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Improvement Methodologies and Measuring Success

  • Leaner Routines Create Supply Chain Excellence

    • Elizabeth Rennie
    March/April 2017

    In 2014, electronic measurement company Keysight Technologies spun off from Agilent Technologies. As a newly independent, publicly listed company, Keysight aimed to be cost competitive while making a profit and returning value to shareholders. Unfortunately, the spinoff created redundancies, duplications, and inefficiencies in its supply chain, which hindered its progress toward these goals.......Read More

  • Targeting Continuous Improvement with Laser Focus

    • Iris Nielsen
    March/April 2017

    Continuous improvement, at its core, involves a never-ending effort to achieve perfection. Whether focused on exposing and eliminating the root cause of a problem, identifying waste in a process, or adding customer value, it is a perpetual effort with many incremental advances that can never create a truly perfect result. Even though true perfection is impossible, those involved in continuous improvement initiatives should strive to come as close to it as possible.......Read More

  • Metrics Drive Lean 3PL Management

    • Ron Crabtree
    January/February 2017

    With the aim of identifying potential areas for cost savings and heightening service levels, a manufacturing company recently underwent a rapid assessment of its multi-million-dollar spend for third-party logistics (3PL) services. This firm had already adopted lean operations best practices, and decision-makers now wanted to extend that lean thinking into their 3PL activities.......Read More

  • Making Better Supply Chain Decisions

    • Jonathan Thatcher
    January/February 2017

    Supply chain professionals often are stuck making tough decisions like this one. Pleasing customers by meeting increased service demands can mean displeasing stakeholders by hurting the financial bottom line. Typically, the factors considered in any business decision include short-term, long-term, and lost opportunity costs; level of consensus among team members; and alignment to organizational strategy. ......Read More

  • Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems Engages and Inspires Associates

    • Elizabeth Rennie
    January/February 2017

    In 2015, a small team of lean leaders at the Customer & Logistics Services-North America (CLS-NA) group of Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems wanted to develop a network of professionals focused on continuous improvement. The members of this network would use lean principles and practices in order to bring about meaningful, positive effects on the Customer Relationships Team, operational capabilities, compliance, and the bottom line. ......Read More

  • Cut Down on Employee Effort to Upgrade the Customer Relationships Team

    • Annette Franz
    January/February 2017

    Companies often worry about whether it is easy enough for a customer to buy a product, resolve an issue, find an answer, or complete a related task. ......Read More

  • Be Lean Everywhere

    Positive impacts on the Customer Relationships Team, corporate social responsibility, and more
    • Annette Franz
    November/December 2016

    Lean is an everyday term in the supply chain management realm. According to the APICS Dictionary, lean describes production that “emphasizes the minimization of the amount of all the resources (including time) used in the various activities of the enterprise.” I, however, am not a supply chain manager, and before now, I understood only the basics of lean. But I recently became interested in learning more.......Read More

  • Are Your Customers Persona Non Grata?

    Make sure you stand up for those you serve
    • Annette Franz
    September/October 2016

    We’re in business for our customers, right? And yet all the time we see dismal statistics about companies failing to focus on the Customer Relationships Team. ......Read More

  • Strategic Transformation and the Five Stages of Grief

    Escape the heartache with psychological safety
    • John P. Collins
    July/August 2016

    As a part of APICS’s Certified in Production and Inventory Management program, the Strategic Management of Resources workbook explores the relationship between existing and emerging processes and technologies and manufacturing strategy and supply chain 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. ......Read More

  • The Four Steps to Implementing Efficiency

    A unique leadership lesson from World War II
    • Ron Crabtree
    • Scott Curtis
    July/August 2016

    One of the biggest issues faced by supply chain managers is the widening skills gap. It exists at all levels to be sure, but some would argue that it’s the tactical “blocking and tackling” skills at the point of attack where the need is greatest. To make the problem even more difficult, the complexity of supply chain operations continues to expand while we are becoming increasingly reliant on people such as suppliers and channel partners.......Read More

  • Shaping the Great Companies of the Future

    What kind of business will you build?
    • Philip E. Quigley
    July/August 2016

    My students at California State University, Fullerton recently asked me why certain companies do well, others survive, and others die. As many of them endeavor to enter the workforce, these young people are quite interested to know what to look for when researching potential employers. Here is what I told them are the keys to corporate success.......Read More

  • Exploring Supply Chain Cost Drivers

    Proven methods for making your process better, faster, and cheaper
    • Gary A. Smith
    July/August 2016

    How do you describe and identify a cost driver? Most supply chain and operations management professionals probably have their own definitions and examples. In the APICS Dictionary, 14th edition, “cost driver” is synonymous with “driver” and is defined as, “In activity-based costing, an operation that influences the quantity of work required and cost of an activity.”......Read More

  • Impossible to Replicate

    Develop airtight knowledge to keep competitors at bay
    • Kenneth Harling
    • Stephen Hummel
    • Brian Watson
    May/June 2016

    The intensity of competition becomes greater with each passing day. Every morning, supply chain managers wake up wondering how they can outperform their rivals while better positioning their companies to take advantage of local and global opportunities. To this end, these professionals invest heavily in training, pursue best practices, and adopt new technologies in an effort to achieve a competitive advantage.......Read More

  • Preemptive Management Gets Results

    Seeing and acting beyond the status quo
    • Eric P. Jack
    • John P. Collins
    March/April 2016

    In a “Building Blocks” article from several years ago, we contended that Chicken Little was an “operations guy” because he recognized that disruptive events quickly can create an environment where the status quo is not only ineffective but, in some cases, also harmful to a business’s survival. That department was written in 2008 during a period of serious market decline—a decline that brought about many changes in how we work and, for some, where we work.......Read More

  • Creating Value in Integrated Supply Chains

    Why procurement and sourcing goals must be redefined
    • Patricia J. Daugherty
    • Judith M. Whipple
    • David J. Frayer
    March/April 2016

    As part of the ongoing collaboration between Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business and APICS, the Beyond the Horizon research project is investigating how the field of supply chain management will evolve. Following interviews with hundreds of executives from more than 50 firms from around the world, some recurring topics emerged regarding value.......Read More

  • Change That Sticks

    A road map for transformation
    • Ron Crabtree
    March/April 2016

    ​When facilitating or leading a change effort, it’s essential that the people involved buy into the initiative; that they adjust their behaviors accordingly; and that, in the end, the transformation is “sticky.” This means that the improvement is sustainable long after it is put into place.......Read More

  • Touting Supply Chain Value

    Great leaders make the most of their circles of influence
    • Gary A. Smith
    March/April 2016

    In many organizations, supply chain management is viewed as an administrative function. In such instances, it’s typically the operations division that receives the lion’s share of the budget, capital funding, and upper management attention. However, as supply chain professionals, we know that our activities add value and that implementing supply chain best practices positively affects the bottom line. We also understand that, by balancing demand and supply and keeping inventory low and fill rates high, our companies can significantly reduce total costs. This is not lost on our counterparts in operations or on executive managers. Yet, these colleagues do need to be reminded from time to time about the benefits effective supply chain management provides. This is where we must become skilled, passionate lobbyists for our own cause. We must learn to tout supply chain influence.......Read More

  • Steer Clear of Office Politics

    Keeping information technology tasks on course
    • Philip E. Quigley
    March/April 2016

    As supply chain and operations management professionals, we often are involved in information technology (IT) projects such as software implementations, software and system upgrades, solution integrations, and so on. All of these undertakings comprise multiple processes, departments, and people, which means there always will be politics involved.......Read More

  • Zoom Out to Build Up Lean

    Tactics for boosting the time-honored methodology
    • Joyce Warnacut
    March/April 2016

    Countless articles in trade publications have bemoaned the lack of quantifiable results and diminishing returns derived from lean initiatives based on waste elimination. But few of these stories have suggested that having a micro-level focus on individual products and operations actually may be part of the problem. Perhaps it is time to look at the process from a macro level—a point of view that considers the variation to provide insights about which lean tools to use. ......Read More

  • Diminishing Returns?

    Clearer functionality yields better service and fewer headaches
    • Randall Schaefer
    March/April 2016

    ​How could something as simple as customer returns justify engaging a consultant?” he asked me, looking rather perplexed. The frustrated general manager was clearly unhappy that his vice president of operations had hired me to review and improve the company’s returns process. I had been expecting this attitude from the general manager because I knew that he had risen through the ranks having never been involved with customer returns.......Read More