Archives for October 2014

My Name Is Asher Lev

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/31/2014 | 11:52 AM

With deep apologies to, and deeper appreciation for, the work of the late Chaim Potok, who once seemed to walk among us with a strange little miner's hat, its tiny flickering lamp illuminating hidden rooms of the heart and revealing dust-covered secrets tucked into odd corners of dark corridors of the mind . . .

My name is Asher Lev, the Asher Lev.  The artist.  Here is some of my art.  Strong words are being written and spoken.  I am a traitor, an apostate, a self-hater, an inflictor of shame.  I am a mocker of sacred concepts, a blasphemous manipulator of revered models and forms.  I am none of those things; or, on another hand, I am all of them.

On many, no, most, mornings, the sisters, Grace, Love, and Beauty, drop in to share a small breakfast.  We are warmed by the sun of any season, and comforted with, especially in winter, lap robes of civility, insight, and mutual admiration.  The sisters, always all three joined in movement, never fail to ring for admittance.

Chaos, on some off-days, comes crashing through the doorway, splintering all around him, kicking over the open paint cans, and oblivious to the destruction, the Technicolor rainbow of slow-drying shoeprints arcing over polished and worn oak flooring, the gape-mouthed awe, trailing in his erratic wake.  Those mornings, the sisters timidly knock on the side of what remains of a doorframe, and peek hesitantly and quickly - like kittens, curious and cautious - around a corner to determine if anyone left inside the cramped rooms of spare furnishings has been left alive.  Or sane.

The occasional afternoon tea is a favored time for Despair to seize an opening and arrive, unbidden, and determined to show off his most recent and most vicious accomplishments.  Drawing bck the curtain of his portable traveling shadowbox, he giggles and delights at the parade of depravity, horror, calamity, and catastrophe that he has visited upon his chosen targets, his unwitting and unwilling victims.  Most times, I am on to his game, and refuse to play; every so often he catches me out, though, and I carry the images of his little scenes in my head for too long a time.

But, all of this, and more, is what goes into my art; I am compelled to capture all of it - the good, the bad, the simply gorgeous, the ugly, the pure, the deformed, the uplifting, the degrading, the light, the darkness - the totality of the human experience.

If that makes me at once demonic and divine, so be it.  Aren't we all?  Aren't those opposing elements part of, two aspects of, the same elemental force?  We mere humans try to assign one set of behaviors, events and ideas to  Ribbono Shel Olom, the Master of the Universe, and their counterpoint elements to the Other Side, the Mitra Achra.  No, no, no, these are simply examples of how limited our stunted brains really really are.

Creation was and is both demonic and divine; creativity is both divine and demonic.  Might it be he artist's purpose to find balance in these unbalanced forces?  Seeds must be sown everywhere.  Only some will bear fruit.  But there would not be the fruit from the few had the many not been sown.

My name is Asher Lev, the Asher Lev.  The artist.  Traitor, apostate, self-hater, shamer, mocker, and manipulator.  I am all of these and none of these.  Now, it is time for me to don my miner's hat and walk among you.  Here is some of my art.

Those who visit with some frequency know that I am not really Asher Lev; neither am I another Chaim Potok.  But there are days when I think I understand - a little - of what they were feeling and saying.

And so it is that what masquerades in an assemblage of blogs as vignettes of the supply chain universe is really a collection of observations about life as it is lived in actuality, not in a make-believe world of predetermined, dare we say predestined, actions and outcomes.  Life challenged by the need to find balance among its intrinsic divine and demonic forces.

Life limned and drawn in all of its splendor and decay.  Opaquely cloaked in details and minutia of business dynamics and arcane matters of logistics and allied mysteries.  And the writer appearing to, at some times, defame the sacred or exalt the profane.

It may be a conceit, but I think that Rabbi Potok, the writer and painter, and his favorite creation, Asher Lev, would get it.  Now I must put on my tiny miner's headgear and walk among you.  Here is some of my art.


Dim Weight - Do They Take Us For Dimwits?

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/27/2014 | 8:14 AM

"Sure is getting hot out here!"

Ste. Jeanne d'Arc

Translated from the French by Whitney Massengill

I don't recall this much furor in the shipping universe since the deregulation of the '80s (of course, I don't recall as much as I used to, in general).  But, the rate moves - pricing based on an assumed weight of specific package dimensions - announced by UPS and FedEx have got, it seems, everyone's underwear in a tangle. 

At best, service providers and commentaters are scaring the bejeepers out of shippers with projections of cataclysmic cost impacts.  Shippers are, at worst, pronouncing the changes as "evil", with the parcel carriers involved forever bearing the mark of Cain as they wander the planet, pillaging and making off with the family silver.  The parcel carriers may not be helping, getting a touch defensive and borderline disingenuous in smoothing over the rough edges of the message.

To be clear, I have no business ties to, nor own shares in, any carrier.  Further, I decry the faux consulting that some employ, as vassals beholden to the commercial interests of parent business lines.

That said, my message to the shipping community is simple: Get over it.  This is a straightforward and logical shift.  It is, of course, profitability motivated in large measure; these are commercial enterprises with margin and buiness continuity imperatives.  It is also about asset utilization within  the business and a rational set of cost factors in end-to-end supply chains.

On one hand, despite an ugly heritage of shipping rates based on factors of distance, freight class, and weight, carriers of all sorts are, and always have been, selling space in containers of various sizes.  It doesn't matter  that a package contains pillows or dishware; a box twice as big takes up twice the space.  Weight does matter when the box contains anvils or bricks.  If a trailer weights out, rather than cubes out, the number of boxes that can be carried  diminishes, and space in the shipping asset goes unused.

It is, therefore, eminently sane to price by dimension, with a penalty for heavier weights.  And, shippers own the responsibility for bearing the relative costs involved.

In a spectacular example of sub-optimization, over time, shippers have learned to use as few box sizes as they can get away with, routinely filling unused box space with dunnage of several types.  (This has spawned a sub-industry of packaging "experts" who will argue into the night over the relative advantages of one wasted space filler versus another.  And, one major B2C shipper uses only one box size.)  The practice creates procurement leverage in quantities of "standard" sizes, and enables a smoother, faster facility throughput flow of outbound shipments.  Shippers who have reaped these benefits for decades, not surprisingly, have begun to consider them entitlements.

But, making the parcel carrier somehow live with the downside of these practices is ultimately out of balance, and had to be corrected at some point.  Perhaps that point is now.

On the plus side of this dramatic shift, shippers will be forced to use a greater range of box sizes, more aligned with the characteristics (size, weight, fragility, etc.) of specific products.  Dunnage use will plummet.  Transport assets will be better utilized.  Carbon footprints will be reduced.  Costs will be more appropriately positioned within the end-to-end supply chain.  Colleague in chaos, Jack Ampuja, may have to answer some of the deeper questions in this corner of the arena.

On the down side, shippers (perhaps aided by their parcel carriers) will have to redesign boxes, rethink filler systems, and re-engineer (maybe) some work flows.  Shipping costs (including so-called "free' shipping) will need to be rethought and realigned.  Shippers may incur cost surprises during the transition, and customers may not understand (although individual customers  have been paying parcel rates based on box size for a long time).

It is fair to wonder if the move to commercial dim weight pricing will be sustainable in the marketplace.  A couple of principles come into play.  One is that, if the shift results in unconscionable profits for Fedex and UPS, a new competitor might be tempted to enter the space with a more attractive rate structure that is still very profitable, and take some market share away from the global leaders.  Another is that the USPS rate structure might be perceived to be compellingly attractive, also taking business away from the Big Two.

Are either of those likely?  If FedEx and UPS lose low-end share, do they really care?  My friend, Rob Martinez, might have more insight into the answers to those questions.  Whatever the end game  turns out to be, keep these in mind: The changes are logical in the greater supply chain equation; the concepts underlying the shift are more fair than present practices when it comes to where costs are incurred and savings are enjoyed; and, the marketplace will find the ultimate answer, sorting out mis-steps and opportunities.

As for where the USPS falls out in the melee, I'll have more to say about that in the next week or two.  Meanwhile, Bishop Cauchon has asked me send out for more fire wood, lest St. Joan get stuck at medium-rare.


What Will RFID Be When It Grows Up?

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/16/2014 | 2:06 PM

 On To The Sea!

As surely as William Tecumseh (Billy) Sherman laid waste to the old order as he moved cross Georgia, RFID is inexorably extending its reach, and value, in the supply chain management realm.  This is gratifying to some - the visioonaries - and un-nerving to others - the reactionaries.

Since the technology's infancy and early days of pilots, tests, Beta sites, experimnents, and trials by moisture and signal-distorting packing and packaging, we have experienced no shortage of nay-sayers.  Their arguments are as clear in my mind as if staked out just this morning.

"We'll never see RFID on every single pack of chewing gum"(a specious argument if ever there was one).  "Chip costs are prohibitive, and can't come down enough to make widespread application practical."  "Maybe some of the problems can be solved, but not enough of them to supoort universal application."  "Maybe RFID will grow, but it wll not dominate, not in my lifetime."  "Maybe RFID is alright for costly items - automobiles, mink coats, ski lift tickets, and such - but it makes no sense for common everyday things."  And, on and on. 


Is That Savannah In The Distance?

Despite all, more and more problems got solved.  Chip costs magically declined.  Application grew in a wider and wider range of poducts.  The pace of growth and maturation has not abated.  And, we are still within the lifetime of some of the most adamant skeptics.  When one considers the time it took for bar coding to take hold and become really useful, from rail car identification to retail ubiquity, this has been a lightning-fast ride - and it is not over yet, not by a long way.

But, with maturation, RFID has reached the teen years, and inevitable questions about what's next.

Today, luminaries and visionaries in the field, led by, among others, living legend Joe Andraski, are turning to ways and means to leverage the power and potential of RFID technology at the item level.  Interest and examples are strong regarding materials, components, and packaging - inputs to finished products that we are already using RFID on.

For those who may doubt the viability of this extension, I'll note that the literature is becoming replete with illustrative cases, thanks to the tender mercies of the RFID Journal.  This publication has become the library of record when it comes to documenting the status of RFID technology and business-relevant implementation - and experimentation.  It is a bi-monthly print and electronic independent publication of the latest in hardware, software, trends, and accomplishments.

Featured industries include: aircraft, automotive, aerospace, consumer electronics, packaged goods, retail (including apparel), medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, baggage handling, homeland security, and payment systems (think toll roads and sensors).

The capsules below illustrate a few of the hundreds of cases documented in the Journal.


For Example . . .

Sumitomo Electric LightWave in North Carolina Is using RFID to track materials - steel, yarn, plastic components.  Near-term forward planning includes extension of the technology to control smaller raw materials, and reusable returnable reels.

Artilux NMF in Lithuania, a lighting company, uses RFID for raw materials, with reusable tags for wires and plastics.

Midwest Acoust-A-Fiber (MWAAF) in Delaware, Ohio, tracks raw materials entry and consumption with RFID.  These include fiberglass amd other composites.  Their principal products are noise suppression and high-temperature insulation for the major automobile manufacturers.  The same system is also used for finished goods.

DeltaTrak uses RFID to monitor temperatures and trends for composite materials that degrade with time and temperature exposure.  Customers include compnies in aerospace, automotive, sporting goods, and wind energy industries.  Epoxies and other materials are impregnated with a variety of substances, including, Kevlar, glass, and carbon, and some mateials are purchased on a pre-impregnated basis.

OATSystems has developed systems and tags that are reliable outside of normal RFID constraints, handling a range from zero to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  The primary applications are in aerospace composite materials.

Morgan Thermal Ceramics in Pachuca, Mexico, makes products for building, automotive, and aerospace industries.  It tracks raw material movement and usage in trays and small carts.  Their system also tracks finished goods.



Is Nirvana here?  Hs the Millennium arrived?  Is Utopia at hand?  Ummm, mybe not quite.  But, the advances in RFID application are staggering.  And, the real motivator for where we need to go to meet the future head-on is how applications are spreading, like amoeba run amok, in the supply base for several industries.  In short, it is  - tah dah! - about connectivity.

Just imagine the transformative power of RFID if data accuracy and integrity were all that it needs to be, and we could use this technology to link us with suppliers and with customers.  One hesitates to say "seamlessly', but if this is the next frontier, bring it on!

Horrible Deaths In Supply Chain Management

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/10/2014 | 8:36 AM

Those whose heads are elsewhere might think immediately of music when someone mentions Trampled By Turtles. They would be correct, and this very fine band's new release, Wild Animals, is well worth taking a listen.

In our workaday world, though, a supply chain leader's demise is more likely to come at the feet of a horde of hard-shelled amphibians than from the sudden onslaught of a rampaging bull elephant. Sure, the unplanned-for flood can put someone out of business, as can a random lightning strike on an unprotected facility.

The more likely scenario, though, is one of incessant and unrelenting trampling of little feet, ultimately resulting in madness and career flight, or an agonizing descent into apathy and and arrested personal growth. Face it, we are confronted with a myriad of little things that go wrong, or take precedence over plans and what we thought were reasonable priorities.

We face far more trucks that are late than we do container ships that sink. The scheduled workforce will show up, but maybe not in quite the numbers we need. Suppliers will ship the right number of products, but perhaps not in the colors, sizes, flavors, or assortment that we ordered. Or, demand profiles might have shifted, and the once-appropriate order no longer meets what the market demands.

Perhaps the budget we were given to start the year is "no longer operative", as politicians like to say - and we can't commit to the technology upgrade that will allow us to meet throughput targets (which, curiously, are still operative).

Our best engineer has been re-asigned to a, in someone's mind, higher priority project. We can't work on continuous improvement initiatives because staff resources are running a year behind on the corporate ERP implementation. And on and on . . .

It is a death by a thousand cuts; it is being trampled by turtles. When an organization is headed by a real leader, though, that leader understands how to divert the turtles' attentions. When the boss is not a leader, the turtles are likely to feel empowered, though.

You've got choices. Find a workplace with a low tolerance for turtles. Take the lead in fighting off the turtles where you are. Or, put in the earbuds and ignore the pitter-patter of thousands of little feet.

Purpose-Filling Days; Promise-Keeping Nights; People-Changing Lives

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/03/2014 | 11:29 AM

We visited my mother, a rising 102-year old, last week.  She, never shy around issues of substance, said, "I'm still here.  But, I've thought a lot about it, and have not yet discovered the purpose of that longevity."  102 and seeking purpose in life, beyond the basics of eating, sleeping, and rising once again on the morrow!

I can relate on some levels.  Following my close encounter of the worst kind with, if not the Grim Reaper, a perfectly hideous stunt double, I knew somehow that, going forward, I had more to learn, more to teach, more to write, and more to accomplish in transformative efforts with clients of both worth and value.

Mike Regan's acceptance of the DSA at CSCMP's AGC reinfored some of my thinking, with his emphasis on faith, family, and friends - and he added an important dimension to the challenge.

As important as purpose and related outcomes are, or should be, in our personal lives, we also need to have purpose in our work lives.  It is not enough to show up, do a job, go home, and focus solely on the world beyond work.

We need to devote energy and talent to purposes that make our companies stronger, our clients and customers better competitors, and our colleagues more equipoed to take on new levels of challenge and accomplishment.  The job, in short, should be more than a paycheck.

Taking that approach can provide us with better positions, more responsibilities, greater visibility and recognition - and, therefore, position us to better provide for family, to invest more in people and causes worthy of support.

Mike's business success, which is considerable, enables him to do amazing things for others.  We have it within ourselves to follow parallel paths.  Real life?  Few of us will be the next Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.  But, none of us need to settle for being Homer Simpson.

Rich, full, value-driven activities and relationships are part and parcel of each of us as more-or-less complete humans.  Our ministrations to those in need - spiritually, financially, emotionally - are not limited to after-hours, but need to be part of what we are doing all day, every day, wherever we happen to be at any moment.

So, whether in supply chain management or sales or whatever, take a moment to focus on yourpurpose, your promises, and your capacity to influence positive change.

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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