Archives for September 2013

The Boxer

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/29/2013 | 9:59 AM

The Kid's older sister swooshed through the kitchen and stopped, frozen, as if Justin Bieber had popped up out of the cookie jar.  Her mother was listening to the older-than-oldies local FM station, with the haunting Simon and Garfunkel refrain of "lie, lie, lie" echoing through the room, prompting a somewhat outraged query of "Who's doing that cover of the Mumford & Sons' song?  I love it!"

Explaining in the teen universe gets a bit complex, so everyone moved on quietly.  But, I was moved to think about how often concepts in our supply chain space turn out to be another version of "what's old is new again."

However, when ideas that were conceived years, even decades, ago do spring up anew, the song tells a familiar story: "Still a man hears what he wants to hear; And disregards the rest."  Abetted by academics, the trade press, and consultants looking for the next bandwagon to hop on, some of these "breakthoughs" enjoy renaissances, and can provide value when applied in a more receptive generation. 

And, frankly, there are cases in which the original version was not terribly useful in practice, requiring today's technology to become actionable in everyday processes.  Think the cloud, big data, manufacturing run strategies, rationalizations of SKUs or suppliers or customers or whatever, real-time event analysis and response, probabalistic forecasting, and so on.

For those of a certain age, though, afflicted with either very good memories or a touch of dementia, the core elements are recognizable.  And we feel compelled to bring people back to the historical context of whatever the latest silver bullet might be.

In the, once again, words of the song " . . . the fighter still remains."

Lions 76, Believers 0

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/23/2013 | 8:16 AM

It was a glorious day, the advent of the autumn season, and we were surrounded by 102,000 of our closest friends in that venerable shrine, Ohio Stadium.  Our stout lads pummeled the defanged rattlers of FAMU with wave after wave of punishing offense and defense.  It would have been a better game had FAMU put its band on the field; it would have been a superlative game had the Scarlets taken on the Grays in an intra-squad contest.  But, as dusk fell lightly on the scene of carnage, I tried to take stock of the meaning of a struggle that felt a bit like an afternoon in Rome's Coliseum in the heyday of the Caesars.  FAMU's fall was, at least, cushioned by landing on a million-dollar check.

But, as a college football game, the event was travesty cloaked in shame.  Happily, the Ohio State University won't schedule a no-contest against an FCS school ever again.  Our coach, and the team, showed commendable restraint, in attempting zero passes in the game's entire second half.  There's little that can be done, though, when a running back not even on the depth chart racks up 162 yards and two TDs, and the third-string quarterback can walk in a touchdown toward the end.  And, the first-string QB played not a single down.  One can only hope that other monster schools took note of the disgrace in scheduling such an opponent - not unworthy, but clearly, even blindingly, playing a different game at a different level.

Despite the let-down that hindsight brings, there are positive lessons for supply chain management practitioners in the orchestration and conduct of the massacre.  Perhaps the lessons have applicability in general business, as well.

One is that, before one may contemplate winning, there must be enough talent on board to be in the game at all.  No supply chain can be competitive with only the last century's leftovers; there has to be fresh talent in the larder, with new tools, new concepts, high energy, and great thinking abilities.  But, that's not enough.  For those who would be winners, the talent needs to be both wide and deep; the third string has to be able to step up and keep making progress.

Another is that, for sustained and sustainable success, the game plan must be pedal to the metal without letup, unlike showing a little mercy in a game.  It is a given, too often forgotten, that continuous improvement is just that - continuous.  The search for better ways and better outcomes never ends.  And, the transient condition of no one gaining ground on you is no reason to stop for a breather.  Competitors with a second wind can sprint past from out of nowhere.

Winning in the competition of supply chains means that, not only is it OK, it is highly recommended that the best time to go for another touchdown is when the score is already 69-0.  So much the better if it is scored by your third-string quarterback. 

Wait! That Orange Barrel Is Not For Gatorade.

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/16/2013 | 11:32 AM

As I sat in stationary traffic this morning, squinting at the Road Closed sign, I chose to ruminate rather than to succumb to road rage.  The road was open yesterday, but apparently no one got the message about today - or chose to  not believe it.  Luckily, I had a full cup of very fine Kona blend, and an Alabama Shakes CD at hand.  Others were not so fortunate, especially those with somewhere to actually go.  Like the Fedex guy, for example.

But our national landscape is littered with orange barrels on highways.  The long-overdue major improvement projects are one thing.  The pop-ups are really upsetting, though.  They spring out of the pavement and potholes like flash mobs or gypsy food trucks, without warning, and of uncertain quality and value.

What does this do to simple supply chain execution, the logistics of getting stuff where it is supposed to go?  I suspect we don't give the people who must manage through these ad hoc mazes enough credit for the frustraton they endure, and the creativity they employ in instantaneous problem solving.

It's not just that madame might not receive her on-line order of intimate apparel as soon as she hoped.  What about the deliveries of goods to retail stores?  How is the integrity of the cold chain maintained for food and drugs?  What is the impact on manufacturing operations hoping to receive components for a more-or-less Just-in-time application?

These little things that we usually don't even think about are the real widow-makers in distributing stress throughout supply chains, I think.  What do you think?

The Barber Gets Married

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/09/2013 | 7:40 AM

The Kid popped up again, making another left turn without signaling.His mother thought that, perhaps, he had the radio on while showering.  But, no.  He announced, appearing at breakfast with soapy water running onto the floor, "Guess what?  I've been singing opera!"  Pressed for specifics, he confessed that he had learned - and really liked - Vigoro.

Trust me, we will not descend into the manure pit of a few weeks ago, so Vigoro it will remain.  We did not have the heart to frighten him with the news that The Barber of Seville by Rossini is, sure as night follows day, merely a precursor to The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart.  He is still a little sensitive on the subject of the now-departed Ripley, his one and only plan for the future.

But, what has this venture into another realm of the cosmos shown us?  Several useful things.  He knows what opera is, and he knows that we know what it is, too.  He may be unclear on all the details, but he is not afraid to try it.

It might not turn out to be completely right for him, but he won't know without a trial run.  His experiment may be limited to a low-risk venue, but within boundaries, he will go all out to see where it takes him.  And, he is not afraid to tell others what he is trying and how things are going.

So, maybe, if we take a similar approach to innovation, or to considerations of newer concepts in the supply chain arena, we can learn a lot, without undue risk, and choose amongs paths of adoption, rejection, or modification.  This process, true, does rob us of the angst of imagining what might be wrong about the unknown as we reject it, but it might open doors that we'd be afraid to turn the knobs on otherwise.

Note: I'm late in acknowledging the sudden passing of a hero, Jock Menzies.  Our arguably greatest generation, certainly our pioneer forefathers, has been slipping away for a few years now.  But, Jock tragically left way too soon.  Visionary, leader, humanitarian, and gentleman, I treasure and salute his memory.

Breaking News: Fresh Evidence In The Pharma Heist Case

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/02/2013 | 8:09 AM

OK, I know it's Labor Day; pushing the latest blog out of the nest is not exactly work.  But, this couldn't wait.  It is now clear that the missing stupid pills have leached into some supplies of drinking water.  Check your reservoirs, people!

I should not have been startled to learn that many folks actually believe that contestants on ABC's amusing summer entertainment, Whodunnit?, were, in fact, being killed off.  This, despite their appearance at the end of each episode, in full demise makeup, talking about the experience.  More startling was the realization that very few appeared to be outraged in any degree that a powerful entertainment machine was being permitted to kill with impunity.

My guess is that the same gang, all of whom vote, by the way, subscribe to a range of theories about Area 51, the grassy knoll, and our simulated moon landing on a secret sound stage somewhere.  I'll further speculate that they almost universally believe that an app is what you eat before attacking the dead chicken entree at their neighborhood Ruby Tuesday's.

All this comes to mind as we contemplate the conundrum of unemployed supply chain professionals in a time of companies' desperate searches for capable suppy chain talent.  How is it that so many of the people facing career transition continue to be in denial regarding the sea changes occurring over the past couple of decades?

Resume formats and content that were de rigeur in the past are, today, either laughable or disregraded.  Yesterday's in-demand functional skills now count for far less than global perspectives and a grasp of enterprise performance context for supply chain roles and functions.  Never mind that the range of so-called "soft" skills demanded in the current market were either non-existent or lightly dismissed in the not-so-long-ago last century.

We, in the collective, need to get our heads around these, and similar, realities if we hope to be part of the supply chain revolution that is sweeping through enlightened businesses.  And, we need to show our between-jobs colleagues how to deal with this-century issues.  In addition, for a very few, it is perfectly all right to reassure them that it's not real blood coursing down the halls of Rue Manor. 


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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