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Sched-300x257.jpgI have yet to work with a client who couldn’t use improvement in their master planning process. Whether a company is squarely on the lean journey, traditional MRP or a combination of both, master scheduling can add value. In essence, a master schedule is a long-term plan which allows you to plan capacity, staffing, etc. Thus, I thought a few strategies for success can be a good idea:

• Think Long-term: to be effective, you need a long-term view.Thus, look out at the long-term. If you do not have sales orders in your system for 12-24 months, you should look at putting together a demand plan for your repetitive items.  Don’t worry about sporadic items except for saving x% of capacity.

• Inventory strategy: Build inventory strategy into your plan. Are there customer commitments for inventory? Do you have a sales & operations plan driving your inventory goals? Do you plan to increase or decrease inventory?

• Apply level loading techniques: Since you have a long-term view of requirements, it provides an opportunity to smooth out production. Take advantage of it!

• Consider lot sizes: Incorporate lot sizing logic for anything noteworthy.Think about economic order quantities.

• Coordinate: A master schedule is useless if not communicated and coordinated with manufacturing, scheduling, purchasing, customer service, etc.

Read more on how you can become the Strongest Link:

Cycle Counting: The 5 Keys to Inventory Accuracy

Speed is King: How Do We Leverage for Project Management?

Planning-300x250.jpgDeveloping a planning mindset can be invaluable to not only planners but also to any supply chain management employee/leader. When I refer to planning, I mean planning from multiple perspectives:  production planning, raw material planning, project planning, SIOP (sales, inventory, and operations planning), financial planning, and budgeting, etc.

I find that developing a plan is more than half the battle. If you are part of a team, it provides a way for everyone to be on the same page. Who should do what and when? What sequence should we follow? Are there dependencies?

It also allows for the optimizing of several variables. For example, a production plan should minimize inventory levels, maximize service levels, and provide the best opportunity for increased efficiencies and reduced cost. Most plans optimize resources, costs, and risks.

Even if you are developing a plan for only you to follow, it can be vital to success. It requires putting thought in upfront.  Do not overanalyze; however, put in appropriate thought for the criticality of the topic. Have you thought through potential roadblocks that could arise?

Have you heard of the PDCA model? (Plan, do, check, act) The most successful put time in upfront – it yields significant results.

Read more on how you can become the Strongest Link:

The Million Dollar Planner

Speed is King: How Do We Leverage for Project Management?

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the fast rise of manufacturing wages in some areas.  If you have access to, click here to read it.  The largest increase has been in Texas at 25%; however, wages are beginning to rise across the board.

According to my skills gap research study, manufacturers see a gap – there is an overload of requirements (skills and work that needs to be done) vs. the skills and people available to fill them. In addition, it hasn’t been easy finding qualified candidates.  Thus, I’m seeing that the smart manufacturers are performing salary surveys and re-aligning to be competitive.  Are you?  What are you doing to retain, train and find good people?

One tip to implement this week: Start with one department which is vital to your success.  Work with HR and/or outside consultants to perform a rapid salary survey.  How does your compensation align with manufacturers and other organizations competing for the types of skills you need to retain and attract?  For example, for low-level manufacturing jobs, you might be competing with retail.  Thus, you better pay attention to retail in that case!

Next evaluate and rate your employees.  It can be as simple as making sure your average employees are paid at the low/mid end of the range (depending on your benefit package vs. the competition), and your A employees are paid or moving towards the high end of the range.

You will lose employees due to pay issues; however, pay alone will not retain employees.  Stay tuned for future editions for tips on how to retain employees.  However, in today’s environment, you WILL lose top talent if you aren’t paying competitively.  Get on top of this ASAP.

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain talent? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”

Fotolia_59888090_XS-300x214.jpgCompanies that create loyal fans of customers thrive and leave the rest in the dust!  This has never been truer than it is in today’s new normal business environment.  That’s why my APICS Inland Empire chapter is bringing together top executives to discuss the topic at our fall executive panel and networking symposium on the Amazon Effect: The Critical Importance of Customer Service for Manufacturers and Distributors on Nov 8th at Eagle Glen Golf Club in Corona, CA.

Customer service has been at least a component of why I was called into 100% of my clients in the last few years.  That is shocking since pre-recession; it rarely arose in pre-client conversations.  Thus, it is top of mind for executives.  Amazon and Amazon-like distributors have dramatically increased customer expectations, ranging from shortened lead times to accelerated delivery options, 24/7 service expectations, and it doesn’t stop there….

To succeed, we must work smarter; not harder.  A few of the top strategies for success include:  1) Think of your people as your #1 asset!  2) Leverage internal and external best practice processes.  3) Upgrade technology and systems which are core to your business.  Identify your critical success factors and focus the 80/20 of your attention on just those priorities.  To learn more about ways to implement these strategies, review my webinar on the Amazon Effect: How Higher Customer Service Standards Impact Your Business and What You Need to Do to Thrive.  It is available on my clients-only website, and it’s available for sale.

Did you like this article? Continue reading more on this topic.

The Amazon Effect: Create a Customer Service Edge

Why Customer Service Must Be #1

organize-300x300.jpgMy 5th grade teacher (who was also involved in politics) told my Mom that I was the most organized student she had ever had. Thus, my Mom was not surprised when I went into the supply chain management field and specifically production planning after college.

As is probably a natural progress of one’s career, I have moved from details to big picture; however, organization plays a role in both. I see organization as providing a way to determine when details are key vs. when the big picture is paramount. The vast majority of situations are not black or white. Thus, we need a frame or lens for viewing them, organizing things for better interpretation.

As you perform your daily tasks, think about organizing them. How can you categorize these tasks? Suddenly you might go from 1000 priorities to 3 categories of priorities. Which will be easier to handle? Also, if you think in terms of categories, it is easier to see trends and potential bottlenecks. How does 1 item stick out from the rest of “like-items”? Should you pay attention to the deviation?

Organization doesn’t have to mean you are neat and tidy. In fact, I seem to have a bit of chaos in my car; however, I have a system for finding what I need when I need it. I have a garbage container within easy reach.  Steel toed shoes are in a bag in my backseat as I need them to walk around some clients’ facilities. I have many CD’s to listen to on my rides around L.A. Eventually I will upgrade to an iPod; however, currently they are within easy reach and I can find the right topic quickly. Label your items.

One last tip is to not put key items away. It might sound bizarre but it works. Actually this idea is somewhat lean before I knew it was lean. I keep those things I need to do on my desk or at my fingertips so that I remember and prioritize them.  Once I put it into a folder (even if it is labeled “to-do”), strangely, I never get around to doing it.

Did you like this article? Learn more ways to have Eagle Eye focus:

Why Organizing Can Make or Break Your Project

Are You Working on the Right Priorities?

hiperfemp-300x200.jpgSince the beginning of 2014, the job market has been robust and employers are struggling to find high-skilled, qualified candidates for key positions. I’ve talked frequently about this skills gap and performed researchon the topic as I am convinced that those who get ahead of the skills gap will thrive and leave the rest in the dust. Join me at APICS 2014 to hear more about my research findings and strategies for success.

One key component to succeeding while others continue to struggle with the skills gap is to retain top talent. I cannot tell you how often employee performance is overlooked at my clients and in organizations across the globe. My estimate is that 80% of companies under appreciate their top talent. Thus, why is it any surprise when top talent heads for the doors?

Luckily this problem is resolvable.  If you follow a few key steps, you will be far more likely to KEEP your stars. 1) Take stock of your talent. 2) Focus on leadership. 3) Address poor performers.

1. Take stock of your talent: Get off the daily treadmill for a “talent strategy session”. If you do not prioritize your people, how do you expect to drive growth and profit?  Set aside the time and gather up your management team. Go through your talent. How do you identify your top talent? Some might seem obvious. Although it’s a start, it is not enough. Look for your “hidden treasures”.  Who consistently gains results and comes up with new ideas?  Don’t look in the obvious areas as I find top talent is often overlooked.  Think about who you would struggle without.  Oddly enough, think about who might annoy you by bringing up potential roadblocks.  Your stars are thinking 5 steps ahead and it might not make them popular. In my experience, the first time leaders realize a top talent has left is when what seemed to be easy and “just happen” no longer occurs. Don’t wait that long!

Once you identify your top talent, take stock of their employee performance. What is important to them? What do they value? How likely are they to consider the “perfect job” if a recruiter happened to call tomorrow? Trust me, a recruiter will eventually find them or they will get frustrated and explore opportunities.

2. Focus on leadership:  Next, go back to basics. People do not stay for the money. The lack of money is a demotivator; however, money is not a motivator. So, why do they stay?  I often work with these stars as they are vital to achieving project results, and so I listen up!  In essence, once your star is being paid in alignment with the salary range for the job, leadership will make or break your success.

Do your leaders seem to appreciate their hard work AND results? Or, are they caught up in whoever “kisses up” to the boss? Your stars will know. Do your leaders ask for input and feedback? Is it a give-and-take conversation?  Listening alone is worse than not listening. Stars want to know their thoughts are not only heard but that they are incorporated into a plan or that they learn what could be improved for next time. Learning opportunities and challenging environments are a must.

Do you provide opportunities for advancement?  For an outsider like me, it can get to be humorous (if I wasn’t so frustrated) – sometimes, we overlook obvious steps. Find out what they do and have done in the past. For example, one client thought giving a star a new challenge would make up for the lack of advancement; however, they didn’t bother to figure out that she had already done that job in the past and found it less challenging than the one she was in!

A simple way to consider whether you are focusing enough on your stars is to think about where you spend the majority of your time: with your non-performers or with your high performers?  What other ways can you monitor employee performance?

3. Address poor performers:  Last but not least, you must address non-performers. There is nothing worse than seeing a non-performer carry on for a star. They want to know that what they are doing is a value-add.  If an obvious non-performer is ignored, it signifies that it is OK to be a poor performer.  Perhaps high performers aren’t even valued…

I would bet significant money that if executives found their true stars and focused half the energy on their stars as they do on fire fighting, they would be wildly successful. Why not give it a shot?

Did you like this article? Continue reading on other ways to Profit through People:

Develop a Talent Edge

Critical Priority–Retaining Top Talent