Monday, June 26, 2017
But then I re-read an article I posted in March of 2013 titled, "The Battle for Retail is Really The Battle of Supply Chains". In this article I opined that the big retailers are all essentially selling the same products, many of which have been or very quickly are commoditized. This means the real value add of a retailer is in their supply chain.
I also concluded in this article that Wal-Mart should be able to kill Amazon as they already have the bricks and mortars along with the capability of great e-commerce. Finally, I concluded that due to the age old issue of The Innovators Dilemma which was created by Clayton Christensen in his seminal book of the same name. Unfortunately, for the last 4 years, and for Wal-Mart, my prediction came true.
The good news is Wal-Mart, like the sleeping giant, has now been awoken. With its purchase of Jet.com it admitted it needed great e-commerce and, in the same transaction, admitted it could not do this on its own. The big behemoth could not innovate so it had to buy. That is OK as it is at least now on the path to competing with Amazon.
But then a funny thing happened. Amazon admitted it could not grow bricks and mortars fast enough in the grocery space to compete so it made a bold purchase. In this purchase, Bezos is essentially admitting he wants to move a little more towards a Wal-Mart model and also showed, in this purchase, the only reason Wal-Mart has not crushed Amazon is due to lack of execution and lack of strategic foresight.
Well, no more. I believe Wal-Mart truly has awoke and they are starting to adjust their supply chain very quickly to mirror a "be where ever the customer is" retailer. This means if you are out and need something quickly, you can pull into your Wal-Mart and get it. If you want to order on line and have it shipped, you can do that. If you want to avoid shipping charges, you can buy on line and pick it up in the store. Basically, any configuration of how the consumer wants to interact to get the products she needs, Wal-Mart will be there. Wal-Mart can ship from DCs or from any of its 4,177 stores of which 3,275 are super centers. Wow! Wouldn't Amazon love to have that footprint.
If Wal-Mart executes they have a chance of beating Amazon. I recently used Wal-Mart on line to buy a UPS for my computer. It was a great experience, shipped fast and was less expensive than Amazon.
I do think the speciality retailer is dead. Consumers want the "endless aisle" that Amazon and Wal-Mart provide. They do not want to bounce around to 100 different websites to find what they want.
Wal-Mart can do everything Amazon can do (or they should be able to do it) yet Amazon cannot come close to all the capabilities of a Wal-Mart. If I were investing, the only stock I would buy in the retail space is Wal-Mart. I would then go to their shareholders meeting and scream two phrases: "Wake Up" and "Execute"!
Welcome back Wal-Mart - I missed you!
Monday, June 5, 2017
I am sitting on a plane right now, on the Tarmac, moving nowhere. This reminds me of another aspect of a truly customer centric supply chain: Define terms as your customer sees them and not for your own internal metrics.
So, the airline app says I have "departed" and in their mind, I am sure I have. But in my mind, I am sitting in a tube, on a tarmac, going nowhere. I, the customer, consider departed to mean I am up in the air and heading to my destination.
Lesson:. Define terms from a customer lens, not from an internal lens. When you do this, you will be on your path to customer centricity.
Friday, June 2, 2017
As I work with companies I continue to emphasize that it is important for our supply chain to drive revenue. Great supply chains (Read: Walmart and Amazon for example) are core to the company's revenue strategy and not just an evil cost to reduce.
But, there is this pesky thing called "profit" that also has to exist to make a world class supply chain complete. The question really is what do you do first? My view is you take care of the customer then figure out the cost. If you are designing supply chains you are in a war with your competitors and the weapons of that war are speed and availability. Customers, whether they be industrial, commercial or consumer are asking for the same thing: They want what they want, when they want it, in the right quantity at the right price. Those who figure all this out will win. Those who do not will perish. What are some things you should do now to get on the path to figure this out? A few ideas below:
- Start with the Customer: Don't lift a finger to design a supply chain until you have personally interviewed, visited with, surveyed and embedded yourself into the customer. This does not mean asking sales their opinion. Sales is a first derivative source. Go right to the customer.
- One Size Does Not Fit All: Design with the idea of multiple supply chains to service specific groups of customers.
- Use Pricing to Give The Customer Options: You need to probe what customers are willing to pay for and what they are not willing to pay for. Amazon is a master at this. Do you get next day delivery? Yes... Do you pay for it (through Prime)? Yes... Do most people spend more on Prime fees then they get back in avoidance of shipping costs? Most likely. The key here is to not say no to the customer, just provide options.
- When In Doubt, Provide The Service Then Figure Out The Cost: Many times there just is not enough time to ensure everything is perfect before you decide which direction to go. But, once you are confident you are "close enough" to figure out the cost, launch! There is no better way to ensure you have pressure to lower costs. This is not a "ready, shoot, aim" strategy but rather it is one that avoids a supply chain being stuck in a conference room for years.
- Constantly Reevaluate: The industry is moving too fast to design a supply chain every 10 years. You must constantly reevaluate where you stand relative to customer demands and competitive forces.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Then you need rail networks, highway networks (Jax joins I-10 and I-95 - two may corridors with 10 being East - West and 95 being North - South), good employment and space for warehousing. All of this has to be wrapped around a good business climate.
Jacksonville Florida has it all and more! What is the more? Jacksonville is the gateway to one of the most populous states and fastest growing states. What better place to be for logistics then to be where the people live.
It truly is a great logistics hub. Congratulations to all who have helped make it the true "Gateway to Florida".
Sunday, April 30, 2017
This feedback has been around for ages on 3PLs and I always wondered why it has not been addressed. In fact, I would say the industry has really run away from what was true 3PL work and the brokerage industry has co-opted the term 3PL for itself. 3PLs today are mostly just brokerage houses.
So, why all this talk of "partnerships" yet bidding still happens at a torrid pace to reduce costs. A consumer of 3PL services should ask themselves the following questions when looking for cost reduction:
- How will value truly be created? Remember, taking money out of one pocket and putting it in another does not add value to the extended supply chain. This activity will just merely reallocate the value which is already there.
- Is the value truly sustainable? For example, building cost reduction from paying below market wages is simply not sustainable. Something will give. Yet, I hear consumers of services say things such as " I don't care how they do it, just do it".
- Are the governance structures supporting the relationship aligned with the overall goals of the program? Too many times I hear the terms "partnership" and "vested relationships" yet when you look deeply at the contracts and the governance structure, it becomes clear the relationship does not support overall value creation.
- Make contracts long enough for the 3PL to recover investments. We ask the 3PL to invest in huge amounts of capital (technology, buildings, automation) yet we write the contract for 3 years. Imagine how expensive this is if the 3PL has to recover this investment in 3 years!
- Build a payment structure that allows the 3PL to gain from applying innovation. If the payments are fixed, why would the 3PL invest in innovation? They need to benefit from this and there are payment structures which allow that to happen.
- Build a management governance structure which ensures the 3PL can survive. For example, in fast growing wage environments, do you really want the 3PL to keep wages low and thus attract the not so best employees? That is what they will be forced to do if you do not have a structure which allows for real business decisions such as raising wages and everyone sharing in that cost.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
- The family remains firmly in control - in fact the company will still be considered a "closely held" company.
- Family will net about $230M
- $359M to the company of which roughly half is used to pay down debt and 1/2 to buy chassis.
While there is optimism, February retail sales at .1% definitely slowed this movement.
There is also the wild card of autos. Ford has already warned on inventory and slow sales which means a lot of capacity becomes available as the automotive industry adjusts (read: idles plants).
More to come but let's call this a "good sign" if you are on the capacity side and an "early warning" if you are on the shipper side.
|Inventories to Sales Ratio|
The Stay at Home Economy (SAHE for now on) is something that has huge impact on how our supply chains work. First, lets explore why this is growing:
- Technology: I have written a lot about how technology miniaturized or digitized just about everything and it continues at a rapid pace. My music, my video and my books are all digitized so I get them on demand and in digital devices. No need to shop or go to a central place to watch or listen. In fact, my home theater and home audio equipment rivals that of professional locations.
- Customization: Because virtually everything is available with the touch of a button, I essentially customize my experience to an audience of one - me. Before, I would have to compromise and listen, watch or do some activity that perhaps was not exactly what I wanted to do. Now, I do exactly what I want to do.
- Control of the Temporal Aspect of Activity: I do what I want (see #2 above) when I want. I no longer have to worry about "start" times or what day of week I am doing something. I do what I want and when I want to do it.
- Food Delivery: This is the last bastion of home delivery e-commerce and it is coming. It is far more complex but with companies building "Meals ready to eat" (No, not the MRE's from the Army days but companies such as Blueapron) and with your local supermarket delivering, the last "big" reason to go out is starting to go away.
- Security: This is an unfortunate part of life these days but it is a fact - the more the aggregation of people occur at events, the more risk there is. Why take that risk? When I am at home I feel far more secure.
"When Domino's Pizza (NYSE:DPZ) crushed earnings and Target (NYSE:TGT) got hammered, Cramer is convinced that the stay-at-home economy is getting strong.
The comparisons between these two stocks are perfect metaphors for the current environment. Stocks such as Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Domino's allow people to stay at home and save money as well. Domino's delivers pizzas to you at home while Target requires you to leave the house.
The bricks and mortars are losing in a world where consumers see stay-at-home as an advantage. This also means that companies like Home Depot (NYSE:HD) and TJX Companies (NYSE:TJX) are rallying as they make the home better.
Netflix, Amazon and the likes have made entertainment reach home, when you want, how you want it. Gaming companies create engaging video games which people play at home. With social media, consumers are aware what's going on and do not need to leave the house. It's just that things are different now compared to how they were 10 years ago. The stay-at-home economy is touching every aspect of people's lives and it's not going to change soon."I think it is clear the SAHE is here to stay and it is dramatically changing how people behave and shop. My next entry will be on the implications of your supply chain - Hint: If you are not working to support the SAHE you are quickly becoming obsolete.
Note: I am not making any value judgment pro or con on the SAHE - that is for social scientists and psychologists to develop. I am merely reporting what is clearly happening and the impact on supply chains.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
The proposals being made would fundamentally change the economics on a lot of business decisions relative to the development and build out of supply chains. One example is the proposed "Border Tax" which could be as much as 35% on imports. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, President Elect Trump is even threatening a foreign company, BMW, with a "border tax" if they move production to Mexico. The Wall Street Journal reports toy manufacturers are struggling with what should they do in this age of the popular uprising against global supply chains. And, even Constellation Brands is "bracing themselves" for this tax.
For those deeply involved in global supply chains the question being asked is just exactly what should they do in 2017? Do they develop supply chains as if this is not happening? Do they retreat and prepare for this tax by re-shoring? Do they automate (keep plants in the US but eliminate people? All of these questions are up in the air and the uncertainty of whether the threats are real or just political positioning will cause supply chain investment to slow down.
Companies can do one of three things:
- Stop major investment and wait for more certainty.
- Continue to invest and "take a bet" where this will land
- Ignore it and fight it - risking one morning that the CEO wakes up one morning and finds their stock down 10% due to a pointed tweet.
- Global supply chains are here to stay and no one can stop them or revert them. How can toy manufacturers all of a sudden make affordable toys in the US? The infrastructure for the global supply chains have already been built. They are not changing.
- Any time you introduce economic distortion (i.e. a border tax or favoring one industry over another) you risk abnormal behavior in investment. Eventually this falls apart and a collapse occurs.
- When you threaten major disruption you force things to get put on hold until clarity emerges.