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Cliff Holste

Supply Chain Digest
Material Handling Editor

Logistics News

Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

April 27, 2016

Logistics News : Adopting a Systematic Approach to Problem Solving


Careful Analysis is Key to Finding the "Needle in the Haystack"

 

When operational problems occur, one thing is certain – doing nothing guarantees that the situation will not improve and most likely will get worse. Oftentimes, the issues that negatively impact on operations are obscured by the routine of day-to-day business. There may be a general feeling or sense that operations could be improved, but fixing the situation is not so obvious and not yet a high priority.

What’s needed is a systematic approach. When poor performance is suspected, first investigate and collect data at the source of the problem. Make sure a specific problem isn’t a symptom of a still far greater problem perhaps more serious in nature. Sometimes it’s the subtle problems which sap the operation’s vitality. Dig deep. This sometimes requires outside help from an industry expert. Take enough time. Set a realistic schedule.

Holste Says...

Moving ahead too quickly and/or with incomplete data defeats the whole systematic approach and can ultimately defeat the initiative.

What do you say?

Click here to send us your comments

The following are specific actions that will assist in properly defining and improving operations:

1. Investigate and assemble pertinent data

2. Analyze the data

3. Apply proven operational and processing principles

4. Develop and test potential solution(s)

4. Integrate solution(s) organizationally through a comprehensive training program

5. Evaluate results and fine tune

Collecting and analyzing data can be challenging. Getting everyone’s input can be a time-consuming effort spread over days, if not weeks. This “in–the-trenches” work needs to be done in order to uncover the not so obvious contributing factors. Once all the input has been collected and documented, data analysis, preliminary engineering, and economic justification of the probable solution(s) can be completed. Moving ahead too quickly and/or with incomplete data defeats the whole systematic approach and can ultimately defeat the initiative.

It’s a good idea to remember that given the constant changes taking place throughout the consumer marketplace, new operational problems and issues are going to popup. Therefore, having a disciplined continuous improvement approach for resolving them is a really good idea.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to know in advance where the operations potential vulnerabilities are. One suggestion we received from a veteran ops VP is to involve associates who are not specifically connected to the operation or department being scrutinized, and who therefore, can provide an “off-the-wall” idea with impunity. It’s the “can’t see the forest for the trees” idea.

Any reaction to this Expert Insight column? Send below.


Your Comments/Feedback

Srihari

Senior Consultant, Infosys
Posted on: May, 22 2016
Great article. I am a little suprised not to see BNSF in the mix while I understand their financial mode/operation is a little different. 

That would only give a complete perspective with all the players in the pool.

Mike O'Brien

Senior editor, Access Intelligence
Posted on: May, 26 2016
Surprised to see Home Depot fall off the list; thought they were winning with Sync?

Julie Leonard

Marketing Director, Inovity
Posted on: Jun, 27 2016
Using the right tool for the right job has always been a best practice and one of the reasons, we feel, that RFID has never taken off in the DC as exponentially as pundits have been forecasting since 2006. While these results may seem surprising to those solely focused on barcode scanning, the adoption of multi-modal technologies in the DC makes perfect sense for greater worker efficiency and productivity.

Carsten Baumann

Strategic Alliance Manager, Schneider Electric
Posted on: Aug, 19 2016

The IoT Platform in this year's (2016) Hype Cycle is on the ascending side, entering the "Peak of Inflated Expectation" area. How does this compare to the IoT positions of the previous years, which have already peaked in 2015? Isn't this contradicting in itself?

Editor's Note: 

You are right, Internet of Things (IoT) was at the top of the Garter new technology hype curve not long ago. As you noted, however, this time the placement was for “IoT Platforms,” a category of software tools from a good number of vendors to manage connectivity, data communications and more with IoT-enabled devices in the field.

So, this is different fro IoT generally, though a company deploying connected things obviously needs some kind of platform – hoe grown or acquired – to manage those functions.

Why IoT generically is not on the curve this year I wondered myself.

 

 

Jo Ann Tudtud-Navalta

Materials Management Manager, Chong Hua Hospital, Cebu City, Philippines
Posted on: Aug, 21 2016

I agree totally with Mr. Schneider.

I have always lived by "put it in writing" all my work life.  I am a firm believer of the many benefits of putting everything in writing and I try to teach it to as many people as I can.

This "putting in writing" can also be used for almost anything else.  Here are some general benefits (only some) of "putting in writing":

1. Everything is better understood between parties involved.  There are lots of people types who need something visual to improve their understanding.
2. Everyone can read to review and correct anything misunderstood.  This will ensure that all parties concerned confirm the details of the agreements as correct.  This is further enhanced by having all parties involved sign off on a hard copy or confirm via reply email.
3. Everything has a proof.  Not to belittle the element of trust among parties involved, it is always safest to have tangible proof of what was agreed on.
4. There will be a document to refer to at any time by any one who needs clarification.
5. The documentation can be useful historical data for any future endeavor.  It provides inputs for better decisions on related situations in the future.
6. This can also be compiled and used to teach future new team members.  "Learn from the past" it is said.

There are many more benefits.  Mr. Schneider is very correct about his call to "put it in writing".





Sandy Montalbano

Consultant, Reshoring Initiative
Posted on: Aug, 24 2016
U.S. companies are reshoring and foreign companies are investing in U.S. locations to be in close proximity to the U.S. market for customer responsiveness, flexibility, quality control, and for the positive branding of "Made in USA".

Reshoring including FDI balanced offshoring in 2015 as it did in 2014. In comparison, in 2000-2007 the U.S. lost net about 200,000 manufacturing jobs per year to offshoring. That is huge progress to celebrate!

The Reshoring Initiative Can Help. In order to help companies decide objectively to reshore manufacturing back to the U.S. or offshore, the nonprofit Reshoring Initiative's free Total Cost of Ownership Estimator can help corporations calculate the real P&L impact of reshoring or offshoring. http://www.reshorenow.org/TCO_Estimator.cfm

Robert

Transportation Manager, N/A
Posted on: Aug, 30 2016
 Good article!  I am sending this to my colleagues who work with me.  We have to keep this in mind.  Thanks!

Ian Jansen

Mr, NHLS
Posted on: Sep, 14 2016
SCM is all about getting the order delivered to the Customer on date/ time requested because happy Customers = Revenue. Using the right tools to do the right job is important and SCM is heavily dependent on sophisticated ERP systems to get right real data info ASP.

I've worked in a DC with more than 400,000 line items and measured the Productivity of Pickers by how many "picks" per day.

I've learned that one doesn't have to remind Germany about your EDI orders.

Don Benson

Partner, Warehouse Coach
Posted on: Sep, 15 2016
Challenge - to build and sustain effective relationships at the level of the organizations that are responsible for effectively coordinating and colaborating in an otherwise highly competitive environment 

Jade

Admin, Fulfillment Logistics UK Ltd
Posted on: Oct, 02 2016
Of course we all need to up our game. We need to move with the times, and always be one step ahead of what the future will bring.

Mike Dargis

President of asset-based carrier based in the Midwest, Zip Xpress Inc. (at ZipXpress.net)
Posted on: Oct, 03 2016
Thanks for the article, but I know there's a lot more to this issue than just the pay rates. Please check out my blogs on the subject at www.zipxpress.net.

Blaine

Inventory Specialist, Syncron
Posted on: Nov, 16 2016
Lora, great article! I agree that companies choose the 'safe' solution more often than not. My solution is a bolt-on for legacy ERP's and we even face challeneges of customer adoption. Most like to play it safe and choose an ERP upgrade, which is more costly, time consuming, and has lower ROI across the board. Would love to learn more about your company, we are always looking for partnerships.

Blaine
blaine.schultz@syncron.com

Bob McIntyre

National Account Executive, DBK Concepts LLC
Posted on: Nov, 21 2016
This is a game changer in GE's production and prototyping.  It also has huge implications across the GE global supply chain with regard to the management of their support and spare parts network. 

Kai Furmans

Professor, KIT
Posted on: May, 22 2017
I am referencing to the comment that leasing of warehousing equipment (beyond forklift trucks) is a vision for 2030.
Just recently in Europe, such a business model has started, see here: https://next-intralogistics.de/

I am following with a lot of interest, how the business develops.

Stuart Rosenberg

Supply Chain Consultant, First Choice Supply Chain
Posted on: Jun, 05 2017
If we limit the standard on judging or determining the best supply chain to just three calculations it does not tell the entire picture.  Financial performance metrics are valuable as they capture the economic consequences of business decisions.  But supply chain managers make decsions and use organizational resources that impact a company's financial well being.  Where is a firm's earnings over a period of time determined by sales less product costs and general/adminsitrative costs?  Where is the metric for determining the sources and uses of cash from three perspectives - operational, investment and financial?  Where are these supply chain metrics: on-time delivery, lead time, response time to customers, product returns, procurement costs, network distance, inventory carrying costs, forecasting accuracy, sourcing time, etc,.  Without knowing the results of all these supply chain calculations the there must be a question as to the accuracy of the 25 top supply chains.

Dustin Calitz

Project Commercialization Manager, Mondelez
Posted on: Jun, 06 2017
I feel this ranking misses the mark in SC. It does not seem to consider a key indicator in days inventory on hand, which is key to determining a SC company's ability to forecast, manage inventory costs and reduce aged stock. In additiion I realize it's difficult to understand what goes into the customer survey, but would I assume specific metrics are being asked. For examples customer's opinion on service level differentiation and the ability to deliver the right product on time, which should then be allocated a bigger weighting than 10%. It would also be interesting to take a view of the above list's SKU portfolio complexity, seasonality and launches/promotions. I would again assume some companies on the list above have a far more complex SC to manage and lead, ultimately requiring a lot more innovation within a SC to stay ahead of competitors, and ultimately satisfy their customers demands.  I understand above metrics are difficult to measure, as mentioned in the article, but they somehow need to be considered to give a true reflection. 

Michael Hurd

Lean Consultant, Unemployed
Posted on: Jun, 10 2017

A Very Good Article...

While some feel that lean is a scam that pushes for more out of the personnel and out of the companies through reduction of waste and adding value for the customer, there are several things to remember:

1) Lean methodologies are designed and implemented to reduce time wasting, so this may seem that you are working harder as an employee.

2) Lean methdoligies only work when everyone from the janitor to the owner of the company get involved and back the program.

3) Lean methods are there to make you work smarter not harder, although it may feel you are working harder.

4) YES... Sometimes lean methodologies fail! This is due to project overun or taking on too large a problem and trying to fix it all in one go and not taking the smaller problems that are associated with the large problem and fixing them first. Sometimes fixing the small problems leads to resolution of the larger problem.

Akhil

Director Supply Chain , skuchain
Posted on: Jul, 31 2017
The Supply Chain technology is not considered a problem because traditionally supply chains are thought to be cost centres unlike sales functions. The tendency, in general, to limit expenses and cost cutting on upgrades for technology and for talent have been hindering progress for the businesses. Supply chains lack real time visbility and above all trust across the value chain (not that the participants are dishonest) rather it's about the cascading effects referred to as the bull-whip effect which causes higher magnitudes of disruptions. 

Supply chain real time information should top the list .

Another problem is that of multi homing as so much data is available across several feeds of IOT/Email/Internet /Mobility/ERP that organisations tend to have issues around finding a single platform to collate them for meaning analysis. 

Blockchain (if deployed appropriately) can be a great solution for solving the issues around the supply chain.

Mike Ledyard

Vested Program Faculty, Vested Way / University ofTennessee
Posted on: Aug, 04 2017
Excellent article.  It very much points to the need for Shared Risk / Shared Reward as we teach at Vested.  Suppliers will respond when they are made part of the team, and they have a lot to bring to the game.  The service provider is the subject matter expert in the services provided, and in an excellent position to enhance the capabilities and services offered by the shipper.

Andrew Downard

Managing Director, AD Supply Chain Group Pty Ltd
Posted on: Aug, 05 2017
As the article points out it is not a lack of technology that is holding back performance but rather a failure to form the right sort of relationships.  As well as the length of such relatiohships, practitioners should consider employing arrangements that incentivise both parties to innovate and deliver levels of performance and profit that neither thought possible.  By far the best model I have come across to achieve this is the Vested Outsourcing model developed by researchers from the University of Tennessee.  See www.vestedway.com for information on the model and case studies that show how others have benefited from creating a Vested deal.

Najma

logistics, threelineshipping
Posted on: Aug, 23 2017
Very informational article. The major focus of logistics is on e-commerce. There is a need to optimize every component of logistics by following the latest trends and technologies. Thanks for uploading this article.

Sameer Shukkla

Consulting Partner, Wipro Inc.
Posted on: Sep, 17 2017
I have recently co-authored a white paper with my colleague wherein we have looked at 2 fundamental guiding principles  -

1. Always have enough to Sell / Produce
2. Do not have excess to Sell / Produce

These 2 Golden Rules can be the foundation of keeping optimal inventory levels and for organizations to achieve the same. We have looked at a framework which tries to reduce the phase mismatch between Demand & Supply, and tries to bring the shape of the supply curve closer to shape of the demand curve.

We have classified symptoms and underlying root causes for the above "Phase mismatch" and "Curve Mismatch" between Demand and Supply, and then talked about addresssing those individual root causes to strive towards Leaner Inventory levels while maintaining or improving service levels.

So to answer your question, we feel the Companies which have addresed these causes have been able to keep DIO horizontal or even going down, while others have not been able to control rising DIO because of not addressing the root causes.

Simon Eagle

SCM Consultant, Camelot MC
Posted on: Sep, 17 2017
You ask why turns are flat or declining despite lots of attention and technology. The answer is, I think, 2 fold: the supply chain environments VUCA (Volatliity, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) is on a continuous upward curve and this means that forecast accuracy inevitably declines in parallel - and much of that inaccuracy is hidden by the statistics. For instance a company with, seemingy good, 80% mix accuracy will find that figure is skewed so high by the few high volume / low variability items. 80% of the items will be achieving considerably less than 60% error.

So most item level forecasts used for driving replenishment through an MPS (be it ERP or APS) are simply leading to unbalanced stocks, service threats and continuous expediting / fire-fighting. These schedule interrutions are "variability" that is disrupting flow and, thereby, increasing lead-times, using unplanned capacity and generating excessive (and still unbalanced) inventories.

The replacement in ex-stock supply chains is "enterprise(s)-wide" pull which also uses "push" for extreme/exceptional events. Its other key characteristics are that the supply chain is decoupled and is demand-driven. And now it can be implemented using SAP since they announced they they have co-developed an enhancement for IBP that supports this transformational way of working - up to 50% inventory reduction, requiring less capacity and shorter lead-times all while achieving planned service levels. See https://www.camelot-itlab.com/en/camelot-demand-driven-lean-planning-suite-for-sap/ and https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/supply-chain-flow-what-why-how-simon-eagle/


John Smith

Research & Development, Octopus Tech Solutions
Posted on: Sep, 18 2017
IoT is without a doubt starting to become a major factor in the profitability of various companies. In the manufacturing sector, we will see it come into the front by the end of 2020 completely. Various sectors have already adapted IoT solutions like the security industry or companies offering BPO Services India. Contact centers not just in India and China but across the world have adapted technology following the principles of IoT. The manufacturing sector is soon going to follow.
 
 
 
 
 

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