@ Supply Chain Management


Forecast less and get better results

Forecast less and get better results is a freely downloadable report made available by SupplyChain.com (HT: Jeff Ashcroft @ SupplyChainNetwork.com) which explores the scope and granularity of forecasting as should be adopted by firms. Their basic proposition is:

Our position is that, in most cases, this is not necessary. Rather, detailed forecasts and plans are normally needed only inside of what

Why I never hire brilliant men?

Why I never hire brilliant men? is an article resurrected at taoyue.com that recounts the personal observations of a businessman from the 1920s as printed in February 1924 issue of The American Magazine.

Why bring up an article so well worn out its reprint? I’d argue that it offers a window into the observations of other people with regards to human nature and human behavior. It is one reason why I prize historical reading of any kind – biographies, autobiographies, scripture, wisdom readings and whatever else one can find i.e. within the cultural milieu of the historical reading, you find several actors making decisions and plans to deal with the issues of the day; instructional or otherwise, they offer a window into types of human behavior.

The Why I never hire brilliant men? piece falls into that category but like all generalizations, they are likely to be largely true. I work with some very brilliant men but I can vouch for their excessive attention to detail and completeness in their work. I also have a sneaking suspicion that we might be generalizing in the absence of good insights into the decisions that brilliant men make.

Some excerpts though:

The article explains all the faults that the author found endemic among brilliant men. They start well but never finish, they get excited over revolutionary developments but grow weary at repetitive small tasks.

At taoyue.com, Tao Yue, remarks on the contrast between the article from 1920s and this article – "What Is Google’s Secret Weapon? An Army of Ph.D.’s" by Randall Stross.

WORKING in Google’s favor is its practice of putting new Ph.D.’s to work immediately in the exact areas where they have been trained — in systems, architecture and artificial intelligence. Google, the company, may falter, but Google, the human resources experiment, is unlikely to be the cause.

Perhaps, the world has changed, stumbling towards abstractions and distractions on multiple levels and a firm may actually need a PhD or several of them to spur them along some line of thinking but the essential has remained – the esoteric must be made practical and more importantly, connected to reality. Couple that with the laws of business and human nature, one could have quite a stirring combination requiring the hiring of brilliant men. But read both articles and see where you might wager your bets?

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A useful Lean and Six Sigma Resource

Manufacturing-Trends is making available a host of free resources (free signup may be required) for your consumption. They are in the form of powerpoint presentations that delve into a myriad set of issues surrounding Lean and Six Sigma. They’ll be well worth your while.

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A Supply Chain Probably works like this?

A Supply Chain would look a whole lot more complicated that this ad for the new Honda Accord. However, I don’t think that you’d get a fraction of an increase in your budget (In order to make this ad, it cost $6 million dollars over 3 months) for something that has to do with your supply chain even if you spent the next 3 months fine tuning a bunch of processes and saving a whole lot of dough in the process. Just what is wrong with this picture?

More about the ad.

Supply Chainers of the world, Unite; Now about my budget for next year?

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Useful SCM Resources – Time to plug in!!

I think that I should take the time to post about useful (and in some cases – very useful) supply chain management resources. And here is one that I subscribe to myself – Supply Chain Digest Letter on specific resources. Choose the one that most fits your palate and get them delivered to your home (free the last time I checked).

The other very useful resource that you may or may not have with you is to get yourself armed with an RSS feed reader. There are several of them that might appeal to you and depending on your OS and choice of browser, the offerings vary. Here’s a top-10 list for RSS readers (among the several that you may find). The reason that subscribing to feeds is important is simply that it plugs you in – into the conversations that are taking place, some connected and some tangential in the supply chain world. They way I would describe it is that it is the Bulletin Board/Forum idea, abstracted one level higher in a very loose sense.

Of course, the small voice in me asks that you might be gracious enough to subscribe to my blog as well. Meanwhile, I am preparing a review for a book that I received in the mail bag – Supply Chain Excellence: A Handbook for Dramatic Improvement Using the SCOR Model. It’s been a good read so far and I should have the review up in a few days.

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Achieving World-Class Supply Chain Collaboration: Managing the Transformation

Achieving World-Class Supply Chain Collaboration: Managing the Transformation is a new report available from CAPS Research (free registration required) published by authors – Stanley Fawcett (BYU), Gregory Magnan (Seattle U) and Jeffrey Ogden (Airforce Inst of Tech). First off, this report is a research oriented report and so it is a virtual gold mine of possibilities. But also of dead- ends and the difference between them are not readily apparent all the time.

In the preface of the report, the authors note that,

"but the world has also, literally, become a more dangerous and risky place in which to do business. Today’s global supply chains are only one terrorist attack, one bird flu pandemic or one not-yet-envisioned threat away from disruption and potential chaos."

These threats in the past would never have affected supply chains of the past. This is not to say that there has not been global trade going on which has been going on for centuries. However, there has been a shift in the sense that the decision to source globally is not only from a point of availability but also from the point of price and value added (i.e. a lot of firms believe that outsourcing/offshoring non-value added activities is a good business decision). One wonders here whether in that non value added determination, whether it was deemed necessary to couple that determination with supply risk. Regardless, we’re well down that path and now we get to face both the pleasures and perils of that commitment.

The irony of change however is well noted by the authors,

Companies have struggled for years to learn how to integrate processes within their own four walls – most still do not! Learning how to build a collaborative team of companies in a world motivated by short-term financial results is a far more daunting task.

So why then the focus on collaboration than making the global supply chain a better one? Well, I guess that’s what the authors wanted to do but I’d have thought that these global supply chains have not yet had the time to settle down before the effort to tack on collaboration enters the picture. Perhaps, the global distribution of participants and stakeholders in the supply chain makes it important but one wonders when collaboration made little headway in the laboratory of the domestic supply chain, one wonders the risks of taking on the challenge globally.

Go on, read the report and see what nuggets you find!!

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About me

I am Chris Jacob Abraham and I live, work and blog from Newburgh, New York. I work for IBM as a Senior consultant in the Fab PowerOps group that works around the issue of detailed Fab (semiconductor fab) level scheduling on a continual basis. My erstwhile company ILOG was recently acquired by IBM and I've joined the Industry Solutions Group there.

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October 2007