What’s going on this week? Internet bugs, Dying legacies, Africa, Supply Chain innovations and Drones

  • Heartbleed bug seems to pose a bigger threat than nuclear weapons as it can paralyze the internet we know. Hackers went straight to the heart of internet security – Open SSL – and opened it for other hackers worldwide. So, as you check your bank accounts, do internet shopping or execute other secure transactions, watch out for the warnings or change your passwords.
  • Motorola is selling another one of its division to Zebra technologies. Zebra, well known for its industrial devices like thermal printers, will become the largest player in the industrial device industry. Good for Zebra but the legacy of Motorola seems to be dying every year.
  • Nigeria has become Africa’s biggest economy with their adjustment to GDP, surpassing South Africa. With a $500b+ GDP, this seems good only on paper as more than 70% of the population still lives on $2 or less a day. At the same time it may attract foreign investors to shell more money to drive development in the country.
  • SAP announced a new supply chain solution at the SAPInsider – Supply Chain Control Tower. While it’s competitors have similar offerings, SC control tower brings advanced and truly integrated capabilities to adjust strategic and tactical business plans in real time to assess cash flow, service level and profitability impact. Powered by Hana.
  • Drone wars continue as Google is buying New Mexico based firm Titan Aerospace. Titan claims to have small and big drones, some of which can be put to commercial use by 2015. With Amazon already ahead, Facebook has also acquired a UK based firm. Race is on but watch out for the skies above you. You may soon see drone advertisements!


Closing with a quote that inspired me this week

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz

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10 Leadership Lessons from 5 industries – we are all similar when it comes to these!

In the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to work with several clients in 5 different industries (Life Science/Pharma, CPG, Automotive, Medical Devices and Industrial Products). Each one was an excellent experience to learn from different corporate cultures, people and leadership styles.

So I thought I would write down the top 10 leadership lessons learnt from working with some of the best companies in America.

  1. Empower people but don’t just let them loose. This may sound like cliché but very difficult to achieve practically especially when you are managing a global team. Leaders empower their people and coach them while holding them accountable. Develop a tracking mechanism to ensure that empowerment is driving positive results and behavior.
  2. Raising voice or exercising authority is not persuasion. I was sitting in a workshop where my team was delivering a presentation to our client team. There must have been 20 some people in the room. At a certain point of disagreement, one of the attendees decided to speak at the top of their voice to make sure their viewpoint was accepted. Guess what, people (most of whom worked for that person) ignored him for the remainder of the week. This one is self-explanatory.
  3. Don’t be a crybaby. Does this sound like one of your colleagues or a direct report or someone else around you? Some people are full of complaints, dissatisfaction and an opinion on how the world should operate. However when you ask them for a plan or a remedy, they disappear. It is normal to complain but have a recommendation to change the course of things. Think, act and always have a plan.
  4. Understand people’s motives. Actions and words are often different from the ulterior motive. Take the time to really listen to people. Make the effort to understand the other person and what they really want. In my line of business this is particularly important, as my client’s needs are often different from what they initially describe. This also applies to people driving their own agenda. Understanding them helps remove certain roadblocks and makes the experience pleasant for everyone.
  5. Dynasties change – change accordingly or find a new one. We tend to get comfortable with our colleagues and leaders, and that’s how it should be. But a day comes when people change, and we become uncomfortable. Either embrace the new situation and people, or move on. People often struggle with this as they cling to the glorious past and lose sight of present and future. Make a quick decision, this time for yourself.
  6. Be honest to yourself and others. I see good leaders exhibit and practice this trait all the time. It’s like eternal truth. If we cannot be honest to ourselves, we are automatically not being honest to others. It is true that it all comes back around and creates difficult situations that are sometimes career reckoning. Let’s be authentic and keep each other honest.
  7. Life isn’t fair.Don’t compete for everything. Identify opportunities where your odds are high. There are many situations that feel like high stakes poker game. You spend a lot of energy and the outcome is as if you played a cheap slot machine. Not fair, right? However, we are the ones who made the decision to begin with. So should one not take risks? Absolutely yes, but become a better judge at understanding what you are getting into.
  8. Delegate. You are not a super hero. Do I need to say more?
  9. Educate. Prepare. Rehearse. This is a good one. I cannot tell you how many meetings I attend where people are completely unprepared and typically don’t get a second chance to course correct or win their audience. This was common to all companies or clients I worked with. There is only one remedy – over prepare! You don’t have to have all the answers but enough to support your idea. 
  10. Take care of self and do not forget the loved ones. This should have been number one in the list. First, it’s you, and then, it’s everyone around you who cares for you. Jobs, circumstances, companies, businesses etc. change. The constants in your life are always with you and you need to take care of them. So tell them today how much you love them and thank them for supporting you! 
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Did someone say Supply Chain can’t be “Mobile-cool”?

IBM had an ad long time ago where a truck driver gets a call from a dispatch person that he is lost. Driver asks, “How did you know?” Dispatch person goes, “the boxes told me”. The ad was an instant hit. That was the time when RFID was gaining traction and supply chain visibility was a new concept. 

However the technology was cost prohibitive and even though many large companies like Walmart mandated use of RFID, they had to back down as the industry wasn’t ready. RFID has been fairly successful since then but still remains capital intensive, and not everyone can afford it.

At the same time, supply chain landscape has drastically changed in the last 5-6 years. China has been on the rise but other manufacturing economies like Africa, Brazil, Mexico, SE Asia have emerged. McKinsey Global Institute analysis shows that by 2025, there will be more companies in emerging markets such that global business landscape will be balanced between developed and emerging nations.


On the onshore side of things, supplier base has expanded with the emergence of small to mid-sized companies. Once your company was dealing with large corporate suppliers but you now probably have small/medium ones who cannot afford expensive technology like your company does. And, imagine what 3D printing is going to do in the next ten years. Consumer may become the supplier itself!

Similarly on the front end, era of consumers is back and customer has more power than ever before, thanks to mobile commerce and social. With so many choices, you are being squeezed both on price and margin.

Imagine you are sitting in your S&OP meeting and everyone is looking at price, demand and supply, and talking about the next quarter. Then they all look at you, Supply Chain Executive, and ask a question “How can we cut cost?” Your immediate reaction is, “we are already running so lean. Do you want to drain my blood now?” They all look at you with greedy eyes because you own 40-50% of total cost.

You come back to the office, frustrated, call a meeting with your direct reports and ask them to look into every corner to cut cost. At the end of the meeting, the whiteboard in your office has weird drawings and things you have seen in the past – reduce inventory, adjust labor, cut supplier price, reduce transportation cost, re-source material, improve machine turns, and list is so long that it is almost falling off the whiteboard.


Continuous improvement, optimization etc. are all best practices and must be done on day-to-day basis. It’s time to go beyond the traditional methods and leverage what the new mobile supply chain has to offer.


Mobility, on the road 

mobile_driverWhat if that driver was never lost? You gave him an app that downloads the route you had pre-determined for him, optimized already. You don’t have to invest in GPS or other tracking devices but a simple smartphone. And by the way, driver can notify you if there were any issues so that you can manage customer expectations accordingly. Lastly, you can track actual delivery time to your customers thereby using data to apply analytics to track delivery performance, equipment utilization and customer satisfaction. All begins with one mobile device. An industrial client expects to save $3m in savings over next 3 years with increase in number of trips and freight visibility.

Mobility, extended to partners 

mobility_partnersLet’s go back to your smaller suppliers who can’t afford expensive supply chain systems but they do have a smartphone today. You have an app for suppliers that allows electronic ordering, forecast sharing, shares production status (or delays), shows delivery scheduling (arrival at your DC). Cool, but one may argue where are the savings? With real time supply and demand sharing, suppliers don’t have to hedge inventory, lower their investment giving them ability to offer better prices. Your DC can correspondingly lower safety stocks. Your DC can plan labor better with visibility of inbound freight and real time updates. The series can go on as you start peeling the onion. A CPG client expects to gain 2 hours of time in daily operations with advanced notification of arrival times, leading to better labor and dock utilization. Client has hundreds of facilities so the savings multiply quickly.

Mobility, within the four walls

mobile_deviceLet’s take this within your own network. How much do you spend on industrial devices, their maintenance and corresponding productivity? Take your warehouse, manufacturing and transportation operations and give your people touchscreen devices. In a prototype with a client, we created an app for warehouse operations and tested it with 10 operators. After several field tests and comparing results with traditional devices, almost all operators were 10-12% more efficient. One of the biggest factors was user experience as the operators told us. Industrial engineers had doubts about life of equipment and increase in total cost of ownership over a period of time. Same engineers developed an industrial casing that protects the device and for almost half the cost, and the client got productivity improvement with happier employees.

I do have to stop here as there are hundreds of use cases live or in inception stages whereby Mobility is becoming a backbone of supply chain and a new way of managing operating cost.

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