9.28.2011

The Supply Chain Executive?

I recently came across this great article written by Michael Koploy over on the Software Advice site. Koploy argues that technology companies must appoint more persons with strong supply chain backgrounds at the C-level (top-level executive) to operate at utmost efficiency. He believes that a talent crisis is, unfortunately, holding back this field from gaining increased exposure among executives.

Koploy notes Apple Inc.'s recent appointment of Tim Cook as new CEO of the company is groundbreaking because "a supply chain-minded executive is a rare sight" and believes "organizations need to take Apple’s lead and include supply chain-minded executives at the leadership table: to help organize, implement and manage strategies to improve the business’ value chain."

One of the most important points made in this article is essentially a statement that I've heard during many supply-chain presentations at various Lean conferences: Supply-chain experts must now "transition from a traditionally execution-based role to a strategic one."

Koploy's list of attributes for the ideal supply-chain executive candidate are:

  1. Experience managing large, global supply chains.
  2. A track record for being able to adhere to lean and just-in-time fundamentals.
  3. Experienced enough with SCM software to know how to implement and leverage its benefits.
  4. The ability to continually push both strategic and operational supply chain improvements.
What are your thoughts on Koploy's assertions? Should more companies follow Apple's example? How should the industry respond to the skills' shortfall?

9.21.2011

What Toyota Team Members Have to Say

Productivity Press recently published a very special book -- One Team on All Levels: Stories from Toyota Team Members, Second Edition. This book, written by Tim Turner and his colleagues at Toyota's Georgetown, Kentucky facility, is far from another technical explanation of the Toyota Production System (TPS) -- It is rather a clear illustration of the culture it creates.

One such insightful recollection was provided by Raymond Bryant, an assistant general manager in the assembly department. He writes:

We often say that the most valuable resource we have is our workforce, the team members. I don’t just believe this, I know it.

Our company functions on the basic principals of the Toyota Production System (TPS). The Toyota Way guides us as we go about doing daily and longer term operations. When asked, "What is TPS?" the reference is usually to the tools widely talked about (andons, kanbans, etc.). As one of the many students of TPS (we all are still studying and learning), I have come to the conclusion that the success of TPS is in the commitment of our workforce to pursue it.

The tools are easily copied and put into place. They are, for all practical purposes, simple. The ability to understand and use them is equally as simple. The commitment to use them seems to be the struggling point for many organizations. Why? This is the "million dollar question."

I believe that our success is in the very simple understanding of what TPS really is. This I would define as:
1. Always doing the right thing.
2. Always knowing that you can do better.

The significance is in the "simplicity" of these two concepts. All of our workforce, each team member, can understand, make decisions, and feel proud of these two guiding thoughts.

Pulling the andon is simply "doing the right thing." Alerting your staff or assistant manager when a problem has come up in a project is also done for the same basic reason. The one making the decision to notify and possibly seek help, along with the one that is receiving the news and/or request both know that this is the "right thing" and expected in our culture. This naturally carries beyond our work life into our personal life.
We sadly lost a team member some time ago in an automobile accident. Along with the strong support you might expect to see of the family during the days after this tragedy, many of the team members and leaders gathered together several weeks later to complete a home project that he had started. This was the "right thing to do."

My role is pretty basic in the grand scheme of things:
1. Setting clear goals that, if met, equal success (this requires face-to-face discussions to clarify and provide the why behind them) approving the ideas and methods suggested on how to reach those goals (this requires even more discussions, primarily listening, coaching, and the willingness to see many other points of view).
2. Supplying the support and/or resources needed (this really requires the highest amount of listening skill, because the secret is knowing when not to give input).

A successful manager knows not "when to say something," but when "not to." Thousands of minds, all working to "do the right thing." Everyone understanding that "we can always do better."

What are you thoughts of Raymond's ideas? Have any of you visited Toyota's facility in Kentucky?  Have any of you experienced Toyota's leadship firsthand?

9.08.2011

What Happens When Two Automakers Cross Paths at an Airport?

I actually had to read this great article over on the International Business Times site a couple of times to ensure I got it right! Toyota and Ford Motor Company will work together to develop a gas-electric hybrid fuel system for their respective pickup trucks and SUVs. According to the article, the seeds of the idea were planted when Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda "crossed paths at an airport." I guess it should not be that surprising considering Alan Mulally was an executive at Boeing prior to his position as CEO at Ford -- Boeing was an ardent adopter of the Toyota Production System, which helped develop one of Boeing's best-selling jet airliners: the 777. I'm glad the article included some lines about the long history the two companies have shared dating back to the 1930s -- especially  Kiichiro Toyoda's (Toyota automotive founder) admiration for Henry Ford's 1926 book Today and Tomorrow.

What are you thoughts on this joint venture? Is it a win-win? Do you think it will ultimately benefit the consumer?