Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Last Mile

No, this is not an advertisement for a tire company, a car or even a track event.

The ‘last miler’ has become the a key partner in a changing retail landscape: e-commerce

This is about truck drivers who simply drive trucks in the last miles of delivery to retailers, a mom and pop operation, a supermarket or directly to a consumer’s residence.  We need to re-think the outcome of these ‘last milers’ and how they can be merchandisers, salespersons and route managers. 

The ‘last milers’ is a relatively small segment of the supply chain but it is growing in importance.  As the world’s cities are growing in size – area and population – major distribution challenges are emerging.  With the growth of populations companies are increasingly faced with the challenge of home deliveries within 24 to 48 hours from time of purchase.

At several firms – consumer goods – delivery drivers have three jobs.  They must deliver the goods, replenish where and when needed and take orders.  This “model” is perfect for building sound business relationships but it reduces the number of outlets the driver can service. 

This new delivery concept for driver can be shown with these two examples:

  1. A company that delivers food to consumer’s home calls their drivers “route business developers” as they are assigned the extra task of bringing in new business along those routes.
  2. Another company names their drivers “sales assistants” as they develop close relationships with businesses over a period of time. 

In both instances the company must educate the drivers on billing issues and product claims. 

These are not the only new training these delivery drivers must go through.  Many companies have developed other training programs such as:

  1. Customer interaction scripts
  2. Delivery completion checklists
  3. Customer follow up
  4. Cultural sensitivity
  5. Technological support through new phone applications.
  6. IPads training to determine stock levels

At some companies these drivers are treated as customers.  Drivers can call a central distribution center for any questions or issues that may arise.  This includes a truck breakdown and a switch out of cargo.

In the ever growing and increasing e-commerce portion of a retailers business operation companies should re-think this last mile.  The last mile needs to be thought of not merely in terms of cost reduction but in how it will create value.  Instead of rewarding drivers for the number of deliveries they make in a day, companies might create a bonus system if drivers create new business by building (spending more time) relationships with customers.

Is the last mile a cost to be minimized or an opportunity to be gained??

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Supply Chains and Their Financial Risks

When a fragile supply chain breaks down, customers don’t get their products, companies lose revenue and brands are debased. 

Has this fear hanged over your firm’s head or has this already occurred?

As Directors or Managers of our firms supply chain we wear many different hats….depending on the situation.  One day we have to monitor markets, the next day we are concerned with the supply chain cash flow.  As supply chain leaders we need to wear yet another hat…the advocate for supply chain resilience.

This role consists of looking at and or searching for vulnerabilities in the company’s supply chain.  Manufacturers maintain supply chain partners throughout the globe to take advantage of reasonably priced labor and access to raw materials.  This global economy has made a company’s supply chain more and complex and delicate. 

Most careful management goes into maintaining such supply lines and the outgrowth of cost reduction, ‘lean’ supply chains and for attaining just-in-time deliveries.

Creating efficient supply chain lines can be dangerous, as efficiencies do keep costs under control but creates susceptibility.  These susceptibilities are not only issues for the company but also will have upward and downward consequences for the company’s business partners.  It is not the fashion for a Director of Supply chain to probe into the weaknesses of its key suppliers, it needs to be done.

One of the major industries affected by any supply chain disruption is the Pharmaceutical industry.  They must pass numerous quality and safety tests and product trials which usually take years to complete.  Thus, when a particular drug hits the market, these firms have to recapture its research and development costs in as short as time frame as possible.  Any interruption result in a loss of revenue. Additionally, a loss of any key supplier will take months to replace due to the regulatory nature of the business.

Supply chain exposures are quite a common occurrence.  In a survey conducted by the Business Continuity Institute it was reported that many companies experienced at least one major disruption in the most recent twelve months, such as adverse weather, IT outages, and outsourced service failures.

The risks can run on multi-levels.  Sometimes it is not a firm’s immediate supplier that disrupts a supply chain but the supplier’s supplier and the risk is to the shareholder value.

In many organizations supply chain risk management is completely delegated to a risk manager or supply chain manager, when these tow manager should most definitely be working in tandem.
There are some pertinent questions that these two managers should be asking about their own supply chain and those of their suppliers:

  1. What don’t we know about our supply chain that we need to know?
  2. Are we relying too much on a single suppliers for major components?
  3. Are we focused too heavily on cost reductions?
  4. What could a closer look at our analytics tell us about these and other hidden risks?
  5. What other risks could we be facing?
  6. Which specific risks are most dangerous?

One way to answer these must ask and must answerable questions are to appoint or hire a team to audit and determine the value of each link in the supply chain on the basis of business income.  Another point to ascertain is to ask whether you need to diversify your customers to prevent static supply if a major customer experiences a disruption.

Yes, I have just given you a handful of things to do.  Whether you use these devices and questions or create your own an investigation like this will uncover, quantify and better manage your supply chain risk.  You will be seen as the ‘champion’ of supply chain resilience and preventor of a crippling disruption.