Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

Several years ago I started collecting coins. I love the beauty of a nicely preserved coin; just looking at the year on the coin takes me back to that time and place in history.

In addition to the usual proof sets most numismatists collect, I also like to collect coins that reflect unique times in history such as US steel war pennies and Japanese occupation dollars.

A few years ago I started collecting hyperinflation currency – currency issued by a country during a time of hyperinflation. Hyperinflation is extremely rapid or out of control inflation – a situation where the price increases are so out of control that the concept of inflation is essentially meaningless. Hyperinflation often occurs when there is a large increase in the money supply not supported by gross domestic product growth, resulting in an imbalance in the supply and demand for the money. This causes prices to increase, as the currency loses its value. Soon even the largest denominations of the country’s currency has so little buying power that consumers need to bring a wheelbarrow of currency just to buy a loaf a bread. To respond to this, the government begins to issue larger and larger denomination bills. Finally the denominations reach such ludicrous levels and have so little value that the currency totally collapses. One of the most famous examples of hyperinflation occurred in Germany between January 1922 and November 1923. By some estimates, the average price level increased by a factor of 20 billion, doubling every 28 hours.

One of my favorite pieces of hyperinflation currency in my collection is my 100 Trillion Dollar bill from Zimbabwe when by 2008 their inflation rate had reached 231,150,888.87%. Use of the Zimbabwean dollar as an official currency was effectively abandoned on April 12, 2009.

Venezuela is currently experiencing hyperinflation. According to estimates released by the International Monetary Fund, inflation in Venezuela is projected to increase 481% this year and by 1,642% next year. To put that in perspective, in February of 2016 acurrency McDonald’s Happy Meal in Caracas cost $146 dollars at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar

So how does a country with more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia end up with armed guards on food delivery trucks, 3 mile long lines to buy basic food, people dying due to lack of basic medical supplies and more poverty than Brazil?

1)      Price Controls

As part of his Bolivarian Socialist Revolution, Chavez implemented price controls on goods. The government set prices at which retailers can sell goods.  If you violate a price control and sell your goods for a higher price, the government will jail the business owner and nationalize (seize) their business. As a result of these price controls, it cost farmers more to grow the product than they could sell it and it cost factories more to produce an item then they were allowed to sell it. The logical conclusion to this scenario occurred – the farmers stopped growing crops and the manufacturing facilities stopped producing goods. The government’s response – jail the business owners and seize their factories and farms. The Venezuelan government was totally unqualified to run these factories and farms; as a result, they have all been shuttered.  This lead to a huge imbalance in trade and Venezuela started to import almost everything from basic foods to medical supplies. This works great as long as the government has the huge revenue income required to support those types of subsidies.

2)      Oil Prices have Fallen

For years, the country has been deeply dependent on its vast oil reserves, which account for 96 percent of export earnings and nearly half its federal budget. That was manageable when oil was selling at more than $100 dollars a barrel. Venezuela now needs oil prices to reach $121 per barrel to balance its budget however oil is hovering around $50 per barrel.  Add to that the fact that oil from Venezuela is very thick and difficult to refine making it not as desirable as light sweet such as Brent Crude. This has forced Venezuela to import oil to blend with their oil to make it saleable in the current market.

3)      Crippling Foreign Debt

Since 2005, Venezuela has borrowed $50 billion from China as part of an oil-for-loans agreement. Venezuela exports more than 600,000 barrels a day to China, however nearly 50 percent of that goes to paying off its existing debt to China. The situation has gotten so bad that Venezuela is selling its gold reserves to pay foreign debt obligations.

4)      Currency is in Freefall

Venezuela’s bolivar recently fell past 1,000 per U.S. dollar in the black market. That means that the country’s largest denomination note of 100 bolivars is now worth less than 10 U.S. cents. The currency has lost 81 percent of its value in the last 12 months. This makes a bad situation much worse for a country that imports almost every basic need. For comparison purposes to truly understand how bad hyperinflation is getting in Venezuela, a  doctor working in the country’s national health care system makes $15 per month. As of this writing, a 1kg bag of apples in Caracas costs $18. A liter of whole milk was $5.14. A 40” flat screen TV was $5,889. (U.S. dollars, assuming an exchange rate of 0.15748 USD per Venezuelan Bolívar. Source is a crowd-sourced cost-of-living comparison site).

Sadly for the good people of Venezuela, it is almost inevitable that their currency, the Bolivar, is destined for my hyperinflation currency collection. But what is the lesson that we as Supply Chain professionals can take from this tragic situation? Perhaps that supply chains and markets must be free to find their own price and value; and that governments cannot run a government properly, much less a factory.

 

One of our main activities at Profit Point is to help companies and organizations to plan better, to make informed decisions that lead to improvements such as more efficient use of resources, lower cost, higher profit and reduced risk. Frequently we use computer models to compare the projected results for multiple alternative futures, so that an organization can better understand the impacts and tradeoffs of different decisions. Companies can usually effectively carry out these types of processes and make decisions, since the CEO or Board of the entity is empowered to make these types of decisions, and then direct their implementation.

Infrastructure and resource allocation decisions must be made on a national and international basis as well, and are usually more difficult to achieve than within a company. An example of this today is the on-going controversy in southeastern Asia regarding the use of water from the Mekong River in the countries through which it flows: China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
For a map of the river and region, refer to the link below:

http://e360.yale.edu/content/images/0616-mekong-map.html

The Mekong River rises in the Himalayan Mountains and flows south into the South China Sea. For millennia the marine ecosystems downstream have developed based on an annual spring surge of water from snow melt upstream. The water flow volume during this annual surge period causes the Tonle Sap River, a Mekong tributary in Cambodia, to reverse flow and absorb some of the extra water, resulting in a large temporary lake. That lake is the spawning ground for much of the fish population in the entire Lower Mekong river basin, which is in turn the main protein source for much of the human population in those areas.

Now China has an ambitious dam construction program underway along the upper Mekong, and other countries (along with their development partners) are planning more dams downstream. Laos, for one, has proposed construction of eleven dams, with an eye towards becoming “The Battery of Asia”.

The challenge here is to find and implement a resource allocation tradeoff that meets multiple objectives, satisfying populations and companies that need clean water, countries that need electricity to promote economic development and fish that need their habitat and life cycle.

Multiple parties have developed measures and models that can help forecast the impact of different infrastructure choices and water release policies on the future Mekong basin. Let’s hope that the governments in Southeast Asia are able to agree on a reasonable path forward, and implement good choices for the future use of the river.

For more information here are a few examples of articles on the Mekong:

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/05/mekong-dams/nijhuis-text

http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/the-lower-mekong-dams-factsheet-text-7908

In developing a supply chain network design there are many criteria to consider – including such factors as the impact of the facility choices on
• Cost of running the system,
• current and future customer service,
• ability to respond to changes in the market, and
• risk of costly intangible events in the future
to name a few.

Frequently we use models to estimate revenues / costs for a given facility footprint, looking at costs of production, transportation, raw materials and other relevant components. We also sometimes constrain the models to ensure that other criteria are addressed – a constraint requiring that DCs be placed so that 80% of demand be within a day’s drive of a facility, for instance, might be a proxy for “good customer service”.

Some intangibles, such as political risk associated with establishing / maintaining a facility in a particular location, are difficult to measure and include in a trade off with model cost estimates. Another intangible of great interest for many companies, and that has been difficult to make tangible, is water risk. Will water be available in the required quantities in the future, and if so, will the cost allow the company to remain competitive? For many industry groups water is the most basic of raw materials involved in production, and it is important to trade off water risk against other concerns.

As I wrote in a previous blog published in this forum,

There are several risks that all companies face, to varying degrees, as global water consumption increases, including
• Physical supply risk: will fresh water always be available in the required quantities for your operations?
• Corporate image risk: your corporate image will likely take a hit if you are called out as a “polluter” or “water waster”
• Governmental interference risk: governmental bodies are becoming increasingly interested in water consumption, and can impose regulations that can be difficult to deal with
• Profit risk: all of the above risks can translate to a deterioration of your bottom line.

The challenge has been: how to quantify such risks so that they can be used to compare network design options.

Recently a post entitled “How Much is Water Worth” on LinkedIn highlighted a website developed by Ecolab that offers users an approach to monetization of water risks. This website allows the user to enter information about their current or potential supply chain footprint – such as locations of facilities and current or planned water consumption – and the website combines this information with internal information about projected GDP growth for the country of interest, the political climate and other factors to calculate a projected risk-adjusted cost of water over the time horizon of interest.

This capability, in conjunction with traditional supply chain modeling methods, gives the planner a tool that can be used to develop a more robust set of information that can be used in decision-making.
For more details visit the website waterriskmonetizer.com

Many of our activities at Profit Point are focused on helping clients in identifying and implementing changes that improve the efficiency of existing supply chain networks, ranging from planning to operations and scheduling.  In the short term we are usually trying to find ways to use existing capabilities more effectively, but as you look out over longer time horizons supply chains evolve to develop new links, and these must be considered as you plan.

One instance of this evolution was described by my colleague, John Hughes, who recently wrote about the rise of a “New Silk Road”– a rail network stretching through Western China, Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus to Europe – used for transporting manufactured goods from Asia to meet demand in Europe.

But Asia has a complementary demand that must be met for their manufacturing systems to function, the demand for energy to power their factories and cities.  The growing worldwide demand for energy, and for faster routes to market, is opening up another new link in the global trade routes – the Northern Sea Route, a maritime route connecting Pacific ports with Europe via the Arctic.

Lawson Brigham, professor of geography and Arctic policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, was recently quoted on the arcticgas.gov website as saying “What’s really driving the Northern Sea Route is global commodity prices and natural resource development, particularly in Russia.”

The northern reaches of the earth are currently hotbeds of energy development, and much of the activity is focused on adding Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production capacity.  Projects are on-line or in progress stretching from the North Slope in Alaska to the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia to Hammerfest in Norway.  The Northern Sea Route offers quicker shipments of many of these supplies to major Asian ports, shaving ten to twenty days off one-way transit times from Russia and Norway to ports in Korea and China, compared to routes through the Suez Canal.

Climate change has made these routes generally ice-free for several months of each year, and thus more cost effective, but ice-strengthened cargo ships, with icebreaker support, are still required to keep the route open in the colder months, thus driving up the costs.

Supply chain planning activities on a global scale will over time need to expand to consider the potential impact of these types of shipping options.  Keep an eye out for this and other new links in the global chain as they become available – change is inevitable.

 

For a more information on this route see articles like these:

http://www.arcticgas.gov/northern-sea-route-beckons-lng-shippers?utm_source=Arcticgas.gov+Distribution+List&utm_campaign=bed180a217-Northern+Sea+Route+beckons+LNG+shippers&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7eb428ef8a-bed180a217-407625618

http://arcticjournal.com/business/102/chinese-make-first-successful-north-sea-route-voyage

3D Printing and the Global Supply Chain

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital model.  It is achieved by laying down successive layers of material, as opposed to the traditional machining techniques of removing material by drilling and cutting.  3D printing is usually performed by a materials printer using digital technology.

Taking a digital image of a toy and printing out a near-perfect replica of it seems sci-fi and surreal, but rapid technological advances in 3D printing being developed make this and even more possible.  Printing metal parts with increased strength makes machines even more viable and cost-effective in manufacturing.  Additionally, an entire part can be 3D printed in a single machine, eliminating multiple touch points in traditional manufacturing and reducing failures.  The newest futuristic trend in 3D printing is to go huge:  using robotics to deposit building materials in an orchestrated and precise way to build large structures made up tons of interconnecting parts.

3D printing is a reality.  A recent Forbes magazine article, “What Can 3D Printing Do? Here are 6 Creative Examples” lists several ways in which 3D printing have been used:

  • In 2012, doctors from University of Michigan developed a tracheal splint made from a polymer and created directly from a CT scan of a baby’s trachea/bronchus using image-based computer model with laser-based 2D printing to product the splint.
  • Both General Motors and Ford Motor Company have used 3D printing to make prototypes of vehicle parts used in testing and design.
  • Nasa has used 3D printing recently to make a rocket engine injector and use it for major hot fire testing.
  • Defense Distributed, a high tech gunsmith group, created the world’s first 3D printed gun called the “Liberator”.
  • Prosthetics including a 3D printed bionic ear created by Princeton University scientists have been developed.

3D Printing of Consumer ProductsAlthough 3D printing has been around since the 1980’s, a differentiating trend has emerged this year that could make 2014 pivotal:  3D printing machines are now being used to manufacture a large variety of consumer products not just heavy machinery and structural components such as aircraft parts.  The printers are expensive and the 3D pictures required to print are difficult for most – a mainstream breakthrough in 3D printing could be seen in the near future as printers become cheaper and easier to use.

What could the Supply Chain of tomorrow look like if and when 3D printing takes off?  It has the potential to transform certain parts of manufacturing and supply chains over the long term. Traditional supply chains are often characterized by mass production of products driven by forecasts and pushed to customers through a warehouse distribution network, with long lead times, high transportation costs and large carbon footprints.  A 3D supply chain would be distinguished by having customized production, be “pulled” by customer demand, locally printed and distributed, have short lead times, low transportation costs as well as low carbon footprint.  It will create a demand for smaller factories that would take offshore manufacturing and bring it close to the consumer.  Goods will be cheaper to reproduce domestically versus manufactured offshore and shipped from low-wage countries.  Because new technologies currently being developed result in a significant proportion of manufacturing becoming automated large and costly work forces would be reduced.  In addition to distribution cost reduction, storage would also be a reduced as products could be made quickly in response to demand as opposed to meeting service levels via inventory and safety stocks.

Although it is a huge leap to go from printing a single object on a 3D printer to replacing an entire manufacturing enterprise and thus allowing any business or individual to become its own homegrown factory, Gartner Group calls it the “beginning of the Digital Industrial Revolution which threatens to reshape how we create physical goods”.  If that “threat” becomes reality, then it promises to reshape how we consider and optimize our current Supply Chain.

When we help our clients improve their supply chains the first step in the process is usually to identify what problem they need to solve, or what questions they are trying to answer. Examples of such questions might be

  • What will be the impact of several possible capital investments in our distribution system?
  • A major customer is considering changes in their manufacturing – how should we respond?
  • How can we improve the assignment of available production / inventory to customer orders?

After pinning down the objectives, the focus will then shift to the design of a planning model, or a software system, that will help them to address the identified needs. We find that a key design tenet for the model, or the scope of the supply chain to be covered, is to include enough detail to be able to answer the questions at hand, but no more.

A typical supply chain will stretch from procurement of raw materials to manufacturing to distribution to customers (and possibly beyond, on either or both ends.) Part of capturing the supply chain behavior will be to define the transformation of materials along the chain. This can be done by defining a bill of materials, or BOM, which defines the quantities of input ingredients that are required at a point in the supply chain to make an output material of interest. For instance, if you are a baker then your BOM is your recipe – e.g. the amounts of flour, buttermilk, leavening and various other ingredients required to make the batch of biscuits.

Deciding on the detail of the materials going into the BOM, and getting the right quantities for the BOM, is a key step in properly modeling the supply chain. If you are working at an operational supply chain level, the BOM will need to be detailed enough to actually make the product, but many times in a planning situation, it is reasonable to omit some of the detail, and only capture the main flows of product through the system. You will need to make these decisions based on your project objective.

For instance, if you are modeling a beverage company’s supply chain, water may be a key ingredient in the production process. If the question you are trying to answer for the beverage company is whether traditional warehouses vs. crossdocks is a better distribution solution for a part of the territory, then you may decide that the sources and cost of water for the production facilities will not have a big impact on the answer, so you can omit the water consumption from the analysis. On the other hand, if the objective of the analysis is to evaluate the impact of alternative future production locations on the company’s overall environmental impact and commitment to sustainable practices, then water for production (and waste water, and other intermediate or byproduct materials) would likely need to be included in the production BOMs.

Making good choices in defining your BOM is one of the important steps in getting a supply chain model to help you answer your questions effectively. Our extensive supply chain experience allows us to bring a large knowledge base to the assignment when we are helping our clients design in enough detail, but no more.

Nearly 50 years ago, a 22 year-old musician from Minnesota released his third folk music album in as many years. The title track “The Times They Are a-Changin” warned the listener “you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin.” Critics were confounded because not only was a mere kid from Hibbing wagging a parental finger at an entire country, but nearly everyone knew he was right. Those who declined to change with the times were sure to be left behind. That kid, of course, was Bob Dylan.

The Old Road Is Rapidly Aging

This musical detour has a purpose: there is crucial wisdom in that song for small businesses and entrepreneurs. While five short years ago “going green” was an optional choice for workplaces, now even the biggest companies have committed to more sustainability in their operation. In fact, not going green can put your operation at a competitive disadvantage.

Who Went Green!?

Wal-Mart is leading the charge in business sustainability. A week ago, the corporate giant released a 126-page progress report on its efforts to be a more socially responsible and sustainable company, something they’ve done annually since 2008. These reports can be found here, if you’re interested. However, the company’s biggest step may be the inclusion of a “Sustainability Index Score” (SIS) on their products near the price tag. These scores rate the environmentally-friendly factor of product packing and production.

Make no mistake; Wal-Mart has not gone soft. While they enjoy their greener status, they’re most excited about how the changes have affected their bottom line. Consumers want to feel good about the products they buy, and want to feel like they’re making environmentally responsible purchases. Wal-Mart believes these SIS scores will give customers peace of mind when they shop in the retail chain.

Wal-Mart has also installed skylights in their stores and painted the roofs of their buildings with reflective white paint, which shaved a cool $1 million from their electricity bills last year.

In a few short years, the once villainous company has become a model for sustainability, and their commitment has made them more profitable.

Now Is The Time

Wal-Mart’s sudden obsession with sustainability is a microcosm of a larger trend showing that running a green business is no longer only a strategy for courting progressives: it is the new norm. Yet, it has always been admittedly easier to want to be sustainable than it is to be sustainable, especially since many business owners already have their hands full with the usual challenges of day-to-day operations in a less-than-stellar economy.

Nevertheless, things have changed from the way they were a few years ago. Many of the obstacles that were deal-breakers are no longer there, or at least they’re not so insurmountable. Since more businesses have committed to being environmentally conscious, collectively, they’ve learned how to be better at it. Here are some tricks other small business owners and entrepreneurs have picked up along the way that can help make your green transition go smoothly, save money, and make your business more attractive to potential customers:

  • Commit – If you’re serious about becoming more sustainable, you have to commit. This applies especially to small businesses with multiple employees. Putting a recycling can next to the garbage is a good start, but you can go further. If you’re a small business leader, you must communicate to your employees “this is the way we do things here from now on.” Successful conversions require strong leadership.
  • Self-Audit – Do an energy/waste audit of your business. Take a look at your business on a macro-level, and look for ways you can be more efficient. This could be as small-scale as better using the timer on your thermostat, or as large as finding distribution routes for deliveries with less stop signs and stop lights.
  • Upgrade – Upgrade your building where you can. Many hot water heaters and toilets, for example, are decades old and are very inefficient. They use loads of water and run for a long time. Newer units can drastically reduce water bills. Newer air conditioning and heating units are also much more efficient than their predecessors. Note: do some research on government rebates. Sometimes there are some pretty awesome kickbacks for upgrading to more efficient technologies.
  • Track Your Progress – Tracking your energy savings is wonderful for everyone at a business. It’s nice for you when you’re paying the bills at the end of the month, but it also gives your employees ownership of the company’s green growth. This gives them proof that their hard work has paid off and gives them motivation to keep it up in the future.

Continuing with the theme of ownership, encourage your employees to be innovative and creative, always looking for ways to be more sustainable. After all, someone had to think of Wal-Mart’s sustainability scores.

Now

Yes; for the past decade the terms “green” and “sustainable” have been used ad nauseum, but it is unfortunate if this dilutes their importance. Sustainable businesses are not part of a fad that will soon disappear; they’re the new standard. Not only are they more ethical, but they’re also more profitable. Times have changed, indeed.

Hopefully, upon reading this, something you can change has already popped into your mind. What are some of the new ways you’ve come up with to go green? Have you already instituted changes in your small business that are providing a profitable return?

Author: Brent Hardy is Vice President of www.extraspace.com, responsible for all corporate construction & facilities management. He writes about corporate sustainable practices at blog.extraspace.com/category/sustainability.

Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become. “My father always said that”. Margaret Thatcher

The year 2012 is behind us. If you are like me, you may not have accomplished all the goals that you had in mind at the beginning of the year. No worries, the year 2013 is before us.

Here are Seven Rights of Fulfillment taken from the CSCMP website, which I believe are relevant for our industry, but also can be adopted as a framework for your goals for this year:

1. The right product
2. To the right customer
3. At the right time
4. At the right place
5. In the right condition
6. In the right quantity
7. At the right cost

The ability to meet customer requirements is built upon the expectation that everything is done correctly in the supply chain. In the quest to provide quality service and satisfy customers, world-class companies along the supply chain are guided by these Seven Rights of Fulfillment.

Goal setting involves establishing specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted goals. Take a moment right now and think of one goal that you want to accomplish in 2013. Done? You just primed your subconscious.

Manufacture and delivery of a company’s products usually consume a wide array of materials, either directly or indirectly, ranging from rare commodities like titanium or zinc, to the most basic, such as water. Given the explosive growth of world population in recent history, and the resulting increases in consumption of food and other products, and the finite nature of raw materials, the sustainability of the supply chain over time is a growing planning concern for many companies.  Water is often a key focus in their planning, whether it is the main ingredient in their product, as it is in the beverage industry, or a major component, as it is for power generation, paper production, mining and many other industries.

One way to measure the water impact of companies (or countries, or production of industrial or agricultural products, such as textiles, rice or beef) is through the calculation of a “water footprint”, which can help identify what water is used (both directly and indirectly), where it comes from, and the relative efficiency of its use.  This concept is discussed in detail on the website www.waterfootprint.org  which has a wide array of statistics, as well as an interactive water footprint calculator and the option to download extensive research materials.  According to the website 92% of total water consumption in the world is associated with agricultural use.  However, since agricultural products are raw materials in many corporate supply chains, and are shipped from one location to another around the world, nations and companies effectively consume water from around the world.  The figure below shows major international water consumption flows, taking into account such factors as goods consuming water in production in one part of the world are shipped to a consumer in another area.

Source:Mekonnen and Hoekstra (2011)

 

Why should a company be concerned about their water consumption?  There are several risks that all companies face, to varying degrees, as global water consumption increases, including

  • Physical supply risk: will fresh water always be available in the required quantities for your operations?
  • Corporate image risk: your corporate image will likely take a hit if you are called out as a “polluter” or “water waster”
  • Governmental interference risk: governmental bodies are becoming increasingly interested in water consumption, and can impose regulations that can be difficult to deal with
  • Profit risk: all of the above risks can translate to a deterioration of your bottom line.

But with risk comes opportunity – planning for your water consumption, and footprint, as part of your supply chain analysis, and acting in response, can keep you ahead of the curve!

 

Change is hard.

Collapsed Souffle

Collapsed Souffle

So why do it? Why change when you can be the same?  If you have a well-worn recipe to make a great soufflé, you know that the risk of tampering with that recipe can result in the collapse of the soufflé. So why change what is already working?

In the businesses that I help, change comes for several reasons. It may be thrust upon the business from the outside, a change in the competitive landscape for instance, or a new regulation.   It may come from some innovative source within the company, looking for cost savings to increase profitability of productivity, or a new process or product with increased productivity. Change can come from the top down, or from the bottom up. Change can come in a directed way, as part of a larger program, or organically as part of a larger cultural shift.  Change can come that makes your work easier, or harder, and may even eliminate a portion (or all) of the job that you were doing. Change can come to increase the bottom line or the top line. But primarily change comes to continue the adaptation of the company to the business environment.  Change is the response to the Darwinian selector for businesses.  Adapt or decline. Change is necessary.  It is clear to me from my experience that businesses need to change to stay relevant.

This may seem trite or trivial, but accepting that change is not only inevitable, but that it is good, is the shift in attitude that separates the best companies (and best employees) from the others.

So, you say, I see the need to change, it is not the change itself that is so difficult, but rather the way that it is inflicted upon us that makes it hard.  So, why does it have to be so hard?  Good question.

Effective managers know that change is necessary but hard. They are wary of making changes, and rightly so.  Most change projects fail. People generally just don’t like it.  Netflix is a great example.  Recently, Netflix separated their streaming movie service from their DVD rental business. After what I am sure must have been careful planning, they announced the change, and formed Quikster, the DVD rental site, and the response from the customer base was awful. As you likely know, Netflix, faced with the terrible reception from their customer base and stockholders, reversed their decision to separate streaming from DVDs. What was likely planned as a very important change, failed dead. Dead, dead, dead. Change can be risky too.

If change is necessary, but hard and risky… how can you tame this unruly beast?

The secret of change is that it relies on three things: People, Process, and Technology. I name them in the order in which they are important.

People are the most important agents relative to change, since they are the one who decide on the success or failure of the change. People decided that the Netflix change was dead. People decide all the time about whether to adopt change. And people can be capricious and fickle. People are sensitive to the delivery of the change.  They peer into the future to try to understand the affect it will have on them, and if they do not like what they see…  It is the real people in the organization who have to live with the change, who have to make it work, and learn the new, and unlearn the old. It is likely the very same people who have proudly constructed the current situation that will have to let go of their ‘old’ way of doing things to adopt to the new. Barriers to change exist in many directions in the minds of people.  I know this to be true… in making change happen, if you are not sensitive to the people who you are asking to change, and address their fears and concerns, the change will never be accepted.  If you do not give them a clear sense of the future state and where they will be in it, and why it is a better place, they will resist the change and have a very high likely hood of stopping the change, either openly, or more likely passively and quietly, and you may never know why the fabulously planned for change project failed.

Process is the next aspect of a change project that matters.  A better business process is what drives costs down. Avoiding duplication of efforts, and removing extra steps. Looking at alternatives in a ‘what-if’ manner, in order to make better decisions, these are what make businesses smarter, faster, better.  A better business process is like getting a better recipe for the kitchen. Yet, no matter how good a recipe; it still relies on the chef to execute it and the ovens to perform properly. Every business is looking for better business processes, just as every Chef is looking for new recipes.   But putting an expert soufflé recipe, where the soufflé riser higher, in the hands of an inexperienced Chef does not always yield a better soufflé.  People really do matter more than the process.

Technology is the last aspect of the three that effect change. Better technology enables better processes. A better oven does not make a Chef better.  The Chef gets better when they learn to use the new oven in better ways, when they change the way they make the soufflé, since the oven can do it.  A better oven does not do it by itself.  An oven is just an oven. In the same way, better technology is still just technology.  It by itself changes nothing.  New processes can be built that use it, and people can be encouraged to use it in the new process.  Technology changes are the least difficult to implement, and it is likely due to this fact that they are often fixed upon as the simple answer to what are complex business problems requiring a comprehensive approach to changing the business via it people, process, and technology.

Nice Souffle

Nice Souffle

Change is necessary, but hard and risky. Without change businesses will miss opportunities to adapt to the unforgiving business world, and decline. However, change can be tamed if the attitude towards it is changed to be considered a good thing, and is addressed with a focus on people, process and technology, in that order.  Done right, you can implement the change that will increase the bottom line and avoid a collapse of your soufflé.

Rich Guy

The rise of zombies in pop culture has given credence to the idea that a zombie apocalypse could happen. In a CFO zombie scenario, CFO’s would take over entire companies, roaming the halls eating anything living that got in their way. They would target the brains of supply chain managers and operations people. The proliferation of this idea has led many business people to wonder “How do I avoid a CFO zombie apocalypse?”

Supply chain managers are seeking and developing new and improved ways to exploit the volumes of data available from their ERP systems. They are choosing advanced analytics technologies to understand and design efficient sustainable supply chains. These advanced analytics technologies rely on the use of optimization technology. I am using the mathematical concept of “optimization” as opposed to non-mathematical process of making something better.

Mathematical optimization technology is at the heart of more than a few supply chain software applications. These applications “optimize” some process or decision. Optimization-base programs, for example, those frequently found in strategic supply chain network planning, factory scheduling, sales and operations planning and transportation logistics use well-known mathematical techniques such as linear programming to scientifically determine the “best” result. That “best solution” is usually defined as minimizing or maximizing a single, specific variable, such as cost or profit. However, in many cases the best solution must account for a number of variables or constraints. Advanced analytics technologies can improve a company’s bottom line – and it can improve revenue, too! CFO’s like this.

Advanced analytics technologies provide easy-to-use, optimization-based decision support solutions to solve complex supply chain and production problems.  And, these solutions can help companies quickly determine how to most effectively use limited resources and exploit opportunities.

So, from my perspective, there are seven practical reasons to embrace advanced analytics technologies:

  1. Your company saves money, increases profits.
  2. You get to use all your ERP system’s data.
  3. It’s straightforward and uncomplicated.
  4. You have the tools to discover great ideas and make better decisions.
  5. At the end of the day, you know the total cost of those decisions.
  6. You have a roadmap to make changes.
  7. You avoid the CFO zombie apocalypse

We recently attended a discovery meeting that was focused on how to conduct a strategic optimization planning study of an existing distribution network. The company wanted to know what changes needed to be made to lower the distribution costs. Several members of the management team were present and there were many questions regarding the ideal business process, study approach and modeling tools to be used to insure a successful project.

What was interesting to me was the overwhelming focus on the modeling tool. Questions about who would be on the project, the timeline, the types of scenarios, data gathering and validation were secondary. It may be important to have the right tool to model your infrastructure, but the real focus should be on the experience and modeling capabilities of the users of the tool.

These are the Critical Success Factors

  1. Full participation in data gathering and results review by the project team and management.
  2. Clear definition of the key questions to be addressed and the related scenarios required by the Project Sponsor early in the project timeline.
  3. Availability of leadership resources within the company throughout the project to review assumptions and to ensure integrity and quality of the input.
  4. On time delivery of a complete set of all required data by Project Team members.
  5. Acceptance and agreement on the variable, fixed and capital cost assumptions of existing and potential new facilities.
  6. Availability, communication, and collaboration of the Project Team members, support staff, and consultant for all working sessions, conference calls, and follow-up between meetings.

It’s important that the optimization modeling tool can incorporate the variables and constraints associated with your supply chain, but the real focus should not be on the tool, but rather on the experience of the users of the tool and their ability to deliver the results of a project. If I were to set out on a network optimization planning project to model my entire supply chain, then my primary focus would be on developing an experienced team of individuals that had the skills to minimize the above risks.

“Going Green” is becoming a higher priority for companies large and small, as regulatory bodies and consumers around the world push for more readily-available information on corporate carbon footprints and companies’ plans to control / reduce their carbon emissions.  But how do you do this most cost-effectively?  Optimization is a tool that can lead to better “green” decision-making.

First, let’s review of the types of decisions that companies are making today.  Here are some real world examples from recent press reports…

Dole Food Company,  the world’s largest producer of fruits and vegetables, has committed to make its banana and pineapple business in Costa Rica carbon neutral over the next decade.  Dole social responsibility officials Sylvain Cuperlier and Rudy Amador recently highlighted their priorities in achieving this in an interview :

  • measurement of current carbon footprint and activities, such as the use of fertilizers,
  • research into and collaboration on mitigation and sequestration projects, and
  • improved  operations, including increased use of rail transportation on land and more energy-efficient refrigerated containers for maritime shipments.

Tyco Waterworks, a worldwide supplier of water system equipment based in the UK, has documented its consolidation of multiple manufacturing plants into a single Manufacturing Centre of Excellence for meter boxes, plastic injection molding and gunmetal products in Bridgend, South Wales.  Having all its manufacturing under one roof results in a reduction in the company’s overall energy consumption and transport, with a resulting positive impact on its carbon footprint (as well as giving operational efficiency benefits.)

Xerox Corporation, which provides document services and equipment around the world, maintains a fleet of 5,000 vehicles used by its technicians in the United States as they respond to customer requests for service.   Tony Rossi, Xerox’s manager of programs and operational support, said in an interview that his programs, which have reduced fuel consumption over the last several years by 10%, and have a goal of a 25% reduction, can be grouped into four categories:

  • pairing each driver with the best-sized vehicle for his / her needs,
  • improving the fleet’s fuel efficiency as vehicles are replaced,
  • tracking driver routes and distances traveled on a daily basis, and
  • using GPS systems to match available technicians against pending requests as they are dispatched during the day.

The common thread?  These companies have made progress towards their cost and carbon goals by

  • understanding their current situation, and what their options include,
  • implementing more efficient operations over their existing supply chain (thus generally using less energy and lowering their footprint), and
  • making the most effective capital additions to their supply chain systems when justified.

Optimization techniques can allow you to identify the best solutions that are possible in improving efficiency and implementing capital projects.  Thus you can make the best choices for meeting your goals from the options that you have at hand.

In making decisions for a manufacturing-oriented supply chain like the one described for Tyco Waterworks above, a network design tool like Profit Network can help you evaluate the benefits of:

  • keeping or consolidating existing facilities, as well as,
  • opening potential manufacturing sites, taking into account
  • capital costs,
  • shutdown charges,
  • manufacturing rates and costs,
  • freight costs, and
  • and a host of other costs and constraints on operations.

Profit Network uses a combination of linear and mixed integer programming and related optimization techniques to guarantee that you evaluate a range of solutions and identify those that are best for your particular needs.  Potential decisions that can be evaluated include both operational changes and choices among proposed capital projects that will lead to greater efficiency.

Xerox and Dole have scheduling problems that can be solved by both optimization and heuristic means.  The Xerox technician dispatching problem is a variation on the mathematically well-studied Assignment Problem, which can be solved using “greedy” algorithms (which pick off the “low hanging fruit” but are not guaranteed to give the absolute best solution) or more comprehensive methods that can give the best solution, at perhaps a longer solve time.  Transportation scheduling problems again can be solved through these methods. Using the technology of the 21st century will be critical for businesses to meet their “green” objectives.  Optimization technology is one of these new technologies that will help you reach these goals.

This article was written by Dr. Gene Ramsay, Profit Point’s Infrastructure Planning Practice Leader. To learn more about Profit Point’s Supply Chain Sustainability services, please call (866) 347-1130 or contact us here.

Image courtesy of Gavin Schaefer.

If too little attention is paid to sustainability and green initiatives, profitability and survival can be put at risk.

This month’s issue of Manufacturing Today features an informative article entitled You Can Go Green. The article, which was co-authored by Profit Point’s President, Dr. Alan Kosansky, and the firm’s Director of Supply Chain Services, Ted Schaefer, reviews the trade-offs and consequences of improving financial performance of the supply chain footprint, while also reducing the environmental impact.

You can read the complete article here.

To learn more about Profit Point’s Supply Chain Optimization services, please contact us.

Posted with permission from Manufacturing Today.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued final guidance for the $1.5 billion in surface transportation grants it will award by next February, and among the top selection criteria will be environmental sustainability, innovation, and partnerships. DOT has included sustainability – improved energy efficiency, lower greenhouse gases, and/or less dependence on foreign oil – as one of five criteria it will consider in evaluating a proposed project’s long-term beneficial outcomes for a metropolitan area, a region, or the country. Long-term outcomes, along with a project’s impact on job creation and near-term economic stimulus, will be DOT’s primary criteria for awarding grants.

DOT will also be considering two secondary criteria – innovation and partnerships. DOT is soliciting projects that use innovative technologies to achieve long-term outcomes or significantly enhance the operational performance of transportation systems, and projects that involve partnerships with non-Federal entities and the use of non-Federal funds. Priority will be given to projects for which a grant will help complete an overall financing package.

Recent estimates from DOT suggest that up to $50 Billion in grant requests may be submitted, making this a highly competitive process. It will be essential for an applicant to thoroughly meet the primary guidelines and to score well on secondary guidelines to win tiebreakers. If your project doesn’t yet adequately address the three considerations of innovation, sustainability and partnership, Profit Point may be able to improve your chances of success:

Sustainability
Profit Point provides mathematics-based solutions that optimize the use of resources for maximal efficiency. Frequently this optimization results in reduced transportation mileage which minimizes greenhouse gas emissions as well as fuel consumption. It might also involve minimizing water use, minimizing output of toxic pollutants or maximizing production of beneficial byproducts.

Some examples include:

  • Scheduling ship berths at ports to minimize ship idle time in a harbor
  • Scheduling port (or canal) maritime traffic
  • Optimizing a port drayage schedule to minimize delays and overland carrier idle times
  • Optimizing local school bus or public transit system routes to minimize greenhouse gas emissions while providing optimal service
  • Routing your deliveries or pickups using the fewest miles traveled
  • Providing the algorithm to trigger variable speed limits on traffic leading to a congested area such as a city center or bridge
  • Optimizing deliveries for the elderly, such as “Meal on Wheels,” to minimize vehicle costs and emissions
  • Conducting infrastructure studies to evaluate the full impact of a project, such as a port expansion with intermodal considerations

If you need to address the sustainability criterion in DOT’s guidance or if you can benefit from including an optimization study as part of your application, we may be able to help you. Profit Point was recently awarded the Supply & Demand Chain Executive Green Supply Chain Award for its Green Network product. Profit Green Network can be used along with our Profit Vehicle Planner and Router Applications to create better plans and improve sustainability.

Innovation
While innovation is not a primary criterion for selection, it will be used to rank similar projects in order to break a tie. Adding leading edge technology such as mathematics-based optimization to your grant application provides one way of strengthening its innovative appeal.

Optimization is one of the hottest topics in industry today because it not only ensures operations are maximizing their current objectives, but also allows ‘what if’ modeling for future scenarios. “What if modeling” helps ensure continued achievement of your objectives, no matter what set of circumstances may occur.

Partnerships
After DOT considers primary criteria, priority will be given to innovative projects and those that involve State and local governments or private or nonprofit entities.

While there are certainly many partners available, adding a private, small business partner such as Profit Point, Inc. to the application may strengthen its overall appeal. Building on Profit Point’s extensive sustainable logistics and mathematical optimization experience can help make your project application unique.

Presenting the Proposal
Should you need assistance preparing your application or prefer advice from a transportation expert, you may wish to work with an experienced consultant on surface transportation issues. Phillips Strategic Services, a Northern Virginia firm with strong ties to both industry and government, is one firm available to assist you. Phillips Strategic Services experience includes:

  • Policy leadership at the Federal Highway Administration;
  • Policy development and lobbying for American Trucking Associations;
  • Senior staff to a Senate Committee handling surface transportation issues; and
  • Various government affairs, marketing, and strategic planning positions with Union Pacific Railroad, Conrail and CSX

In conclusion, nearly any type of surface transportation project is eligible for funding under the discretionary program, which was authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. DOT has named the program “Grants for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery” or TIGER Discretionary Grants, and applications are due by September 15, 2009 with all grants to be awarded by February 17, 2010.

If you’d like to improve your chances of success by strengthening the sustainability and innovative appeal, or if you need a partner to help you present your application most effectively, please contact us:

Profit Point, Inc.
No. Brookfield, MA
Cindy Engers: (925) 736-6800, cengers@profitpt.com
Richard Guy: (435) 487-9141, rguy@profitpt.com

Phillips Strategic Services Ltd.
Alexandria, VA
Mary Phillips: (703) 360-3560, mphillips@phillipsstrategicservices.com

Climate change – or global warming – and the effort to curb the impact of human activities thought to contribute to it – are continuously becoming a higher priority on the agendas of governments, commercial and non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world. In the United States of America the Environmental Protection Agency, the main federal government environmental watchdog and regulator, recently issued a report finding that projected future levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) “endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations”, setting the stage for a more intense GHG regulatory regime in the future in a country that has lagged behind imposing the regulatory restraints now in place in many other parts of the world.

A combination of internal and external factors have motivated many companies to work towards better measurement, and control, of their impact on the environment, whether in the areas generation of greenhouse gasses, emission of waste water and other effluents or consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources. But as always, companies need to ensure that they make changes in their activities in a cost-effective, as well as environmentally-effective, manner. We at Profit Point recognize the need to move towards a green supply chain, and are working with our clients to help them make the best decisions in this regard.

Our Profit Network supply chain planning software has helped various clients make such decisions as:

  • how do we consolidate separate distribution systems after a merger of two organizations, or
  • where to produce and how to ship new products coming into the marketplace?

However, Profit Network is capable of taking into account not only the cost of such plans, but also the environmental impact. We recently worked with a client who had significant environmental constraints at both the entrance to and exit from their factories – they had significant limits on the amount of source water (a key raw material required for their manufacturing) that they could draw from surface and underground sources, and also had constraints at many facilities regarding the amount for waste water they could dispose of. Both of these constraints varied over the course of the year and geographically over the service territory. Using Profit Network they were able to see the cost and production location impact of the environmental constraints, and make choices regarding how to respond to their situation.

Another major concern of companies is their levels of emissions of greenhouse gasses. A major corporation in the United States of America recently announced that it was working to reduce its GHG impact through

  • Retiring less efficient and higher-emitting production facilities;
  • Reducing leakage of GHGs from its production and distribution systems;
  • Increasing energy efficiency in its buildings;
  • Increasing the fuel efficiency of its vehicle fleet.

Profit Network will allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of these types of activities. You can define the environmental impact of your own activities (such as your production and distribution, and fleet delivery to customers), and those of your suppliers (such as when you purchase electricity). For instance, you could use Profit Network to determine the impact on your carbon footprint (and cost) of switching to a source of electricity that had a lower GHG emissions rate (such as company-produced solar, or purchased nuclear), or moving towards a transportation fleet that had lower emissions per unit of distance traveled.

Profit Point is here to help our clients make better decisions – this includes making better decisions regarding the many environmental choices that companies have in today’s increasingly regulated environment.

This article was written by Dr. Gene Ramsay, Profit Point’s Infrastructure Planning Practice Leader. To learn more about designing a sustainable supply, contact us here.

Author’s Notes:
1. Reference for the company mentioned in the text above: http://www.eponline.com/.

2. Reference for the EPA announcement: http://www.mercurynews.com/politics/ci_12168524.

Green Supply Chain AwardGreen Network software is recognized for its role in helping to build environmentally sustainable businesses.

Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine honored Profit Point, a leading supply chain optimization company , with a 2008 Green Supply Chain Award. The company and its Green Network supply chain design software was recognized as a Green Supply Chain Enabler. Profit Point is showcased with other award winners in the latest issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

Profit Point has been delivering supply chain optimization services and software to Fortune 500 companies for more than a decade. Earlier this year, the company introduced Green Network when it recognized that its clients needed a robust tool to account for and optimize away manufacturing waste, such as industrial pollutants and green house gas emissions.

“Profit Network software has been helping large companies around the world build more robust and profitable supply chains for more than 10 years,” said Jim Piermarini, Profit Point’s CTO. “From our clients’ perspective it makes sense to incorporate environmental byproducts in to the network design to evaluate opportunities and costs and conduct scenario testing in advance of these critical infrastructure decisions.”

The company’s software products are now used to help companies manage the tradeoffs associated with environmental resource constraints, such as limited water supplies in developing countries. Profit Point’s transportation and distribution clients achieve more efficient territory planning and vehicle routes, which mitigates unnecessary fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

The Green Supply Chain Awards recognize small, midsize and large organizations that are taking steps to realize eco-efficiency goals. Submissions were judged based on the clarity and content of each program’s goals and strategy, the extent of the steps being taken, the impact of the results to date and projected results, and the form and presentation of the information submitted.

“We are honored to be recognized by Supply & Demand Chain Executive for our focus on sustainability and we’re delighted to play a role in helping business managers define and reach environmental sustainability objectives across their supply chain,” said Alan Kosansky, President of Profit Point. “We look forward to any opportunity to help create a more sustainable business environment.”

To learn more about Profit Point’s supply chain software and services, visit www.profitpt.com.

About Profit Point:
Profit Point Inc. was founded in 1995 and is now a global leader in supply chain optimization. The company’s team of supply chain consultants includes industry leaders in the fields infrastructure planning, green operations, supply chain planning, distribution, scheduling, transportation, warehouse improvement and business optimization. Profit Point’s has combined software and service solutions that have been successfully applied across a breadth of industries and by a diverse set of companies, including The Coca-Cola Company, General Electric, Logitech, Rohm and Haas and Toyota.

Supply Chain QuarterlyThis month’s cover story in the CSCMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly magazine feature’s an excellent article written by Profit Point’s Green Optimization Practice Leader, Ted Schaefer, and the firm’s President, Dr. Alan Kosansky.

The article, Can you be green and profitable?, deals with two competing, yet critical issues that face supply chain managers across the globe. As the authors point out, “profitability and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive. By considering environmental issues when setting financial objectives for a supply chain network analysis, companies can successfully balance the trade-offs between them.”

You can read the complete article here.

If you would like to learn more about our Green Supply Chain Optimization services please contact us.

Dwight Collins, Profit Point’s Green Supply Chain expert, attended the Sustainable Energy Conference at Cornell University and was interviewed by the Cornell Chronicle for his work on sustainable operations research. The conference, entitled “Sustainable Energy Systems: Investing in Our Future,” provided a full slate of talks that outlined the relationship between energy and climate challenge and considered the viability of an array of solutions ranging from conservation, petroleum and coal to nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and biofuels sources.

Collins, who teaches sustainable operations management at the Presidio School of Management, noted that the “the OR profession is missing out on some major opportunities for leadership in the field of sustainable business.”

Profit Point, a leading supply chain optimization firm, announces the introduction of Green Network, a green supply chain network design application.

North Brookfield, MA (PRWEB) April 4, 2008 — Profit Point, Inc., a leading supply chain optimization consultant, today announced the release of Green Network, a supply chain network design application that empowers a supply chain manager to gain visibility in to the trade-offs they will face when designing a green supply chain. Built upon proven technology, Green Network extends the company’s Profit Network application by enabling supply chain managers to include any number of environmental byproducts, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulates, and wastewater, in to the analysis process. The user can also manage total energy consumption or the type of energy consumed (coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, thermal, wind, etc.) in the design of the supply chain.

“Many of our clients have expressed a strong interest in greening their supply chains to meet the growing demand by consumers,” said Alan Kosansky, Profit Point’s President. “Designing a sustainable supply chain is becoming a significant priority for our clients, but not at any cost. The key to building a sustainable supply chain comes in truly understanding the trade-offs that are faced by decision makers.”

Green Network was designed as an out-growth of Profit Network, an industry-leading supply chain network design software system. Profit Network is a robust, yet cost-effective tool that helps companies of all sizes optimize their supply chain for maximum profitability.

“Profit Network software has been helping Fortune 500 companies around the world build more robust and profitable supply chains for more than 10 years,” said Jim Piermarini, Profit Point’s CTO. “By leveraging our work in Profit Network, we were able to build a powerful tool that accounts for environmental impact and profitability.”

In addition to Profit Network and Green Network, Profit Point’s line of supply chain software also includes Profit Vehicle Router, a system for optimizing transportation routing, Profit Distribution Scheduler for easy production and distribution scheduling and Profit Meeting Scheduler, a sophisticated conference scheduler used by major trade organizations.

For additional information about Profit Point’s supply chain design and optimization software and consulting services, contact Richard Guy or visit www.ProfitPt.com.

About Profit Point:

Profit Point Inc. is a supply chain consulting firm founded in 1995 and is now a global leader in supply chain optimization. The company’s team of supply chain consultants includes industry leaders in the fields infrastructure planning, green operation, supply chain planning, distribution, scheduling, transportation, warehouse improvement and business optimization. Profit Point’s has combined software and service solutions that have been successfully applied across a breadth of industries and by a diverse set of companies, including The Coca-Cola Company, General Electric, Rohm and Haas and Toyota.

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Profit Point
(866) 347-1130

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  • Greening Your Supply Chain… and Your Bottom Line
  • Profit Point’s CEO and CTO Named a "Pro to Know" by Supply & Demand Chain Executive Magazine