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Tag: supply networks

Scottish farmers get their local supply network humming

Be the change you want in the world  . . . but be worldly too

Self-improvement experts will tell you that “you must be the change you see in the world”.  They are right.  But there is another view too.

Developed economies are so complicated that you cannot get anything done unless something else happens, often one or two steps away.

Some people shrug and go into a tail spin of mild depression.  Others set about organising their “supply networks” or “collaborative supply chains”.  They not only take responsibility for what they do themselves; they hold up a market opportunity for all to see and help a network of actors to understand all the points where they need to cooperate.

  • They hold up a real and significant market opportunity.
  • They shine a spotlight on the critical junction points in the supply network.

Farmers in the tippy-top of Scotland go upmarket and boost their local economy by quarter of a million

In this post, I’m going to summarize the triumph of Scottish beef and sheep farmers from the very tip of Scotland who, in one year of enhanced cooperation, gained an extra 10p or kilo or £37 per cow and £3 per lamb more than their peers serving the standard market and brought in an extra quarter of million additional pounds to the remote rural economy.

This is the story of Northern Highland Products, beef and lamb farmers in Caithness in Scotland and an Irish butcher who came to join them in bid to deliver premium meat to the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s.

  • Northern Highland Products only wholesales quality products within 100 miles of the Castle of Mey.  Beef and lamb are their core lines and they also carry fish, honey, jam, cheese and pork.
  • The Northern Highlands has a strong history of livestock production on small farms.
  • The initial funding for setting up the Northern Highlands Products project in 2005 was a £71 000 grant from the Scottish Executive under its Marketing Development Scheme, some contributions by an initial group of farmers, an on-going levy on producers, and contributions from Caithness Enterprises and the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency.
  • Information from farmers is combined to forecast and manage supply and demand.
  • Delivery and price information is also pooled so farmers can benchmark their output against the average.
  • Mey Selections only buys livestock reared on Caithness grass and does not buy bulls.  Prices vary by quality of the carcass and track the general market but above the average.
  • Farmers have access to information (including organized training) about the whole supply chain so they understand how and why carcass classification ripples through to costs in processing.
  • Mey Selections sponsors a Producers’ Club to help producers share information among themselves.
  • Animals are slaughtered at one of three abattoirs to minimize travel and stress to live animals.
  • Mey Selections offer training to Sainsbury’s staff.

 

General principles about collaborative supply chains and supply networks

I could draw out some general principles about collaborative supply chains and supply networks but in business, general principles often feel like the “tail wagging the dog.”

Business is not a spectator sport and we have to deal with the real and immediate in the same way as shepherd still has to traipse the hills to find a lost lamb in inclement weather.   Do it now, or not at all.

Supply chains work when we have real opportunities that we want to exploit and sufficient knowledge of our industry to see what has to happen. Then we can exercise the leadership to shine a light on

  • The opportunity
  • The critical linkages.

Until we have that real-world knowledge and business-in-action, then we are simply apprentices in our trade and we should do what needs doing now – which is get some hands-on experience.

This post summarizes the information on the supply chain of Caithness farmers in the northern tip of Scotland and how improved collaboration and disciplined attention to what they do well locally led, in a single year, to an increase of a quarter of a million pounds into their combined businesses.

Don’t wait.  Be the change you want to see in the world.  But be worldly and organize what is already working and do it better by focusing on real opportunities and real tasks that need doing!

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5 benefits about thinking of your business as part of a collaborative supply chain

Supply chains & networks: How do they fit together?

Collaborative supply chain, distributed supply chain, supply network . . . business has long stopped thinking about business as discrete entities.  When Toyota developed long-term, stable relationships with suppliers to allow it to have shorter, quicker, more responsive relationships with its customers, business was changed forever.

Hi speed computers provide us with the tools to take the idea of a collaborative supply chain and turn it into a supply network.  We have to think differently though and many of us ask, is it worth it?

What is the payoff for thinking about our supply chain as a collaborative network?

These are the FIVE benefits that we hope to gain.

  • Be alerted to opportunities more often
  • Get an appropriate team together much faster to respond to opportunities
  • Produce better products and services more profitably and at a lower price
  • Provide the critical mass for genuine innovation (rather than mimicry and spin)
  • Develop skills as a team that can only be developed when a team works together for a while

And isn’t this just talk?  How do we measure these benefits and show ROI?

Metrics can be developed for each of the FIVE benefits.  An industry association might ask its members, for example

  • How many interesting leads did you receive this month?
  • How many leads did you leave on the table because you lacked the resources to respond and how many consortia did you form or were invited to join?
  • Of the consortia whom are working, how many believe they will be able to improve quality, margins and price?
  • How many consortia believe they have the critical mass of skills and resources to work innovatively at the forefront of their field?
  • Does the consortium compete against other named consortia and when do they go head-to-head?

And how does this talk of networks affect HR  – not the form-filling bit of HR – but the organisational design and management?

Equally, somebody say in HR who is working on collaborative supply chains would ask similar questions.

  • What is our supply chain at the moment?
  • What line of sight do we have of the supply chain upstream and downstream and can we document our understanding of the supply chain the way we document a job in-house?
  • When do we receive incoming messages about leads?
  • When do we receive data that allows us to investigate our position in the supply chain?
  • What projects have we going on that focus on improving our position in the supply chain?
  • What projects are put aside because ‘we aren’t big enough or good enough to do them’?
  • What holds people up and if we changed the question to what do we do well, what opportunities emerge?
  • Who does our supply chain compete with and how do we monitor them?

 

That’s enough for going along with.  From these lists, you should be able to see how other people manage their supply chains; what industry associations can and should be doing to raise the profitability of the entire industry; and what HR should and could be doing to upgrade HR to the contemporary networked world.

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What to do about loafers in commercial open space teams?

I'm telling you guys - it's *that* way to Times Square. by Ed Yourdon via FlickrHave you used open space technology in a commercial setting?

I’ve been thinking about the emblematic situation of the network age.  We get together and we figure out what we are going to do, and, then we do it.

Anyone who has been to hacker’s day is familiar with the process.  And if you have been to many hackers’ days, you will wonder what the fuss is all about.

But let me tell you when it all falls down – when we have two questions:

  • What are we going to do together?
  • Who are we going to sell our output to?

As soon as there is money involved, people start ‘social loafing’ and maneouvre to get the most money for the least work.

Learning from Shakespeare: dealing with ‘social loafing in networked supply chains?

I haven’t tested this solution but some lines from Shakespeare might provide the answer:

“That which hath no stomach to fight

Let him depart; his passport shall be made,

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:

We would not die in that man’s company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.”

Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3

What do you think?  Is this crass “with us or against us” or the very principle of open space technology:

  • Whoever are here are the right people
  • Whatever we do was the only thing that could be done

Solutions to social loafing  commercial open space technology?

Is the simple solution to social loafing in networked businesses to

  • Refuse to talk sales until the hack is made

or

  • Define the sale and then ask who can contribute and what they can contribute?

Can we ask First Who, then What when we still have to define the work?  And which question is the better?

What do you think?

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Supply networks, co-creation, open technology made simple

Suppliers rule!

In the later days in Zimbabwe, I would walk into the Greek Bakery (hey, it was called that) and say, “What’s for breakfast?”.   Whatever they had, I ate – happily.  Samosa and salad.  That’s OK.  Coffee machine working?  OK, tea is fine.

Restaurant at Art Village not the Greek BakeryI developed an appreciation of the best deal on offer and the loyalty of traders who give me the best deal they can.

What can you do for me?

It was little different in New Zealand.  I taught a massive class of 800 students, and then some.  And they all worked.  Supermarket, department store, restaurant – the people serving me were students and quite likely my students.

That’s great, isn’t it, though the university had strict rules about accepting favors.

A hop-and-a-step in my thinking told me something else. They were students – smart, obliging, but totally unqualified for what they were doing. They were hired because they were cheap and because the managers thought raw enthusiasm was a sufficient substitute for sound training.

Well, how hard is it to say “Would you like fries with that?”

But it is hard to keep  raw enthusiasm done and I soon learned to wave away the menu and decline to “look around”.  I went back to my Zimbabwean ways.

Waste no time on over-specified supply chains

I wasted no time on the loss leaders and dramatic deals that might have caught my eye but were essentially scammy.

I wasted no time specifying solutions that the enterprise ‘should’ have delivered but wasn’t going to because the staff weren’t trained and would probably have no idea what I was talking about.

I simply asked what they could do for me.

Co-creation

And so my style of co-creation was formed and practiced.

  • This is what I need done and what I can pay for.
  • What solutions can you provide?

Supply networks working fabulously

I got good service.  Happy service.  The raw enthusiasm worked fabulously.  I got what was available and what staff could deliver and it was often better than I had looked for in the first place.

This is the essence of supply networks of the 21st century.  The customer is not king (or queen).   The customer contributes a need and a readiness to pay.

All the players in the supply network scratch their heads and say “ You know what?  We could .   .  . “

By staying in the range of what we can do, we do better.

  • First who, then what.
  • Whoever comes are the right people. What we decide is the only thing that we could have decided.
  • And when it is over, it is over.

Supply networks, co-creation, open technology – tiz all the same.

And it works in scarcity and abundance by being reasonable and collegial.

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Write because I am curious about my audience?

Une belle journée à vous ! Have a nice day ! by GattouLucieso far behind.. Sorry via Flickr

So am I going to write that paper or shall I bin it?

In a former life, I might have decided whether to write a paper or not on the basis of the objective merits of the paper.  I might even had aspirations that someone might read it.  Ha!  The average formal paper is read by 7 people.  Blogs at least get read if ever so cursorily.

Solidarity and invitation

Galeano makes an important point.  The only interaction worth having is horizontal – solidarity.

If I write that paper

Who do I hope to benefit?

Who do I hope to invite in?

And most of all, whose reply do I hope to receive?And why do I want their reply?  For personal gain or because I am genuinely interested in what they have to say?

Deeply curious about our audience

Writing is not so much knowing our audience.  It is being deeply curious about our audience.

My challenge is clear.  Who do I want to hear from?

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We are who we mix with – negotiating outcomes in supply networks

Tunnel Vision by emerille via FlickrWe are who we mix with

I am just coming to the end of a project and I find myself in a curious position. A week ago, it seemed important to write and publish a paper.  A week later, as I entertain the prospect of moving onto other work, I find myself puzzled by why I thought that important.

Simply, my audience is changing and so is my sense of priorities.

Supply networks mean a constantly changing audience

This is not rocket science but it is critically relevant to the working in a world of supply networks.  In the ‘olden days’ of supply chains, we maintained a position between some kind of supplier and some kind of customer and our audiences rarely changed.  In today’s world, our range of suppliers and customers shifts so fast that we cannot afford to ‘buy in’ to other people’s priorities. Alliances are temporary – very very temporary – and commitments need to be phrased in these terms.  Simply, customers have to learn that they don’t have massive influence unless they have massive loyalty.

We only really attend to who and what is in our bubble

Even before the days of supply networks, I had noticed how easy it is to buy into the value systems of people around us.  When we are in situation, even for a few weeks, where the views of any class of stakeholder are not represented, we start to forget about them. It is only when we step out of the bubble, that we realise what has happened.

Bubble members need to be respectful to all our stakeholders

My take from this observation is this:  we simply have to be very selective about who we work with. Any sign of disrespect early in the negotiations has to be met firmly by withdrawal.  If keeping ideas back is a condition of engaging with us,  it may be better to find other work partners.

And we need frequent points to check that our attention to other important stakeholders hasn’t drifted

Early negotiation accommodation is so common that we might feel we cannot afford to be this strict.  Perhaps not.  But then we have to build in checkpoints where we are able to withdraw if we are not being heard or some if-then – I’ll go along with this now but we want a review and if these conditions aren’t being fulfilled, then we want a rethink.

Work negotiation of the future – contingent, temporary where the links are more powerful than the customers and suppliers?

I guess we will see a lot of discussion along these lines in the next few years.  In three years, I wonder what I will think of my thought processes.

What do you think?

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