Posts by Jonathan Lofton

Autonomous car technology and the Self-Healing Supply Chain

JonathanLofton

autonomous car technology, self-healing supply chain, supply chain automationI recently rented a car featuring steering assist and intelligent cruise control. Now, I’m used to driver assist technologies as my vehicle has blind spot warning and front and rear collision warning, and braking. My wife’s car has a heads-up display as well as steering wheel vibration when you stray onto the lane lines, but when driving this rental, I felt the car was actually steering itself back into the lane when it drifted astray.

Since I wasn’t familiar with this feeling, I was compelled to try several different things to see how the car would respond. If I made the car move to the left side of the lane, would the automatic correction over-steer so that I would drift to the right? Designed as a “hands-on” driver assist system rather than a “self-driving” feature for use in both heavy and flowing traffic situations, the car did self-correct and did so continuously as I experimented with the feature.

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Design for a Green Supply Chain

JonathanLofton

Design for the Supply Chain Pt. 10: Environmentally Friendly

It’s been a long time; I shouldn’t have left you, without a new blog to read through!

Now reread that with the rhythm and voice of “I Know You Got Soul” by Eric B. & Rakim. I was waylaid, but let’s get right into the next principle in the “10 Principles of Good Design” as applied to green supply chain and green supply chain management (Design for the Supply Chain).green supply chain

Principle #9: Good design “Is environmentally friendly”

“Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design’

I was talking with my good friend and colleague Dan Fischer about the blog series and mentioned this principle. He told me about cases he had seen with some clever work on re-usable packaging, where the supplier’s packaging can be taken into its customers’ facilities and is either used to move the resulting product through the process and on to its next destination, or the empty containers go back to the supplier for use in a future delivery.

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt 9: Thorough Down to the Last Detail

JonathanLofton

Design for the Supply Chain Can you believe we’re rapidly approaching the end of this series (Design for the Supply Chain) already!?! This week we’re talking about the meticulousness of the supply chain management solution.

Principle #8: Good design “Is thorough down to the last detail”

“Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design’

My first reaction to this was to say something about Apple and Steve Jobs (A Story About Steve Jobs And Attention To Detail), but I figured you’ve probably already heard those stories before. So I started reflecting instead on how best to pay attention to detail. “Nothing left to chance” means to me there’s a clear checklist of things that are carefully considered when establishing (or refining) the supply chain. This checklist would ensure the attention to detail goes beyond the vision of a single individual, or even trusting in corporate culture—both inevitably change over time. It would be systemic, a part of the structure of the company, and wouldn’t change without a conscience decision and a serious amount of thought.

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt 8: Long-Lasting

JonathanLofton

“Oxfords, not Brogues”Design for the Supply Chain is Long Lasting

If you’re into supply chain and liked the movie this quote is from, then we’re on the same street!

Ok, now that we’re straight on ‘classic’ shoes, let’s talk about the next principle in the “10 Principles of Good Design” as applied to supply chain and supply chain management (Design for the Supply Chain).

Principle #7: Good design “Is long-lasting”

“Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design

I was talking with my wife recently and she mentioned the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle) for some systems engineering project she’s working on. I gave an example from inventory management about ABC classification. This way of classifying inventory to provide guidance on which items to place the highest focus on has been around since the 1950’s.

There are a multitude of approaches or techniques for managing inventory (e.g. just-in-time, kanban, postponement, backordering, consignment/vendor-managed-inventory, etc.). Different techniques are appropriate for different businesses and even different segments of inventory within a business. However, there’s always a need to do some level of classification to determine which technique makes the most sense. I keep debating with myself whether to say some techniques have gone “out of fashion” or we’ve just gotten a lot better at determining which ones to use as we’ve learned to manage extended supply chains.

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt 7: Honest

JonathanLofton

We’re getting into the second half of the “10 Principles of Good Design” as applied to supply chain and supply chain management (Design for the Supply Chain). This week we’re talking about the honesty of the supply chain management solution.

Principle #6: Good design “Is honest”

“It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design’

This principle immediately brings to mind for me the Gartner hype cycle. As an example, below is the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2015.

Design for the Supply Chain is Honest

Source: Gartner

I like to think about the hype cycle as being similar to Tuckman’s model of group development: Forming–Storming–Norming–Performing where:

  • Innovation Trigger and Peak of Inflated Expectations ≈ Forming
  • Trough of Disillusionment ≈ Storming
  • Slope of Enlightenment ≈ Norming
  • Plateau of Productivity ≈ Performing

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt 6: Unobtrusive

JonathanLofton

We’re continuing to reflect on the “10 Principles of Good Design” as applied to supply chain and supply chain management (Design for the Supply Chain). This week we’re talking about being able to use supply chain management tools in an uninhibited way.

Principle #5: Good design “Is unobtrusive”
Swiss army knife
“Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design

I really like the idea of leaving room for the user’s self-expression. To me this means making sure there’s space for creativity and innovation (Principle #1). We need to have parameters or ‘guardrails’ in place to ensure that proper business process flow is occurring, otherwise it becomes hard to produce consistent results. On the other hand, we have exceptional professionals who are capable of bringing new ideas to bear on the supply chain design. We want the user to be able to take the designated management tools (e.g. reports, multi-dimensional analysis, dashboards, scorecards, etc.) and reconfigure them to see information in a way that makes the most sense to them individually (recall Principle #4). We also want the user to be able to create scenarios to experiment with various ideas about what can be changed to improve results.

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt 5: Understandable

JonathanLofton

a collection of different visuals representations like graphs and charts

Break out your paint brushes and put on your beret, we’re continuing to reflect on the “10 Principles of Good Design” as applied to supply chain and supply chain management (Design for the Supply Chain). This week we’re going to delve into painting the supply chain… well, sort of.

Principle #4: Good design “Makes a product understandable”

“It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design’

What immediately comes to mind for me when the principle talks about “making use of the user’s intuition” and being “self-explanatory” is data visualization and infographics, an area that always intrigues me.

I think it’s obvious to all of us that supply chains are continuing to become more and more complex. This is due in part to the ever changing number of nodes/links in the supply chain as companies become more global. That in turn impacts processes (internal and external), interactions with suppliers and customers, focus on metrics and risk analysis, etc. The volume of data necessary to manage these interactions from end-to-end is staggering. We generally create all kinds of reports and applications to sit on top of databases, ERP systems, and spreadsheets to capture the data. The challenge though is not so much how to capture the data but how to get our arms around it in a meaningful way. The goal is to help the supply chain professional understand the situation quicker so they can make better decisions.

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt 4: Aesthetic

JonathanLofton

Cut away of Nautilus shell OK, seat backs, tray tables up, and seat belts buckled, we’re continuing a conversation reflecting on the “10 Principles of Good Design” as applied to supply chain and supply chain management (Design for the Supply Chain) and this week’s principle delves into the beauty of the supply chain design.

Principle #3: Good design “Is Aesthetic”, states:

“The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design’

I kept going back and forth on if this was going to be an easy or hard topic since it was about being ‘beautiful’, but as always, all things work together for good. I was just on a flight and the Steve Jobs movie was on. Without being a fanboy, I would venture to say that Apple makes some ‘well-executed’ products that are ‘used every day and have an effect on people’. In the movie there’s a scene where Jobs goes on about the beauty of what they were making. I came across a quote from him that further exemplifies his thinking:

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

So for me this means the aesthetic in our supply chains come from the focus we put on achieving a level of excellence throughout, using “Systems Thinking” while maintaining a human-centered design. It means not cutting corners. It means being thorough and having long-term vision.

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