Archives for May 2013

This Sporting Life

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/31/2013 | 8:04 AM

The radical American opera, 1935's Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin, features an unsavory character, Sportin' Life, who was dealing drugs long before anyone could even spell 'cartel."

Sportin' Life's signature song is it Ain't Necessarily So, addressing such unlikely conditions as the Biblical Methuselah attaining the age of 900.

We face a number of "facts" in supply chain management that ain't necessarily so, either.  For example, supply chain is not just another word for logistics.  And, what we do in logistics execution is not the same as what common practices were twenty-five years ago.  Further, managerial tactics applied to diverse and multi-generational workforces aren't going to work in this century, and employee behavior that doesn't match 1980's expectations is a sign of neither decay or rebellion.

Get over it.  What ain't necessarily so is today's reality. 

Who Poked The Sleeping Bear?

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/25/2013 | 7:20 AM

The  May issue of CFO magazine revealed some signs that the generally hibernating beast may be suffering through a restless slumber.  A feature-length article was devoted to the supply chain challenges of weather disruptions, and not-so-subtly suggested that cost effectiveness notions embedded in lean and just-in-time notions and supply sole-sourcing have seen their fragilities exposed.

Later in the piece, of course, some concern was expressed about needs to balance added costs with the benefits of redundancy as a risk mitigation.  Seemingly, accountants are as attached to debits and credits as is the proverbial leopard to its spots.

But, even an emerging recognition of the risks of looking at supply chains as drivers of cost reduction is better than complete ignorance.  The cynic might posit that it was the acccountants who encouraged overlooking business interruption risks in the name of managing costs in the first place.

My concerns lie more in a reality that this article is dominated by a myopic view of where the risks really are.  It's far from simply proactively dealing with weather events; the potential catastrophes that can shut down an enterprise - sometimes permanently - are myriad. 

Political turmoil  - internal and/or external - cannot be glosssed over as an exposure.  Economic and currency fragility can bring down a host country.  Individual suppliers can go out of business, sometimes pushed to that point by over-aggressive price negotiation.  Key executives, within the company, at suppliers, and at customers, can move on, or die.

In summary, the scope of what we in the supply chain community must consider goes well beyond transient weather conditions and supply chain breakdowns.  We must be intimate with how an enterprise is planning to pro-act in a full range of business interruptions, and prepare supply chain alternatives to mitigate, survive, or overcome all of them.

As to CFO's citation of one case in which suppliers are required to have contingency plans, too, I have news.  Progressive enterprises were doing this twenty-five years ago. 

On balance, though, we should all take some encouragement from the reality that this issue is now on the table in the financial community.  This is a journey that will be best completed if we travel together.

And, to the bear, "Wake up, sleepyhead.  We have some catching up to do."

Beware Of Jessie Ware?

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/18/2013 | 11:07 AM

Jessie Ware is the hottest property going today in popular music.  And - in a rarity - she is an actual university graduate.  Imagine!  A foundation of reading, writing, and speaking in sentences.  So, is Jessie real, and here for the long term?  Or is she the  favorite of the month for self-appointed abiters of what's important in popular culture?

I don't know, but, in my wildest moments, I can see her being with us for a good long time, and being really good right out of the chute.

This contrasts with some developments in logistics and supply chain management.  Technology that is turning out to have legs, for examble, but that took forever to get off the ground, cost more than anyone dreamed, and is still some distance from fulfilling its ultimate potential.  Can anyone say "RFID"?

Or, equipment with limited life spans and inflexible applications.  Think tow lines in floors.  How about technology that required scale and massive tax breaks to be economically feasible, and radical downsizing to a shadow of its original design to be relevant and useful intoday's fast-paced facility operations.  High-speed mini-load technology is a far cry from the full pallet AS/RS skyscrapers of past generations.

One of our great planning and execution challenges is distinguishing the Charlotte Churches of the supply chain world from the Jessie Wares - and making the right bet in selecting one or the other.

How Many Wheels Does A Bicycle Need?

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/11/2013 | 9:46 AM

You and I might think that two would be sufficient.  The Kid has other ideas.  He lived, as a very young child, in a neighborhood in which it was not safe for little boys and girls to pass through unattended.  As a consequence, his bike riding skills have not been developed.

A recent attempt to get him up on a two-wheeler occasioned an impassioned outburst, to wit: "What?! Are you trying to kill me.  That thing has only two wheels; I'll fall and run over myself!"

We had a couple of choices: get annoyed, force him up, find an alternative, or live with it.  But, the more we thought about it, the more sense his position made. He saw the short-term risks involved in doing something he'd never done before, and was looking for ways to reduce or eliminate the possibility of a bad outcome.

In his mind, a third wheel would have brought considerable comfort to the adventure.  And, four wheels, even mini training wheels, would have brought stability and a modicum of safety - and confidence.

We need to think about that third wheel in our supply chain activities.  Once we've ridden the bike a hundred times, the safety factor can confidently be dialed down.  Until then, built-in front-end risk management makes all the sense in the world.  nd, we, time after time, forget that veary basic message.

Take your thinking back to the beginning.  Consider the value of three or four wheels the first few times out.  It's a small investment, an effective risk mitigator, and the foundation of confident ventures into new arenas.  And, thank The Kid for setting a wise example.

The Dude Abides

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/04/2013 | 8:20 AM

I recently, while relaxing with a small bowl of oxycodone, visited Netflix and snagged the brilliant Coen brothers' film, The Big Lebowski. It was persuasive enough to make me hit the reset button on personal life objectives. 

 if you have not seen it, this under-the-radar masterwork stars Jeff Bridges as a slacker stoner, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Ben Gazzara, a young Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the under-rated David Huddleston (see Blazing Saddles), and John Turturro in the role of a lifetime.  Julianne Moore and Tara Reid are fall-on-the-floor funny, and gorgeous.  btw, Professor Remus Lupin of Harry Potter fame appears in a minor role.

The ultimate punch line is the movie's philosophical core, with Bridges as The Dude summarizing for Sam Elliott as The Stranger, "The Dude abides."  Win or lose. Up or down. Lucky or cursed.  Whatever the future holds, the Dude abides.

Here in Supply Chain Land, we have our own ups and downs, wins and losses, pleasant surprises and unexpected setbacks.  Our unknown future is sure to contain challenges, but be assured that, whatever emerges, this Dude, too, abides.

You think not?  Forget it, Donny, you're out of your element!

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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