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Showing posts from 2012

Bootstrappers, we don't have it easy, but Magic Pens gives us hope!

Today's post is a bit different... Not talking about any supply chain or job specifically, but I wanted to touch on something that's been on my mind a lot recently with my co-founded startup Body Boss Fitness.  That, and David Cummings has a great post about this: part-timing to build a product and company -- great post and tough lesson (see article here).  It highlights a few very important lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs especially the need to run full-speed on a project.  That being said, I'd also like to  point out a few take-aways specifically for those aspiring entrepreneurs (this list is not all inclusive nor exhaustive, just immediately on my mind).  

Building a business is tough.  Taking the plunge is not for everyone understanding there are life circumstances and personalities that necessitate bootstrapping a project.  Wheels may spin, and it'd be great to have that all crucial customer feedback soon and up front.  The key, I believe, is continuous learning…

Employee Morale to Make Black Friday (Thursday) Happen... Thanksgiving Thoughts and Tributes

Today's post, not so much supply chain specific, but just as ninjas should be, I'm going to be flexible and talk about employee morale and culture.  I just finished reading an article by Fortune magazine re-posted on CNNMoney.com titled "Wal-Mart and the perils of ignoring staff complaints" (article is linked here).  I know myself and countless others have been thinking about how Black Friday has not-so-subtly crept into Thursday with many retailers opening their doors at 8PM on Thanksgiving Day.  It's like 2013 car models have hit showrooms in August 2012 or Christmas decorations the day the spider web, pumpkins, and other Halloween decorations are taken down. But this time, creeping Black Friday into a holiday... that's interesting.

The article primarily talks about how unhappy staff members are kept out of the loop of big changes (i.e. opening doors at 8PM on Thanksgiving Day for Wal-Mart).  The staff are now forced to work on a holiday where we, the consum…

Second to market is the way to go (but don't tell me that)

Going hand-in-hand with my most recent post about how everyone copies one another (How to Survive: Read the Market or Just Simply Read What's On Your R&D Presentation), I received this in my email as part of my newsletter subscription to Strategy+Business -- the article is titled "The Value of Being Second" by Oded Shenkar (see article here).

In the article, I nod my head in agreement with every word.  Shenkar cites a chapter from Eli Broad's The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking.  I like to think I'm a thinker (else, why would I have a blog?), and I'm also a perceiver of the world.  That is, I like to sit back -- no wait, I lay in bed unable to sleep at night -- and reflect on the world around me.  And so I sit there and I think about how so many of the former companies of great stature, great products have just disappeared out of existence while new companies just take the world by storm.  Again, going back to my previous arti…

How to Survive: Read the Market or Just Simply Read What's On Your R&D Presentation

I just read an interesting article about how Nokia actually had research and made internal presentations about devices similar to the iPhone and iPad 7 YEARS BEFORE Apple ever actually introduced the iPhone.  Former Nokia Designer Frank Nuovo rummages through his old notes and presentations, and recalls how his team had all the research and development on where the mobile industry was going -- "the Nokia team showed a phone with a color touch screen set above a single button" [1].  Yet, with all this foresight and research, it was Apple who actually invented the iPhone, not Nokia.  Nokia believed in its core basic phones even to the day Apple turned the mobile industry right-side up in 2006. 

This reminds me, too, of Xerox's PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) back in the 70s when they actually developed the first PC.  Xerox spent boatloads of money in researching and developing new tech including the programming environment we're all familiar with today with mice and th…

What motivates Ninjas, and it isn't fruit...

Ninjas in Supply Chain (like yours truly), front-line customer service, Accounting, anywhere and everywhere are motivated by a number of factors.  It's not necessarily fruit, either.  (From the popular mobile and Microsoft Kinect game Fruit Ninja.)  For some, motivation comes from factors such as a good work environment (next to a beach?), money, or other external factors called extrinsic motivators. For most, motivation comes from sources of intrinsic motivators such as vertical job ascension (read: promotions), recognition of work, and other internal, personal factors.

I recently stumbled upon a TED talk of Dan Pink back in July 2009: The puzzle of motivation.  What a great talk.  You can watch the video here. [1]

Dan discusses the people aspect of motivation and their true motivators -- the battle of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.  In business school, half the students would argue money is a massive motivator.  However, money is also one of those factors which only causes wo…

SC Ninja's Thoughts on "Leadership Lessons from Nick Saban" by CNNMoney and Fortune

During my wait for the bus this morning, I did my daily ritual of scanning a select set of websites.  And this morning on CNNMoney, I read an excellent (and lengthy) article about Nick Saban, Head Coach of University of Alabama's football program.  Titled "Leadership Lessons from Nick Saban" (see the article here -- actually, this article will be in the September 24th issue of Fortune), I couldn't help but be intrigued.

Throughout the article, I smiled and laughed.  No, it's not a funny, humorous article.  Instead, it reinforces so much that I've been thinking, and what I've been hearing throughout my consulting experience and in business school.  

Coach Saban developed what is referred to in the locker rooms in Tuscaloosa (and his prior stops at Michigan State, LSU, etc.) as The Process.  Instead of focusing on W's, Saban preaches to his players to trust The Process.  Trust the coaching and fellow team members' skills.  "Saban keeps his player…

Reverse Logistics and Supply Circles: The Manufacturer's Competitive Advantage

Today, I am excited to introduce to you Max Moriarity as a guest writer for today's post.  Max provides an interesting  perspective on Reverse Logistics (RL).  All too often, I hear of RL as a pure service-related play.  However, Max shares good insight on how manufacturing companies can leverage the RL supply chain as a competitive advantage.  

This is a snapshot of manufacturing as a grand industry(-ish), but as I pointed out in the RL blog post earlier this month, some companies do redeploy returned assets into other programs.  And in some instances,  companies are able to harvest parts (a.k.a. parts reclamation) from returned product to be used to refurbish other products (i.e. refurbished phones from the earlier article).  This is a huge cost mitigation strategy and an area flourishing in the high-tech industries especially.  Before I get too excited, here's Max:

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McKinsey rel…

Excuse Me, Your Reverse Logistics Is Starting to Smell

Irv Grossman, VP of Supply Chain Operations in Chainalytics, wrote a very interesting article regarding the similarities between fishing and Reverse Logistics.  If you haven't had a chance to read it, go ahead and take the time to read it first (here) and then come back.

What I've seen, as has much of the industry, is a growing focus on the Reverse Logistics side of the supply chain.  Reverse Logistics (RL) is the inverse of Forward Logistics (FL) where RL encompasses products from the consumer back upstream.  In contrast to FL, RL can embody much more complexity as it's dependent on potential failures (think: general buyer's remorse, warranty, insurance, etc.) in addition to the lead time associated after new product launches.  (FYI, there's more reason it's very complex -- I'm being kind and simplifying to a couple main points.)

As Mr. Grossman points out, cycle times from receipt to disposition of assets once the assets have re-entered the supply chain ar…

Leveraging Strategic Sourcing to Impact Your Bottom-Line Quickly

Jon Stegner’s famous article “Gloves on the Boardroom Table” is a classic example of not just leaders in denial (for my business school friends) but also the opportunity in procurement – specifically, strategic sourcing.  The article can be found here.  I’ll downplay the leaders in denial aspect in favor of the Supply Chain benefits in the article – Jon describes the opportunity in cost savings opportunities within his organization.  Convinced of significant savings opportunities, Jon tasked his summer intern to gather various gloves (yes, something so simple) across the factories in his organization, and what he found was staggering… FOUR HUNDRED TWENTY-FOUR different gloves were being used across the factories.  Many of the gloves were similar but their costs could vary greatly.  In one case, two gloves which were nearly identical were marked one for $3.22 and the other $10.55.  Jon Stegner proceeded to lay out all 424 gloves on the boardroom table for his peers to witness the oppor…

How's the health of your company?

What is the state of your business?  If I were to ask you how are your operations faring, would you hesitate?  What about the trends?  Has operations been reducing no-trouble found/ cannot-duplicate rates?  Is your call center not asking the right questions when triaging customer complaints thereby letting through costly non-warrantable devices?  Has your days of stock inventory levels been trending positively or negatively?  Are you hitting your targets?
Successful companies know how operations are running daily.  Not just the leaders of the company but from the ground-level up.  Paramount to understanding the state of your business is relevant, actionable reporting.  Call them KPIs – that’s Key Performance Indicators for those of you who don’t know. 

In today’s business, analysts, managers, and executives alike are inundated with loads of data.  However, it’s not always a sure thing that stakeholders know not only what to look for but how.  I’ve been lucky enough to have consulted at…

To be an effective consultant (part 2)

I wanted to continue my first post on being an effective consultant with this -- the sequel.  What I mentioned before greatly hinges on the ability to quickly learn but adaptation and becoming a SC Ninja is more than learning.  Another attribute and key ingredient to being an effective consultant is blending in, too.  I mentioned "blending in" earlier but want to touch on this a bit more.

Clients and stakeholders typically aren't likely to care much for your fancy clothes, fancy cars, whatever.  In fact, fancy clothing and fancy cars (rental or otherwise) can actually be a strong turn off and even lead clients to believe they're paying too much.  The Great Recession has reignited the need for clients to cut costs.  Sometimes, clients need consultants to help identify those costs, but they aren't willing to net zero when the costs for consultants are so much more.  So when entering any project, be sure to know what the dress code is like at the client site.  Don…

To be an effective consultant

To be an effective consultant, supply chain or otherwise, you have to be able to adapt.  As a Supply Chain Ninja, I have to be a chameleon... to be able to blend into my surroundings and new engagements.  Otherwise, you end up sticking out like a sore thumb and you don't pick up new projects quickly.  You must be able to adapt and to learn on-the-fly.  This... this is the key to being an effective Supply Chain Ninja.

One example of this: 
I had one project with a Major Steel Tube Producer and Manufacturer.  The client was looking for operational and systemic improvements in the warehouse co-located within its steel mill.  However, I had limited experience in the steel industry.  As a project team, we were completely transparent with the Client's Executive Team in our relative limited experience in the steel industry; however, we had a plethora of experience and qualifications in warehouse operations.  

To be effective and deliver exceptional results, we utilized our past experien…