New Opportunities in Supply Chain

It has been a little bit since I wrote on this blog again.  I was 29 when I wrote my last post and now I am in my thirties (well… 30 to be specific). Work was getting quite crazy and things weren’t exactly at a steady-state to allow me to pull my thoughts away from work and focus on supply chain and beer commentary. Things have probably been made more complicated in recent weeks, but it has also provided me a new perspective.

One new “opportunity” I was given was to supervise an area of our fulfillment operations as we look to move some management around to accommodate a recent departure. I have never managed this type of operation, although I have been close enough to it to understand the basic concepts. When it comes to people management, there are really only a few things to keep in mind in order to allow your people to succeed and recognize you as an effective leader.

I don’t have a good beer to review this time. I have been sticking to the basic Michelob’s and Bud Lights. My appetite has not been satiated but rather flat-lined as I try and spend what free time I have on my kayak or on the golf course; 2 places where good craft brew isn’t readily available. With that said, I am looking forward to trying Log Boat Brewing’s new “Knot Hole” Oktoberfest beer which they claim has zero pumpkin in it for those October Pumpkin Protesters.

As I daydream about my next beer expedition, I do want to discuss my strategy for taking on a new area, department, business, etc. I have been fortunate enough to work in retail distribution, manufacturing (light/heavy), consumer product distribution, among others. Each business is different, but yet everything really is the same. Goods need to arrive on time to a distribution point in the right quantities, and they need to move efficiently through the process to arrive to the customer within an acceptable period of time. With that in mind, employees need to be supported to produce the best results a human can, while also understanding that the employee has their own hopes and aspirations and everyone works for a different reason. Sometimes it is difficult to be efficient while also maintaining the best morale amongst one’s team.

Below are 10 items I try and cover when encountering a new opportunity. I welcome feedback on what others think is important to succeed in supply chain when encountering a new opportunity:

1.       Sketch out a very high-level diagram of what you are taking over; whether it is a warehouse floor or a complex team. Understand how product/communication flows.

2.       Identify key stake holders within the process; who is the “customer” and who is your “supplier”?

3.       Identify the members of the team that have the most influence; whether it is a supervisor or just someone who knows their job better than others. Lean on that person to understand why they are good at what they do. Support them.

4.       Understand technology utilized and identify ways to leverage it to make your employees’ lives easier. Start with a spreadsheet.

5.       Attack low hanging fruit- sometimes the easiest of fixes can change the day to day for an employee on the floor. Remember you are trying to make their lives easier just like you are your own.

6.       Sit with your team and get dirty. Make sure you know what they are going through but most importantly, make sure THEY KNOW that you know what they are going through.

7.       Listen to grievances. Just listen.

8.       Utilizing #1, start to break down the operation or team into separate groups. When you have your groupings, list the main tasks, grievances, and ways to improve. Even a band-aid is better than nothing. Ensure your suppliers/customer are also included.

9.       Create reminders on your calendar to pop in or send emails referencing specific issues/requests/grievances. Refer to #7 if you are unsure.

10.   Ensure you understand how this new opportunity can help you professionally, socially, etc. It is only an opportunity if you make it one.