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transaction-291x300.jpgFew executives think much about transaction criticality. Transactions certainly aren’t strategic; however, I have seen numerous clients’ growth and profit plans negatively affected by the lack of transaction rigor. Thus it should be on your list of fundamentals for review.

There are only two issues that occur with transactions:  1) Accuracy. 2) Timing. It would seem simple; however, it is not an uncommon struggle. The reason is that although limited in terms of types of issues, transactions are widespread. Typically there are transactions affecting almost all functions of an organization. Typical ones include the following: purchase orders, receipts, production orders (work orders), production entry, inventory movements, shipments, transfers, inventory adjustments, invoices, etc.

I’ve found the secret to success with transactions starts with communicating the value of transactions. Once an employee understands that the accuracy and timing of the transactions he/she performs can affect customer satisfaction, efficiency and even margins, he is more focused. The other common cause of transaction issues is that the people performing the transactions don’t fully understand the process/steps in performing the transaction. I rarely find people who know how to back out mistakes correctly. Checking your transactions can be invaluable. Typos and mistakes are caught early on. These are easy fixes; however, they require focus and attention by leaders.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

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Posted by lisaanderson Mar 20, 2015

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI’ve been thinking about growth as I’m getting ready to celebrate my 10th anniversary of LMA Consulting Group, and as I’ve been partnering with several clients who are in high growth mode lately. If you aren’t growing, you are declining. Unfortunately, staying the same doesn’t work. You must choose a path.

How focused are you on growth – of your business, of your sales revenue, of your skills and experience? Which factors are most important for growth? Certainly, it starts with people – do you have the right people on your team? It also relates to strategy and plans. How do you plan to grow? Do you have any unique advantages to support your growth?

One tip to implement this week:

Growth starts with a state of mind – and vision for a company. One easy-to-implement tip for the week is to think about growth. Whether an executive or a worker bee, you can impact growth. Think about how you can impact the company’s growth. If you interact with customers, can you find new ways to collaborate and/or provide service that goes well-beyond expectations? If you can impact Operations, can you help find ways to free up capacity so that you can support growth? At the very minimum, can you find ways to increase your skills so that you are better equipped to support growth of your company – and your personal career? I guarantee if you start thinking about growth, you will find small ways – and even BIG ways – to spur on growth.

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? 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_53307209_XS-300x168.jpgImproving customer communication is always a good idea; however, making these communications a key focus area is pivotal in today’s new normal business environment. I am consistently hearing about top priorities of business growth and improving business performance. What could be more important to both of these? Thus, a few strategies to ensure effective communications include:

1. Pick up the phone – some of the largest successes I’ve seen result from simple yet critical conversations. It can be as simple as calling a customer to discuss current business and to stay in touch.

2. Win-win – remember to look for win-win opportunities in your conversations/meetings with your customers. Two heads are typically better than one – take advantage of already existing relationships to find win-win opportunities to increase business/profitability.

3. Watch trends – although elaborate forecasting programs can result in increased business and/or improved efficiencies throughout the supply chain, watching and proactively managing to a simple trend line can, many times, be just as effective.

4. Joint programs – there are many opportunities to develop programs with your customers to share freight/transportation costs, improve service to your joint end customers (if applicable), collaborate on packaging opportunities, improve efficiencies, tightly manage inventory, etc.

5. Think about value – instead of focusing on selling, think about how to provide value to your customers. How can you add value to your customer’s business? Focus on providing value and you’ll likely end up with win-win results.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your supply chain:

Start with Your Customer

Want to Improve Communications?

abccyclecount-300x171.jpgSince I’ve been working with a client on a cycle counting program, and it was one of the topics I taught in a recent APICS CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) course, it reminded me of its significance to success.

The point of cycle counting is to maintain inventory accuracy on a continual basis. Inventory accuracy is a foundational element to manufacturing and distribution success. Cycle counting by ABC means you’ll count your high volume, more critical parts (A) more often than your low volume, less critical parts (B & C). Not only will your inventory be more accurate on what is most critical to your business but you’ll also better understand root causes to maintaining critical part accuracy.

If you need to make rapid improvement in inventory accuracy, focus solely on A’s. You’ll maintain high levels of accuracy for the top 80% of your sales volume. You’ll also have more time to focus on root cause analysis because the top 80% is typically only 20% of your items. Also, by resolving root causes to A item inaccuracy, I’ve found that B and C items improve dramatically as well because the same causes persist across the board. For example, I’ve worked with multiple clients to help them go from 50-60% accuracy (or unknown, low levels of accuracy) to the high 90%’s using these strategies. Suddenly, these clients were able to find what they need when they need it and didn’t have to carry excess inventory to account for their inaccuracy.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your supply chain:

Cycle Counting

Bedrock Topic: Inventory Accuracy

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI helped to kick off a SAP Bootcamp for my APICS (#1 trade association for supply chain management) chapter in combination with our partner, Cal State University, San Bernardino. Cal State University San Bernardino is one of the only universities I am familiar with that teaches students about ERP systems (enterprise resource planning) and provides hands-on exposure. Certainly, ERP systems are the backbone of how manufacturers and distributors run their business, and SAP happens to be the #1 ERP system. Thus, we are very excited to be partnering with such a progressive team.

We had students from other universities and supply chain professionals in attendance including several from surrounding chapters – obviously the session attracted people to drive considerable distances on a Saturday morning. Partnerships are not always ideal (and often require hard work and upfront communication); however, finding ones where 1+1=56 can be well worth the effort.

One tip to implement this week:

What partnerships do you have in place? Take a few minutes to gather your team and think about strategic partnerships. I’ve found them to yield significant benefits and create employee loyalty. After all, who doesn’t like to be a valued member of a partnership that is achieving great results? Think about customers: can you develop a partnership with additional members of your supply chain for a mutual benefit? For example, can you use your customer’s warehouse to reduce lead times and/or create transportation efficiencies? How can you make that a win-win? The same holds true for your suppliers? START by thinking about what you can offer your supply chain partner. Undoubtedly, they will think about how they can make it a win for you as well. How about your banking partners and other trusted advisors? Local colleges and universities? Think outside the box for accelerated results.

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

priorities-300x300.jpgWhy is it so challenging for executives to focus on priorities? It would seem simple; however it rarely is so. I work with executives in manufacturers and distributors ranging from $5 million to multi-billion dollar companies, and none of them have extra time. Additionally, it seems that customers, Boards of Directors, corporate managers (for the multi-billion dollar companies) and employees demand attention on a daily basis. Thus, priorities for ensuring bottom line results are delivered can be lost in the shuffle.

Thus, how can we combat these compelling forces that want us to focus on priorities, even if they are not the most critical priorities? No one has the complete answer – if it were easy, this issue wouldn’t be so widespread!

However, I do have a few secrets to success.

1. Be clear on your top 3 priorities: Start by making sure you are ultra-clear on what your priorities should be to achieve your strategy, goals and objectives. Make the time to become clear. Leave the office and sit in a restaurant or at a park or at home and figure out what these priorities should be. The 80/20 is in knowing what you should be doing.

2. Pay attention to where you spend your time: We all think we know where we spend our time; however, if we have to track our time for a week (in hourly increments), I guarantee we will be surprised. Don’t make it complicated; track it in your calendar or in Excel. Broad brush strokes will be revealing. I’ve found that solely by tracking where we spend time, we find opportunities to refocus attention on higher priorities.

3. Find options to cover lower priorities: Once you know where you are spending your time, start by finding ways to supplement the lower priorities. There are several options: 1) Stop focusing on them. 2) Re-allocate responsibilities to resources better suited to handle these priorities and who would consider them higher priorities. 3) Outsource and/or supplement with temps/contractors.

Who knew focusing on priorities could be so difficult? Open your eyes, pay attention to what really matters and make small decisions to improve your ability to focus on priorities. Soon, your workday will transform.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

What is an Eagle Eye Strategic Focus?

Synthesize for Results

opportunitiy-300x200.jpgOne of the keys to successful growth is learning to spot opportunities – and leveraging them. While working with clients of all shapes and sizes, I find that opportunities are all around us; however, we frequently miss them. Developing an eye for spotting opportunities can take a bit of practice.

Following a few proven methods can give you better odds for success: 1) Look for trends. 2) Watch metrics. 3) Be aware of your industry and surroundings.

Start by watching for trends. I find that a significant portion of my success comes from identifying trends others miss. Keep your eyes open for deviations from the norm. For example, if your customer typically calls for overnight shipments at a certain time of the month because their demand changes, ask your customer about it. They might not have realized that it seems to happen on the 3rd week of the month every time. They might be able to resolve the issue once they know about the timing. Undoubtedly, your customer would value that information! Or, perhaps they cannot resolve the issue but they could place their order sooner to minimize shipping charges. Either way, you will be valued.

Watch out especially for trends with your customers and suppliers. If you see a trend with a customer, ask about it. It might result in an opportunity. Customers want to do business with those who pay attention and demonstrate that they value the relationship. For example, I worked with a client that noticed a blip in demand. He mentioned it to his customer, and his customer was really appreciative because he forgot to place orders. Goodwill can go a long way!

Next, watch metrics. Start by identifying your key metrics. Which tell you whether you are moving in the right direction? Which are indicative of problems or opportunities? Don’t become overwhelmed with “too many” metrics. Select only those which impact your strategy and profit drivers. Measure them daily, weekly, and monthly. For example, if cash flow is critical to your growing business, measuring inventory levels would likely be an important metric. If you saw inventory increasing on a particular product line, you could follow up on the cause immediately. If you weren’t tracking metrics by product line, it could take weeks, if not months, for you to notice – too late to address successfully.

Third, be aware of your industry and surroundings. What is happening in your industry? Who is leading the pack? What new products have they released? Are you getting alerts for your main competitors and for industry data? In today’s Internet-connected world, it is easier than ever to stay informed. Set up data feeds from relevant news sources. Attend industry conferences. Get to know industry experts. Read trade publications and join relevant LinkedIn groups. It is also worthwhile to keep up on the latest economic and relevant world politics. For example, when I was in the absorbent products industry, my Director of Purchasing kept track of an amazing amount of information about oil and gas prices and factors and events affecting them because he knew that oil and gas prices directly affected our raw material costs. Because he was informed, he kept prices low while maintaining strong supplier relationships, and he was able to better leverage opportunities as they arose.

Lastly, it does no good whatsoever to solely identify opportunities. You must be willing to ACT. Once you identify a valid opportunity, put together a plan of action and implement. It is easy to let them pass you by. Not all opportunities last long, and so you must be prepared to make decisions. The reason you are tracking information on a frequent basis is so that you do not need to make decisions in a vacuum. Thus, do not delay when the opportunity stares you in the face.

I’ve seen countless clients miss vast opportunities because the people who saw them weren’t empowered or the leaders didn’t see them. Set yourself up for success by ensuring you’ll be able to see opportunities, and encourage your team to remain vigilant in keeping an eye out as well.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

How to Spot Trends 

Are You Working on the Right Priorities?

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI’m in process of teaching my first APICS CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) session, and earlier today I taught a section on CRM. In addition, I’ve been helping clients select the “right” ERP system to best meet their business priorities, and CRM has emerged as a top priority. The bottom line is that more executives are thinking about how to better leverage customer relationship management processes and technology to create customer loyalty. Also, the better you know your customers, the better your supply chain performance can be.

CRM can help you track your sales pipeline (potential customers), understand your customers and contacts (what are their preferences, pricing, status, etc.), track your promotions, and manage your marketing communications. Most modern ERP systems have CRM capabilities – have you considered how you can leverage this functionality to grow your business and better serve your customers?

One tip to implement this week:

You might wonder what you can do with CRM if you do not have CRM software. Plenty! Take a few minutes to think about your customer relationships. Pick up the phone and talk with your customer. Ask your Customer Service and/or Sales folks. Find out more about their needs. Consider taking your customers’ point of view – what value could you provide that they might be interested in?  What ideas or suggestions might be helpful? Typically no money or capital is needed to show your customers you value them; only effort and thought is required. At a minimum, they will know you value the relationship.

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

leadership-300x300.jpgSuccess begins and ends with leadership. Clearly, formal leaders are vital; however, it is important not to overlook the power of influence leaders. These folks are informal leaders who command significant influence in an organization – typically unsung heroes. Who do people follow?

At all of my most successful clients, I find informal leaders. Sometimes they are in a leadership position of some sort but not the “top dog”, and often they have no official power. Yet these influence leaders wield VAST influence on the organization’s success. Typically, they are known for championing the critical yet difficult changes. They seem to genuinely care about the people and the progress. They work hard and set a positive example. They are willing to share credit and accept blame. They aren’t afraid to share feedback and ideas. In essence, they are LEADERS yet have no title (or certainly not one which denotes power).

In my experience, I find these informal leaders can have significantly more influence on success and results than the formal leaders. People will follow those they know, like and trust. You must do what you say you’ll do. If not, people will listen to what you do; not what you say. One of the best ways to successfully navigate change is to get these informal leaders involved in the process upfront. Gain their respect, and the change will occur. Try to dictate the change, and you might as well hang up your briefcase.

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