what is embedded in supply chains.  Much of our world is over-populated with Peter Dinklages running about and calling themselves "Sean." 

The rest of it involves no magic, but lots of hard work, and a moderate amount of slaughter, or at least winners and losers.  We are woefully short of nekkid ladies, which could be a sign that we dwell in a world of reality, and can only make do with the illusions that accompany fantasy.


Who Are These People, And What Are They Doing Here?

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/04/2013 | 12:42 PM

From time to time, we encounter a small gang that doesn't fit.  Different looks, different bearing, different postures.  Mijn vrouw and I experienced this phenomenon on a cruise when we discovered that each stateroom (a codeword for a punishing cell on a shifty boat of uncertain heritage) came fully equipped with a suspicious character of dubious origin.

It turned out that the crew were refugees from Transylvania, apprentice Draculas with only the capes on their backs.  Their startling expertise in springing out of doorways, with a "Good evening" that would have made Bela Lugosi proud kept us on our toes.

From time to time in the execution of our profession, we encounter small groups of tree-huggers making light conversation and little sense as they make their ways through throngs of supply chain practitioners.  And so, we ask ourselves, who are these people, and what are they doing here?  They clearly don't belong in a room full of logisticians and traffic managers.

Believe it or not, we need - and welcome -  these misfits.  It is only now that we are coming to realize that building and maintaining supply chain relationships is a new skill to be mastered in this emerging age of supply chain collaboration.  And we, frankly, have no real idea of how to construct sustainable relationships.  So, we embrace these strangers who, bizarre as their thinking might be, know what we need to learn to succeed in the new century of supply chain management.

Actually, those of us who learn how to leverage the special skills of the relationhsip management mavens are likely to enjoy success beyond our expectations.  We have a lot to gain by figuring out who these people are - and what they can do for us.

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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