Monday, October 6, 2008

Business transformation and be counted

Business transformation and be counted

There may not be that many differences between September 2008 and September 1998 afterall.

In 1998, I was at the state of Pennsylvania USA, communicating with Dr. Alvin Gunneson about the Agility Methodology and how it could be applied to corporations based in Asia. Unfortunately at the end of the business trip, there was the dawn of the Asian financial crisis that caught many nations by surprise. Many nations collapsed and were later bailed out by the IMF.

In 2008, I was greeted in Liverpool with the bad news of Lehman Brothers and the collapse of the British XL Leisure leaving many of the travelers stranded in various parts of the world. When I moved over to Kansas City USA for the APICS International Conference, there was the big shocking news of financial trouble at AIG and other financial institution. The financial crisis has hit USA and Europe, and will this spill over to Asia?

Global economy getting turbulent

With the crude oil shot up to US$180 or so, the world was reacting frantically to knee jerks in the drastic increase in the price of petrol, food and other products and services.

Most people begin to change the lifestyle and managed to reduce the spending on petrol and others. The crude oil was forced to go below US$100 due the significant decrease in demand. The turbulence may have lasted one to two quarters, but the damages have been created in one way or the other.

Financial industry in US and Europe in crisis

The US government will have the bail out bill to prevent the collapse of the financial industry. This is going to be US$800 billion in the first round and then probably another US$800 billion some time later. With trillions of dollars needed to mitigate the potential damages, it will be critical that the US economy can withstand the test of time.

The EU government probably will take a different approach by not initiating the bail out but instead allow for other mechanisms to come into play so as to reduce the potential damages.

Recalling Dr. Jack Welch’s infamous “Cost Down or Close Down” directive

When Dr. Jack Welch was tasked with the transformation of GE, he did not hesitate to introduce drastic measures and directives, to ensure that the senior management of all the subsidiaries got the loud and clear message of “Cost Down or Close Down”.

The people might not have stomached the directives well, but then GE was transformed permanently. However, that was not enough for GE to be globally competitive, so the next directive was to be “number one or two, or out you go”. The rest is history.

Dr. Jack Welch was voted the most successful and famous transformist of the 20th century.

The destiny of some of the British great corporations

During my studies at the University of Liverpool, I had the opportunity to work with Pilkington Brothers and BICC Group of Companies. Pilkington was the world’s largest floating glass manufacturer but lost the competitiveness and was taken over by other manufacturing group. BICC lost the world’s number one position in cables manufacturing, and could not regain the former glory. Globalisation and internationalization have created new global giants and affected the conservative ones into sunset or takeover target.

Now that Range Rover and Jaguar have been taken over by the Indian Tata Group, we may see many more international takeovers and mergers.

The Internationalisation of the University of Liverpool

The rather conservative red bricks university has been going places. The on-line MBA has been a great success globally. The Suzhou campus is growing from 1,000 students to 2,000 students in a short period of time through a joint venture.

There will be a Graduate School being set up in India, and plans to have more of this in other strategic locations.

APICS’s New Product Introduction (NPI)

APICS has woke up from the over dependence of the decades old Certified in Production & Inventory Management (CPIM), and begin to develop new products. Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) was launched in 2006. Lean Enterprise and Global Sourcing courses are launched in 2008.

This drastic transformation is the reflection of the need to ensure that professional certifications have to be customer-focus and demand-driven. This is in line with lean enterprise and supply chain management.

The Way Ahead

Business transformation seems to be the way ahead for every organization or enterprise in order to survive the impact of globalisation and internationalization.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lean Supply Chain Management

Lean Supply Chain Management

The global economy is subject to cyclical ups and downs, enterprises have to transform to cope with internationalisation and globalisation. The collapse of some of the banking giants may be just the tip of the icebergs of the challenges ahead. The US$700 billion bail-out of the American financial industry is absolutely necessary to avoid the repercussions and chain reaction as well as possible massive loss of employment. What will happen to the rest of the world is yet to be seen, and some nations may not be able to survive the financial "tsunami". The potential damages may surface some time in the future.

In a turbulent marketplace, it can be traumatic for the traditional supply chain management that is centred around the decades-old time-tested re-order point technique coupled with the easy to operate MIN:MAX inventory control. More so if the enterprises assume that the future will repeat the past performance without the ability to accommodate possible variation due to intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

The fact that Dell Computer have decided to sell off the manufacturing plants to the would-be contract manufacturers within the next 18 months can be a very good corporate strategy. This is probably in line with the Agility Methodology and the Agile Virtual Enterprise Conceptual Framework, whereby corporations transform to capitalise on the core competencies and leverage with others to remain globally competitive. Apple Computers and HP have been adopting the agility business model for some time now. It is little surprising that Foxconn becomes the world's leading Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) for some of the greatest global brands. The Foxconn Taiwanese owner started off the company in Taiwan as Hon Hai (Red Sea) and venture into China with Foxconn to create a blue ocean with an annual sales of US$70 billion. A success story that has not be well publicised but Mr. Guo is the richest man in Taiwan.

Toyota sale revenue is around US$0.25 trillion per annum and is now the second largest car maker in the world. The famed Toyota Production System (TPS) as been incorporated into the Lean Manufacturing process framework, and have become popular for manufacturers and enterprises wanting to achieve good customer service, high quality product, low cost production, good management, respect for people, short manufacturing lead time, short cycle manufacturing, continuous improvement and all the best practices for planning and execution.

While many enterprises are busy trying to figure out how to implement lean enterprise, Toyota continue to achieve significant success and brand power through the very fundamental philosophy of simplification and standardisation. While Toyota continuously perfect the leadership, management and people development, many enteprises may be too caught up with trying to fit TPS into a rather complex manufacturing environment. The outcomes are often fairly predictable due to the less effective approach of trying to live with the existing habits, norms, performance, systems, traditional management, incompatible metrics, and culture.

Lean does not happen overnight. It requires a subtle cultural change, extensive education & training, value stream process mapping and simplification, a paradigm shift, continuous improvement & innovation, and effective people development and management.

It is time to go lean to survive the global competition.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Made In China

Made in China Phenomenon

China is now the production super house of the world, and the world has a lot to learn from the supply chain management challenges of this amazing emerging economy.
It is worth researching on how Western management thinking and practices as well as ERP technology can enhance China's production supremacy.

a) High volume, low cost and reasonably good quality
The dominance of the Made in China products has made "Everyday Low Price" possible for most of the supermarkets and hypermarkets. It does appear that this phenomenon is unstoppable at the moment.

With more than 1.2 billion people to feed, China have to use the simple law of material conversion or transformation, to produce products in high volume, low costs and of reasonable good quality to be sold in any parties on a willing buyer willing seller basis.

A very important corporate strategy is to sell products to the customer with the focus on the basic objectives of quality, cost, delivery, flexibility and service. The supply chain strategy has been centred around the 24/7/365 modus operandi to maximise machine utilisation and labour efficiency.

The interesting development is China's ability to attract billions of dollars of foreign direct investment yearly with very competitive incentives and the opportunity of penetrating the domestic market itself. The foreign investment has also help to produce the much needed human capital to sustain the enviable economic growth.

The dis-satisfaction of a portion of the Tibetan population, the earthquake in Sichuan, and other recurring flood problems have put China to test. However, they have sufficient resources to overcome or contain the issues at hand without external help. This self reliance is in itself a very important national pride.

b) China versus the rest of the world
The WTO,s Doha Round and subsequent roundtables on the move towards globalisation and trade liberalisation may be a distinctive advantage to China.

The trade liberalisation of garment and textile nearly crippled Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and some other smaller economies. Without interference from USA and EU, China would have virtually total control of the global market. After intensive negoatiation, some form of quota system has to be implemented to allow other countries the chance to survive through export.

In the foreseeable future, it is unthinkable to allow trade liberalisation of any other industrial sector. As a result, the compromised interim solution is to have nation-to-nation free trade agreement (FTA) to allow for some form of regulated liberalisation.

c) Ensuring high employment rate
The life expectancy of the people of China is increasing, and is a real cause of concern. This is further complicated by the one-child per family policy resulting in a very obvious ageing population.

The government of the day must keep reinventing to ensure high employment rate, so that the people do not become a liability in the socialist system. In certain part of China, it is a challenging task to motivate people to work and earn less if they were to be unemployed.

d) Efficiency and effectiveness of supply chain management (SCM)
There are grouses and complaints about the Logistics and SCM in China, but the consolation is that the goods eventually reach the intended destinations.

The Western management believes in the heavy usage and reliance on information and communications technologies, China has an abundance of affordable human resources to get things done albeit slightly slower than expected.

There is also the contention that ICT can enhance the speed and efficiency of mundane transaction and routine processing, but it may not provide the effectiveness.

Perhaps when it comes to creativity and innovation in logistics and SCM, the human factor is critical for decision making.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Development of human capital for SCM competitiveness

Development of human capital for SCM competitiveness

Companies big or small have been spending money to educate and train up SCM practitioners. Management sooner or later realize that the efforts to develop the human capital may have been wasted as the participants of these various education and training programmes do not demonstrate significant or subtle differences in improving the supply chain management.

There is a need to have an effective methodology to develop human resources. It is believed that practice makes perfect. We can see in football, soccer, tennis, golf, badminton, squash and almost any other games, that there is a need for the holistic training and development besides the natural talent.

It is in fact most powerful to get everybody back to basics to begin the baseline and the journey of continuous improvement to the ultimate goal. However, most management tends to favour the big bang approach and the perceived ability to leapfrog to the best practices. It is like everyone can be a Tiger Wood or David Beckam given the intensive “how to” training. Many have been let down, simply because there is a learning curve involved and not everybody can have the same learning speed, absorption, creativity and innovation.

There are corporations spending millions of dollars pushing the employees through education and training, sometimes within taking into consideration what are the practices outside their own environment. Some corporations take great pains to protect their decades old policies and procedures, and miss the opportunities to learn from outside some of the more effective concepts, tools, techniques, methodologies, and process thinking. In-breeding can be hazardous, more so if the competitors are adopting better practices from the market.

Not many people like to go through what people at GE underwent during the Jack Welch’s leadership. The simple philosophy of “Cost Down or Close Down” or “either number 1 or number 2 in the market, or out you go”, may become very stressful but can be very rewarding.

Education and training without alignment to the corporate and supply chain strategies can be a total waste of money, time and resources. The HP versus Dell corporate and supply chain strategies have been challenging, resulting in HP being the world leader at the moment. GM versus Toyota is another good case example. Nokia versus Motorola mobile phones is another example. There are many other exciting examples for corporations to benchmark. Al these should be part of the education and training to develop the competitive human capital.

No doubt people are generally reluctant to change, but then if their quality of working life can be enhanced with the right knowledge surely they can be motivated. How many people in supply chain management enjoy raw material shortages, finished goods shortages, perpetual expediting, lines down, stress-related quality problems, undesirable productivity, poor customer delivery and service, and on-going fire-fighting.

Some of the golden rules for development of human capital:
1) Top management walking the talk
2) Shared vision and missions guided by KPI’s for performance management
3) Education and training for almost everybody to have the same conceptual process framework, key concepts, key processes, and the appropriate KPI’s
4) Established proper project organisation and team
5) Identify the key action items and roadmap
6) Encourage process improvement teams to compete for overall performance with mutually agreed metrics
7) Ensure the process improvements are aligned to corporate and supply chain strategies
8) Encourage benchmarking with the outside world
9) Cultivate positive recognition and reward systems
10) The journey of continuous improvement and innovation

It is important not to have education and training just to satisfy the annual hours required in the KPI of the Balanced Scorecard.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Effective Planning for SCM Efficiency

Effective planning for SCM efficiency

It is generally acceptable to assume that with good forward planning, execution and control of operations will be much easier.

In the early 70’s, Dr. Joseph Orlicky developed the Theory of Dependant Demand, that led to the materials requirements planning (mrp) system. MRP has evolved over the years to Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP II) in the 80’s. This holistic manufacturing planning and control system was extended into the process framework of supply chain management. The planning system has not changed very much in the push system environment, but the execution has been transformed into either a push or a pull system.

The push system that is schedule-driven is effective for the job shop and batch production manufacturing environments. However, when the manufacturing layout can be transformed from the process layout to the product layout or cellular manufacturing, then the mrp-centric push system become less suitable because the pull system methodology becomes more efficient.

However, in the job shop and batch production environment it is not so easy to implement the Kanban pull system. The mps-driven MRP II system is still the best fit, but can be made to execute more easily with the high performance master production schedule (mps). Without high mps performance, expediting and fire-fighting on a day to day become the norm rather the exception. In a stressed working environment, the quality of production may be compromised.

As a trade-off, some factories begin to load actual customers into the MRP system, resulting in nervousness in the workplace as well as excessive reactive mode of operations chasing for the parts that are in shortage. Using the MRP to generate the shortage report and have planners and buyers busy on the daily basis to chase for materials become a working culture though not a fruitful and conducive one. If some of the materials cannot be delivered on time, then production stoppages and delivery delays to the customers will happen. In order to mitigate the frequent material shortages and last minute expediting, factories begin to resort to consignment inventory in the name of VMI (Vendor Managed Inventory) agreement, to put pressure on the suppliers to ensure material availability even though there may not be accurate visibility of materials requirements across the planning horizon. The so called VMI arrangement is a glorified form of Vendor Owned Inventory or consignment, and not the truly VMI collaboration.

That means in practice it is possible to forego formal planning by having suppliers to be responsible for the availability of materials however bad the forecast has been. The suppliers may be living under immense pressure and stress trying to have the best guess for the customer’s materials requirements. The wild goose chase becomes a way of life.

For companies that have achieved the significant repeatable volume then it is possible to even change from the process layout to the product layout, and begin to implement just-in-time manufacturing or lean manufacturing. This transformation is possible if the volume of production for the product or product family is high and repeatable.

If the planning is effective, then there will be less material shortages and poor customer service due to late deliveries. The planning hierarchy starts from business planning, sales & operations planning, master planning and material planning. Each level of the priority planning is validated by resource or capacity planning to ensure feasibility. This structures level by level planning can be cumbersome but sometimes unavoidable. Ever imagine planning without taking into consideration of resource or capacity constraints.

Monday, May 5, 2008

E-business and supply chain management

E-Business and Supply Chain Management (SCM)

SCM without the E-business platform may not be effective in synchronizing, integrating or collaborating with the internal and external customers and suppliers.

The traditional ERP approach may entail the need for Enterprise Adaptor Integration, Middleware, datamart, data warehouse, groupware, business process management, and what have you. This approach is probably suitable for the large enterprises with big enough financial budgets to the IT CAPEX. The issues and challenges are as follows:
a) Top management support for a synchronized or integrated SCM
b) Obtain source data with high integrity in a timely manner
c) Willingness of the customers and suppliers in sharing the appropriate data
d) Willingness of the key users to support the openness and transparency of data and information
e) The availability or uptime of the SCM systems with many layers of IT interfaces working together
f) The ability to ensure effectively of the SCM systems
g) The ability to continuously improve the SCM processes to achieve the KPI goals
h) The IT-enabled capability of moving data, documents and information securely and smoothly across different ERP systems and databases

The various initiatives like EDI, RosettaNet, Coviscint, and others are important milestones in moving documents and orders from one party to another. More developments are needed to make sure the various document formats can be converted without user intervention.

As Internet, Intranet and Extranet become readily available, and multiple document and data formats can be inter-operable, e-business to support SCM.

To begin with the e-business approach to extended enterprise SCM, the SCM Network Conceptual Model must be developed first and foremost. With that reference conceptual framework and model, management can then work with the project team and key users to map the appropriate processes to support the business requirements.

The front-end business to business communication and interface will become a critical part of SCM. It does not really matter if customers and suppliers are using different ERP systems, as long as documents and data can be automatically converted from one format to another. This may involved some form of intermediate processing and the choice of solution may very much depend on the budget.

Maybe at the time of writing, there is no one systems solution provide that can be one-stop single source. The systems integration or synchronization must be able to inter-linked the various components of the SCM of the customers and suppliers.

Sometimes, a better approach is to do prototyping with one of those Rapid Application Development tools that have a library of business objects available for mix and match couple with some additional development.

The key to effectiveness may be to create the necessary paradigm shift in the business transformation to move towards simplification and standardization.

CPIM, Certified in production & Invenotry Management


CPIM from APICS USA provides the comprehensive body of knowledge pertaining to manufacturing suppy chain management. CPIM professional certification is suitable for supply chain management consultants and practitioners who need to have the breath and depth of manufacturing SCM or ERP systems.

CPIM Course Descriptions

Basics of Supply Chain Management
This is an introductory course for production and inventory management personnel and CPIM candidates. This course provides basic definitions and concepts for planning and controlling the flow of materials into, through, and out of an organization. It explains fundamental relationships among the activities that occur in the supply chain from suppliers to customers. In addition, the course addresses types of manufacturing systems, forecasting, master planning, material requirements planning, capacity management, production activity control, purchasing, inventory management, distribution, quality management, and Just-in-Time manufacturing.

Master Planning of Resources
In this course, students explore processes used to: develop sales and operations plans; identify and assess internal and external demand and forecasting requirements; and effect an achievable master schedule consistent with business policies, objectives, and resource constraints. The course focuses on developing and validating a plan of supply, relating management of demand to the environment, and developing and validating the master schedule.

In addition, the course encompasses concepts for transforming sales, marketing, and business requirements into a feasible and economic operations plan in various business environments. It also addresses concepts and methodologies for managing projected and actual demands from distribution networks and external customers. Finally, the course presents methods for integrating sales and operations plans, demand forecasts, and customer demand into a specific master schedule.

Detailed Scheduling and Planning
This course focuses on material and capacity scheduling and planning. It includes a detailed explanation of material requirements planning (MRP), a technique suitable for use in job shops. The course also introduces another material planning technique, material-dominated scheduling, which is applicable to process industries and other mature production environments. The course explains capacity requirements planning in detail and introduces other capacity-planning techniques, including processor-dominated scheduling.

Execution and Control of Operations
This course focuses on three main areas: prioritizing and sequencing work; executing work plans, implementing controls, and reporting activity results; and evaluating and providing feedback on performance. The course explains techniques for scheduling and controlling production and process operations. It also addresses the execution of quality initiatives and continuous improvement plans as well as controlling and handling inventories. Finally, the course presents techniques for evaluating performance and collecting data for effective feedback.

Strategic Management of Resources
In this course, students explore the relationship of existing and emerging processes and technologies to manufacturing strategy and supply-chain-related functions. The course addresses three main topics: aligning resources with the strategic plan, configuring and integrating operating processes to support the strategic plan, and implementing change.

For maximum comprehension of course content, students should be familiar with the information and concepts presented in other CPIM modules before taking this course.

For more details, please email to

Sunday, May 4, 2008

CSCP, Certified Supply Chain Professional

CSCP, Certified Supply Chain Professional

If we were to look at the international trade and globalisation, we soon realize that the world is borderless through the power of Internet and wireless broadband communication. The speed in which information can be disseminated means that business of the future will become more and more competitive, and can be a competitive advantage. This couple with good customer service may provide the opportunity to become the preferred service provider, retailer, distributor, or producer. Having the right corporate strategies to sustain the niche market or traditional market segment, it is imperative to have an effective supply chain management in place.

There are many ways of developing human capital to enhance the supply chain strategies. The traditional approach is to hire people with a business degree or MBA, to ensure the academic foundation is available to support any innovative initiative for continuous process improvement. This has been a challenge when these graduates are from different universities and speaking different management language, resulting in possible miscommunication and difficulties in moving in tandem.

CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) from APICS USA, provides the universal platform and common management language to support the inherent supply chain business processes that can be configured to support the enterprise systems requirements. CSCP helps to establish the conceptual framework for the extended enterprise supply chain management (SCM). With this APICS Body of Knowledge, it is a coherent platform to educate and train up management and senior executives for fine-tuning supply chain management or begin the journey of developing effective SCM.

CSCP is suitable for management, seasoned practitioners and consultants to get certified for the consolidated knowledge at the macro level of the extended enterprise SCM. This way it allows for the consistency in development the much needed Conceptual Framework in order to provide the basis for the management, project managers, consultants and key users to refine the model in order to establish the final systems requirements.

The benefits of education and training using the instructor-led classes and CSCP Learning System cannot be under-rated. The power of knowledge can be unleashed through learning process and classroom interactions.

For more information about CSCP, please send e-mail to

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ERP White Elephant

ERP and the white elephant

It is difficult to establish how much money companies have spent on the implementation of the ERP systems solution, and the actual benefits being realized.

It will be good for the community to begin collating information about the costs and benefits, in order to develop the knowledge and methodologies on how to have more cost effective implementation for future projects.

The general consensus is that many ERP projects fail to provide the expected benefits. More so if the implementation has been technology-driven, and the management and key users are expected to adopt and adapt to the “best practices” incorporated into the ERP.

The “best practices” are at best what the ERP developers have acquired through the initial design, subsequent revision and joint efforts with some selected customers.

From the various sources of knowledge, it is generally believed that the following steps may produce more cost effective implementation:
a) top management commitment
b) BPR champion
c) Executive Education
d) Project Team and Key Users education and training
e) Business Process Conceptual Model and Mapping
f) Establishing systems requirements and RFP
g) Gap Analysis and Systems Configuration
h) Key Users Validation of Prototype
i) Implementation Master Plan for progressive roll-out
j) Performance management to fine tune the ERP, systems and people
k) Continuous improvement through Performance Management

The conceptual model building is crucial to ensure that top management, operations management, project team and key users work together to define the appropriate processes to support the decision support, operations and execution needs. The more efforts spend at the design stage, the more benefits can be realized leading to better success in implementation.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Supply Chain Management (SCM) professional certifications

CPIM (Certified in Production & Inventory Management)

This professional certification programme from APICS USA is suitable for those who want to have the depth and breadth of body of knowledge relating to manufacturing supply chain management.

CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional)

This professional certification programme from APICS USA is suitable for those who want to have the in-depth knowledge of the extended enterprise supply chain management (SCM)

For more information on the CPIM and CSCP education and training please contact MPICS in Malaysia. Email:

MPICS - Mastering Productivity, Innovation & Competitive Strategies

MPICS strives to provide best practices to the supply chain management for improving productivity, innovation and competitive strategies