Archives for September 2015

Spam, Scams, And Shams

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/30/2015 | 6:43 AM

You don't have to be indigenous Hawaiian to have cultivated a cult-like attachment to Hormel's defining breakthrough in fake food. In fact, many who found themselves in straitened circumstances came to appreciate to the versatility, nutrition, and home-filling aroma of processed, compressed, and incinerated pieces and parts of leftover pig.

There is residual debate as to whether SPAM means spiced ham or shoulders of pork and ham. I'm betting that, 78 years ago, spicing up the trimmings meant spicing up the profits - and we are all the richer for it.

Of course, spam is now just another word for elecronic trash, an affront to the positives brought by the original. Junk mail, meant to mislead, seduce, lure, or prey upon the slightly dim who wander on-line.

We see our fair share of modern spam designed to separate supply chain professionals from both links with reality and their money. I get frequent requests for price quotes on inks, toner, MRO items, and other oddments, which I believe to be produced by illiterate apprentice con men (or women, as the case may be).

Of course, we are all, by now, familiar with entreaties from Nigerian princes, or sons of deposed monarchs, or rogue ex-Finance Ministers that promise secret riches. One supply chain consultancy actually "invested" in one of these, based on a flawed perception of religious persecution. These cons are operated by simpletons who appear to be latent Einsteins only in comparison with their victims.

More frightening is the ease of digging up public records and information, and of hacking into email and other electronic accounts. I was recently approached (telephonically) by a guy who claimed to be my brother, and sounded as if he might be, if the bro were drunk or off his meds. But he knew too much detail to blow off immediately, including other familial relationships, who was married and divorced, and who lived where.

His pitch? My son was in a Mexican jail, and it would take a bribe to free him. Of course, my son had not lived in Mexico for ten years, and would never casually visit. Two days later, the semi-skilled crook contacted me,musing my brother's actual email address.

This scam is typically perpetrated on elderly, feeble-minded, and out of touch individuals. I may qualify on two out of three, but ain't no petty thief gonna pull off that act.

How about you? Are you seeing scams and shady deals directed at our professional community? Bad enough that individuals can be financially damaged; worse that enterprises providing jobs, products, and services can be exposed to the worst that the web has to offer.

The Generation Gap Skips A Beat . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/23/2015 | 11:08 AM

Recognizing that conventional shorthand to refer to the presence of a variety of age groups, with significant diversity of life (and death) experiences, has gaping limitations and boatloads of exceptions, I nevertheless try to understand what makes both younger and older folks tick.

An earlier blog revealed that preconceptions in general business, and certainly in supply chain management, make it appear that Baby Boomers adhere to last-century leadership and management practices, while Millennials seem to be looking for advanced contemporary perspectives and styles. In fact, these differences are universal, and are not generationally linked. Anyone paying attention to decades of rigorous and deep research would not need to be told this.

So, I once again turned to The Kid for his special insight. He did not—never does—disappoint. As we talked through the generations—the Traditionalists, the Boomers, Gen X, Millennials—he offered an opinion and a hope, to wit: "Maybe we will finally be the generation that gets things right, that fixes what's wrong, that opens the windows when doors close." Remember, The Kid is not even old enough to be a Millennial; he is of the generation that will follow them.

He humbles me. And he encourages my fondest hopes for the future, the windmills of La Mancha succumbing to a willful casting off of the outmoded, unfair, and just plain wrong, and an eager adoption of the best that our profession has to offer as it continues to evolve.

Sweet Treats For The Walking Dead

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/20/2015 | 6:08 AM

OK, we are a mere 5 1/2 weeks from Hallowe'en, and party planning is in full swing, along with a build-up of expectations among the younger set. Stores are stocked to the rafters with costumes and candies, but, c'mon, isn't this a bit much for the junior hedonism remnants of what was once a religious observance, however misguided?

Before I take off on a rant directed at premature promotion of a sorta holiday - all this black and orange candy staged at the eye level of little kids - let's take a step back in time. Want to know when I first saw Hallowe'en candy in retail grocery stores this year? July, that's when!

Pause here to permit a couple of possibly pre-dementia shrieks of What?!?!? More than three months in advance?

So, here's the crux. Is this a catastrophic supply chain inability to practice what it preaches? Is this a retail marketing call, risking cannibalizing sales a full quarter in advance of an unknown actual demand? Is this masking an inability of manufacturing to respond to demand? Don't try that red herring; manufacturing is as much a part of supply chain management as are Sourcing and Procurement.

Never mind that these practices are repeated holiday after holiday, year after year. They violate the very core of Time-Based Management, a precursor to Lean and a contemporary of Just-In-Time. How can edible seasonal products stay fresh after who knows how long in manufacturer, distributor, and retailer storage, followed by three months in stores? Does the answer lie hidden on the ingredient label, with unpronouncable chemical names obscuring the presence of "preservatives"?

And, if so, and we scarf down a few dozen mini-Snickers along with a bucket of obese candy corns colored to resemble pumpkins from Chernobyl, will we be "preserved"? Hey, we have all been told that antibiotics stay with the cows and chickens we eat.

And, if we are "preserved", in what state will we exist? Will we be slowly functioning not-quite-whole near automatons, diabetic zombies?

Making a pile of Reese's Pieces and moving them out to languish for a few months until they sell through is not a ringing endorsement of advances in supply chain management, is it?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a yen for some Necco wafers - and my face is hanging in tatters, much like my ragged wardrobe.

Rightsizing: We Are Not Immune

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/16/2015 | 11:55 AM

Despite the reality that hiring activity in the logistics and supply chain management space is generally up, we do face another reality, and that is the blowback from continuing merger and aquisition deals in our space.

Players are pulling out the stops to support organic growth, growth through complementary acquisition, growth through buying up functional specialists, growth by any means necessary. Sooner or later, as pieces of organizations get shaken up and put back together in different combinations, there will be job losses, at least in the short term.

It might take a year or two for the ax to fall, or it might cut a swath almost immediately. Whichever, preparation is career-critical. And we all know what assumptions make us. So, a few thoughts to help you get ready for the probable, if not inevitable:

Begin at the moment that acquisition or combination is rumored; pull the trigger when things are official. Never assume that you are so talented that you have escaped the list of likely targets; you may not be as indispensible as you think, and new management may not share your self-assessment.

Never assume that you are definitely a candidate for execution. Don't retire in place, waiting for the fatal blow. Be mature, professional, and high-performing; the evaluation process could go on until the last day, and your positive contributions could save you.

Do not succumb to the temptation to say everything bad you can think of about either the previous or the new employer; you could talk yourself out of a shot at making it in the brave new world.

Don't wait for HR to do its job. They are functionaries, and they don't have time to care about your personal concerns. Do your own research on policies, severance, separation, packages, and precedents.

Forget leaping into action to ask everyone in your personal network for help. If you have not been keeping up the connections, they will ignore you—or worse, promise and not deliver.

Have a current résumé—roles, accomplishments, objectives. It must be coherent, on point, and positive; you need to look like the most attractive candidate in the room—no matter what is or is not happening in the rightsizing thrill ride.

Try A Little Tenderness

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/13/2015 | 11:34 AM

Great song, left over from the '30s big band era, and covered brilliantly by Otis Redding in 1966. But, it's time to get real in the get 'er done world of supply chain execution.

Some number of well-intentioned leaders and managers would like to engage, energize, and generate loyalty in the workforce by proclaiming "We are family", dementedly channeling the Sister Sledge hit from 1979. Nice try, Florence Nightingale.

Other leaders, more toward the flinty-eyed side of the ledger think that the workplace is no place for compassion, which demonstrates weakness and is no substitute for keeping the pressure on. Nice try, Chainsaw Al.

Look, there is a difference between "family" and "compassion". The family notion is by definition fake; it's not real and it can't be sustained (with ultra-rare exceptions). Compassion, however, should be genuine, a natural and normal component of working relationships'

Despite fears, there are huge benefits to practicing compassion as part of working together. Not least is improved employee retention, one of any organization's invisible cost savings, lost to Accounting but with a burden falling on the remainder of the employee base.

Reduced stress is another, with side payoffs in elevated performance, and minimized burnout - and improved team/colleague interactions. Ultimately, overall health is positively impacted - lower blood pressure, reduced heart rates - which transfers to families and co-workers.

At the end of the day, when leaders display sincere compassion, they are providing an example for employees and colleagues to model, which boosts cooperation and unit performance. Not bad for a sign of weakness, huh?

How Can You Be So Wrong And Call Yourself A Leader?

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/09/2015 | 7:41 AM

In just about every organizational endeavor - corporations, not-for-profits, volunteer groups, government, military - there are leaders. Whether natural leaders, or appointed factotums, or elected officials, or rank-assigned to roles and responsibilities, they make mistakes. Errors in situational judgment, wrong-headed strategies, marketplace-rejected products and services, whatever.

In the past, most organizations had zero tolerance for being wrong - at any level. Commanders were, by definition, the source of all knowledge and decision capability. High officials (even today) think they cannot risk an admission of error, no matter how egregious, lest their legacies be tarnished, or the chances for re-election diminished.

For those who cling to this last-century conceit, get over it! Today's leader, to be successful for the long haul, needs to know how to admit error. And, the practice brings nearly-incalculable benefits.

The paradigm shift is particularly important in supply chain management (and in all business). We face, every day, incredible pressure to be perfect, to totally satisfy customers, to manage costs to the level staked out by the C-level, to energize the workforce, and so on.

In a nutshell, admitting mistakes brings these plusses to our organizational relationships:

     Earning respect (vs. demanding obediance)

     Strengthening teams by not being afraid to show vulnerability (vs. never let 'em see you sweat) '

     Setting the example for others to model (vs. punishing mistakes), and

     Building a trust culture, essential as a foundation for creating trust with suppliers, customers, and colleagues.

Is this part of that new wavy thinking? The promotion of behaviors that invalidate everything we learned at university in 1968?

Once again, those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it. Robert Townsend, CEO of Avis and the genius behind transforming the company into the "We try harder" #2 car rental power wrote in his 1970 book that two out of every three of his decisions were wrong - but that the one right one eclipsed the errors.

Think about it - 45 years ago, the truth was known, and we are still wrestling with the concept today.

You Can't Quit, You're Fired - Or You Can't Fire Me, I Quit!

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/06/2015 | 7:07 AM

As a recent blog outlined, those who don't see possibilities for a bright future in a low-to-no-fun job in a repressive organizational culture can seek input from colleagues of like mind. In doing so, it is vital to be positive, seeking win-win outcomes and the betterment of the enterprise.

Simply joining the whiners in a perverted version of Verdi's Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore is not recommended. It may feel liberating for a moment, but the act wears thin, and soon, and there could be catastrophic unintended consequences. If the whiners' clique harbors a snitch, senior management will soon know of your displeasure.

That knowledge may leave the leadership team with no choice but to axe you, and take you on the humiliating perp walk out the front door. Yes, you can, even in this talent-shy supply chain management climate, complain yourself out of a job.

If, at best, you were planning to do a runner anyway, management actions might severely disrupt your timing, and force adoption of a Plan B or Plan C, neither as compellingly attractive as your own Plan A.

The core message is to always put problems and challenges in the positive, spinning to look like a team player, a contributor, and someone watching the right ball, mindful of context and the longer term. Not always easy, but essential to preserving the viability of your Plan A (which just might be to influence positive change in the current environment).

Messing With The Supply Chain Messes With More Than The Supply Chain

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/03/2015 | 9:09 AM

It's borderline amazing how many players are trying to muscle in on the outdoor grilling space. Channeling the very late Jimmy Durante, "Everybody wants ta get into da act!"

Some unabashedly go after top of the line demographics in target customers; others are clearly trying to nickel-nurse their way to lowest cost identity. More and more products are being made in China under North America-friendly names, many with Charm, or King, or Broil in their names.

On our side of the water, Weber is deservedly the big name in the US, with Vermont Castings taking the high ground. And, Canada rises to the challenge and more, with category quality leader Napoleon, the fearless choice of those who treasure quality and craftsmanship, and refuse to reward some nameless Chinese entrepreneur for an ability to marshall near-slave labor.

The issue rises because a once-respected US brand, Char Broil, elected a few years ago to off-shore its manufacturing to China, thus saving, in someone's opinion, 25% of manufacturing cost. Never mind that the supply chain became, overnight, thousands of miles longer than previously. Never mind that nimble reaction to market developments was suddenly impossible. But, there were other challenges.

The new and improved, and now higher margin, models developed a nasty habit of blowing up in users' faces. And, apparently les Chinois, had a different definition for stainless steel than the rest of the world, because their models would begin to rust out in a matter of weeks, or a couple of months.

The consequences? In the best case, returns and lost revenue. In the worst case, lawsuits. There are smarter, and not so much, ways to outsource and offshore. We'll defer any discussion of the advantages of re-shoring and near-shoring for another time.

But this has, imho, been one of those strategic group-think cataclysms that may not be reversable. Follow the leader? Not a short cut to success. And perhaps a quick jump to the spot from which lemmings plunge to their watery demises.

Nota bene: The Ol' Perfesser's Char Broil is back in the hands of the retailer; Char Broil's money has been returned to his account, and the very fine people in Ontario who make Napoleon products are pretty happy. Luckily, no explosions with loss of eyebrows or flesh here, only a rust spreading like measles at Disneyland.

Here's The Prime Beef

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/02/2015 | 10:43 AM

That might delight the late Clara Peller, who almost single-handedly launched Wendy's growth spurt into rarified air among the quick service food giants with her raspy plaint of "Where's the beef?".

Prime beef, no matter Wendy's high product standards, is a different matter entirely - short supply, extraordinary prices, even in an ever-escalating commodity price for beef in general at retail.

Translating into our bailiwick of supply chain management, I must admit that there are a number of quality - chock full of beef - industry events, fora, summits, conferences, confabs, and other excuses to quaff spiritous beverages and confer with fellow wizards. But, to some extent, beef is beef.

Except for the premier gathering in our profession, CSCMP's Annual Global Conference, to be held this year in San Diego. There is where the prime beef is kept for consumption by the leaders in our sphere.

No other event presents the depth, variety, quality of thought leadership, and first-hand exposure to practical advanced concepts. We have a little time before kickoff on 27 September; it's not too late to get in on the action. If you've not planned to attend, think it over.

There will not be another opportunity this good until over a year from now. And, the people you know, or would like to know, will be there.

Disclosure: AGC is not perfect; there is always something that could be done different and/or better. Specific speakers, topics, and examples might not match up perfectly with one person's or one company's needs and interests.

But, nothing else comes remotely close to what you can get out of this gathering of eagles. I hope to see you there.

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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