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The 2024 forecasts for the oil and gas industry include some conflicting speculation about supply and demand. It’s leading to confusion for U.S. companies… not to mention dismay as people everywhere scowl at the gas pump when they’re filling up.
Reuters reported in August that OPEC+ expects to see supply cuts that impact oil inventories, which will drive prices potentially higher than the $88 per barrel of crude in August 2023, the highest price since January. OPEC+ is confident, however, that demand will rise markedly.
But… the International Energy Association (IEA) doesn’t quite agree with those numbers, noting that the fluctuating economy will impact manufacturing businesses, and coupled with the tsunami of electric vehicles, will shake out in the form of falling demand.
Those clear-as-mud speculations boil down to one thing: Uncertainty is ahead for an industry that has already had its fair share.
All industries have been weathering uncertainty for the past few years, starting with the pandemic and, once we thought we had that handled, continuing with a shaky economy, a cried-wolf recession and ever-rising interest rates, putting consumer confidence on shifting sands.
At USC Consulting Group, we specialize in helping companies through uncertain times by optimizing their processes, becoming as efficient as possible and positioning themselves on solid ground to handle whatever is coming down the pike.
Preparing the Oil & Gas industry for an uncertain 2024
Here are seven ways the oil and gas industry can shore up for an uncertain 2024. Though separate goals, all work together to make companies as efficient and productive as they can be.
1. Reducing costs
Is there ever a year when companies in any industry shouldn’t focus on reducing costs? That’s a given, 24/7/365. But, it’s especially important for oil and gas going into 2024, when the economy continues to be volatile and uncertain. Buttoning up costs is a good strategy for the industry to get through that storm. It’s about optimizing production processes in the field and reducing extraction costs in order to offset costs involved in finding new sites.
2. Managing supply chain risks
After the supply chain bottlenecks most every industry experienced during the pandemic, it’s vital to mitigate supply chain risks. It’s a burr under the saddle of the entire industry. Fluctuating costs and supply uncertainty can impact the entire operation. Oil and gas companies need a little breathing room, predictable lead times and a more secure footing going into next year. Securing your supply chain is one way to achieve that. It can help avoid the market roller coaster we’ve seen in the recent past and may help ease pressure from inflation as well. The bonus here is, it can save about 15% on costs.
Developing a solid risk assessment plan that takes into consideration what’s happening at the supplier level will secure your supply chain and prevent any surprise shortages.
3. Focusing on yield
Maximizing yield, like reducing costs and managing supply chain risks, brings solid benefits in any economy, but especially now. It means making sure extraction techniques are as efficient as possible, utilizing methods like Enhanced Oil Recovery to extract more oil from reservoirs that may have been underutilized, managing those reservoirs carefully and by the numbers, and making sure employees across all facilities are on the same page.
4. Closing the how-why gap
In an organization the front line often does not understand the “why,” and the executives don’t understand the “how.” It means, the top brass do not fully understand how the job gets done and the frontline workers don’t fully understand why the job needs to be done. Closing that “how-why gap” is critical for optimal performance all the way up and down the organizational food chain.
5. Standardizing daily and weekly instructions for front-line managers
Going hand in hand with closing that how-why gap is increased training for managers. Many industries like oil and gas rely on frontline training, but some people would say that supervisors need even more. Training trickles down, but efficiency does, too. And the key to that is making sure everyone, across all departments and facilities, is on the same page, doing the job the same way, with a standard set of operating procedures. It’s a vital component for optimal efficiency.
6. Consolidation and acquisition = increased need for communication
New talent, ideas and perspectives can breathe life into a company. Mergers and acquisitions in the oil and gas industry exploded in Q2 2023, according to Enverus Intelligence Research. After $8 billion M&A in Q1 2023 (nothing to sneeze at) we saw $24b in Q2. It’s in line with increased consolidations, as reported by Forbes, with the goal of lowering costs, raising inventory and in the end, boosting investor returns.
All of that M&A activity can put a strain on employees of affected companies. Especially during this flurry of M&A, it’s important to find solutions to help them with the complexities of combining two “legacy” groups, which have their unique set of standards. Finding ways to combine both schools of thought into one set of “best practices” after a merger is paramount to its success. To learn more about it, read our recent case study: “Creating Harmony When Merging Two Companies.”
7. Performing scheduled maintenance
The goal is zero unplanned downtime. Pros in the industry know that’s not so easy to achieve. It starts with asset monitoring, including wells but also pipelines, processing facilities and other equipment to maximize operational efficiency. Scheduling downtime for maintenance ensures a shutdown, but it also ensures you’ll know when it’s coming and can plan accordingly. Unplanned failures or glitches can be costly problems at best but dangerous threats to workers at worst.
At USC Consulting Group, we’ve been working with the oil and gas industry for decades. If you’re interested in optimizing your company’s efficiency in this uncertain economy, give us a call.
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Strikes have been in the headlines lately, with the writers’ strike bringing Hollywood to a standstill and President Biden making history as the first sitting president to ever walk a picket line (he did it in Michigan in support of the United Auto Workers strike), and most recently healthcare workers are threatening to walk out as well. The average Joe is certainly impacted by these disputes between management and workers. The writers’ strike, which was recently resolved, means no new scripted programming this fall season (say it ain’t so, Law & Order!). The auto workers’ strike means new car prices are expected to rise… as if inflation and interest rates hadn’t handled that already. And a nurses’ strike will certainly impact the care people receive.
So, it’s easy to see how everyday people are affected by strikes. How do labor strikes impact the business side of the manufacturing industry? They can wreak havoc in many facets of operations, obviously bringing production to a screeching halt during the strike itself.
But those effects, and others, can linger when employees exchange the picket line for the production line, impacting operations long after the strike is resolved. Here’s how.
Decreased output. Obviously, production is brought to a stand-still during the strike itself. So, when employees get back on the job, the entire operation is behind. It affects everything from hitting forecasted numbers to earning revenue.
Inventory snags. Other parts of the industry, like the supply chain, can be unaffected by a strike, so inventory can accumulate. Getting inventory just right is a core principle for efficiency, and it’s a delicate balancing act between too much and not enough. Strikes can throw that balance off in a big way.
Delivery delays. Product isn’t being produced during a strike, period, so obviously it’s not going to be delivered on time. But even after the strike is over, delays can continue as companies play catchup. Those delays and shortages have a ripple effect, first hitting your partners and clients, but then rippling out to their partners and clients.
Damaged relationships. Employee morale is like gold in any industry, but after a strike, especially if it’s a prolonged one, relations between employees and management can sink to an all-time low. Distrust of higher-ups can seep onto the production line, disputes may not be completely resolved to both parties’ satisfaction, collaboration can suffer. With the battle for qualified, experienced workers in manufacturing, this is a tough setback.
Bottom-line woes. All of those production delays can result in fewer orders, distrust among your clients and vendors, stock prices could even take a tumble. All of it will eat away at your profits.
How manufacturing can bounce back after strikes
When the negotiation is done and the workers are back on the job, management’s next steps can mean the difference between bouncing back quickly from a strike or feeling those nagging, lingering effects. At USC Consulting Group, we’re the experts in helping management streamline operations, become more efficient, create effective training and more — all crucial elements in the next steps after a strike.
Careful scheduling to increase production. This doesn’t mean piling on the work to make up for the shortfall. But it might mean adding additional shifts, giving people extra hours or even hiring temporary help to close that gap.
A laser focus on employee relations. Now is the time for the C-suite to get out on the production line, if they haven’t already been walking that floor. Employee relations can be at an all-time low after a strike, so it’s vital to focus on employee retention efforts, additional training and other methods to make your employees feel valued and needed.
Involve employees in the fix. Items may have been hammered out at the negotiation table, but it doesn’t mean all employees will be on board with what the union agrees to. The old adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, applies here, only in reverse. It was “broke.” Involving the people on the front lines in the “fix” in terms of streamlining operations can go a long way.
Strive for operational excellence. This means efficiency and ease all the way down the line. When your shop is running on all cylinders, it’s not just good for your company’s bottom line. Employees like their jobs better when snags, delays and other frustrations aren’t happening.
Have labor strikes affected your manufacturing operations? Need some help improving your processes to please your employees and bottom line? Contact us today and we will walk you through the steps.
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Last year, the London-based Collins Dictionary named “permacrisis” as the word of the year. It means an extended period of instability caused by an onslaught of seemingly never-ending crises — wildfires, pandemics, hurricanes, floods, inflation, air quality alerts, the highest heat ever recorded in some regions of the world, economic instability, wars… the list goes on. Sound familiar? You name it, we’ve all lived through it. And it shows no signs of slowing down.
In the immortal words of Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live: It’s always something.
The way we see it here at USC Consulting Group, it IS always something. That’s called life. While the world may be going through an unusually rocky stretch, there is no perfect time to be running your business. Whether it’s external crises like the ones we’ve described, or internal upheavals like layoffs, mergers, unforeseen difficulties or the myriad hiccups that can occur, things are going to happen. When they do, companies can thrive, not just survive, with a mix of focusing on process improvements and operational excellence, optimizing your supply chain, and implementing standard operating procedures, along with a dash of the old-fashioned notion that “this too shall pass.”
Here are a few tactics for making sure you’re on solid footing, even during the rockiest of times.
The goal is operational excellence, right? But is that ever truly achievable? Yes, but it can also be a moving target. It means continuous improvements to processes, becoming as efficient as possible. We find that it’s about eliminating bottlenecks, waste and other snags that can impede productivity. Getting the right people in the right jobs and empowering them to get that job done. Developing standards and key process indicators that will tell you when you’re on target and when you aren’t, and using data to “manage by the numbers.”
Optimizing the supply chain: Don’t DRIP!
What’s DRIP? It’s a popular acronym when talking about supply chain. It stands for data rich, information poor. The fragility of the supply chain, no matter the industry you’re in, has become crystal clear in recent years. Optimizing your supply chain needs to be top of mind to make sure you don’t get caught short, and as DRIP suggests, it starts with making sure you’re using data to its fullest. Outdated inventory systems can impede that. Supply, Inventory and Operations Planning (SIOP) is a method we here at USC utilizes that emphasizes inventory as a strategic tool to allow businesses to get a better look at their operations and formulate superior strategy decisions.
SIOP gives you the ability to capture, analyze, integrate and interpret high-quality data, which is the key to staying ahead of the market. The aim is to achieve process automation and glean predictive analytics, which give you a strategic advantage… so you don’t DRIP.
Learn more about SIOP in this free eBook
Standard operating procedures (SOPs)
Much is being written in the news lately concerning “institutional knowledge,” and how the loss of it can be devastating to companies. What is it? It’s what’s NOT in your training manual. It’s what the person you think is “irreplaceable” knows. The ins and outs of doing the job that your best people learn through years of experience. When they retire, or leave the company for whatever reason, that knowledge walks out the door with them. That’s why it’s so important to develop standard operating procedures for every job in your company, and write those procedures down on stone tablets if necessary.
When you have those SOPs down, that’s just the first step. Training your people in exactly how to do the job, so everyone across all of your facilities is doing it in the same way, is vital.
Sound like a tall order? It can be. That’s where we come in. At USC Consulting Group, we have 55+ years of experience helping companies optimize their efficiency, ramp up their production, solidify those SOPs and operate to the max. If you’re wondering if now is the right time to hire an operations consultant, download our aptly named eBook, “When is the Right Time to Bring in Operations Consultants?” It’s free, and it will give you more information about how we can help your business.
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For many, the turmoil surrounding the supply chain over the past few years has shed light on areas in need of improvement. One such aspect of business that companies who rely on suppliers now recognize as more important than ever is effective vendor relationship management. Let’s take a brief overview of why building strong vendor relationships is crucial and explore some approaches to enhance how they are managed.
Vendor relationship management refers to the process of nurturing buyer-supplier relationships to establish a solid foundation of trust and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. When this process is refined and relationships are enriched, it can lead to various key benefits, such as improved data flow and smoother operations.
However, those who neglect modern vendor management or fail to oversee relationships effectively risk potential losses. These losses may come in the form of lost revenue or wasted time fixing errors that could have been avoided with a more streamlined process. Therefore, vendor relationship management is vital in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive market.
Since each vendor is unique and plays a different role, vendor relationships cannot be managed in the same way. Hence, a well-designed process should be established to improve the vendor procurement and investment process from the outset. This involves taking the time to thoroughly research potential vendors and understanding their business operations. Not only can these robust vendor management practices lead to better-informed decisions, but they can also result in improved negotiations. When the partnership is built on a relationship that both parties wish to sustain and has been negotiated in good faith, it can be more profitable overall.
Another approach to enhancing vendor management is to revamp the existing procedures for planning, onboarding, and performance tracking. Many organizations turn to Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) software to streamline these processes. CLM software can help optimize the management of vendor contracts and provide valuable data on contract performance through comprehensive tracking. When combined with other modern strategies, a sophisticated CLM platform can increase procurement efficiency, reduce risk, and lead to more cost-effective and high-performing vendor contracts.
It’s essential to recognize that effective vendor management goes beyond mere transactional relationships between organizations and third-party vendors. To derive the maximum value from vendor relationships in the future, companies of all sizes need to carefully consider every aspect of their buyer-supplier relationships and devise a contemporary and collaborative vendor relationship management strategy.
This infographic provides further insights on improving vendor management:
Improving Vendor Management Relations from Agiloft, a provider of enterprise contract management software
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When looking into the trends for the automotive industry, there’s really only one headline. Electric vehicles. EVs are no longer “the future” of the industry. The future is now. It means many changes for the automotive industry, including changing demand, supply chain and inventory (which are all connected) and workforce challenges, in addition to the specter of new facilities to handle new assembly lines. For auto manufacturers, it means a heightened focus on efficiency, which we at USC Consulting Group are all about.
Electric vehicles (EVs) aren’t dominating the market. Yet. But they’re on the road there. According to research by the International Energy Association, the demand for electric vehicles is surging and is expected to rise 35% by the end of 2023 after a record-breaking 2022.
“Surge” is a good term for it, but “tsunami” might be even better. The EV market share in the worldwide automotive industry was hovering at around 4% in 2020, jumped to 14% in 2022 and will hit 18% by the end of 2023. It shows no signs of slowing down. By 2030, the EV market share is projected to rise to 60% in the U.S. and the EU.
It feels like we’re on the cusp of a great societal change with the surging EV market, the likes of which we’ve seen during the first and second industrial revolutions, the dawn of the internet and the day, back in 2007, when Steve Jobs stood on a stage in front of the world and introduced Apple’s new invention, the iPhone.
Yes, society will be impacted, but perhaps no sector more than auto manufacturers. It means great changes in demand, new challenges with supply chain and inventory, the urgent need for increased employee education, expertise and training, and changes on the line. It’s a whole new world out there for auto manufacturers, from the C-suite to inventory management to the production line, even extending to the dealerships.
How EVs are impacting automotive manufacturers
Here’s a look at the ways EVs are impacting the auto industry today, and how USC can help.
A good analogy for what’s happening in auto manufacturing right now in regard to changing demand is what we saw in the food processing industry during the pandemic. If a company was mainly supplying produce to restaurants, its entire market dried up when the restaurant industry was shuttered. Many processors shifted and began supplying grocery stores — two very different markets. Companies that were agile, lean and light on their feet (so to speak) were able to shift quickly in response to the shifting demand. So, too, with automotive today. Demand for traditional cars is lessening as demand for EVs is rising. It requires auto manufacturers to do a delicate “just in time” dance, which also involves supply chain and inventory.
For more info on how to roll with changing demand, read our eBook, Strategies for Meeting Increasing Customer Demand.
To state the obvious, EVs require different components, technologies and parts than traditional cars. Batteries, electric motors and other types of electronics, to name a few. On a higher level for auto manufacturers, it means developing new relationships that may be outside of the current supply chain, including battery manufacturers, those who deal with raw materials and microchips, and more. Supply chain woes that began during the pandemic are still bedeviling manufacturing operations in many industries, including automotive. New and unforeseen snags in the supply chain are sure to pop up as well. Solidifying while also diversifying your supply chain, with an eye toward reshoring, is critical.
With shifting demand and supply chain challenges, this is an especially tricky time for the auto industry, inventory managers especially. It’s important to focus on inventory and output, ensuring a balance between too much and too little. To wrangle all of these issues, demand, supply and inventory, savvy auto manufacturers are employing a methodology we call SIOP: sales, inventory and operations planning.
S&OP is a time-tested business management process that involves sales forecast reports, planning for demand and supply, and other factors. The goal is to help companies get a better, more clear look at their operations and create better-informed strategy decisions, allowing them to deliver what clients need in the most profitable way. We’ve found a lot of our clients do not include inventory as a strategic tool in their S&OP process. Therefore, they leave the “I” out of SIOP. That’s a mistake, especially now for auto manufacturers. The key to SIOP is to emphasize inventory as a strategic tool to help offset variation in demand or production issues.
To find out more about SIOP, download our free eBook: “Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning: It’s About Time.”
Ramping up EV production or even transitioning to EVs is going to require a lot from your workforce. In some cases, your best people who have been on the production lines for their entire careers will start to feel obsolete. It means reskilling and retraining of your current people, and hiring workers with expertise in EV technology.
As the demand for EVs grows, the production line will need to grow with it, shifting from traditional engine vehicles (combustion) to the kind of specialized production that EVs require. It may mean new facilities and new technology.
All of these changes for the automotive industry require a sharp focus on efficiency to meet current demand and planning to gear up for future demand. If there was ever a time for Lean Six Sigma (a methodology involving less waste, greater efficiency and consistent quality) it’s now. Lean was developed back in the day for the auto industry, and it couldn’t be more pertinent today. At USC Consulting Group, we have decades of experience helping our clients navigate changing tides in their industries. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.
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Effective inventory management is often a challenging task for businesses to undertake. While some factors may be similar across organizations, predicting inventory demand can vary significantly depending on the industry or business model. One of the most common problems affecting various industries is a lack of inventory visibility.
Inventory visibility issues have become increasingly prevalent with the rise of online shopping. The additional steps and expediency demands of this now preferred process can make tracking an item even more complicated. This often results in invisible inventory, where materials or products are unaccounted for in the system.
To address these issues, many companies are turning to supply chain visibility (SCV) technologies to remain competitive. These advanced systems provide real-time tracking, monitoring, and notification of each item in the supply chain. By utilizing responsive supply chains, a company can increase transparency within its inbound/outbound processes and other daily activities.
Another innovative solution is cloud-based POS systems and e-commerce management software. This technology integrates every aspect of a business for greater efficiency and offers a range of benefits. Companies can use it to track sales and customers, exercise better point of sale control, automate inventory replenishment, and generate reports with detailed analysis of gross margin ROI.
By utilizing modern technology to improve inventory visibility, businesses can stay ahead of the competition and provide better customer satisfaction. To discover strategies for staying ahead in inventory management, we encourage you to explore the resource provided below. It offers valuable insights to help you tackle this crucial aspect of your business operations.
Invisible Inventory from Celerant, a bike shop pos system company
If you need assistance with your inventory management, contact USC Consulting Group today.
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The material handling industry is the backbone of globalized supply chains. However, it encounters a range of challenges, both internal and external. One notable external challenge is the impact of labor shortages on transportation and logistics, which are vital components of material handling operations.
To overcome these challenges, companies are making significant investments in technology. According to the 2023 MHI Annual Industry Report, 74% of supply chain leaders are increasing technology spending.
While capitalizing on advanced supply chain technologies can offer some respite, leaders may need to take more profound measures to effectively address the emerging issues.
In light of the survey responses featured in the MHI report, this article aims to explore the three primary challenges faced by the material handling industry.
#1: Worker safety
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,190 fatal work injuries in 2021, with 798 attributed to exposure to harmful materials or the environment — the highest figure since the series began in 2011!
Material handling operations often involve risky conditions for workers. From handling hazardous chemicals in facilities to lifting heavy loads in warehouses, workers in this supply chain sector regularly risk their health and lives.
Common causes of worker injuries in material handling include:
- improperly stored materials falling
- damaged storage units
- heavy manual lifting, pushing, or carrying
- exceeding loading limits on lifting equipment
- collision with materials or equipment.
Ensuring workers’ safety and security is vital and requires a multi-pronged approach. Safety negligence or violation can quickly become a compliance issue, resulting in monetary and reputational damage.
Material handling and supply chain companies address workplace safety challenges by providing personal protective equipment (PPE), delivering safety training, conducting equipment training, and performing safety audits.
Conscious companies that rely on manual labor also address the ergonomics of material handling in their safety training. Identifying ergonomic risk factors in manual or machine-supported lifting, carrying, and pushing jobs is critical for preventing fatigue and injury.
To prioritize the health and safety of their employees, conscious companies cultivate a “safety-first” culture. A prime example of a logistics company that excels in worker safety is DHL, based in Germany.
Safety is a core value for DHL, and they have implemented a holistic approach to address safety concerns through continuous training, strict compliance with regulations, and active employee engagement.
#2: Material and equipment damages
Poorly maintained equipment, untrained workers, and natural disasters can lead to expensive damages. Among these challenges, equipment damage stands out as one of the primary concerns for material handling companies, often resulting in downtime. In fact, unplanned downtime costs manufacturers a staggering $50 billion annually.
To ensure reliability and resilience, timely maintenance is crucial for all aspects of material handling operations, ranging from trucks and forklifts to pallets and sliding racks.
Similarly, it is equally important to prevent damage to the materials being handled by the equipment or workers. Well-organized warehouse loading and unloading processes, supported by well-trained workers and advanced technology, can effectively minimize material handling damages.
Many supply chain companies are leaning towards predictive maintenance solutions for equipment to ensure they are well-maintained for operations. Predictive maintenance leverages technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to predict potential problems with equipment and fleet.
In addition, these companies are minimizing accidents that result in costly damages through increased visibility. Warehouse inventory management and organization technology, for example, helps maintain optimal inventory levels, prevents overstocking, and ensures efficient use of storage space.
Gradesens, a Swiss company specializing in predictive maintenance, is helping logistics companies with very-narrow aisle warehouses proactively maintain automated systems for loading and unloading. With accurate and timely maintenance, the warehouses prevent downtime because of equipment failure.
#3: Controlling emissions
Carbon emissions are a huge problem for major industries, and material handling is no exception. With environmental organizations ringing alarm bells on rising global temperatures, material handling and supply chain leaders are paying close attention to sustainability.
Material handling operations, including warehousing, contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through electricity usage, particularly natural gas. Additionally, using fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment contributes significantly to carbon emissions. Many material handling companies make up Scope 3 emissions for other organizations.
Fortunately, the material handling industry is adopting energy-efficient practices, thanks to environmental advocacy and pressure from governments with ambitious sustainability goals.
The MHI report revealed that organizations in material handling are investing in electrification, natural resource management, sustainable water consumption, and the transition to renewable energy.
Similarly, the European Logistics Supply Chain Sustainability Report found that 80% of surveyed companies consider sustainability a key focus area.
Material handling companies are reducing carbon footprint by investing in electric lift trucks. Electric forklifts have zero emissions compared to their counterparts powered by internal combustion engines.
Renewable energy has also been a focus for the industry, with major companies setting goals to go 100% carbon-neutral or net zero emissions. For instance, Amazon, the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy, uses clean energy in many fulfillment centers. The company plans to reach its 100% renewable energy goal by 2025.
Material handling is linked with virtually every industry, which makes its challenges essentially every industry’s challenges.
Some of the issues aren’t unique to material handling. For instance, sustainability is a global issue. The good news is that many companies are taking promising measures to combat these challenges: and technology is at the heart of these solutions.
It’s imperative for organizations in material handling to provide training and maintain equipment for better worker safety. Similarly, investing in clean energy solutions can go a long way in reducing emissions, which is good for the environment and business.
*This article is written by Matilda Odell. Matilda works as the Content Creation Specialist at the brand TAWI, a brand by Piab Group, which enables smart lifting optimized for people and businesses. Piab helps its customers to grow by transforming their businesses with increased automation. If you have any questions about lifting equipment such as vacuum lifters or other lifting devices, Matilda is the person to talk to.
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The B2B supply chain is changing in this tech-forward world. Like so many other things, if you’re not getting on board with smart business tech, you could be missing out on important successes. That starts with your supply and integrating tech to reduce human error and track things more clearly.
As a B2B business owner, you already know that transactions tend to happen within the supply chain. Whether you’re a wholesaler or retailer, if you’re not using tech to keep track of your supply and your sales, your business might not be able to keep up with those who are integrating different types of tech – including cloud-based technology.
Let’s take a close look at how smart business tech is optimizing the B2B supply chain, and what steps you can take to implement more sophisticated technology into your management strategy.
Why Smart Tech Matters
Tech innovations aren’t just important for manufacturing purposes. They are extremely beneficial for every step in the B2B supply chain. If you’re a supplier, integrating smart tech into your supply chain strategy can help with things like:
- Cash flow
You’re also reducing the risk of human error throughout the process, especially when it comes to processing and fulfillment. Integrating smart technology as a part of your risk management plan makes it easier to reduce risk and put plans in place for fast recovery if disaster does strike within your supply chain.
Additionally, when you use things like automation and AI, you’ll actually end up freeing up many of your employees so they can focus on other tasks while improving efficiency. Your business can grow, your employees can move up the ladder, and you can move more product safely and quickly.
What You Can Do Today
Although technology is quickly advancing, there is plenty of technology you can start implementing into your B2B supply chain strategy immediately. For example, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software will help you overcome existing challenges you might face within supply chain management, including:
- Customer acquisition
- A global shift toward e-commerce
- Time constraints
With this kind of software, you’ll enjoy seamless data transfer from system to system. This offers another opportunity to reduce human error while optimizing your efforts because you won’t have to rely on manual data entry. Instead, you’ll have a consistently-updated clear picture of your efforts.
You’ll also be able to take advantage of automated workflows and accurate shipment tracking while offering greater confidence in fulfilling orders on time.
Integrating ERP software into your existing system should be just the beginning when it comes to what you’ll be able to do in the future with smart business tech. As you continue to grow, take advantage of existing technology that is becoming more widely available to small businesses and enterprises alike.
Preparing for the Future
As our globe becomes inundated with fossil fuels, every business needs to do its part in reducing its footprint to succeed in the future. Luckily, our world has combined the power of technology and sustainability, and nowhere is that more evident than in solar power technology. In the last decade alone, the limits of solar technology have broken down significantly. Today, solar power has been used for a variety of purposes, including transportation, military defense, and even space exploration.
When it comes to harnessing solar power for your B2B supply chain, it can be utilized almost anywhere you’re currently relying on traditional forms of energy. You can take advantage of solar energy-powered transportation by integrating it into your fleet. Not only will it help to reduce your overall reliance on fossil fuels and reduce your budget for fuel, but it can shed a positive light on your business practices and help with client acquisition
In addition to solar technology, you should also be looking into 5G for the future of your supply chain. Integrating 5G into your existing supply chain tech will help to reduce disruptions and improve optimization efforts. Things like smart sensors can be placed on your fleet trucks to track product location or determine the cause(s) of delays in real time. Shipments can be tracked electronically to prevent cargo from getting lost. Again, the risk of human error will be greatly reduced this way. 5G makes it much easier to implement AI and automation into your strategy without having to worry about network lags or lapses in connection.
Many people look at the supply chain industry and automatically assume it’s outdated. Others think if it’s not “broken,” it shouldn’t be fixed. But, smart technology is already optimizing the B2B supply chain, and the businesses that don’t jump on board will experience greater losses, delays, and burnt-out employees for years to come. Consider some of the tech solutions you can implement now and in the future, and you’re likely to see greater success and more streamlined production.
*This article is written by Ainsley Lawrence. View more of Ainsley’s articles here.
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We’re celebrating a milestone here at USC Consulting Group — 55 years partnering with businesses around the globe empowering their performance. Our goal is to help our clients drive operating excellence, increase throughput, become more efficient and boost their bottom lines.
We got our start in 1968 when founders Tom Rice and Pat Price founded a fully-engaged operations management consulting firm that strives to impart positive, impactful change to our clients. Back then, we were Universal Scheduling Company, communicating with clients over mimeograph and analyzing their schedules. We’ve grown quite a bit since those early days. Over the years, we expanded into other industries like mining & metals, food & beverage, life sciences, transportation & logistics and more. Our reach opened up to serve companies all around the globe. In 2001, we changed our name to USC Consulting Group to better reflect the breadth of our services and a few years later, relocated to Tampa, where our corporate headquarters is today.
That’s a tremendous growth story that we’re incredibly proud of.
During our half-century-plus in this business, we’ve seen a lot of changes come down the pike. The ups and downs of the economy, employment markets that wax or wane, the ongoing challenges brought on by the pandemic, technology advancements in machinery and tools for businesses we serve, and a whole host of other factors that ebb and flow during the passage of time.
We’ve rolled with it all and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
What has 55 years of consulting taught us?
Here are some of the top things we’ve learned during our 55 years in this business.
Experience matters, but every challenge we tackle for our clients is different. Many consulting firms dole out cookie-cutter solutions. But we’ve learned there is no such thing if you want to find sustainable results. Even if two businesses are in the same industry, they are not the same. We understand companies have unique processes, procedures, management styles, cultures, machinery, employees — you name it. So we go into every project with fresh eyes, knowing that what worked for others may not work again. There are too many variables to apply cookie-cutter solutions. That’s why we start by listening rather than talking to learn each client’s challenges before implementing improvements.
Upper management walking the shop floor is vital. We can recommend operations changes all day long, but the meat of the action happens day-to-day on the front lines, no matter the industry you’re in. If you’re a manager or in the C-suite, it’s so important to get down into the nitty-gritty of how their work gets done. You’ll get a better understanding of your operations, spot trouble sooner and also spot diamonds in the rough for promotion. You’ll hear great ideas to improve operations from the people who are actually doing the job, and when those employees are engaged, it leads to ultimate business success. Read more about it in “How to Increase Employee Engagement and Training to Improve Retention.”
Getting people onboard at the outset is a key element of success. Over the years, we’ve learned not everyone in a company is excited about process or operations improvements. Consultants can be viewed with skeptical eyes. That’s why we encourage engagement with employees at all levels, getting people on board early so employees understand they’re part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Going beyond Lean Six Sigma… Lean, which has been around forever and has recently migrated from the manufacturing floor into other industries (they’re even talking about Lean HR methods) and Six Sigma, a newer technique, are two methodologies for improving processes. Two sides of the same coin, Lean looks at making processes more efficient and reducing lead times, while Six Sigma focuses on cutting down on defects. The combination of the two produces powerful results. They’ve joined to become one methodology in some circles: Lean Six Sigma, or LSS, which aims to cut defects and shorten lead times. Striking the perfect balance between the two is tricky. It requires training and certification in the techniques. At USCCG, Dr. Frank Esposto is our Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Senior Director of Quality. He is also a certified LSS instructor. Read more about it in our eBook, Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?
…but we don’t just set it and forget it. Dr. Esposto says: “When we employ the Lean Six Sigma methodology to help our clients’ operations, we don’t simply do it for them. We train clients in these techniques so they can employ them long after we leave.” That goes for any process changes we help our clients make. It’s not about giving them a fish. It’s about teaching them to fish. That’s how lasting change happens and it’s a key differentiator between us and other consultants out there.
We could go on forever about lessons learned in a half-century plus. But the bottom line is, putting our customers’ needs squarely in the forefront of every engagement, understanding the marketplace and challenges the business faces, and focusing on people and processes will help your business reach a state of operational excellence.
Contact us today and let USC put our experience to work for you.
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Supply chain technology has come a long way in the past few years. Improvements in AI technology and deep learning programs can help supply chain managers accurately predict shortages, adapt to current conditions, and operate more efficiently.
Supply chain technology can also be used to improve the customer journey. Effective supply chain management leverages the Internet of Things (IoT) to give consumers greater control over their orders. Emerging technology can also be used to reduce human error, increase operational efficiency, and improve security.
These breakthroughs in technology improve the customer experience and ensure that consumers get the products they want when they need them.
CX and SCM
At first glance, consumer experience (CX) and supply chain management (SCM) seem unrelated. However, as senior sales executive Sven Esser points out “the relationship between CX and SCM is symbiotic.”
Esser goes on to explain that effectively mapping the customer journey is an important facet of effective CX and SCM. Predicting consumer behavior ensures that supply chains are operating as efficiently as possible and that consumers have accurate information about shipping and order fulfillment before they check out.
Esser advocates for a model of SCM that gets to know consumers and uses AI analytics to accurately map and predict the typical consumer journey. This will help businesses connect with consumers’ personal needs and help supply chain managers shift to a more “customer-focused effort.”
Businesses can use AI analytics to map the consumer journey and improve their SCM through Google Analytics (GA4). GA4 is typically used by marketers who want to improve the materials. However, GA4 can also be used to track users from the referral page to the conversion or exit page.
Supply chain managers can work with marketing to get a better picture of the consumer journey and typical behavior. GA4 can be particularly useful for businesses that use the IoT to place orders or improve CX.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing industries around the world. Consumers and businesses can use the IoT to link devices and create “smart” networks between products and machines.
The IoT can also improve the efficiency of supply chains by giving businesses an up-to-date assessment of inventory and potential problems. For example, a business that runs an IoT-integrated warehouse will be aware of issues like faulty equipment and disrupted supply lines earlier than competitors who do not leverage the IoT.
IoT-integrated supply chains can improve the consumer journey directly, too. IoT technology makes it easier for customers to place and edit orders. For example, folks who utilize smart home devices like Google Nest or Amazon’s Alexa can place and edit orders with a simple voice command.
Emerging technology like AI software and the IoT is designed to improve operational efficiency and streamline the consumer journey. However, human error still threatens to derail business operations and supply chains.
Supply chain managers can reduce the risk of human error in the workplace by automating relevant processes. This is particularly important in warehouse management, where human error may result in injury due to repetitive motions or dangerous working conditions. Automated machines in smart factories and warehouses can take humans out of the firing line and ensure that customers have their orders fulfilled with minimal delays.
Supply chain technology can also improve post-sale communication with consumers. Consumers who have ordered expensive goods want regular updates on the status of their products. Businesses can send out automated emails when the customer’s product has passed production phases and is ready for shipping. Automated communication improves the customer journey by alleviating worries about order fulfillment without derailing operational efficiency.
Operational efficiency is at the heart of a successful customer journey. Customers can tell when all departments are working in unison and will benefit from quicker order fulfillment due to higher efficiency in the workplace.
Maximizing operational efficiency is particularly important for businesses that use Just-in-time (JIT) inventory management. JIT inventory management relies on accurate consumer forecasts and robust supply chain management to ensure that businesses get the inventory they need just when they need it. This can result in major savings, which can be passed onto the consumer or used to otherwise improve the customer journey.
However, for inventory management methods like JIT to work, businesses need to hyperautomate their operations. Hyperautomation allows businesses to “rapidly identify, vet, and automate as many business and IT processes as possible.” Hyperautomation relies on deep learning programs that can successfully capture and utilize massive data sets. This will improve the customer journey, too, as the same data sets can be used to present personalized adverts and products to consumers.
Emerging technology like the IoT can have a direct impact on the customer journey. Consumers today can place, edit, and receive orders using a network of machines and devices that are connected by AI algorithms. Recent upgrades to supply chain technology can also improve operational efficiency and reduce the risk of human error in factories and warehouses. This ensures that consumers receive their orders with minimal delay and at a lower cost.
*This article is written by Ainsley Lawrence. View more of Ainsley’s articles here.
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