A recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly noted that it is often difficult to make cost cuts stick, especially when the economy is improving, and that only 10% of cost reduction programs show sustained results three years later. To try and improve the situation, they offered us five ways CFOs can make cost cuts stick, which, briefly, were:
- Assign accountability at the right level
Make sure the people actually spending the money are accountable for how it is spent, and that their compensation is related to how well they adhere to the initiatives.
- Focus on how to cut, not just how much
Set policies and procedures that are in tune with desired spending behaviours.
- Don’t Let P&L accounting data get in the way of cost reduction
P&L categories don’t give the kind of per-unit insights that help focus cuts in specific categories, like travel expenses, that the company can most afford to cut.
- Clearly articulate the link between cost management and strategy
Strategy must lead cost-cutting efforts so managers can deliver a consistent message on how the identified cost reductions will strengthen the company.
- Treat cost management as an ongoing exercise
It’s not a one-off exercise driven by the need to manage short-term profit targets, but a long-term initiative designed to build a competency in cost management.
And these are all great ways to control costs and maintain cuts, but I think the real key to making cost cut sticks is to cut what needs to be cut. If you cut what needs to be cut, then the cut is a justifiable and defensible one. This makes it easier to articulate the link, focus on the how, treat cost management as an ongoing exercise, assign accountability, and bypass the P&L as you go straight to the data source.
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The SCMR is back, Quinn is still in charge, and it looks like he’s striving to maintain the quality that the SCMR was known for. I was quite impressed with one of the first articles on driving a turnaround in tumultouos times, which presented a case study on PolyOne and how it came back from the brink of bankruptcy. In March of 2009, it’s share price reached an abysmal low of $1.32. On May 27, it was $10.19. That’s an eightfold improvement in a little over a year and the reason analysts are now recommending it as a buy.
In the past year, it generated $218 Million of free cash flow and reduced its net debt by $233 Million. This is very significant given that it’s sales in 2009 were only 2.061 Billion as it means that PolyOne not only freed up 10% of their total sales for working capital but also managed to direct over 10% of their total sales to reduce their net debt. Plus, not only is their long term debt only 60% of what it was in 2005, but they went from a net loss of 273 Million in 2008 (when sales were 33% higher) to a net income of 68 Million in 2009, an incredible turnaround.
So how did they do this? Great supply chain management. Specifically:
- Manufacturing Realignment
A series of mergers and acquisitions left PolyOne with over 40 global production facilities, considerably more than it needed to meet demand and mitigate risk. A detailed network analysis indicated that they could more than meet demand and mitigate risk with only 80% of manufacturing capability. This allowed them to close nine production facilities and significantly decrease operating costs.
- Inventory Reduction
At the end of the third quarter in 2008, the company was carrying $331 Million in inventory, a number equal to 16% of sales in 2009 and an incredible cost. They undertook a two-day Kaizen event to identify opportunities to reduce inventory and cash-to-cash cycle times that identified consignment inventory reductions, opportunities to reduce costs by way of distributors, better inventory transfer practices with key suppliers, and opportunities to improve reorder points. Specifically the first thing they did was kill the re-order points that were on autopilot in the SAP MRP, which didn’t reflect the plummet in demand that came with the economic downturn. Moving to regular, manual review, helped them reduce inventory by $139 Million in just six months.
- Process Improvements
Through numerous process improvements that included inventory stratification, PolyOne also reduced DSI, which dropped from 55 days in first quarter to 37 days in third quarter, while improving on-time delivery.
- Greater Customer Focus
Management established the mindset that on-time delivery was critical and by improving customer focus, PolyOne improved on-time delivery from 81% in 2005 to 93% in 2009, a 15% improvement.
In short, it was supply chain that saved the day, and its the best practices described in this blog that will get you there. Get a strategy, manage your finances, lean your supply chain, improve your forecasts, optimize your inventory, analyze your opportunities, adopt e-Sourcing, and optimize your awards and you too can go from a net loss of 10% to a net income of 3% literally overnight, on your way to becoming a best in class supply chain company.
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