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growth.jpgResults don’t occur with the latest fads – even with good fads such as lean manufacturing or SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) programs.  Results don’t occur with cool system functionality – certainly, it makes life easier if you have great tools but results won’t occur due to a system.  Instead, results follow people.  LMA Consulting Group has been in business for over 11 years, and prior to that I was a VP of Operations and Supply Chain for an absorbent products manufacturer.  I’ve yet to see an example of results that didn’t follow the people.


For example, in working with an aerospace manufacturer a few years ago, we had to rapidly improve service levels for our customers.  After a quick assessment, we started implementing a plan to resolve the bottleneck operation. In two months, what had not been resolved in a year was dramatically improved with the rollout of our plan. However, the plan wasn’t the 80%; the reason for success went back to the people.  Management supported the plan and was involved on a daily basis in the rollout.  The executive in charge visibly supported the plan even when inconvenient.  The team met daily to review progress, discuss issues and ensure success. 


Down-the-line, the management team changed.  The executives left.  The emphasis changed to different topics.  And service levels fell.  Certainly the new process and plan would still work.  Results followed the people – out the door.  Then, as one would expect, things changed again.  People re-focused, and results started improving.


We all fight fires and hopefully put together and execute strategies; however, we must keep in mind that getting distracted on reports, the latest fads and the like are useless unless accompanied with leadership.  If you are interested in ensuring results follow people, contact us on leveraging our proprietary process, the 5P Accelerator to fast track growth and profits.



After meeting with my international advisory board in the beginning of June in Sydney, I took the opportunity to tour Australia and New Zealand. One of our favorite spots was Milford Sound, New Zealand. It is undoubtedly one of the most majestic, beautiful places I've ever seen. Since it is impossible to do it justice, I've included one of the best pictures of a boat ride through the fjords. Can you imagine how I could have communicated this beauty through words alone? 


Milford Sound.jpg


The same is true in business. One simple graph or hand drawing on a white board or flip chart will communicate more than a 1000 words. I cannot tell you how many executive meetings I've sat in where a simple chart would have ended an hour-long discussion. And, more importantly, a simple visual will help communicate effectively so that you get the business, get the money (from the Board, CEO, etc.), get the resources, etc. In my experience, the wasted hours and days (and even months) that go into these requests could be dramatically shortened with a powerful yet simple process visual.


One tip to implement this week:


So, what can we do this week to make progress on this topic? Think about something you'd like to communicate that you think will have a significant impact on your company's success. Start with something in your functional area. For example, one of my clients is focused on whether they start production orders (work orders) on-time. If you start them on-time, it is likely you'll complete them on-time. So, in their case, we needed to communicate how well we performed with on-time starts yesterday — and preferably the trend for the week and month. Talking about lots of detailed orders is important to improving the metric but wasn't nearly as impactful as a simple trend graph with an accompanying pie chart of reasons for late starts.


Don't worry about your artist and graphics skills. Start by thinking about what to communicate. Come up with one picture, graph, or chart that would help communicate it. That is sufficient for this week; however, since speed is the name of the game, once you have decided what will be meaningful, start by drawing it on a piece of paper or ask your team for help. Don't get bogged down in graphics or Power Points. I've seen hand-drawn pictures be sufficient for multi-million dollar ideas.


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…”


empower people.jpgOne of our favorite client stories on the topic of "Profit through People" goes back to one of our first clients. It is hard to choose a favorite in this category as PEOPLE make or break success at every juncture along the way.


In this case, our client needed to get a handle on inventory somewhat rapidly because it could directly affect the sale of the company — and each individual's career success and chances at long term viability at this company. How could we bring inventory levels down while keeping the high service levels our customers had come to expect? How could we make sure the "right" inventory was in the "right" value-add distribution center at the "right" time? Seems a complex supply chain solution might be required; however, the solution boiled down to 1 tenet — PEOPLE.


We found the "right" people in the organization. In 80%+ of our client cases, they have the "right" people somewhere in the organization already. The key is whether they recognize them. In this case, we were able to readily identify emerging talent throughout the system. Interestingly enough, we found talent where we needed it by simply looking.


Next, we had to "arm" these emerging inventory leaders with the "right" tools — and more importantly, the "right" philosophy. One of the largest successes was in changing the metrics to encourage collaboration and sharing of inventory. Even though each GM was still measured as they used to be measured (since there wasn't time to change entire systems), we were able to change the overall message. Again, simplicity can "work".


Last but not least, we had to "get out of the way". Encourage, empower, engage and get out of the way. Although I don't know that the executive team articulated this message like this, it is what they followed. People might listen to what you say but they definitely will listen to what you DO. The team was set up for success — and it worked! Inventory was reduced by 30-40% on the core product lines while maintaining high service levels. Thus, less cash was tied up unnecessarily while customers remained happy. Debt was freed up for the sale.


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


Is Your Inventory System Working?


Empower Your People to GROW


IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgLast week I was in New Zealand, and I went on a wild ride on the Dart River (see below). We went at 100 kph with just 4 inches of water. It was a thrilling ride with amazing scenery in the background, and it got me thinking about the critical importance of speed in today's workplace. EVERY single one of my clients must grow, improve service levels, reduce lead time, maximize margins, and improve efficiencies — YESTERDAY. Speed of results is of the essence. It has been the focus of my clients since the recession (as cash was the focus during the recession) — in today's Amazon-impacted workplace, speed will make or break success.


However, if you are going at 100 kph in an uncontrolled fashion, you will end up smashed directly into a boulder in the Dart River. In business, it is no different — you must maintain CONTROL while moving rapidly or success will not follow. This is one of the tenets of my proprietary process for driving supply chain performance TST. Having speed and torque with no traction leads to spinning your wheels. It is often the reason I'm called into a client.


Dart River.jpg

One tip to implement this week:


I've found the first step is to understand and create urgency around your priorities. Most likely you are doing a task because you want to serve a customer as almost everything we do at work can be traced back to serving customers; no matter the task — if you don't think what you are doing ties to a customer, contact me. I bet we can tie it to a customer or drop it from your priority list. These customer-centric tasks are critical. This doesn't mean you have to serve customers blindly but to serve them well while achieving a win-win profit and business growth requires you to work with controlled speed.


Start by finding the why behind your tasks this week. If there isn't a compelling why, remove the item from your list. Focus only on those with an important why. Explain the why to your team or your manager. Create urgency. Think about the last service you received that not only provided great service but was speedy — wouldn't you like to repeat that for your customers?


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_78129054_XS.jpgHow important is collaboration to project success? Several years ago, it was important but not critical; however, within the last 5-10 years, it has become a cornerstone to success.

In today’s Amazon-impacted world, customers have higher expectations of rapid turnaround, 24/7 accessibility, and increased levels of service. These expectations drive complexity. Additionally, we are in a global economy. Executives are hard-pressed to find a product sourced solely from the country of origin. Most likely, at a minimum, your suppliers’ supplier will be from another country. On the customer side, typically, those who export grow sales more rapidly than those who don’t. The bottom line is that we are more interconnected than ever before; thus, collaboration is critical to success.

Although external collaborators are what we typically think of in a global, Amazon-impacted world, it is often just as important if not more important to consider your internal collaborators. Does your sales team talk with production? Does R&D talk with marketing? Does your Ohio location talk with your California location? Often times, different sites within the same country can be more collaboration-challenged than when coordinating with sites in other countries. How often have we heard the challenges in collaborating across the U.S. yet we seem to be able to coordinate across borders? Quite frequently! It is as if we are speaking a different language even though it might be the culture of the south vs. the hustle of New York or the laid-back nature of California.

No matter whether we are collaborating across functions, sites or countries, these keys to success will give you an advantage:

  1. Provide background – Instead of jumping into a conversation and assuming your internal or external partner knows about the initiative, take the time to provide background information. Make sure they are comfortable with the topic and understand what you want to accomplish, why it is important, etc. If you are on the receiving end, make sure to ask questions. Starting on the same page makes all the difference in the world.
  2. Take a breath – This tip relates just as much to collaboration as it does to everyday communication. Do not run on for several minutes on a tangent without pausing to see if your audience is following along. Don’t assume the lack of questions is good news. Ask for confirmation that you are answering their questions and whether what you are saying makes sense.
  3. Build a framework together – For what reason are you collaborating? Most likely you are working on an initiative together or need help or advice from the other person. Either way, build the framework together. Thus, if you are putting together a project plan, make sure to put it together with a give-and-take perspective. Suggest a place to start. Ask the other person where you should go next. Trade off consistently if you need a way to force yourself to remember to ensure fairness. If you have become more expert at collaboration, mix it up. Start with the first few tasks, if you are strong in those areas, and defer to the other person for the areas they are strong in. Build upon each other’s strengths.
  4. Compare resources – Another way to collaborate is to compare resources. For example, if you are rolling out a product, you could have internal and external resources involved in the project. Compare the resources of different team members vs. your objectives. Most likely, each person will be more successful supplying inputs and resources to the areas of the project within their capabilities and resources. It seems quite obvious; however, it can often be an overlooked key to success. In the new product rollout, the engineering group is likely to have access to resources to optimize the production process whereas the logistics group will have more resources available to optimizing packaging. Match up resources with project plans.
  5. Share successes – Sharing in successes and creating opportunities for quick wins encourages collaboration. It is always a good idea to look for opportunities where you can turn 1 + 1 into 22 instead of 2. Collaboration will achieve 22!


Collaborating has emerged as vital to success for any project or major initiative. We must communicate internally among departments, facilities, and levels of the organization. That alone can put most companies over the edge. However, in today’s Amazon-impacted, global environment, we must collaborate externally as well. Customers, suppliers, supply chain partners and other business partners such as trusted advisors must come together and collaborate with a clear, shared objective to achieve dramatic business results.


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


Collaboration Rules


What will Motivate Your Team?

plan.jpgWe were reminded of this favorite client project and success story related to work processes recently as we were talking with a new GM at a key client about ways to improve service levels rapidly. It reminded us to pay attention to what "works".

So many clients try complicated and convoluted programs, thinking it is required for success, but it isn't! Why go down that rabbit hole when simplicity can achieve rapid, bottom line results?! 

This particular favorite project made the list due to its simplicity and quick results in the face of quite a bit of doubt and several previous failed attempts to resolve along the way. Who doesn't love a great underdog story?

In this case, there was one area within the manufacturing process that held up the vast majority of the customer orders. The bottleneck was obvious; thus, identifying it wasn't the issue! Unfortunately, solving it proved elusive. What worked was simplicity — plan the work; work the plan. Not rocket science but it reduced 80% of the past due within 2 months’ time in a long lead-time, aerospace industry manufacturer. 

As with every success, it wouldn't have occurred if the GM hadn't supported the plan and made the priority clear. Once the plan and production schedule was communicated, the sole focus was to prepare for and execute the plan. Thus, instead of not having the right skills available at the right time, we knew we'd run into this issue ahead of time, and we proactively resolved it. 

And the next 100 items like this fell by the wayside as well. Manager's attention was redirected to this bottleneck. If the team needed help, the management team would jump to action. Soon, the bottleneck freed up and orders started shipping. Eventually our #1 customer went from being "off the charts" in negative territory to regaining bronze level status. I personally remember this as one of my favorite accomplishments as getting these long-term numbers up consistently over many months to bring the status level up was a TALL order — and great to see!

Are you so far into the weeds that you miss these sorts of obvious solutions? It is easy to do. Instead, take a step back, simplify, execute & succeed.

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


The Million Dollar Planner


The Value of CRM


supply demand.jpgWhether you are on the Lean journey or not, you need a demand plan! Prior to forming LMA Consulting Group, I was a VP of Operations and Supply Chain for a mid-market manufacturer. Our Board hired a lean consultant who insisted we had to be purists – there is no in-between. If we were to embrace lean (and, who wouldn’t want to be lean, after all?), there are some lean purists who say “no need for a demand plan”. Somehow, this is what was adopted as gospel at my company; however, it was NOT accurate — assuming you wanted to service customers. From this frustrating experience along with several others in working with clients, it is apparent that the demand plan is not dead!


If we take it back to the basics, I have to wonder why anyone would ever think they didn’t need a demand plan. In essence, it is like saying you don’t need to know what you’re likely to sell, use, and transfer to other facilities.  Why wouldn’t we want to understand this information? Well, the lean purists would say kanbans are connected directly to customer demand and pulls it through. Certainly that is a successful way of planning in many organizations and for “A” products especially those with those with relatively even demand. However, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want a good feel for your demand. It is always helpful to provide longer-term forecasts to suppliers and to use internally for staffing, skills building, etc.


And, when it comes to B and C items, seasonal items and other trending patterns, understanding the demand plan isn’t a “nice-to-have”; it is critical to success. We estimate that at least 80% of our clients can gain significant bottom line results from focusing a bit more attention on the demand plan.  If you are interested in discussing further, contact us.


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


Where Should I Start to Ensure Demand Planning Success?


Why My Best Clients Focus on Responsiveness


IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgThis past week, I've been in New Zealand, following my strategy/mentor advisory meeting in Sydney and a few tours in Australia. Our first stop was Christchurch. It was devastated by an earthquake in 2011 with buildings crumbling everywhere — apparently, they hadn't built Christchurch with earthquakes in mind originally (although they certainly are rebuilding it that way now). Thus, it was almost a complete loss in the city center.


Not to be held down, New Zealanders thought of an innovative plan to build a mall from shipping containers to keep the city center going, and it became so popular that it still exists today. Here is a picture of the mall:

shipping container mall.jpg  


And, I thought this mural (in the mall) was a great depiction of how New Zealanders cooperate. Several of the sentiments on the mural and especially "Creativity is maximized when you are living in the moment" was exemplified with the creation of the mall. I love many of these!


creativity is maximized.jpg


One tip to implement this week:


Are you creative and cooperative? It might come in quite handy when trying to solve a "work problem" you've had for quite a while (or even think of an innovative new approach) if you emptied your mind to see what new ideas came to you. And if you could collaborate and brainstorm on those ideas, I bet you'd have an even better chance at coming up with good ones — and implementing them. After all, most of my clients have the ideas but need the assistance to confirm, prioritize them and to "get them done".


Take a break or lunch this week and just empty your mind. Give yourself the opportunity to think creatively, and you might find that you have new ideas. Perhaps you can then use another sentiment from the mural and "do one thing a day that scares you" — it could be believing in your idea enough to run it by your colleagues, customers, Board of Directors and the like.


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…”

4 Excel.jpgOur favorite end-to-end supply chain project supported a SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) project for growth. Although we enjoy SIOP projects as they are one of the best ways to achieve a win-win-win-win of growth, service, margins and cash, this particular client had some complex data and dramatic growth to consider.

SIOP is all about aligning demand with supply — AND the different functional areas of the organization on one page. Accomplish the second, and all else will fall into place. This particular SIOP project was no different.  

First, we had to get everyone on the same page with why we were embarking on this project — how would it help the company? And each individual? 

Next, we had to get a handle on demand. What were the growth projections? Were we able to "add up" from the details to the same numbers the executives knew to be accurate at the high level? If not, how would we reconcile these matters? There is no need to get lost in details yet we had to be in the same ballpark. Unfortunately it is quite hard to execute a plan if we don't understand the plan in the first place!

Then, we had to crunch the numbers at a high enough level to not get stuck in the weeds yet at a low-enough level that it would still be meaningful to the people who knew what it took to succeed. We had to get past imperfect data and make sure we were concerned with being directionally-correct. How could we estimate the number of machines, types of machines, number of people, skills of the people — and even buildings required? Should we be off-loading, moving volume within the facility or outsourcing to other facilities within the system? What could we do rapidly while focusing on customer service and customer expectations including margins and cost? 

In essence, we brought the best ideas together with SIOP. When it came together into one process and one document, the answers became clear. We had a plan and clarity on how to triple and quadruple the business — and, now we could execute the plan!


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


SIOP/ Integrated Business Planning


How to Accelerate Cash Flow through Supply Chain Innovations


Fotolia_81817981_XS.jpgAccording to the head of the Drucker school’s supply chain program, SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) is a hot topic with executives and supply chain leaders. I’ve found that our 4 EXCEL proprietary SIOP process has gained HUGE benefits for clients, and so I concur! However, SIOP is NOT a supply chain project; the significant growth, profit, margin, cash and service benefits come to those who treat it as an organization-wide strategic initiative.


Although the supply chain and operations resources typically coordinate the SIOP process as their skills align best with the majority of the processes, the reason for its success is that it is an organizational priority. The two areas of SIOP focus include:

  • Aligning demand with supply
  • Aligning the functions related to or impacted by demand and supply on the same page


Thus, the reason it cannot be successful as a supply chain resource project should be apparent. The participants include the following:

  • Resources related to demand – sales, marketing, customer service, R&D, new product development, customers, etc.
  • Resources related to supply – manufacturing operations, outside processing production processes, planning, procurement, logistics, quality, suppliers, etc.
  • Resources impacted by demand and supply – those interested in profit, cash flow, inventory levels, customer service, etc., such as Finance, executives, Boards, etc.


Who else is there? I cannot think of any! Now, imagine the challenge in aligning them on the same page with one plan – the “secret sauce” to SIOP success. If you are interested in learning more about partnering with us to use our proven method (4 EXCEL) for driving results, contact us. 


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


Collaborate for Project Success


SIOP Success is a Straight Line to People


This past weekend, I was in Sydney for a strategy/mentor advisory meeting. Sydney happened to have Vivid Sydney (a color light show throughout the city with entertainment, etc.) in full force for the first two weeks of June — what a great way to spur excitement at the start to the winter season! Of course the iconic Opera House is truly amazing (see one of MANY, continually rotating color displays below):


Sydney Opera House.jpg

Similarly, what are you doing to attract new customers, employees and other partners during your low season? Or when everyone else is worrying about oil prices, the economy or something else? Or, what are you doing to generate excitement over what you already have (current products, services)? The Opera House isn't new! One of my best clients hired top talent at the bottom of the recession when he didn't have specific work ready. It has come back to him in spades!

One tip to implement this week:


Think about what you could do this week to rejuvenate one of your classic products or how you could get your customers excited about a new twist or view of what they've been receiving for quite a while. Ask your colleagues. Often, the best ideas come from where you least expect it. You could also simply get them together to share ideas and best practices — who doesn't want to hear more on that topic? I still laugh when I remember what James said (a Planning Manager who reported to me when I was a VP of Operations of PaperPak) — referring to forecasting models in a software we used, he said, "Why would we ever choose a forecast method other than the one called 'best'?"   


It doesn't have to be as extravagant as Vivid Sydney (as that is not doable in a week anyway). What small step could you take that might be a new way of looking at your product, service or customer experience? Vivid Sydney had to start with one lighting design or idea.


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…”

organizational performance.jpgOne of our favorite clients recently related back to one of our service lines and why we call it "Eagle Eye.” Because just like an eagle, he worked with us to pick out the priorities (prey) rapidly and accurately — and "make it happen". What else is there to say? He got it. There are lots of strategy experts but FEW who can execute and make it happen!


Our client was in the building products industry at the height of the recession with real estate prices in the toilet and construction on a dramatic slowdown. Of course, our client was not the only company in the industry to struggle. The key is how to reduce costs while being able to service customers slightly better than the competition. In this case, 5% improvement was enough to drive sales and stand out in the crowd — quite important in the middle of a nasty recession!


In this case, we completed an organization-wide assessment of people/culture, processes and systems while evaluating distribution center size, margins, items, and innovative alternatives. Could we reduce our overhead base while finding a way to edge out the competition with service?


Although systems are always a part of our projects as they tend to be one aspect of the total equation, they rarely, if ever, are "the" solution. However, in this case, we uncovered an opportunity to leverage functionality unique to this configure-to-order industry that would provide an advantage in speed and service while minimizing the cost — and utilizing an already-existing asset (and one that was cost prohibitive for the competition to purchase during the recession) — a great yet unexpected "no-brainer" emerged.


However, this seemingly obvious strategic advantage wasn't clear to anyone prior to the organization-wide review. Oftentimes, our best ideas and solutions are sitting right in front of us but we miss them. Take a step back and make sure you are seeing the trees in the forest. Do any look like unique opportunities? Undoubtedly, there will be one if you look hard enough!


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


What is Eagle Eye Strategic Focus?


Are You Working on the Right Priorities?


IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgThis past weekend, I visited my good friend's step-mom, and she is a master at communication. Undoubtedly, she can "win" any conversation with anyone at any time, and the other party will be happy with the outcome. Wouldn't we all like to be this good?!?


One of the examples she used yesterday relates back to "it all depends on the question or how you position the conversation". For example, she knew she wouldn't be permitted to move around Russia while on a visit to see her late husband's family, etc. during the cold war; however, she wanted to go to Leningrad. Knowing if she went to the police/ government office to get her passport for this plan that she'd be turned away, she thought about how to phrase and position her request. Of course, she was successful. I can't tell you how many stories she has told about how positioning the conversation made an impossible situation "work". 


In thinking about this, do you think you should put extra thought into how you ask questions or position conversations? Do you get the result you desire — every time? I have yet to meet someone with 100% success; thus, it seems utilizing this 95-year-old's wisdom might be a good idea.


One tip to implement this week:


The great news about this topic is that you can make progress over time. Start by thinking before you speak. Everyone can do that immediately. Think about what you want the outcome of your conversation to be. 


This simple step alone can be monumental. Once you know what you'd like to accomplish, think about how you can ask the question so that you move in the direction you'd like to go. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.


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…”