Monday, June 4, 2012

Supply chain challenges in 2012

2012 may well be the most challenging year since the great depression of the 30's. The Euro crisis may have to come to a conclusion somehow, and some countries may have to take the bitter medicine in order for the region to re-organise itself for a more focused re-development. It is a critical stage of a renaissance that Europe needs to redefine itself for the future. The longer it takes to resolve, the worse it may become. The American dollar and debts may not be an issue if the money can be borrowed and printed without any control. This may not be feasible in the long term from the banking and financial accounting standpoint. The most subtle solution may be to reduce the prices of goods and services, forcing some kind of deflation, and allowing people to have a chance to move on with life with whatever little income they may have. With many people unemployed and homeless, a new social-economic model may have to be developed that focus less on GDP growth. Something out-of-the-box solution is needed to address the trillions of dollars of debts, and return to basics. The BRICS may have found an innovative solution to the currency crisis with the use of Renminbi or Yuan as an alternative international currency. This global shift taking place may have serious impact on the supply chain with a possible focus on the emergence of Asia as the major supply hub to service the goods needed for the world market. It is definitely something that WTO Doha Round has not anticipated, and will find it sensitive to try forcing through the implementation of WTO 2020 free trade vision for the time being. Has the Mayan calendar ending on the 21st December 2012 affecting the global supply chain? With all the knowledge of MRP II/ERP, demand pull system and agility, we may have to review the global supply chain competitiveness. 2012 may be the most significant year to define the global virtual supply chain management. Time to review the knowledge and practices of SCM for the survival into the future.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Education, training or paper qualification for SCM

Education, training or paper qualification

Many top management may be disappointed with their heavy investment in information and communications technologies (ICT), simply because the R.O.I. cannot be attained as planned. After spending hundreds of millions on consulting, implementation, software and hardware, more often than not the key users may still resort to their own spreadsheets to carry on their day-to-day job functions.

It is quite possible that the management begin to look for MBA holders to help in salvaging the ERP or SCM systems that are not effective after painstaking efforts in implementation. Soon the key users will still be reluctant to change the way of using spreadsheets to help them in their job because of the inherent flexibility. It is not so much of denial or resistance to change, but they need a strong leader to help them in integrating the business processes with the ICT solutions supported whole-heartedly by the people. Not that the MBA holders cannot help them, but the gap of communication may be the stumbling block, more so if the cultural issues have not been solved.

The management may then begin to embark on professional certification programmes to ensure that the operations management and key users are having some form of qualification. The problem is that some of the certification examinations are really testing the understanding of the concepts rather than how to use the concepts in the practical environment. There are also organizations that can sell questions to simulate the examinations, so the participants can buy the thousands of questions to practice. Upon passing the examination, the management may be disappointed that these certified practitioners are still the same old self without any improvement in the knowledge and practices.

Management coaches will probably conclude that it is not the qualification, but the knowledge and the ability to use them in practice along with the people skills and teamwork, in order to bring about cultural change.

It is simply the cultural change that is the most difficult part to change.

It is not just having somebody who has passed the certification examination teaching others how to pass the examination.

In order to change the culture of the organization, applied psychology may be needed on top of fundamental education. The management coach must be able to provide the leadership to reach out to the heart of the participants to achieve the sincere and unwanvering commitment, before feeding their mind about the knowledge and practices. It is back to the need for effective education to open up the heart and mind of the participants in order to inspire and motivate them to develop the habits of continuous improvement and innovation.

Start the cultural change now in order to transform!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Significant A to Z Challenges of SCM

The significant A to Z challenges to effective SCM

When Toyota Production System has been used as the foundation for Lean Manufacturing, many companies begin to learn how to go lean. After some years of transformation, people begin to get tired of the many challenges. Some of the issues are listed below for general discussions:

a) Top management not walking the talk due to excessive supply chain issues, IT project creep, resistance to change, and problematic planning and control systems
b) Top management get stressed due to mis-information
c) KPI’s and performance measurements look good but the primary objectives of SCM have not be addressed effectively
d) Management and staff turnover resulting in the inability to sustain a consistent corporate culture and value system
e) Difficulties in achieving level production strategy due to high product mix and long set-up time
f) MPS performance has been erratic because time fences were set to zero planning period
g) Bill of materials accuracy problems
h) VMI cracking up due to the bullwhip effects and inventory inaccuracy
i) ERP system not providing accurate visibility and inventory accuracy
j) Cycle counting programme is not able to improve inventory accuracy
k) Customers not happy with the delivery services and quality
l) Lack of effective integration or synchronization of people, processes and IT
m) Over usage of raw materials and components due to scrap
n) Inconsistent quality even after ISO certification, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, TQM or other initiatives
o) Project consultants do not understand the actual business issues and rushing to implement a wrongly configured ERP/SCM systems
p) The HQ insist in rolling out a standardized configuration for all branches and subsidiaries throughout the world, ignoring the significance of local business practices
q) We have the managers and they are paid to ensure effective and efficient SCM
r) The critical mass have their own islands of information and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, so we need middleware to integrate the IT solutions. The end result if the weak accountability when there are discrepancies
s) The customization of ERP solution at US$12,500 per man-day is not solving the SCM problems, and it is creating a significant project costs over-run. It is creating more problems than solutions
t) The people with Six Sigma black belt, Lean certification, SCM certification and some fanciful certifications are not able to help to mitigate the day-to-day SCM problems. A lot of fire fighting but the problems do not seem to go away
u) People become very defensive during any SCM meetings, and a lot of finger pointing. The leaders seem to be lost in charting a correction direction forward
v) Nobody seems to be addressing the root cause of the SCM issues resulting in a very stressful working environment
w) There seem to be a number of teams working on enhancing financial performance, business process improvement, customer focus, as well as learning and innovation, so that it can satisfy the Balanced Scorecard. Unfortunately, the alignment and integration have been very lacking
x) Everybody seems to be working longer and longer hours, so much so it does appear to be short-handed.
y) If Toyota is losing billions of dollars in this economic downturn, does that mean Toyota Production System or Lean Manufacturing have inherent deficiencies that need to be addressed to avoid any future mishaps?
z) Is there a perfect SCM solution out there?

The A to Z SCM issues are a collection of the challenges faced by the top management, middle management and operations management. They are the opportunities if we can address them effectively.

It is not the job of CEO alone, but the top down management direction and bottom up execution and implementation. The need to integrate and synchronise cannot be played down because of the inherent resistance to change.

In the next economic upturn, the masters of SCM are the ones to reap better profit and organization dynamics.

Time to change.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Challenges of supply chain management during a recession

The recent recession starting third quarter 2008 has been drastic, and many enterprises have been hit hard due to the deep plunge in the sales revenue.

What started as a sub-prime debacle had created a chain reaction similar to a domino effect. The oil price dropped drastically thanks to the consumer panic and restraint on spending.

It was not easy to manage the supply chain strategic planning if the decision support system or the business intelligence were highlighting a transient decline in sales, but without any other data to justify a potential economic tsunami. Maybe a thorough regression analysis and the extrapolation could point towards a downward spiral, but top management was finding it difficult to establish the quantum of the likely damage in terms of the level of decline of sales revenue.

This made demand management a real challenge as to what should be a reasonable realistic demand for the next 18 to 24 months. This is probably why level production strategy, of producing a fixed volume month in month out, became a financial nightmare if no timely decision were made. On the other hand, the chase strategy would be able to adapt to the situation with greater ease resulting in massive costing reduction measures. With the inherent hiring and firing tactic associated with the chase strategy, many people were retrenched in order for the corporate survival. It is not easy to conclude whether level or chase strategy can be more effective, although it may be better to have hybrid strategy with multiple supply chain strategies for different products and demographics.

This “Bermuda triangle” shock has compelled us to be agile, flexible, responsive and adaptable in order to survive.

The agility methodology that has been evolving has always been advocating that PEOPLE are the most flexible, responsive and adaptable facet of a competitive enterprise. It is timely to develop the people to have the holistic knowledge and skills to innovate and improve the supply chain processes continuously to be enabled by IT solutions that can be re-configured to suit the requirements.

Education and training must be on-going to ensure the thinking process of the people do not stagnate or become complacent. There must be that “hunger” for new challenges, knowledge and skills to make human capital competitive.

Extended enterprise business model has been seen as a viable corporate strategy, more so with the unavoidable globalisation with the notion of making products andywhere by anybody credible

Monday, October 6, 2008

Business transformation and be counted

Business transformation and be counted

There may not be that many differences between September 2008 and September 1998 afterall.

In 1998, I was at the state of Pennsylvania USA, communicating with Dr. Alvin Gunneson about the Agility Methodology and how it could be applied to corporations based in Asia. Unfortunately at the end of the business trip, there was the dawn of the Asian financial crisis that caught many nations by surprise. Many nations collapsed and were later bailed out by the IMF.

In 2008, I was greeted in Liverpool with the bad news of Lehman Brothers and the collapse of the British XL Leisure leaving many of the travelers stranded in various parts of the world. When I moved over to Kansas City USA for the APICS International Conference, there was the big shocking news of financial trouble at AIG and other financial institution. The financial crisis has hit USA and Europe, and will this spill over to Asia?

Global economy getting turbulent

With the crude oil shot up to US$180 or so, the world was reacting frantically to knee jerks in the drastic increase in the price of petrol, food and other products and services.

Most people begin to change the lifestyle and managed to reduce the spending on petrol and others. The crude oil was forced to go below US$100 due the significant decrease in demand. The turbulence may have lasted one to two quarters, but the damages have been created in one way or the other.

Financial industry in US and Europe in crisis

The US government will have the bail out bill to prevent the collapse of the financial industry. This is going to be US$800 billion in the first round and then probably another US$800 billion some time later. With trillions of dollars needed to mitigate the potential damages, it will be critical that the US economy can withstand the test of time.

The EU government probably will take a different approach by not initiating the bail out but instead allow for other mechanisms to come into play so as to reduce the potential damages.

Recalling Dr. Jack Welch’s infamous “Cost Down or Close Down” directive

When Dr. Jack Welch was tasked with the transformation of GE, he did not hesitate to introduce drastic measures and directives, to ensure that the senior management of all the subsidiaries got the loud and clear message of “Cost Down or Close Down”.

The people might not have stomached the directives well, but then GE was transformed permanently. However, that was not enough for GE to be globally competitive, so the next directive was to be “number one or two, or out you go”. The rest is history.

Dr. Jack Welch was voted the most successful and famous transformist of the 20th century.

The destiny of some of the British great corporations

During my studies at the University of Liverpool, I had the opportunity to work with Pilkington Brothers and BICC Group of Companies. Pilkington was the world’s largest floating glass manufacturer but lost the competitiveness and was taken over by other manufacturing group. BICC lost the world’s number one position in cables manufacturing, and could not regain the former glory. Globalisation and internationalization have created new global giants and affected the conservative ones into sunset or takeover target.

Now that Range Rover and Jaguar have been taken over by the Indian Tata Group, we may see many more international takeovers and mergers.

The Internationalisation of the University of Liverpool

The rather conservative red bricks university has been going places. The on-line MBA has been a great success globally. The Suzhou campus is growing from 1,000 students to 2,000 students in a short period of time through a joint venture.

There will be a Graduate School being set up in India, and plans to have more of this in other strategic locations.

APICS’s New Product Introduction (NPI)

APICS has woke up from the over dependence of the decades old Certified in Production & Inventory Management (CPIM), and begin to develop new products. Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) was launched in 2006. Lean Enterprise and Global Sourcing courses are launched in 2008.

This drastic transformation is the reflection of the need to ensure that professional certifications have to be customer-focus and demand-driven. This is in line with lean enterprise and supply chain management.

The Way Ahead

Business transformation seems to be the way ahead for every organization or enterprise in order to survive the impact of globalisation and internationalization.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lean Supply Chain Management

Lean Supply Chain Management

The global economy is subject to cyclical ups and downs, enterprises have to transform to cope with internationalisation and globalisation. The collapse of some of the banking giants may be just the tip of the icebergs of the challenges ahead. The US$700 billion bail-out of the American financial industry is absolutely necessary to avoid the repercussions and chain reaction as well as possible massive loss of employment. What will happen to the rest of the world is yet to be seen, and some nations may not be able to survive the financial "tsunami". The potential damages may surface some time in the future.

In a turbulent marketplace, it can be traumatic for the traditional supply chain management that is centred around the decades-old time-tested re-order point technique coupled with the easy to operate MIN:MAX inventory control. More so if the enterprises assume that the future will repeat the past performance without the ability to accommodate possible variation due to intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

The fact that Dell Computer have decided to sell off the manufacturing plants to the would-be contract manufacturers within the next 18 months can be a very good corporate strategy. This is probably in line with the Agility Methodology and the Agile Virtual Enterprise Conceptual Framework, whereby corporations transform to capitalise on the core competencies and leverage with others to remain globally competitive. Apple Computers and HP have been adopting the agility business model for some time now. It is little surprising that Foxconn becomes the world's leading Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) for some of the greatest global brands. The Foxconn Taiwanese owner started off the company in Taiwan as Hon Hai (Red Sea) and venture into China with Foxconn to create a blue ocean with an annual sales of US$70 billion. A success story that has not be well publicised but Mr. Guo is the richest man in Taiwan.

Toyota sale revenue is around US$0.25 trillion per annum and is now the second largest car maker in the world. The famed Toyota Production System (TPS) as been incorporated into the Lean Manufacturing process framework, and have become popular for manufacturers and enterprises wanting to achieve good customer service, high quality product, low cost production, good management, respect for people, short manufacturing lead time, short cycle manufacturing, continuous improvement and all the best practices for planning and execution.

While many enterprises are busy trying to figure out how to implement lean enterprise, Toyota continue to achieve significant success and brand power through the very fundamental philosophy of simplification and standardisation. While Toyota continuously perfect the leadership, management and people development, many enteprises may be too caught up with trying to fit TPS into a rather complex manufacturing environment. The outcomes are often fairly predictable due to the less effective approach of trying to live with the existing habits, norms, performance, systems, traditional management, incompatible metrics, and culture.

Lean does not happen overnight. It requires a subtle cultural change, extensive education & training, value stream process mapping and simplification, a paradigm shift, continuous improvement & innovation, and effective people development and management.

It is time to go lean to survive the global competition.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Made In China

Made in China Phenomenon

China is now the production super house of the world, and the world has a lot to learn from the supply chain management challenges of this amazing emerging economy.
It is worth researching on how Western management thinking and practices as well as ERP technology can enhance China's production supremacy.

a) High volume, low cost and reasonably good quality
The dominance of the Made in China products has made "Everyday Low Price" possible for most of the supermarkets and hypermarkets. It does appear that this phenomenon is unstoppable at the moment.

With more than 1.2 billion people to feed, China have to use the simple law of material conversion or transformation, to produce products in high volume, low costs and of reasonable good quality to be sold in any parties on a willing buyer willing seller basis.

A very important corporate strategy is to sell products to the customer with the focus on the basic objectives of quality, cost, delivery, flexibility and service. The supply chain strategy has been centred around the 24/7/365 modus operandi to maximise machine utilisation and labour efficiency.

The interesting development is China's ability to attract billions of dollars of foreign direct investment yearly with very competitive incentives and the opportunity of penetrating the domestic market itself. The foreign investment has also help to produce the much needed human capital to sustain the enviable economic growth.

The dis-satisfaction of a portion of the Tibetan population, the earthquake in Sichuan, and other recurring flood problems have put China to test. However, they have sufficient resources to overcome or contain the issues at hand without external help. This self reliance is in itself a very important national pride.

b) China versus the rest of the world
The WTO,s Doha Round and subsequent roundtables on the move towards globalisation and trade liberalisation may be a distinctive advantage to China.

The trade liberalisation of garment and textile nearly crippled Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and some other smaller economies. Without interference from USA and EU, China would have virtually total control of the global market. After intensive negoatiation, some form of quota system has to be implemented to allow other countries the chance to survive through export.

In the foreseeable future, it is unthinkable to allow trade liberalisation of any other industrial sector. As a result, the compromised interim solution is to have nation-to-nation free trade agreement (FTA) to allow for some form of regulated liberalisation.

c) Ensuring high employment rate
The life expectancy of the people of China is increasing, and is a real cause of concern. This is further complicated by the one-child per family policy resulting in a very obvious ageing population.

The government of the day must keep reinventing to ensure high employment rate, so that the people do not become a liability in the socialist system. In certain part of China, it is a challenging task to motivate people to work and earn less if they were to be unemployed.

d) Efficiency and effectiveness of supply chain management (SCM)
There are grouses and complaints about the Logistics and SCM in China, but the consolation is that the goods eventually reach the intended destinations.

The Western management believes in the heavy usage and reliance on information and communications technologies, China has an abundance of affordable human resources to get things done albeit slightly slower than expected.

There is also the contention that ICT can enhance the speed and efficiency of mundane transaction and routine processing, but it may not provide the effectiveness.

Perhaps when it comes to creativity and innovation in logistics and SCM, the human factor is critical for decision making.