Archives for March 2014

Sweet Home, Alabama Goes To Church

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/30/2014 | 9:14 AM

No, it's not a reference to the anthem from the eponymous band, as  much as I enjoy their music.  But, something is going on in Alabama, and it is time to get past out-dated and inaccurate caricatures of life in the Deep South.  Try to control the eye-rolling - the Klan no longer rides, the residents have most of their teeth, and short-staple cotton crops are no longer the foundation for family fortunes.

Musically, Muscle Shoals is apparently the place to be.  I went a little shivery after hearing Alabama Shakes for the first time, and they still make my eyes go all leaky, they are so good.  But, the newest, for me, is the emergence of St. Paul and The Broken Bones, full throttle, all-out, soul, not bashful and not ashamed.

Instrumentally, the band is delicious.  Vocally, the lead singer, Paul Janeway, is get up and stand on the back of your seat good.  Imagine the dead-on accuracy and purity of a voice that is made up of ground glass and heartache and defiance.  Check it out.  And, if your sensibilities are offended that all this comes from white boys wearing suits and ties, close your eyes.  It ain't the clothes that are singin'.

Beyond the music of the spheres, I suppose that we all need to be reminded to look past superficialties and to avoid leaping to some conclusion based on education, or lack of, demeanor, appearance, or something that might have been half-true fifty years ago.

So, consider that supply chain knowledge might not be confined solely to North America.  Imagine that a suppy chain education at some place other than the usual Top Five programs might be actually useful.  Recognize that not all academics are devoid of real-world experience.  And, admit that practitioners from smaller companies could be capable of devising solutions that are good solutions for them, and are likely different from what the marketplace behemoths are working on.

And, get a CD to slide into the car's sound system.  You might find that St. Paul provides a form of religious experience.

How To Slice An Apple

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/24/2014 | 1:06 PM

Standing in the ruins of my NCAA pick sheet and the post-apocalyptic vision of this year's decidedly-not-Sweet Sixteen, I beiefly contemplated the honorable way out, as exemplified by the ritual application of the yakuza's blade in the last episode of James Spader's brilliant turn in The Black List.  Good sense prevailed, and I sliced an apple, instead.  Thin, to retain maximum flexibiity in the culinary disposition of the pome in question.

In the now-familiar Department Of One Thing Leads To Another, I looked back a few days for evidence of apples dropping in the near-vicinity of a gnarled heirloom tree - and found traces of lineage that some say is Winesap and others say is pure sap.

Our younger daughter and younger son joined me at an MBA class at The Ohio State University in a multi-generational assessment of developments, trends, and future possibilities in supply chain management.  This gnarled and gnarly (for you surfer dudes) old tree was most pleased by how the apples have turned out. 

Our son routinely performs the impossible in a global sourcing and procurement role for a major US health care company, with stunning successes in the disparate realms of carbohydrates and sweeteners, dairy products and ingredients, and energy and power sources and usage.  This, with a background in specialty apparel and automotive (and a dash of consulting to add spice to the recipe and an air of invincibility to the practitioner).  Our daughter, totally - like the ancient tree - self-taught, and a fearless player among behemoth suppliers, now runs the North American supply chain for a significant specialty chemical company.

Our profession provides many examples of family ties to the field, with the sons and daughters of an earlier generation picking up the mantle of supply chain expertise and progress.  One hesitates to name names, lest the desrving be indvertantly omitted.  But, names such as Bowersox, Regan, Otto, Richards, and others, stand out at industry events. 

My favorite, actually, is Apple, with a three-generational history spanning manufacturing and materials handling, through industrial engineering and logistics, to an active consulting role.  Jim Apple, with a debt to his father and a legacy to his sons, has been a friend and colleague for many years and provides an example to us all.

A Word To The Wise

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/18/2014 | 8:19 AM

If you don't know the difference between entomology and etymology, stop reading now.  Y'all are going to drive me buggy.  We are, in supply chain management, plagued, annoyed, or confused (as are folks in all walks of work and life) by words and terms that sound as if they might be somehow related, but turn out to be worlds apart.  Or in the case of etymology, words apart.

For example, some (not I, of course) would maintain that those in the Procurement space have been stunted in their intellectual development from a cruel diet of rice-based pabulum, pureed spinach, and misinformation, beginning in professional infancy.  This, they say, manifests itself in the confusion between supply managment and supply chain management.

The misguided then are given to believe that, if they are not one and the same, that supply managment is the primary driver of its offspring, supply chain management.  Breaking news, kids: President Lincoln has been shot, and might not pull through.

Oversimplifying, a specialty of the house, and procurement are not all about buying at lower and lower unit prices, or, in an advanced application, buying enough to meet carefully examined demand quantities.  In sum, this subset of supply chain management is about buying the right parts and materials from the right sources at the right price, and at the right time(s).

To illustrate, when no one has enough capital available to do everything all at once, a senior executive might ask if anyone has a spare $25 million (or whatever number makes sense in your environment) to plow into a technology upgrade, or product development, or whatever.  You do not want to be the one raising his or her hand, only to later confess that the $25 million is strewn about the facility like so many leftover revelers on the morning after Mardi Gras (or St. Patrick's Day), cleverly disguised as inventory that will be used sometime between now and year-end.

Reality check.  We can't accomplish all that we need to without active engagement and partnership with Sourcing and Procurement resources.  But, they are not driving the corporate bus; they are but one part of a comprehensive, integrated, and aligned solution set that helps enable corporate strategies.

This level of understanding is critical to new-century supply chain success, and therefor business success.  For the entomologists among us, our job is no longer to kill the bugs once they've been discovered infiltrating the food supply.  The over-riding responsibility is to make sure that there are no bugs present before we begin to mix the recipe's ingredients.

This news can come as a great shock to last-century practitioners, but we must deal with it.  If you are still playing catch-up, by the way, President Lincoln didn't make it.


Is Tedeschi Trucks A New Entry In The 3PL Marketplace?

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/11/2014 | 9:40 AM

Not exactly, although, anyone paying attention has taken notice of the transformation of trucking companies into logistics providers, and then to supply chain specialists over the past couple of decades.

Derek Trucks, with a history of childhood greatness and family genetics, played for several years with The Allman Brothers Band, and also collaborated with Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and other legends.  He is a blues rock virtuoso, and has been acknowledged as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.  Susan Tedeschi, happily, has no connection whatsoever with the Maui family of winemakers whose specialties are perfectly dreadful eponymous concoctions made from native fruits, mostly pineapple.  She is a force of nature in the genre, herself.

Each having achieved notable success independently, Derek and Susan married in 2001, and played together (musically, to be clear) considerably.  Susan gave up her own band in 2010, and the amazing power couple formed The Tedeschi Trucks Band, with hit albums coming out annually since.  Derek has announced the end of his stint with The Allman Brothers.

The point is, besides their super-cool music, that it is not enough to simply announce a new relationship and a collaboration of giants and expect that Utopia lies just around the next corner.

For those who think that collaboration and intimate relationships are the future of success in supply chain management, think, and think again.  It took these supremely gifted and committed artists nine years of deeply intimate relationships and a couple of children to get the act sufficiently together that they could form one entity.  Not only form the joint enterprise, but be ready to go to market with an integrated sound, to face the public with one voice in an extraordinarily demanding field.

It should be clear that coming out in favor of collaboration, of sharing information, of end-to-end optimization, and of wining and dining until shift change at the DC is not nearly enough to ensure the success of a joint venture in making customers happy.  It's hard work; it takes time; and it's a little like the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall - practice, practice, practice.

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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