Category Archives: History

Don’t Go Down In Flames …

just like Jesse James.

For those of you into Americana, One Hundred and Thirty Five (135) days ago today, Robert Ford, who was in Jesse’s gang, killed Jesse James for a reward. Jesse James was one of America’s most famous outlaws who, after the civil war, gained significant notoriety, and even public sympathy, as a result of his many successful robberies that included banks, stagecoaches, and even trains and the portrayal of him as America’s Robin Hood (who stole from the rich and gave to the poor), even though there is no evidence that he or his gang actually shared their spoils in that way. (And when he was killed, he became one of the legendary figures of the Wild West.)

And while it might be nice to be legendary, a corporate death is not the type of legendary you want to be. But it’s one that’s easy to realize if:

  • You upset too many senior stakeholders with aggressive savings-focused sourcing events that ignore stakeholder desires and even requirements (even though this may make the CFO do the dance of joy)
  • You achieve too much success (too fast) while satisfying all of the sourcing requirements and make your peers look bad in comparison (because you achieve double digit savings while adhering to every business constraint and satisfying every named stakeholder requirements) … giving them incentive to back-stab you (and set you up for failure not of your doing)
  • You step on the toes of too many powerful incumbent suppliers (with CEOs that join your CEO on the golf course) and/or take too much business away from them too fast (even though they may need to be replaced, replacement of major incumbents often has to be done slowly and with care)

So, when you are reviewing your contracts and (re) sourcing your significant categories, be sure to do so with care and finesse — your incumbents may need replacement, but such replacement will have to be done with care, and support. It’s a sad truth that sometimes your efforts will be undermined by personal relationships between chief executives and board members, but a truth you need to be aware of and approach with caution. Once these individuals understand what their relationships are costing them, or you get the CFO or CEO to help you explain that to the stakeholders, you will be able to (slowly) replace the suppliers and make the right sourcing decisions (and save), but the last thing you want to be is alone, because, instead of being seen as a hero, you will be seen as an outlaw, and someone who will be given up for a bigger reward. Sad, but true.

A Great Day in American Automotive History …

Sixty years ago Today the Ford Motor Company produced it’s 50 millionth automobile the Thunderbird, and fifty years ago today General Motors produced it’s 100 millionth automobile, the Tornado, putting the automobile revolution in full swing and launching the Automotive industry to its height (before their downfall began in the 1970s and 1980s with a series of engineering, manufacturing, and marketing mishaps and disasters, a downfall which continued in the 1990s where the recession resulted in weak auto sales and operating losses). Up until the 1980s, the US was the largest automobile producer in the world until Japan overtook it.

Producing a million units of anything in the 50’s was a feat, especially for something as large and complex as an automobile, and the fact that American companies could do it … and do it well … means that they used to have great supply chain management. Remember, even local and vertically integrated supply chains are still supply chains and this goes to show the value of near-, and home-, sourcing and (deep) control over key aspects of your supply chain.

Significant (non optimization backed) cost savings always comes at a price, and that price is usually an increase in risk. Be careful. Or your company could meet the same fate of the US automotive manufacturers, many of whom had to enter into bankruptcy and receive big bailouts from the government just to stay alive.

Ninety Five Years Ago Today …

TIME magazine was published for the first time, and, to date, has stood the test of time. It was the first weekly news magazine in the US and today has the world’s largest circulation for a weekly news magazine (with three quarters of its readers in the US).

The idea behind the magazine was brevity, with the original intent that a busy man could read it in an hour. The original slogan was Take Time — It’s Brief. Maybe that’s why it’s still around today, since it seems all the younger generation has time to read are short LinkedIn articles and Facebook Posts, and if they are on the go, you’re lucky if they get through the new, double length, tweet.

But it teaches us something … if you want to be widely read, or at least widely acknowledged, get to the point … fast. Add more in depth later when you have attention, bur brevity sells. Advertising revenue may be down (but it’s down in print across the board), but TIME is still surviving, and looks like if it does go down in the future, it will be among the last major print publications to fall. It’s a communication lesson for all of us, so let’s take time to understand it.

Forty Years Ago Today …

… the modern bulletin board was created when the world’s first computerized bulletin board system (CBBS) was created. Developed by Ward Christensen to allow him to exchange information with other computer hobbyists over a MODEM, through a simple MODEM file transfer protocol, later renamed XMODEM.

And while only one user could be connected to the BBS at a time, since the connection was over an old fashioned phone line, it was like nothing that existed before. A user could dial up, share a file, disconnect. Another use could dial up and get it. So could 10 more users. Then some could dial back up and share their updates. When CBBS came online, the internet wasn’t even a twinkle in the minds’ eye of Berners-Lee. ARPANET id not even adopt TCP/IP, which would become the protocol the internet was build on, for another five years.

Today is a historic day in internet history, and one that should not be forgotten.

Thirty Two Years Ago Today …

… Halley’s Comet Teaches Us a Thing or Two About Comets!

It was the last time Halley’s comet appeared in the inner solar system (where it won’t appear again for another forty-three years (in 2061). And it taught us a thing about comets. As per Wikipedia:

“During its 1986 apparition, Halley’s Comet became the first comet to be observed in detail by spacecraft, providing the first observational data on the structure of a comet nucleus and the mechanism of coma and tail formation.[15][16] These observations supported a number of longstanding hypotheses about comet construction, particularly Fred Whipple’s “dirty snowball” model, which correctly predicted that Halley would be composed of a mixture of volatile ices – such as water, carbon dioxide, and ammonia – and dust. The missions also provided data that substantially reformed and reconfigured these ideas; for instance, it is now understood that the surface of Halley is largely composed of dusty, non-volatile materials, and that only a small portion of it is icy.”

Why is this important? It’s not the only comet, and its not the only periodic comet. But considering this is likely the comet that showed us comets could break up, and throw off of asteroids, which many scientists believe was a primary cause of the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs, the insight it has provided us is scientifically vital. If an asteroid throw off of a comet was a major contributing factor in the dinosaur extinction, it’s something we don’t want to happen to us (provided we don’t climate change the planet to point its unliveable — after all, it’s already 2 minutes to midnight).

And why is this important to supply management? We rely on predictive algorithms every day, predictive algorithms which have their roots in interpolation algorithms developed by the early mathematical greats to, guess what, predict the periodic orbit of comets!