Archives for November 2013

I'm Thankful To Not be A Turkey On November 28

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/27/2013 | 7:59 AM

Some might maintain that I am somewhat a turkey year-round; I'll deal with that crowd as soon as I finish smashing beer cans into my forehead.  But, I do try to take stock at this time of year of the multitude of things for which I ought to be giving thanks every single day.

First, is my amazing wife, aka The Brains of the Outfit, who regularly saves me from myself in a modern-day version of Rooster Cogburn carrying and dragging me to the safety of medical help, or the protection of the cavalry, or whatever is required.

Then, there are our four staggeringly accomplished offspring, who are also terrific human beings and all-around good company around either the campfire or the skeletal remains of a turkey that has given its life for the betterment of others.

Our grand-children deserve mention, as well.  All six are uniquely talented, amusing, entertaining, and pursuing objectives that give us pause, if not stopping us in our tracks.

Not least, my medical team warrants continuing kudos for performing miracles with patience and good humor.  They, in total, embody the best features of the cast of MASH and some combination of Mayo, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and  chicken soup.

Finally, I am thankful to be part of a magnificent profession, full of colleagues and friends who collaborate, share, teach, learn, and have more fun than should be allowed by law.  Renegades, reprobates, and role models - does it get any better than this?

I hope your holiday is rich and rewarding.  And, don't worry about the turkey.  He or she makes the sacrifice because it is in the job description, a high and noble calling.

First Aid Kit

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/20/2013 | 12:25 PM

So, where and how does David Letterman come up with phenomenal musical talent for his show?  C'mon, a whitebread guy from the Indiana heartland?  Maybe the draw is Paul Shaffer, a weird older dude who dresses in Elton John cast-offs. 

Whatever, my latest fantasy involves First Aid Kit, a brilliant, charming, and gifted, sister act from Sweden.  Maybe these two are the EMTs who will save us from poseurs on the Manhattan not-quite-musical scene who appear on other shows, not least SNL.

Which brings us to the fundamental question of whether your supply chain is not feeling- or performing - up to par.  If it no longer has the pep in the step required to compete - and beat - the competition, how serious is the illness?  Maybe, if it is just a matter of a nip here and a tuck there, a little tweaking, a supply chain first aid kit is just what Dr. Freemarket ordered.

But, if, even with modest initial symptoms, there is more than a malaise involved, surgery and a rigorous course of medications and treatments could be called for  -something considerably beyond first aid.  And, it's no good hoping that early symptoms will go away on their own.  It is all too easy to close one eye to gradual deterioration, in which near-harmless early warnings degenerate into irreversible and potentially fatal conditions.

There is simply too much at stake in the contribution of a robust supply chain to enterprise health to brush off anything less than perfect health and perfect performance.  Maybe, if things are caught early, a first aid kit will be enough.  But a thorough examination, with an open mind to the potential for radical intervention, is a must.

A votre sante!

Mustang Sally

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/14/2013 | 7:22 AM

This has nothing to do with the great old song that enjoyed a renaissance in popularity from its inclusion in the brilliant film, The Commitments.  Rather, it relates to, perhaps, how Reno and Las Vegas came to become icons for tight slots and loose women.

A feature of life on the continually moving American frontier that we  prefer to pretend did not exist was the prominent role of various forms of bordello in keeping men's spirits up.  Even in the sanitized days of early television, we knew that Gunsmoke's Miss Kitty ran a saloon on the ground floor, but we turned a blind eye when it came to what might be going on upstairs.

Vestiges of the past live on in several Nevada counties, in which brothels are legal - licensed and regulated - and do not need the pretense of hiding behind escort services or massage parlors to operate.  The oldest and best known of these establishments has been the notorious Mustang Ranch, just outside Reno.

Unfortunately, the complex ran afoul of the Internal Revenue Service, and was seized by the Federal government a couple of decades ago.  The authorities' intent was to continue in business to satisfy the tax obligation.  One would think that the gummint had lucked into a windfall.  What could possibly go wrong, selling spiritous beverages and pleasures of the evening?  After all, organized crime in the US built the pre-drugs foundation of its fortunes on peddling cheap booze and illicit sex, with a little diversionary gambling thrown in.

But, apparently the Washington types could not handle honest prostitution or unadulterated hooch, being more familiar with shiftier versions of the trade, and the Ranch went, pun intended, bust.

Comes now the point, which is actually independent of any misgivings associated with Obamacare or the foibles of either major political party.  I will confess to a thought, though, that when the pros and cons of either are debated, I come away thinking that the pros would be cons if all the facts were to come out, but that is another issue.  And, prison overcrowding might lead to less than justice being meted out, anyway.

My dilemma is that, observing the waste, folly, misdirection, and general inefectiveness of fragmented rail, bridge, road, and other related projects in this country, I've been promoting the idea of a cohesive national plan for supply chain infrastructure development and maintenance.  And, who else, besides the federal government has the footprint  - or the checkbook - to deal with the scope and scale of such an effort?

But, at the moment of truth, can we possibly - even for a moment  - consider handing over what will in large measure define our ability to continue to lead global competition to an outfit that cannot make money selling rum and recreation to a captive audience?  I suspect not.

Note: I am indebted to George Gecowets for the historical footnote and to Cliff Lynch for giving me the first shot at the topic.  The Mustang Ranch has re-opened under new ownership, btw.  If you are curious about what happened to Sally, you might check out their web site.









Transfats, Trucks, And Talents

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/08/2013 | 9:23 AM

Off to the grocery store to corral all the transfat-containing bad-for-you food I can find before the good folks who brought us ObamaCare seek to manage budget-busting costs by forbidding us to eat what tastes good.  While navigating the aisles, jam-packed with people who had obviously already eaten their quota - and then some - I continued to ruminate on the state of talent and employment in the supply chain universe.

Not much has changed since my last rant.  We don't have enough bodies in the game, period.  Too many of those that we do have, don't have the skills, and worldview, that the profession and its employers need.

As a consequence, the entire supply chain world seems to be contemplating: 1) how to hold on to its good folks, and 2) how to attract more good folks away from their competitors.  Markets have a way of recognizing and responding to needs, which seems to surprise those who would manage economies from afar (Washington, D.C. is, by definition, afar).  So, many companies are seeking ways to treat their employees better, often bringing too little, too late, to the party.

Many people in the search business are focusing more on logistics and supply chain management, as an important and relatively new vertical for revenue growth (or preservation).  Some companies are partnering with universities to identify and attract talent, too often with only partial success.

Lots of companies are getting in on the issue.  Kronos, for one.  Labor Management Systems , in general.  One relatively new company, Jobs In Logistics, has grown to dominate the online job board segment in a mere seven+ years, covering supply chain management, logistics, and manufacturing, with an added specialization in truck driving.

All of this is positive, and should be continued.  At day's end, though, they can buy a little time  -but only a little - for the industry.  The fatal flaw in thinking that these efforts are the answer to our ongoing, and growing, talent challenges is that they deal with re-allocations within the existing pie of talent.

The reality is that, as the economy recovers, then grows, the pie must get bigger.  To make that happen, we have to mount massive campaigns to reach more and more young people, and earlier, to promote the positives of a career in some form or component of supply chain management.  And, that means we've got to present a case that is based on the breadth and depth of the field, and not just focused on forklift drivers and order pickers.

As an industry, and as an economy, we have failed to develop such approaches.  The result?  Too many graduates with generic degrees in Marketing.  Too many esoteric fields of study with not much to fall back on if the demand for scholars of French Literature dries up.

We can fix this.  But, it will take time - and commitment.  Keep your eye on what we are developing in Ohio; it could become a model.

The Meek(er) Shall Inherit The Earth

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/03/2013 | 7:55 AM

Many thanks to a friend of many years and several old fashioneds, John Tetz, for the historical background on this.

Forrest Meeker was a searcher in the early days of the Nation, finally settling after many stops at what became Delaware, Ohio.  A true patriot, he worked his grist mill 24/7 to supply flour to the US Army in the War of 1812.  Forrest made quite an impression on the Commanding General (and later President), William Henry Harrison.

After a stint as a Colonel in a unit of light horse raiders, and a bout with malaria, Harrison put Meeker in charge of his Army's transportation.  Forrest, btw, was part of the boarding party at the war's conclusive naval engagement on Lake Erie.

So, we have enlightened leadership as early as 1812, in which one person in operations and supply chain management was not pigeon-holed as a functional operative, and moved from supply to operations leadership, and then to transportation, garnering stature and acclaim along the way.

Was Ohio two centuries ahead of the wave?  Or, did "scientific management" scuttle flexibility in leveraging the full range of individual capabilities between then and now?

This is a model we are trying to move to, letting people demonstrate skills and achieve results in a range of roles in a continuum of supply chain and operations assignments.  The roles are, after all, part of a whole, which is a lesson we seem to be re-learning in these latter days.  I am not one to spend much time looking in the rear-view mirror, but this is a case in which the past seems to hold valuable examples that we can refresh for a new century.

Forrest and his consort, fyi, are buried near Delaware.  Their house stands today, a well-preserved exemplar of the Federal style, and the first house built of brick in this part of the world.  Meeker is today forgotten by most, but his legacy is treasured by a few who see the usefulness of the past in applications for the future.  Count me among those who want to keep the example alive.

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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