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IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgAccording to a recent KPMG survey on the Global Manufacturing Outlook, executives are thinking about innovation. 81% are altering their business models to encourage collaboration with customers, suppliers and other partners to “improve the value of their innovation investments”. Speed is critical. Thus, a key question is how to speed up the innovation cycle – and how do we make sure results follow?

Are you collaborating with your customers and suppliers? How about internal resources? SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) is a great vehicle for ensuring this collaboration occurs. I’ve seen dramatic improvements in lead time, service levels, capacity preparedness for growth, margins and cash (inventory levels) as I partner with my clients to implement SIOP.

One tip to implement this week:

The great news about collaboration is that we can all do something to improve collaboration. Start small. How about talking with your colleague in the next office over instead of sending an email? Can you find ways to collaborate with functions you interact with on a daily basis? Perhaps you can ask if there is something you can improve in your service/interactions with them that would help them? Then, expand to your customers, suppliers and other partners.

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…”

investigreport.jpgI recently was talking with a key client about the importance of building a foundation for new processes, and it sparked the idea for this article. If there is one common problem my client’s experience, it is the desire to rush “building the foundation” – whether of a process, system, culture, etc. Don’t give in to the temptation; instead, invest in building a solid foundation and you’ll end up with a better – and typically quicker – result than the rest.

When it comes to systems, the key to the foundation is addressing data integrity. Garbage in creates garbage out is not just a saying; it is a certainty. Thus, what types of data should we review?

1. Inventory accuracy – If you do not have accurate inventory (within a reasonable tolerance), nothing else will “work”. Thus, start here.

2. Item numbers – Do you have a bunch of junk included in your item numbers? Clean up obsolete part numbers. Consider labeling slow-moving so that you can pick them out quickly.

3. Item attributes – This is a BIG one. Clean up your make vs. buy flag; clean up your item categories; clean up all the flags which will cause the system to “do” something. Otherwise you’ll be following a bunch of incorrect messages.

4. Purchase order & supplier clean up – One of my clients was experiencing a rather large mess, stemming from a recent system implementation. In their case, we focused on cleaning up PO’s, and the situation improved 80/20 immediately.

5. Work order & manufacturing data clean up – Similar to purchase orders, can you rely on your manufacturing data? Equally bad, do you have all sorts of old POs sitting out there? The system will assume that they are all valid.

6. Dates – Talk about a common problem! Do you start with accurate dates and then just let them go by the wayside? Clean up your dates so that your system has some idea of what will ensure success.

Although there are countless data integrity items, if you start with these, you’ll be in much better shape. Addressing this area will not be as exciting as implementing Lean or Six Sigma but it will drive FAR more results. You’ll drive results by strengthening your foundation and then finding the right strategies to build on top of it.

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

The Foundation of Business Success – Data Integrity

The Value of CRM


Types of Capacity

Posted by lisaanderson Jun 16, 2015

Fotolia_83637406_XS-300x180.jpgCapacity is a critical element for any business – and especially those interested in growth! A good place to start is to understand your capacity, which can mean different things to different people. The traditional definition relates to the total output you can expect from a machine, group of machines or facility. I view capacity as all of the following:

1. Machine – if your machines were running 24/7, what is the output you would expect?

2. Machine staffing – given your staffing levels, what is the output of your machines?

3. People – what resources and skills do you have available?

4. Building – what is your available space for manufacturing, warehousing, etc.?

5. Warehouse – what is your available storage capacity for your products?

6. Tools/fixtures – what is the available capacity of your tools and fixtures?

7. Shipping & receiving – what is your available capacity in terms of shipping and receiving?

8. Transportation – what is the available capacity of your trucks/transportation partners?

9. Supplier – what is your supplier’s available capacity?

The most important first step is to understand your current capacity. The vast majority of companies I consult with do not have a comprehensive view of this. Thus, this step alone can go a long way. Once you know your current capability, you can compare with required capacity and take actions to address.

Capacity is one of the key steps in a SIOP process (sales, inventory & operations planning). I’ve helped my clients achieve dramatic improvements in service levels, reductions in inventory levels (which frees up cash flow) and improved margins stemming from getting a better handle on capacity.

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

Leverage Systems for Growth

Rapid Assessments for Success

Fotolia_60649639_XS.jpgWhat if you lost one of your key employees unexpectedly? Happens all the time.

“We really need to get better at succession planning.” A common desire expressed by many executives.

But the reality is that it takes time and brainpower. Succession planning often gets put on the backburner.

Sometimes it’s easier to see how far you can run without addressing succession issues. After all, you could strike some sensitivities. What if you position one person for advancement, and not her co-worker? You could upset the applecart. Nothing’s broken.

But if you’re serious about growing your business, it’s probably time to take a strategic look at succession planning.

There’s greater risk if you’re not looking closely at the talent you need to grow and sustain the business.

As you prepare for growth, consider how you’ll grow out of your own role. You’ll need to find new ways to leverage your natural strengths and interests to create the most value for the business.

Succession planning is not just about planning who will take over your role. It’s about anticipating what the role should really look like in your new state of growth.

Instead of simply identifying people to groom, determine what the role really requires first.

Job benchmarking can be a first step. Get clear and agree about the skills, styles and strengths that are most critical for success in the role.

When I work with clients on these issues, they often have difficulty anticipating their needs in the future. They’re just trying to manage day-to-day operations.

Take a first step this week. Visualize how you want to be contributing to the business in the future. What will your business require a year or two from now?

Jot down some notes. As you become more clear about your next move, you’ll grease the wheels on the succession planning process.

You’ll gain faster momentum in your business by moving succession planning up on your priority list.

Learn more about Gayle Lantz and WorkMatters.

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI just completed two Amazon reviews for two fabulous books on marketing topics: Marketing Above the Noise by Linda Popky and The Membership Economy by Robbie Baxter. I recommend both as “must reads”! Thus, I am thinking about the power of marketing. I find that my most successful clients prioritize marketing and branding. And, the most successful executives consider it a priority not just for business success but also for personal success. How about you?

I presented on the topic of personal branding at the APICS 2013 International Conference. Have you thought about your personal brand? What are you known for? Would people know what differentiates you from your competition? Would they know what you stand for? These are all elements of a powerful brand. Think about those people you know with a powerful brand – do business opportunities and personal success seem to follow them?

One tip to implement this week:

We can all do something about creating a personal brand. As a first step, think about what you are known for and what you’d like to be known for. How are you different than your colleagues? Your competition? What are your strengths? Ask your colleagues and friends for input. Sometimes we miss significant strengths our colleagues and friends see immediately! Ask – and take time to think.

Stick to your strengths to start. What do you want to emphasize? How can you build upon what is already known? Do something small to build upon your strengths, develop your brand and communicate your brand on a daily basis. You’ll be amazed at the 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…”

outofspace-300x200.jpgOne of those frequent and frustrating problems with growth can be space. Who has heard, “I’ve run out of space! What should we do?” Unfortunately it is not uncommon.

The problem with this situation is that there are numerous causes and solutions – including this is exactly the problem I wanted to create. Recently I’ve been working with a few highly seasonal clients. Space can be a dilemma in planning how to navigate these seasonal patterns. Additionally, running out of space is always a concern for growing clients. So, what should we do?

Make it a part of your planning process. For example, planning for space is one of the outputs of a SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) process. When you implement this best practice process, it is absorbed into the monthly process flow and trade-offs are continually evaluated. You’ll find countless articles on SIOP by searching my blog.

A few items to think about when space arises as a topic include:

1. Warehouse space optimization with existing equipment – Have you considered how to optimize the space you already have? I’ve yet to run across a company without an opportunity to maximize already-existing space utilizing already-existing equipment. Think about flow, layout, storage strategies, etc.

2. Warehouse space utilization with value-add purchases – Have you brought in an expert to review your warehouse layout to look for opportunities for additional racking and creative approaches to maximizing space? Can you add an aisle? How about store above the dock doors?

3. Flow – At its simplest, think about whether you are storing high-volume items closest to the dock doors and lower volume items in the hard-to-reach, inconvenient places. There are many flow considerations beyond these but it’s a great place to start….

4. Omni-channel strategy – If you support more than one channel (such as retail/e-commerce and distribution), it is likely you need multiple storage and handling strategies.

5. Leveraging systems – Have you optimized the use of your current system? Are you scanning? Utilizing WMS functionality? There are many potential solutions without investing significant resources. Often times, WMS light capabilities can be a dramatic boost to productivity.

It isn’t a bad idea to start with common sense. My best clients might not be warehousing gurus yet they think about this from a common sense perspective, ask questions and gain inputs from the entire team. Beyond common sense, a few simple yet effective warehouse strategies might be in order. Certainly, none of us wants warehouse space to be the limiting factor for growth!

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Warehousing Thoughts

The $1 Million Dollar Planner

Lowell-300x225.jpgCertainly, Sales is at the heart of any organization. Without growth, a company will eventually decline and wither away. Thus, having top notch sales people is cornerstone to success. Of course I advocate thinking of all your employees like salespeople as they represent the company and can make a huge impact on success; however, there are also people dedicated to sales. My Uncle Lowell was a top notch lumber salesman in Chicago for his entire career, and so I’d like to dedicate this to him as he passed away earlier today.

My uncle understood the critical importance of the customer. He treated his customers like royalty which is why he had “customers for life”. He often talked about valuing relationships – another fundamental of successful salespeople. My uncle extended that viewpoint into his retirement. When my Aunt Martha passed away (his wife), his concern was to make sure that her sisters were included in the decisions and process as he valued maintaining the relationship.

As my uncle demonstrated, being in sales is all about relationships. I remember that he would track and remember important events in his customers’ lives, their likes (such as the University of Illinois games), etc. Thus, it wasn’t just about selling lumber; instead, he focused on relationships and value. Although I don’t have nearly the sales experience as he had, I have learned quite a lot since starting my consulting practice – and I listen to the best. He was undoubtedly correct which is why he had a long and successful career in sales with lifelong customers and friends. And, of course he will be missed.

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

Your Customer Comes 1st

The Power of Relationships

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgHow many times have you heard about managing cost (or saving money) in the past week? I bet quite a few, as almost all companies focus significant efforts on cost. In all functions, and certainly if you are in or responsible for Operations, a large portion of your responsibility is to reduce cost. Similar to real estate where it is “location, location, location”, I often hear about “cost, cost, and cost”. Certainly managing cost is vital to success; however, being solely focused on cost will drive you to failure!

Instead, I advocate thinking about return on investment. For example, if you spend $1000 instead of $100,000, yet the benefit is $1100 vs. $400,000 over the same time frame, which is better? Of course, when you spend $100,000, you quadruple your investment whereas you only gain 10% with the smaller investment. With that said, of course, it makes sense to minimize the $100,000 to $90,000 if it’s feasible so you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Although these numbers can be compelling, it isn’t the only reason to focus on ROI. If you are thinking only of cost, you will MISS opportunities to grow your business and innovate. Think of the “cost” in this case as an investment. Are you willing to invest in your success?

One tip to implement this week:

The great news is that no matter your position, you can start thinking about ROI. For every decision you make, consider the likely benefits and costs. Costs are not only financial; there could be hefty risks as well (with small or large investments). Most executives think this way for large capital investments; however, why don’t we think this way for the smaller decisions? We should!

It doesn’t have to be lengthy and time consuming. Just think about the benefits; ask a few questions (if you don’t know, you should find out anyway) and you’ll be much more confident that you’ll end up with a better result in the end. Those businesses that think about longer-term impacts (even if the return occurs within a quarter or year; it can seem longer-term at times) will thrive.

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…”

culture-300x199.jpgI wholeheartedly agree with my consulting mentor Alan Weiss with how he defines culture – “It is that set of beliefs that governs behavior”.

Culture seems like such a mysterious topic and executives spend millions to try to create culture change and the like. Yet when you boil it down to the basics, it is really quite simple. What set of beliefs does your company run by? Where did they come from? Are they helping or hurting you?

When you look at culture with this viewpoint, it becomes easy to determine how to change your corporate culture; however, the devil is in the execution. For example, one of the companies I worked with merged with another. The strategy was “perfect” – great synergies and opportunities to leverage strengths. The vision was communicated effectively but fell apart in execution.  As I’ve heard Alan say about one of his clients, “Bill, do you believe what you read on the walls or what you hear in the halls?”  In this case, the set of beliefs and values that govern the day-to-day behavior were not modified.  Thus, the fabulous strategy could not occur as the former company philosophy prevailed.

Stay tuned for articles about how to change culture; however, to give you a few tips to stew on in the interim:  1) Communicate consistently, frequently and with different media.  2) Align communications with actions.  3) Find exemplars to lead the culture change.  Much of my consulting practice’s success is based upon these principles for the simple reason is that RESULTS FOLLOW.  And you have a happier work environment to boot.

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Lost in the Culture Change Maze? 4 Strategies to Succeed

Are You Working on the Right Priorities?

Fotolia_63680657_XS-300x200.jpgAs we head into summer, it is always good to think about what the most successful executives do to keep the momentum going. What do they do differently than the rest? It often leads back to setting priorities. Thus, as we head into the summer months, I thought a few tips might prove useful:

1. Pick 3 overarching priorities – Don’t overwhelm yourself with 10,000 priorities which clearly are not achievable. Instead, take a step back and think about your top 3.

2. Consider urgency – Sounds obvious but everything cannot be urgent. Which potential priorities are the most urgent?

3. Fit with Goals – How do the priorities fit into your company or personal goals? If they are not important to achieving your most important goals, why focus on them?

4. What if you don’t? – What will happen if you don’t do it? It’s interesting when you consider this question. I often find that I might have a task on my list, and I want to “check it off” even if it’s no longer important or just a “C” type priority. Should I work 12-hour days to finish a “C” item?

5. Make downtime a priority – Have you planned in downtime? Do you consider personal time and thinking time a priority? If not, why? No one can successfully focus 24/7 – and why would you try?

6. Start with the A priorities – Sounds obvious but it is easy to get caught up with completing easy or enjoyable “C” priorities.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to Profit Through People:

Why is it So Hard to Focus on Priorities?

Strategic Priorities