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Archives for June 2014

Ummn, Left My Wand In My Other Robes, Professor Snape . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/20/2014 | 12:38 PM

Before moving on to the subject of Harry Potter and magic, a couple of explanations could be in order.  One is that this week's entry is early 'cause I'll be up my ears in education all next week.  The other is that the morning Starbucks drive-by gave me pause (as so much does, these days).

The eager young thing peeking over the tip jar at the window asked if I would like a stopper for my extra-shot venti latte.  C'mon!  What's the point?  I was obviously there for a go-er, not a stopper.

But, back to the world of curses and spells . . . I've continually maintained that supply chain management has enormous power in the affairs - the success or failure - of enterprises.  Beyond that, many companies tout, either overtly or covertly, the "special magic"  (much like a Big Mac's special sauce) that sets them apart from competitors.

But, I  must confess that there are real-world limits.  SCM cannot solve all problems, corret all deficiencies, or overcome all obstacles to the flourishing of enterprises.  Let's take, in a randomly selected and wholly fictitious example, a somewhat nationalized automobile manufacturer - call it, for convenience, the Government Motors Corporation.  This mighty and oft-revered paragon of business performance has, in a mere less-than-six-months, recalled some 20 million plus vehicles.  This is a rate some six or seven times their annual production, and significantly more than the sales total of all manufacturers in the full year of 2013.

One can't help but think of the heyday of the USSR, in which the central government sponsored and controlled the manufacture oif two basic vehicles, worse and worser.  The Gran Luxe version was the gone but not forgotten Volga, while the infamous two-banger world beater was the Lada.  No IED was required to demolish a Lada; a simple M80 or cherry bomb would prety much do the trick.

To the point, no supply chain in the world is capable of overcoming fatal management decisions egarding products, quality, market appeal, or value proposition.  Admittedly, robust reverse logistics capabilities can help esse the pain of returns, channel diversion, overstocks, and market indifference.  But, a command imperative to leave damaged goods in the market, or to promote defective (or feature-poor) products to informed markets cannot be made better by getting the wrong things to the right place faster and cheaper.

Hey, we do the best we can with what we've got, which is often astonishing and frequently ground-breaking, but there are dimensions beyond which even the very best wand from Olivander's cannot take us.

Step By Step By Step

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/16/2014 | 11:58 AM

It is that time of year again, now referred to at our house as The Season of Killing the Tomatoes.  We try something different each time out on the back 40 (that's inches, not acres), but manage to decimate the crop no matter what. 

For unfathomable reasons, I thought back to our time in Viet Nam.  The war was long ago, and our most dangerous weapon was a matched set of Mastercards.  Saigon (renamed Ho Chi Minh City by the revisionist victors of the conflict) was a bit overwhelming as we essayed navigation on foot through the heart of downtown.  On all sides, phalanxes of motorbikes, so many that they at first made us believe in the power of CGI.  But they were all real, and upon a signal came at the unwary pedestrians like so many oversized sci-fi hornets, buzzing and screaming, and careening at full tilt.  With little warning, they would all stop, and thousands would come at us from another direction, with the net effect of having us soil our small clothes yet again.

Our charming guide, Nguyen KIm Ha, explained that the process of crossing intersecting boulevards was actually quite simple: step off the kerb, and proceed apace, not too fast and never stopping, one foot in front of the other, "step by step by step".  It worked!  We've braved, either on purpose or accidentally, near-certain death by throwong ourselves into traffic melees in places such as Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and Roma, but never with this level of success.

Upon reflection, it dawned slowly that the estimable Ms. Nguyen had learnt to combat traffic with a process, a systematic approach that, applied consistently, led to a satisfactory outcome - survival.  Never mind that the principles of the process were not obvious by inspection, and no matter that Kim Ha's command of a second language did not permit a coherent explanation.  She had a way, repeatable and sustainable, to deal with the every-day massive challenge that the collision of foot and vehicular traffic presented.

In our workaday worlds, we need (and usually have) processes, too.  There is no way in the world that a high-volume fulfillment facility could ship half a million units every day, day after day, without solid processes.  And, there is every reason to expect failure if an organization attempts high-volume activity, and has to re-invent the wheel every time the demand arises.

We are far better off, and infinitely more successsful, if we invest in the processes needed for the norm, and some range around it, and use our creativity for one-off solutions in those (fewer) instances of activity outside the planned range.

Now, I've got to get back to the tomatoes, and get serious about the core process that we can use as a baseline every year to give us a fighting chance at getting a crop out with some annual regularity.  That is, if I can cure the family canine of a certain fondness for nearly-ripe heirloom varieties.

Step By Step By Step

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/16/2014 | 11:58 AM

It is that time of year again, now referred to at our house as The Season of Killing the Tomatoes.  We try something different each time out on the back 40 (that's inches, not acres), but manage to decimate the crop no matter what. 

For unfathomable reasons, I thought back to our time in Viet Nam.  The war was long ago, and our most dangerous weapon was a matched set of Mastercards.  Saigon (renamed Ho Chi Minh City by the revisionist victors of the conflict) was a bit overwhelming as we essayed navigation on foot through the heart of downtown.  On all sides, phalanxes of motorbikes, so many that they at first made us believe in the power of CGI.  But they were all real, and upon a signal came at the unwary pedestrians like so many oversized sci-fi hornets, buzzing and screaming, and careening at full tilt.  With little warning, they would all stop, and thousands would come at us from another direction, with the net effect of having us soil our small clothes yet again.

Our charming guide, Nguyen KIm Ha, explained that the process of crossing intersecting boulevards was actually quite simple: step off the kerb, and proceed apace, not too fast and never stopping, one foot in front of the other, "step by step by step".  It worked!  We've braved, either on purpose or accidentally, near-certain death by throwong ourselves into traffic melees in places such as Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and Roma, but never with this level of success.

Upon reflection, it dawned slowly that the estimable Ms. Nguyen had learnt to combat traffic with a process, a systematic approach that, applied consistently, led to a satisfactory outcome - survival.  Never mind that the principles of the process were not obvious by inspection, and no matter that Kim Ha's command of a second language did not permit a coherent explanation.  She had a way, repeatable and sustainable, to deal with the every-day massive challenge that the collision of foot and vehicular traffic presented.

In our workaday worlds, we need (and usually have) processes, too.  There is no way in the world that a high-volume fulfillment facility could ship half a million units every day, day after day, without solid processes.  And, there is every reason to expect failure if an organization attempts high-volume activity, and has to re-invent the wheel every time the demand arises.

We are far better off, and infinitely more successsful, if we invest in the processes needed for the norm, and some range around it, and use our creativity for one-off solutions in those (fewer) instances of activity outside the planned range.

Now, I've got to get back to the tomatoes, and get serious about the core process that we can use as a baseline every year to give us a fighting chance at getting a crop out with some annual regularity.  That is, if I can cure the family canine of a certain fondness for nearly-ripe heirloom varieties.

Ich Bin Kunst

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/09/2014 | 12:34 PM

OK, the blog title is a little play on words, and this particular posting takes the play apparently into Deutschland, but not uber alles.

Facing reality, I am gratified that a few people seem to enjoy my demented ramblings and off-the-wall sermonettes.  But, a few are genuinely annoyed with some of my positions, which genuinely and generally mystifies me.  Others either don't like the occasional jokes or don't get them, and either way are,  like Queen Victoria, not amused.  And, still others don't get the joke and don't care.

Back to Ich Bin Kunst, I Am Art is a provocative song from the borderline brilliant Boy George musical, Taboo.It was a West End hit in London, but crashed and burned on Broadway under the heavy weight of Rosie O'Donnell's meddling and mismanagement.  The piece was and is a tribute to the notorious performance artist, Leigh Bowery, a provocateur around whom legends arose. For the record, I Am Art has engendered the same categories of reaction from audiences as has The Art of Art.

That is all perfectly understandable.  Art and its appreciation are bobbing on the uncertain surface of an ocean of subjectivity.  Reactions to art in any form are personal, and not necessarily rational.  This leads artists to push boundaries even farther from societal norms, in the interest of eliciting some kind of reaction that is understandable to the artist and satisfing to the entertained, amused, challenged, or provoked observer, reader, listener, or consumer. 

Supply Chain Management is a blend of art and science.  Peers, professors, or patrons might question the art involved in given solutions, but it is difficult to be subjective about objective outcomes.  And, at day's end, supply chain peformance is all about results, their alignment with corporate objectives, and their impact on enterprise performance - combinations of cost, customer satisfaction, and asset leverage.

In that light, we see that the supply chain professional can redeem many perceived failures of art with demonstrable successes in quantified measures.  When the enterprise wins, the practitioner is permitted to sing "Ich bin kunst!"

Love Always, Patsy Cline

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/03/2014 | 7:54 AM

The trailblazing country legend never failed to close her letters to a few real friends with this sign-off.  If you have an opportunity to see the charming and invigorating play, Always, Patsy Cline, take it.  The show, especially when Katie Deal stars, is worth a drive and an evening to remember who Patsy was and what she was about.

A phenomenon since her teen years, she revolutionized the role of women in the country genre.  Patsy's meterioric career got off to a slow start when she had the courage to face down the all-powerful star-maker, Arthur Godfrey.  Her string of hits was amazing, and her prolific flow of records was apparently unstoppable.

Prior to her force-of-nature arrival on the scene, "girl" singers were  marginalized by introductions as "Miss" whomever was somewhere low on the playbill that night.  Patsy was not a "miss"; she was "the great", the one and only, or simply "Patsy Cline".  Thanks to her, women were able for the first time to get top billing over men on country programs, and - perhaps more important - command equal or higher earnings.

After putting a serious dent in that glass ceiling, Patsy went on to cross-over success, and traded in her fringed cowgirl outfits for sophisticated gowns, even appearing in Carnegie Hall, and gaining fans all the while.  She packed a lifetime of accomplishment into a mere thirty years, perishing tragically in a plane crash on the way to yet another event, which she was to headline and get paid top dollar for.

The important message that Patsy leaves to us in the supply chain community is not so much to reach undreampt of heights before burning out, or to get as much done as possible because tomorrow is not a guarantee.

Her legacy to  us, beyond songs that cannot be forgotten, is the reality that she sang only songs written by others.  She could not read, let alone write, music, and had no idea what key she sang in.  Happily, a list of those who wrote the songs she left us reads like a country music Hall of Fame.

But, she took each song, tweaked and transformed it, and made it uniquely her own.  As was the practice, she covered many of others' hits - and made them sound as if they'd ben written for her.  Others covered her hits, and well, but none took the definitive version away from Patsy Cline.

So, our challenge is to take what others have done, what concepts have been developed, what traditional practices can still make sense, what is being heralded as cutting-edge, and tweak and transform them, to make them uniquely our own, and to make them most useful to our situation and our employers' needs and objectives.

If we can do that well, perhaps we, too, can leave lasting legacies.  How great was Patsy's?  She had three Top 10 country hits after her death.  She was the first female inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Her boxed set, issued in 1992,  remained among the top ten collections  of all time as late as 2010.  In 1997, her Crazy was voted the top  jukebox hit of all time, with another of her classics coming in at #17.  A 40th anniversary reissue of Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits was a 2007 success.

We can only hope for a fraction of her impact in our profession, but the effort will be good for all, and life-altering for the practitioner who makes the attempt.

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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