Tag Archives: Planning


The only thing that’s constant is change. It’s a phrase famously attributed to a Greek philosopher in 500 B.C., but it also sums up the past year and a half in manufacturing and, frankly, just about any industry out there. It seems like change is coming at us faster than ever before. Apps now run our personal lives, and in the workplace, we’ve all had to adapt instantly to everything from customers going away to how the shop floor is configured for employee safety.

The ability to react to sudden events in the marketplace, whether it’s a shift in the economy or a supply chain disruption, requires manufacturers to be agile enough to pivot on a dime. But, it’s not just a matter of being able to roll with the punches. It’s about being able to react quickly to opportunities, too. It’s about growth and the ability to sustain that growth for the long term, come what may.

Change management

When thinking about change management, it’s natural to think of change coming from outside forces. Economy shifts. Supply chain disruptions. Even sudden changes in demand for what you produce. But some change comes internally, as well. Longtime leaders get their gold watches and retire. Companies restructure. Mergers and acquisitions happen. Company culture suddenly takes a nosedive and nobody knows why.

Having a mindset of change management already in place helps companies react quickly and effectively when change inevitably happens.

For manufacturers, the bottom line is always very thin. At USC Consulting Group, we specialize in those tight margins, helping our clients find hidden opportunities to realize and profit from efficiencies they may not even know were there.

Some key factors in creating a change management mindset include:

Acceptance of change. When we uncover efficiencies for our clients, sometimes we ruffle feathers because of a mindset that is built around “it’s the way we’ve always done it.” The idea that it’s OK to let go of some traditional methods, try something new and change processes that just aren’t working anymore is key. This may sound basic, but it is difficult to produce a culture shift like this if your company has been doing the job the same way for years.

C-suite support. The ability to pivot and react has to come from the top.

Employee buy-in. We find that this is crucial to successfully implementing any change, even positive ones. The people doing the job on the shop floor need to embrace it.

Planning. If you fail to plan, as the saying goes, you plan to fail. It may sound a little counterintuitive, planning for change, but we find that if our clients have a solid planning process in place, it can act as a rudder in choppy waters. We recommend a process called Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning that integrates customer-focused demand plans with production, sourcing and inventory plans, resulting in improved tactical and long-term decision-making.

SIOP spotlight

We like to tell our clients that the purpose of SIOP is making sure you’re having the right conversations about the right things at the right time. And getting what you need when you need it.

“Key to the SIOP is to emphasize inventory as a strategic tool to help offset variation in either demand or production issues,” explains David Shouldice, senior vice president and managing director of USC Consulting Group’s global mining and metals practice. “One lever of control in the SIOP process is to make inventory harder working as a strategic tool.”

This isn’t a one-and-done process. We recommend that our clients update their plans monthly. Some do it more often than that. The point is covering a sufficient span of time to make sure the necessary resources will be available when you need them. The plans take into account projections made by the sales and marketing departments and the resources available from manufacturing, engineering, purchasing and finance. All of that together works toward hitting the company’s goals and objectives.

Sales Inventory and Operations Planning eBook

Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning is done on an aggregate level. The big picture, in other words. Those big-picture plans then drive the individual departmental plans. Each month, you meet again to determine whether the overall company plan is on course, and to adjust for changes in the marketplace and changes or problems within the company.

A foundational tenet to a robust SIOP process requires that the right conversations occur about the right topics at the right time. Core components of a successful SIOP process include:

With the right plan in place, your company is positioned well for whatever changes come down the pike. To learn more, contact us and we’ll be happy to talk about how a great plan can help you realize even greater efficiency.

Looking for ways to improve your bottom line

Back to top ↑


Every industry on the planet was impacted in some way by COVID-19, but pulp and paper really had a wild ride. Disruptions in the supply chain caused slowdowns and headaches. Manufacturing facilities hustled to make changes due to social distancing, causing more disruption and slowdowns on throughput. That’s not too different from what other manufacturing industries experienced. The difference for pulp and paper was demand.

While demand for many other products dried up, it skyrocketed for pulp and paper, including personal hygiene products (including masks), food packaging products, corrugated packaging and other paper-based materials. The surge in demand was partly due to changes in consumer lifestyle because of the pandemic. Fewer people were shopping in stores, many of which were closed, so Amazon deliveries spiked and along with that, the demand for boxes. Customers weren’t eating out in restaurants, but food delivery went through the roof, and along with that, the demand for delivery packaging. Sometimes the industry kept pace with the rising demand, and sometimes it didn’t — as anyone who tried to get toilet paper during the first months of the pandemic will attest.

As the nation, and the world, returns to normalcy, what’s ahead for pulp and paper? What are the lessons learned from the industry’s wild ride?

Anticipate continued supply chain disruptions

Pulp and paper may continue to see weak or broken links in their supply chains. It’s truly a global industry, and whether its shipping, logistics or other transportation issues snarled by travel bans, supply shortages, rising prices or anything else that affects your ability to get what you need when you need it, those problems aren’t going away quickly. The key is developing alternative supply lines and having the ability to pivot quickly. Maximizing efficiencies can minimize supply chain disruptions, as well. To read more about that, click here.

Focus on core products

Many industries are using this tactic during this still-uncertain time. Divesting, or slowing production of new products or ones that aren’t performing as well as others, allows you to focus your resources on your solid tried-and-trues. Getting back to basics is a powerful way to keep the line running with less supply, fewer people and more disruption.

Take a hard look at your operations as a whole

At USC Consulting Group, we specialize in helping companies find efficiencies. We’re suggesting to our clients across many industries to take a step back and re-evaluate during this time. Have you laid off workers? Even closed plants temporarily? Has your front-office staff been working at home? Now is the time to look at your business through the lens of what you experienced during the pandemic, and think about the practices you can carry with you into the future, including:

Use the SIOP process for forecasting and planning

With changing demand and continued supply chain disruptions, getting the best, clearest look at your operations and creating better strategy decisions is the key to staying agile. Many companies use sales and operations planning, or S&OP, as it is commonly known. We think that process misses a critical piece of the puzzle: inventory. Adding inventory into the mix is just one additional step, but we find it can be the key to the whole thing. When you’re focusing on inventory, it requires more careful planning and elevates the entire planning process up a notch. We like to tell our clients that the purpose of SIOP is making sure you’re having the right conversations about the right things at the right time. And getting what you need when you need it. Core components of a successful SIOP process include:

At USC Consulting Group, we’ve been helping clients improve their operational efficiency for 50-plus years, through all kinds of economic weather. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you ride out this storm and emerge more effective than before, contact us today.

Contact USC Consulting Group

Back to top ↑


All championship-caliber teams are able to transfer plays on a chalkboard to game winning performances on the field. There is a strategy laid out and the players execute that plan to perfection. This is no different for a manufacturer’s operations team looking to achieve operational excellence.

Operational excellence strategies must involve every player in an organization knowing and driving the game plan. Each member of the team understands that product moves from Process A to Process B and so on in a specific quantity, at a specific time, to a specific location. If it doesn’t, then like a quarterback calls an audible, they recognize something is wrong and make corrective actions.

Reaching the OpEx end zone requires your operations personnel to be key players in creating and delivering products with meritorious results. Your operational excellence strategies need to include effective value stream and work flow cycles. The Flow of Value to your fans (the customer) can be seen by every employee and can be fixed should that process break down.

Having the right strategies in place in the game of operational excellence can make you feel like it’s 1st and goal… not 4th and long. Like hashmarks on the field, your success may be a matter of inches. With the right strategy, you can escape the blitz and come through in the clutch.

Watch this game tape for six plays that can help you achieve operational excellence:

1) Recruit the right players: Your employees and the culture they create in the workplace are pivotal to execution

2) Know the X’s and O’s: Map out and define what operational excellence actually looks like for your team

3) Trust your roster: Empower your workers with a game plan so they can make corrections when issues arise

4) Play to the whistle: When trying to reach your goal, don’t relent; true operational excellence revolves around continuous improvement

5) Review the game film: Establishing and interpreting KPIs help you evaluate the quality of performance

6) Support your fans: Understanding your customers’ needs and what it takes to satisfy them provides value propositions

If you have the desire, USC Consulting Group has the coaching successes and “in the trenches” experience. We can guide your team to the operational excellence end zone. Contact us today.


Looking to empower your performance? Contact USC


Back to top ↑