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Wishing you all a Happy New Year

I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year ahead – challenging and fun filled days ahead. I am sure that there are surprising things in store, "Aha" as well as "Ahem" moments – I hope we persevere through them and come out on top. Lastly, I hope we get to share them stories too!!

Again, a very Happy New Year to one and all!!

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The Sustainability Blog Carnival – Invitation

As the new year approaches, Michael Lamoureux of Sourcing Innovation has put forth invitations for 2008’s first blog carnival – Sustainability. He writes in his invitation:

Ask any executive for their top three concerns, and I’m sure that either Sustainability, Social Corporate Responsibility, Green, Carbon FootPrint, or the Environment is likely to escape their lips. That’s why the first cross-blog series of 2008, starting on January 21, will be Sustainability.

So I’ve got to get going on that because I am sure that in a sea of sustainable orchestration, I’m going to be the out of rhythm and out of tune cymbalist – you know the kind whose jarring performance turns heads. Inappropriately, inopportune… The question really is (to continue the metaphor) – what is the rhythm at stake?

Meanwhile, I will invite my readers also for contributions which you may instruct to be posted at this site or I will forward it to Michael’s site. Draw deep my readers, drink well!

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Do not buy a Dell?

Do not buy a Dell! So says, Ernesto DiGiambattista at his site in an article that he pens. If you remember (or worse – had a Dell battery fire up on you – pun intended), Dell has caught quite a bit of flak in recent years – the golden boy of supply chain management has had its share of snafus – some of them captured on YouTube too. No longer do I have to only imagine what this era of populist digital journalism has in for us:

As you can see, the sort of publicity that the internet age creates, distributes and recycles at light speed cannot but produce severe shocks in any organization (Dell is but one organization that has been taken to the woodshed). However, Ernesto’s experience with Dell was not as smooth as it could have been:

In conclusion: Dell may have policies and procedures within their organizations but no one knows what they are!!!!! I was told by Dell Financial Services to call Dell Customer Service to call Dell Financial Services. This was the worst experience in my life in buying any product!

And neither was mine – I had a problem with my laptop keyboard (which just typed a few random letters on its own here and there – a runaway keyboard, so to speak). So I called Dell and asked them to replace it. 1 week later, my keyboard has proven itself in creating unexpected conversations and gibberish code but no replacement. I called Dell again and reminded them that my keyboard was communicating to the chat specialist at a furious pace and not I (Empirical evidence?) but managed to call them and speak to them too.

One week later, no keyboard. So, I called them again – as you can already imagine that my faith in my keyboard being an agent of transcribing faithfully my intent, thoughts and emotions to Dell personnel had waned considerably. Not my voice though – which was on the order a hundred times more exasperated as my right index finger in diligently pressing the delete key whenever my keyboard went into a digital exaration. The end result is that I got Dell to expedite another keyboard to me which arrived 2 days later. Lo and behold! – the first keyboard wound up at my company’s headquarters (despite my repeated instructions to the customer service personnel asking them to send it to my home office) and then was rerouted to me, arriving the following week.

So I can understand it full well when someone says that Dell’s customer service is beating to a different tune – I distinctly remember the erstwhile Dell ads about the clueless interns who toured various Dell stations. Perhaps, the clueless interns became fulltime employees?

The more interesting story about Dell is the return of Michael Dell to the helm, how another poster child for supply chain effectiveness and the pull model of meeting customer demand is now talking (and doing already?) about retailing through Walmart – a hybrid push-pull model? That’s a rather long article that I’ve begun working on and I hope to have that up soon enough.

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The Top 10 Supply Chain Technologies and Strategies for 2007

Earlier this year, Dan Gilmore of SC Digest posted this list of The Top 10 Supply Chain Technologies and Strategies for 2007 and I thought it’s a good time of the year to look back on this list and see what happened:

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What

I want to alert you to an upcoming webcast – What’s the Bottom Line? Connecting Your Supply Chain to Financial Results (The webcast will be on Tuesday, December 11th, 2007 and I’m sure that it will be available for replay – I hope!) The presenters are DK Singh (Conagra), Dr. Stephen Timme (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Fred Haubold (SAS). And the webcast is about:

explores a proven three-step methodology for improving your financial performance through better managed supply chain business processes like forecasting, procurement, quality,service and call centers.

And the three-step methodology takes the shape:

    • Step 1: Establish benchmarks for key SCM-related financial metrics and the value of gaps calculated. The values of the gaps are an effective means to identify areas of opportunities and communicate the need for change.
    • Step 2: Link gaps in financial metrics to SCM-related business processes, activities and tasks, and key performance indicators. This provides a better understanding of the cause-and-effect relationships between SCM and financial performance.
    • Step 3: Use the information provided in steps 1 and 2 as the foundation for exploring and prioritizing SCM initiatives like improved forecasting, procurement and service.

And the presenters promise to use a case study to walk us through it.

Pencil it in! Should be fun.

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Book Review: Supply Chain Excellence

Supply Chain Excellence – A Handbook for Dramatic Improvement Using the SCOR Model is a worthy effort by Peter Bolstorff and Robert Rosenbaum published by American Management Association (AMACOM).

At the end of this book review, I want to drive towards clear answers for the following questions and/or headings. As I review more books, hopefully, I will expand the following questions into some sort of template against which future books would be reviewed.

1. What this book is about – what are its aims?

If I were to ably classify this book, I would slot it in the category of a Map. I have classified it as a map because it is written to help you navigate the challenge of structuring supply chain management inside and outside your firm. The two authors, Mr. Bolstorff who is a SCM consultant and Mr. Rosenbaum who is a journalist, have laid out a path using the SCOR (Supply Chain Operations Reference) Model as the framework within which your supply chain can be evaluated, planned and executed. It would be a truism to say that various firms are situated somewhere along that path to excellence, the achievement and realization of the said state is unknowable, ephemeral if achieved and the mine upon which careers are built or wasted – such is the life of business.

Rather than deal with such matters of philosophy or digging deeper into what excellence really means or the like, the task at hand is to begin that project – to make a stab at Supply Chain Excellence. And the authors have a 17 week plan to get you started. While I have my sweet suspicions of the 10 step program or for that matter the 17 week project (that’s still over 4 months of work), the plan is a tight one with meetings, homework, templates, samples of charts, tables and tasks and more. In order to give users of this book/guide a context for the required changes and a backdrop for the challenge itself, an imaginary Fowler’s Inc. has been conceived and employed which is a useful device as well.

So the aims as spelt out by the authors themselves:

a. The book is meant to be a manual for anybody (specifically for someone who wants to make sure supply chain improvement is done right) who seeks a rigorous and proven methodology for systematic supply chain improvements.

b. As a working guide for using SCOR as a tool to help senior managers at every step of undertaking supply chain initiatives.

2. Who this book is for?

My take on this topic is – If you’re not in the Steering Team (which not only comprises the power players but also members of the design and project team), chances are that this book will only be good review of how the SCOR model meets the road of implementation and execution. Which is a shame, all said and done from multiple points of view. A steering team typically consists of the few – no doubts about this. Say you are a marketer – would you prefer to market a commodity such as a book to the few or the many? Sure, it is the few (in the steering team and above) who have to take decisions at the end of the day and that is what a lot of this book is about i.e. how to create that sort of a methodology based (SCOR) supply chain improvement plan and execute it. The authors have done an excellent job of writing effectively to and for this group. But what about the many – those who will actually participate and implement this new plan, who will form the links for feedback on how well the plan is working – why and why not?

3. Does the book succeed in its aims?

I believe that in one of its principal aims – that of being a working guide for using SCOR by senior managers, this book succeeds a great deal. Laying out a four month plan is a very short time to get down the path of supply chain improvement and I do wonder if this is a realistic goal as well. However, what I would think about doing is to take a look at the cycle of activities that forms the normal quarter to quarter cycle within a firm and adjust the timelines accordingly. So, while they hit one of their aims above (b) nice and square, they do miss out on a good chunk of (a) and thus also a significant market for this book. Can anyone say companion book to this one?

4. A summary of my thoughts about the book

There is a host of valuable insights about how to make this sort of change happen within an organization and the fact that one of the authors is a consultant who has considerable related experience under his belt contributes to this mine of insights. But as I have said above, this is a map and there are several maps out there not only in the area of supply chain excellence but also in the area of change management and the like. The benefit that is readily observable to me is that over the project period, a structure and ordering of activities is presented which should be mined for insights. Moreover, a set of templates associated with the structure and activities is also available for modification and adaptation.

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A Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!!

It’s Thanksgiving today – I wish a happy day to one and all!

I happened to come across the first Thanksgiving proclamation of the Continental congress:

November 1, 1777
FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:
It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”
And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

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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.

@ SCM Clustrmap

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