Lessons from the Road – Back to the Basics

Lesson from the road: Back to Basics

For most of 2012, I have been travelling to client locations to work with them on improving the performance of the supply chain. There were some interesting common themes at the companies that I visited. The first was that they had refocused their organizations on the importance of meeting customer expectations for quality and delivery. The second was that the underlying issues keeping them from meeting those expectations were mostly tied to either not understanding and not executing on what most supply chain professionals would refer to as the basics from the Body of Knowledge (APICS, ISM, ASQ, SME, IIE, etc.).

As baby boomers and their predecessors leave the workforce, their replacements don’t seem to have a grasp of such fundamental concepts as Bill of Materials (BOM) and inventory accuracy and the consequences they have on manufacturing and supply chain execution. To make matters worse, the organizations they work for don’t assign an owner for some of these same key processes.  Without a process owner the problems are not addressed until they become urgent issues adversely impacting business performance.

There are many factors that contribute to these problems but I would like to focus on one, the lack of company support of professional educational organizations like APICS, ASQ, SME, and many others. These organizations fill the void between a college degree and the specific knowledge that an individual needs to be successful in their job. Sorry, but one partial lecture on Sales and Operations Planning in a Operations Management or Marketing class doesn’t cut it. Yet, at one of my clients, there was a bright recent graduate of a prestigious business school trying to create an S & OP process for the company and dramatically over-thinking it. Fortunately, they sent him to an APICS workshop that I suggested and I expect a more focused and effective effort when I return.

Unfortunately, my client is the exception in this economy. Many short-sided business executives have dismissed the value of discipline specific or industry specific education provided by these organizations. Furthermore, they have ceased paying for memberships, courses, and monthly professional development meetings and then they lament the lack of qualified employees. For over 50 years, these organizations have provided the pipeline for qualified professionals but due to the lack of support from the business community and the current economy; their numbers are dwindling in the United States while they increase in the rest of the world.

As both an adjunct professor and the holder of several professional certifications, I find this trend the latest indignity for America and another convoluted justification for businesses to off-shore. We can reverse this trend by returning to the things that made America an industrial powerhouse throughout most of the last century – The Basics!

Thanks for listing to my rant.

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