Archives for December 2016

I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas!

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/28/2016 | 12:35 PM

A one-time holiday hit, the hippopotamus stays with us, ringing in the ear until one wants to scream.  Myself, I want supply chain technology for Christmas, technology that works and makes good sense.

A panel of experts was convened by DC Velocity, and rambled on until all the doughnuts were gone. These four worthies issued short takes on what are coming to be core elements, foundational functionality in the logistics space.

One clear message was that the industry are latecomers to IT.  I'll maintain that this is a function of the inherent thrift of small family-owned transporation companies and public warehouses.  Even today, many practitioners are not convinced of the value of technology investments.

In a related observation, the reluctance of carriera to charge costs, and demands for shippers to get reduced costs are coupled with a gracelessness of ITprofessionals in presenting the benefits of investments (and costs).

A related challenge seems to be the effort and investment in replacing legacy systems and technology infrasrructure,  Some mention was offered for cloud computing, automation, and ecommerce and omnichannel, as well as IoT and mobile devices.

But, I didn't see anything about blockchain or SCON (Supply Chain Operating Networks).  Robotics, without detail, and GPS, without specificity, made the cut - but dimensions of practical application seemed to be mysteries that would make Agatha Christie proud.

Those are what I want for Christmas.

For Unto Us This Day A Child Is Born . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/25/2016 | 8:16 AM

An earlier posting noted the importance of the Yule season.  Its timing varies by clime, but human nature cries out for specificity.  Accordingly, we have felt compelled to assign dates to more broad time periods.  The season wavers and wobbles: Norse and Teutonic deities tend toward somewhat more hostile environments.  The OCD Romans secured naming rights to Sol Invictus' birthday.  And so, stories of vanquishing sin and evil, triumphing over darkness and oppression are somewhat independent of dates, seasons, and religious tradition.

The awkward second person of the Christian Trinity appears as Roman occupiers make ready for a census of its Palestinian holdings.

At a low point, with Jews dispersed and in captivity, the wicked Haman gets chased off thanks to the loyalty and wiles of the lovely Queen Esther.

Islam recognizes the importance of prophets, seers, and saviors in the traditions of other people of the Book, and celebrates a year-end Fast and Feast.  Al-Hijra, the New Year, celebrates the emigration of The Prophet from Mecca to Medina, establishing the Faith.

Whatever the faith tradition involved, the New Season provides us all with a fresh start, and freedom from past restrictions.  Unto us a child is born erases the past, and clears the board for new chapters.

Whether in work or in life, these are not opportunities to waste.  Nor cast lightly aside.

Back To School - The Electoral College Is Commandeered By Kangaroos

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/21/2016 | 7:15 AM

As the President-elect prepares to rub his enemies' face in it, a phalanx of sham democracy advocates floods MSNBC with crocodile tears, lamenting the reality that the one-person/one-vote aspiration is not surviving the rigors of a democratic Republic.

Is it possible that these weepers are actually clueless regarding the mechanics of the process, or are they crassly trying to manipulate the ideal for partisan gain and a permanent majority in affairs of the nation?

Listen up, Reginald; there's a reason underlying the process, and subduing the masses ain't part of the plan.  Full and direct democracy is often referred to as a "mobocracy"; for the record the collective noun for a group of 'Roos is a mob.  Just imagine - a nation over-run with and managed by adolescent misfits with rudimentary pugilistic skills.

Our Founding Fathers wished to avoid the excesses and pendulum swings of popular sentiment.  Accordingly, at the national level and in an overwhelming number of states, Senators have longer terms than representatives.  Our Constitution provides for an indirect process, the electoral college, to solve the challenge of an unresolved Presidential election.  Although specific language is missing, tradition has it that the electors award candidates based on the popular vote.  Although in concept, the college can vote otherwise, and thus prevent an "unqualified" candidate from taking office, the real purpose is to provide a pathway out of an election result that falls short of providing a majority to any candidate.

Comes now those enlightened souls who would define unqualified for those among us who struggle with three-syllable words.  They, apparently, are offended that we the people would want to take matters into our own hands - and are presumptuous enough to think we are capable of such responsibility.

Here's a reality for that crowd to weigh.  Another intent of the Founding Fathers was to avoid the tyranny of the intelligentsia, the weight of densely populated metrosexual, bicoastal cities dominating the clear wishes of the general population.  In essence, these skinny caramel latte-slurping superior beings from New York and Los Angeles, abetted by a somewhat tweedy set of academics, want to be able to set aside more than 60 million votes in favor of their "qualified" choices.  Further, the concentrated population making these choices on our behalf (at whatever cost to us) might occupy some 300-500 square miles on a good day versus over 3 million square miles of territory in the total United States.

Clearly, one-man/one-vote is viable only depending on who the man (or woman) might be; the rest of us obviously don't count for much.

More reality.  The pendulum does swing; today's long-term winner could become tomorrow's long-term loser - and the latte lovers will need to find another way to diminish or debase the votes of the 60 million who can't be allowed to count in matters of weight.

News flash!  The wave(s) of immigrants, legal and otherwise, will only add to the challenge, concentrating increasingly in large cities, and further emphasizing the gap between the popular vote and electors' votes.

We've prided ourselves on tough campaigning, win or lose at the end, shaking hands, and wishing one another well as everyone moves on to the next race.  The consequences of attempting to steal election results with trickeration and faux calls for direct democracy could tarnish our reputation for generations to come.

Caveat emptor . . .

Nota bene: Apologists and antagonists, so busy trying to overturn the will of the people (however misguided) may be overlooking the unrealistic hope that throwing the election into the House of Representatives could have unintended consequences and that a Constitutional amendment to abolish the College is highly unlikely.

That the danger a couple of centuries ago was not centered in Los Angeles or Chicago is a specious distinction; tyranny was a fear of the havoc inherent in large population centers such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Richmond, and/or Charleston.  No matter.  Resourceful independent citizens were not enthralled by taxation or regulation imposed by any bg city.  True today, as well, as Seattle, LA, and Manhattan present often unattractive lifestyle choices to ordinary folk. 

How Cool Is Yule?

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/18/2016 | 3:14 PM

Christmas music assaults us at every turn, and in nearly every retail establishment, save those dealing in Judaica, perhaps.  It used to apparently self-start just after Thanksgiving; now we're lucky if the bells wait 'til after Independence Day to commence jingling.  Any event, in this Common Era, the Christian tradition prevails.

It began sometime in the age of empires, when capital cities were in flux between Constantinople and Rome.  The Romans, particularly, were most adept at appropriating the traditions of other faiths in the interest of spreading Christian influence.  Putting aside the specific case of a recycled location for Our Lady of Guadeloupe, the Church, Universal and Triumphant, in Rome borrowed both the birthday and the story of a Virgin Birth formerly ascribed to a deposed diety, Sol Invictus.  Thus a late December observance of events that, on the surface, would appear to have actually occurred in springtime.

Other faiths and cultures followed paths that wore well-trodden over centuries and centuries.  In so-called pagan areas, a low point in the cold, dark winter season was brightened by feasting, drinking, and the burning of a substantial and real ceremonial Yule log.

Even a warmer clime made room for a winter party, with a minor holiday that featured Queen Esther and the shenanigans of the hateful vizier Haman.  Dreidels and hamantaschen liven up this particular observance.

And, so on.  Humankind looks for reassurances, so a respite at the worst of the most challenging season for survival appears frequently, as evidence that things will get better, that sunshine will return to homes and fields, that famine will be averted.  The attempt might just be universal, whether faith is involved or not.  I am reminded of a notable cab ride on Manahattan a few winters ago.

The taxi was decorated sufficiently to draw the eye, even in the midst of the city's bright lights.  Angels, Mazda bulbs, tinsel, flashing, blinking, with 105 decibel accompaniment.  The driver's name was Ahmed.  I asked if he were Christian; he replied, "No, man, this is all just marketing."

So, regardless of motivation and belief, we in SCM should take heart.  We'll face tough times, down periods, customer kerfluffles, leadership changes, and dire uncertainty throughout the year, and over the years.

But, it can and will get better - if we let it.  Have some cake, take care of your health, hum a pleasant tune, and light a Yule log.  All Yules are cool.  All rebounds are welcome - and highly likely. Famine is not imminent.  The sun will shine upon our faces once again.

Trust me on this one.  Been there, seen that, did it all, and waited out the cold snap, secure in knowing that daffodils and jonquils would soon brighten our steps.

Sex And Cicadas

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/14/2016 | 2:46 PM

In our little corner of the Garden of Eden, an insect apparently, modeled after Transformers, emerges from a 17-year nap, procreates with a clamor that would shame a harlot, alights in the nearest Big Hair opportunity,,dies, and falls to earth.  17 years later, the eggs laid a generation earlier progress through some larval stage to 105-decibel flying machines, and repeat the cycle - which has now gone on for millennia and aeons.  Other varieties of cicada experience differing, but nonetheless lengthy, cycles with very similar manifestations.

Strangely, and perhaps not coincidentally in an evolutionary perspective, the larvae of humans appear to experience their hormones reaching critical mass somewhere in the 14-17 years of their lives, with the propensity to be staggeringly noisy, and to explore possibilities for reproduction, with unfortunate levels of success.

What this could signify for the supply chain management community is a growing realization that nothing we do can afford to become tied in long-cycle development and maturation.  Decisions are critical now.  Customers want their orders now.  Key staff want responsibility now.

There is no longer time - or an expectation - for rookies to learn the ropes.  The new staff is not given the luxury of finding his or her sea legs; they must have their feet under them beginning Day One.

17 years is four career stages.  The moment of truth is this very minute.  Contributions to orgnizational success are bitcoin of the realm. 17 years of silence, then a flash of immortality, then death is a model that too many unwittingly  follow.  But, it hasn't been acceptable for centuries.

 And, it's not an acceptable model for today.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/11/2016 | 8:11 AM

Can you be somewhere in your '60's and still be a Wild Child? Just look at - don't even ask - Cyndi Lauper, the pink-haired rocker, a Bronx Baby, an icon from another age.

We take this mini-dynamo not nearly seriously enough. She has conquered every musical genre she's encountered, and has recently released an album of country classics, many done as duets with stars plucked from the firmament of constellations making up a sky full of variations of real people's real music, i.e., C&W.

This bubble gum princess now has won a Tony, a Grammy, and an Emmy. Not bad for a flash in the pan from another age.

She's in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, and has won numerous other awards and recognitions, including an Olivier. Genres? Try pop, rock, synthpop, blues, soul, new wave, and, now, country. Oh, yeah, Broadway musicals, too.

Somehow, Cyndi finds time to support medical causes and is an LGBT activist. Right time, right place counts for something in everyone's career progression.

Heather Wood in the Chicagoland area is a powerful multi-genre talent. And, in, of all places, the Kodiak Inn (KI) on Alaska's Kodiak Island hosts an undiscovered super-nova on Friday evenings who can do any song by anybody as well as the original, backed by a very capable house band with a couple of killer guitar men.

In our supply chain lives, we've got to be Cyndi Lauper almost every day, doing and/or leading every job for every customer, for every product or line, all the while dealing with the cards that procurement and the supply base have dealt us.

Some days that means we've got to put on our pink hair and kinky boots - whatever it takes.

It's Spike Lee Time!

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/07/2016 | 8:07 AM

Obviously, we'll save "a day that will live in infamy" for another time.  But, I was struck by a recent on-line piece from an un-named source that was clear about the responsibility of leaders to say "no" to "a good thing".

The examples of failures to say "no" are legion.  Buying Takata airbags known to contain an instable ingredient.  Succumbing to temptations to fudge results (including emissions) submitted to sleepwalking bureaucrats for approval.  Saving a penny here and a nickel there, confident that a resulting relatively rare loss of life might be acceptable - or might be escaped entirely, with luck.  Begging relief from mandates when solutions proved either elusive or difficult.  Changing the rules when falling behind in the game.

Look, short-cuts, avoidances, and known deadly risks are not good things that require contemplation before accepting or rejecting.  And it's not the leader's proper role to assess the risks of either getting caught or causing harm by adopting the so-called good things that are actually bad things.

The leader's job is to do the right thing, every time, all the time.  That some decision might yield a pleaing result to shareholders doesn't make it the right thing.  That a career might be advanced is not evidence of goodness.  That someone's feelings or ego might be assuaged is not necessarily a step in the right direction.

Do the right thing.  Regardless of consequence, live with yourself, model for others, and make your mama proud.  Anything less is a manifestation of a soul's corruption.

BFFs, Bromances, And Building The Future

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/04/2016 | 3:08 PM

I've written and talked extensively about the power of relationships, and their fragility, even when there's been a rock-solid foundation. So it was with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, who together went camping, presumably burnt s'mores, and bought up half of Florida - all based on the dominance of Harvey's tires on Henry's cars.  It all crashed and burned after Bridgestone bought Firestone, and Ford Explorers persisted in falling down a few years ago.

But, Harvey was way more than a tire guy, an appendage on Henry's mighty economic engine.  He pioneered humane treatment of workers in wages, benefits, and working conditions - considerably ahead of his time.

We could argue that he was one of the godfathers of contemporary supply chains.  His pneumatic tires spurred the development of decent highways, which repladed those that could handle solid rubber, even if not all that well.  More importantly, he developed tires that made truck transport feasible, providing a reasonable and flexible alternative to rail - and rendering a good highway network mandatory.  We build and rebuild on his creation to this day.

Harvey's true legacy may be forgotten, but not gone.  But, his contribution to American prosperity is lasting, and should not be denied.

It's not easy to remember that his famous tire brand was not what defined his greatness.


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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