Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Finally … A Good Use for Drones!

A recent article on Yahoo! Finance indicated that MIT researchers use drone fleets to track warehouse inventory specifically to help employees find particular items faster.

But the best use is regular inventory checks and fraud prevention. If the warehouse is lined with RFID readers and every inch is covered, then a system can be designed to flag when a palette is dropped at the wrong location, or when a signal expected to be there is not. But what a system can’t do is double check that a RFID chip is actually there. Once the palette has been read at the right location, and the inventory recorded, who’s to say the system will note when the inventory has been moved and used if a refresh is not performed on a regular basis or that
a hack has not been performed that can trick the system into believing the palette is still there when it has been moved.

In other words, the drone can make up for the inefficiencies in the non-mobile system. It can be programmed to traverse the entire warehouse every night and identify the errors in the system, which can immediately be investigated and corrected. While there is no sure way to prevent hacks that can lead to theft, any thefts would be identified much more quickly, which could increase the chance of recovery and, if the theft is for restricted / hazardous materials or technology, allow for responsible reporting that would keep the organization out of lawsuits and the CXOs out of handcuffs.

It’s a good use for drones. And one even the doctor can get behind.

Fifty Years Ago Today …

Sweden entered the modern age of transportation when Dagen H occurred and traffic changed from driving on the left to driving on the right … literally overnight! (Those Swedes are masters of efficiency.)

Now if only the UK (and it’s former colony now known as Australia) could get with the times and join the rest of the world. However, given how long it took them to accept the modern calendar, it will probably be another hundred years. But it would make the creation of true global routing software so much easier …

Two Hundred and Sixty Five Years ago today …

Great Britain finally adopts the Gregorian Calendar, nearly two centuries later than most of Western Europe, and begins its entry into the modern age. Considering the influence of Britain, and the number of colonies (now CommonWealth countries) it had by 1752, by 1852, and by 1952, could you imagine if it, and its (former) colonies, were still on the Julian calendar.

We (and especially we Canadians) all know the importance of standardized time (especially since it it typically credited to Sir Sandford Fleming, a Canadian who eventually settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia that attracts great Canadian minds even to this day) when trying to do global business, but imagine if we didn’t even have standardized dates! Two o’clock on the 7th would be different days! And if Great Britain didn’t come in line when it did, Sir Sandford Fleming would have had a much harder time …

Is There an Objective Reality to Procurement?

Recently, the public defender penned a post that asked should Procurement be more specific? where he asked if we have an ‘objective reality’ of how procurement works. Are we like scientists; trying to develop more understanding, willing to be challenged, looking for objective ways of proving what works and what doesn’t? Or are we more like the journalists and politicos who express a point of view and get upset if anyone argues strongly and objectively against us?

We think, for the most part, the answer is, unfortunately, a sad no. Why do we think this? Is it because we agree with the public defender in his observations that you never hear “I don’t agree with you” or “I don’t think that’s the best way of doing that” when you go to Procurement event and that you never see an academic paper that objectively measures the success of a particular procurement approach, strategy, or process. No. It’s because, as pointed out in yesterday’s post, there’s still too much magical thinking in Procurement, born in arrogance and self-conceit. Too many people who think that just because they’ve been doing it for 20 years, they’ve been doing it right and all they need is a few more resources and a little more time.

As a result, we wholeheartedly agree with the public defender when he says:

Procurement is THE least scientific of all major business disciplines.

– and that this is the result of –

the lack of clear and objective understanding and
the lack of clear metrics that measure the success of procurement.

As the public defender points out savings are pretty much impossible to measure, and most of the “true” savings is just cost avoidance anyway, and any reduction in cost that was spend above market average can never be counted as savings. If you were paying 10% more than you would in a spot buy, a reduction to market average is not even true cost avoidance that comes from demand management or product redesign, it’s just spending what you should have been in the first place. And other common metrics are equally abhorrent.

And we are still trying to get most organizations from landed cost (which is just one step up from unit cost) to total cost of ownership, which is not the right metric — it should be total value management — the cost relative to the performance (or profit if you want to be so narrow minded) of the buy.

So, no, in the average organization, there is no objective reality to Procurement. And, as it stands now, only the true leaders (the Hackett Group 8%) are even close to getting there (or at least trying). However, like the public defender, we will continue to educate you to the best of our ability so that someday, there may be an objective reality. (But not necessarily the one that will allow a senior buyer to be replaced by a bot. Assisted by, but not replaced.)

Is There Magical Thinking In Your Procurement?

Recently over on the Dilbert Blog, Scott Adams penned a post on The Magical Thinking Opposition where he noted that his hypothesis was that the political side that is out of power is the one that hallucinates the most -– and needs to –- in order to keep their worldview intact.

And this got the doctor thinking if there is a corollary that says the Procurement department that is getting the worst deal is the one that hallucinates the most — and needs to — in order to keep their worldview intact.

Why does he posit this? Typically the Procurement departments most against modernizing their processes or platforms are those that are doing the worst and think they are just fine with the processes or platforms they have. These laggards are not only without modern platforms, but resistant to their acquisition and implementation. They are not modern Procurement departments, but traditional Procurement departments that still run on the island of misfit toy principle — staffed with people who are nearing retirement (and being rewarded with a cushy purchasing job), related to the boss (because you can’t fire a relative of the boss), and who have been in the
organization too long to let go (but who are not suited for their current jobs anymore).

But this is not the only way to identify these Procurement organizations. You can also tell them by these telltale arguments against modernization:

  • Our processes are fine, we just need more people to implement them.
    They think that their lack of results is lack of resources, not the processes or the platform.
  • Out platform is just fine, we just need more people to maximize its potential.
    They don’t believe that the throughput is a problem of an outdated platform, just a lack of resources.
  • It’s not worth the cost, and it will slow us down.
    They fight modernization and change, usually based on outdated views, beliefs, or stereotypes.

They feel that all they need is a little more time, a few more resources, and then everything will work out a-ok with the help of a little pixie dust. It’s magical thinking, and there’s no room for it. Just like alchemy needed to be replaced with science, magical thinking needs to be replaced with realist thinking.