Archives for February 2015


By Art van Bodegraven | 02/25/2015 | 9:27 AM

Martha Stewart would have us believe that potpourri is a bundle of oddments of dead stuff that smells really good, and will make the sale of your home when it reaches the market a raging success. Not always, and herewith a collection of off odors . .

In the choppy wake of a seemingly endless list of accomplishment in international relations and diplomacy, the Weasel of Oriente apparently believes that he has scaled the pinnacle of interstellar geopolitics. It would obviously be foolish to waste this super-powerful leverage, so he is demanding - demanding, mind you - that we immediately return Guantanamo, a long-term lease in which he is complicit notwithstanding, to Cuba. Also, he demands "reparations" for the hardships incurred as a consequence of the Castro Brothers' feckless adventurism in setting up their beautiful island as an implacable enemy of the US, and reckless denial of human rights to its citizens. This, of course, would provide more excuses to not feed the populace, and postpone for who knows how long establishing a supply chain infrastructure that could transform the national economy. , Lo siento chico viejo; you ain't da man.

On another front in the war against stupidity and greed, the overpaid, overfed, and underworked labor forces at West Coast ports are now injuring both import and export trade, costing us jobs and global credibility. Real patriots, this band of bullies; this wing of the party needs to deflate its egos. As long as their excesses are caved in to, our port operations will produce at a rate embarrassing to a third world counterpart, and we will wake up one day to wonder who came in the night to steal our jobs.  Now that we have an agreement that fails to address root issues, and will subject us to another round of upheaval in five years, it will still take months to clear the backlog now bobbing in the harbors.  Some win, huh?

In related news, the great Freedom Fry shortage in Japan is a direct consequence of labor-induced port congestion in the land of fruitcakes from another cosmic dimension. Mayor McCheese's solution has been to boldly fly fries to Asia via air cargo. Seriously, this is why companies have invested billions in high-capacity cargo planes, to ship "food" that will kill you to an otherwise friendly partner? I get the value proposition in moving steel to avoid shutting down production lines, transporting time-critical life-saving pharmaceuticals, quietly moving high-value, low-cube products to point of use, getting mission-vital repair parts to where they are needed to get linchpin operations running, and the like. But, fries? Was this really Plan B to foil the Hamburglar? Or, was it a panicked knee-jerk solution undertaken out of unplanned desperation?

Meanwhile, the posturing convention in Washington, DC, is underway, with grotesque poses apparently being triggered by random inconsequential catch-phrases and key words. None of the triggers appear to be related to long-term and sustainable solutions for the national supply chain infrastructure. I tearfully admit that these, and other, current events come as no surprise whatever. But, we need to get a few things on the table, just in case someone who can do something about them happens to wander in, upright and sober. I'll settle for upright alone if it comes to a choice.

Reach For The Stars, But Keep Your Balance

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/18/2015 | 9:20 AM

The Kid strikes again!

A walking contradiction, our socially precocious 10-year old grandson is an erratic and unpredictable picky eater.  For the few foods making up his personal nutritional pyramid, he has become an adventurous cook.  In the category of things he will brave eating, he has two favorites - more and all you've got.

A few days ago, he was inspecting the just cleaned contents of the dishwasher.  Picking a soup ladle from the upper rack, he exclaimed, "Now, there's a tasting spoon!"  Go big or go home, I suppose.

He was serious; he thought it was a tasting spoon, one just for his personal use.  I can only applaud the ambition.  He wanted, was in his own mind entitled to, the biggest and best, and was claiming it for his own.

We all ought to be thinking about the biggest, the best, the brightest for ourselves and for our own careers.  We ought to be working at being good enough that the pinnacle is, by rights, ours to claim.  And, if falling short, or experiencing disappointment, we ought to rededicate our efforts, master the skills, and build a track record that makes our case clear.

Reality will intrude, though.  Perhaps we just don't have the horsepower to be as good as we would like to be.  Maybe our employer does not value - or reward - superlative and exemplary professional accomplishment.

That's no time to turn to a bag of chips and a tall boy of IPA with which to enjoy the latest rerun of Game of Thrones.  It is time to stay the course of being as good as you can be, and/or finding an environment in which reaching for the brass ring is tolerated, or even encouraged.

We all have limitations, ceilings.  But, you don't know where yours is unless you reach for it.  Stretch as far as you can; teeter a bit; but, don't fall off the ladder.

Garbage In; Garbage Out

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/11/2015 | 8:57 AM

We've all heard that sad refrain.  It's use has become a refuge for analysts who cannot figure out what the data are trying to say.  Blame the victim syndrome in action.  But, recent news is featuring garbage of another ilk, genuine garbage this time.

The People's Republic of Seattle, an offshoot of AQPN (Al Qaeda Pacific Northwest) has announced that, henceforth, residents found to have - gasp! - garbage in their garbage cans will be subjected, first to public humiliation, then to truly punitive monetary fines.  Imprisonment is not on the table - yet.

By law, all residents are being required to compost, including paper napkins bearing traces of spaghetti sauce.  Vigilant teams will go about inspecting folk's waste and taking appropriate action.  Don't get me wrong.  Composting is a generally good thing for those with the time and inclination to attract seagulls to their back yards.  But, I can foresee the day when re-education in labor camps will be introduced in order to motivate correct environmental behaviors. 

All the inmates will joyously await the rare opportunity for a free weekend in Pyongyang, or Snoqualmie, as a reward for seeing the light.  That the light might just be the glow of a self-combusting rubbish heap is of little concern to the authorities.

For those in the supply chain community who are continuously on the hunt for environmentally friendly practices, and are willing to endure a long payback business case for sake of doing the right thing, it seems that composting at the corporate level might be a case of spending way too much time watching the wrong ball.

But, be prepared.  What happens in Europe is inevitably on its way to the US.  Not necessarily to the Western Hemisphere; it appears that everyone but the US and Canada is exempt from any responsibility to, in someone's perspective, save the planet.

In Germany, for example, garbage containers (or, "dustbins" as they are known in the UK) are very, very small.  And, there are containers for varieties of materials to be recycled.  Good in the long haul; tough to slam into place overnight.

At some moment in the near future, though, some regulatory or governmental agency is not going to care about priorities, non-value-added attributes, cost, or change management issues.  The time to be thinking about how and when to face and handle the issues involved is now.  Waiting, then throwing together a hasty response, will not be a solution in your best interest.

Timing Is Everything

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/04/2015 | 11:52 AM

Making decisions is one thing, and is expected of leaders.  Making decisions at the right time is not always easy or obvious, and can be worse than not making one at all.  (Of course, not making a decision is another form of making a decision.)

We often talk about paralysis by analysis, which can delay a decision considerably.  The flip side, going with one's gut, can be a short cut to disaster.  But my concern today is the timing of decisions unskewed by those extremes - the bandwagon effect and the holding on syndrome.

Consider, to pick a wild example at random, deciding to move manufacturing offshore, perhaps to China.  25 or 30 years ago, some CFOs would have had you believe that this was a no-brainer move.  But, many chose to wait, to wait and see.

So far, so good.  Then, convinced that this was the future of a global economy, the boss sent dies, designs, whatever over the waters.  Maybe there was some gain in seeing - and avoiding the mistakes that others had made.  But, maybe the one-time cost advantages were beginning to erode, with the trajectory of rising labor costs getting more clear in the morning light.  Delaying that decision just might have made the savings marginal rather than compelling, with the edge of the cliff surely out there, but still not visible.  Timing.

Once established, the manufacturing cost advantage continued to shrink.  Putting aside that  shortages of labor, and skilled trades, now would make a return home a tough act to pull off, it is possible that someone might have tried to delay the inevitable by not reshoring or near-shoring.  So, making stuff stayed in China, possibly augmented by a further, but short-lived move to another Asian low-cost labor locale.  But the margins continued to shrink, even disappear.  And, the ease of return grew more challenging by the day.  Timing.

The basic yin and yang of bandwagoning in, and an inability to let go and get out, apply to any number of business decisions; they are not limited to offshored manufacture.  Timing on both ends is vital to the viability of the core business case underlying the need for decisions.

Yes, it is all about timing.

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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