Transcript: Another Ducking Digest?! August 7th, 2023

Another Ducking Digest?!
August 7th, 2023: Supply Chain Career Development

Welcome to What the Duck?! A podcast with real experts, talking about direct spend challenges and experiences. And now, here’s your host: SourceDay’s very own manufacturing Maven, Sarah Scudder. Happy Monday and welcome to Another Ducking Digest.

This is a weekly 15-minute news show hosted by myself and Lindsay Smith. Sometimes it runs longer than that, just depends on whatever Lindsay has on his mind, but our goal is to keep it around 15 minutes. Lindsay has over 30 years of experience working in supply chain and most recently served as the SVP of supply chain for a mid-market manufacturer in Southern California, which is actually how I met Lindsay when he was working there. Each week, we share some news or talk about a topic that we feel is relevant to small or mid-size manufacturers. We feel it’s kind of an underserviced market when it comes to content and a focused area. A lot of times, it’s more on the enterprise and larger manufacturing space, and we feel there’s a ton of value in talking about supply chain-related topics for people working for smaller manufacturers. And I just have to give, before we jump into today’s topic, I have to give a personal plug for Lindsay. He had quite a weekend; his daughter got engaged, which means he better get back to work and he’s going to have a very expensive next couple of years. So, congratulations on that, Lindsay. Ruthless, Sarah, ruthless, right? Yeah, all right. So, today’s topic, we are talking about supply chain career development for those working for small manufacturers. And I personally think this is a really, really important topic because it helps improve productivity, cost effectiveness, and customer satisfaction, which is what really, really matters. So, Lindsay’s got 10 best practices that he’s going to walk us through. And if you have questions or comments throughout, feel free to drop those in the chat and I will make sure we address those as he moves through his different points. Thank you, Sarah. Yeah, target-rich environment. Obviously an important topic because of, you know, improved sufficiency delivers cost reduction, keeps the organization aligned, as in all environments, particularly pertinent to the small manufacturer, more so because, as a rollover from every supply chain is unique, it behooves us to understand and know where we work and the environment we work in. You know, the big idea is the organizational value of being a great place to work. You know, that’s something to noodle on.

You know, one, am I spending my time in a great place to work? Or, you know, am I, and specifically for supply chain, is that, does the idea of being a great place to work, does it extend to the supply chain function? And to me, so the, he obviously supports the overall organizational goals, but for me, what does it look like? And she’s like, you know, kind of me and Chet GPT came up with 10 areas. And I kind of, you know, ChatGPT’s vanilla flavored, so I kind of AI’s on the mind. For those of you who follow me on LinkedIn, I did an AI headshot project where I submitted 12 headshots of myself, and now I have Sarah AI. It’s actually my headshot on my profile now. So AI is on the mind, flimsy, as if you couldn’t be more stunning, Sarah. All right. So rules, rules, you know, I’m the supply chain guy. You know, I’ve been introduced in different ways in different organizations, and some people say, “Oh yeah, he’s the warehouse guy, he’s the purchasing guy.” Yo, here’s our, you know, Senior Vice President of Global Supply Chain. Sorry, my fingers are busy this morning. So, small, small manufacturer roles, overland, there’s no, their, there’s probably a purchasing person, there may not be an asset management person, there may not be an SNOP person, there may not be a demand planning person, there may be order entry, but you know, the commodity management’s gone to purchasing, scheduling’s gone to order entry, and maybe even, you know, someone in finance looks after order entry. You know, things just kind of sort of want to happen in a convenient schedule with the people we have, rather than having the traditional structured organization. So, first question in the role definition is, which bases are being covered and which aren’t? And which does the company see as important? Because that’s where I have to align to be successful in the organization. And which ones are perceived as less important? And is that okay? Or do I add value or do I just have it on a tickle list that says, “Hey, by the way, we don’t address how many purchase order cancellation suggestions don’t get processed each month, so we don’t accurately monitor root cause of slow and obsolete inventory,” you know, stuff like that. Similarly, a career path, career path, yeah, there’ll be less of them, right? The, so, you know, it’s a smaller company, you know, there’s more multi-task folks around, so there’s fewer discrete paths, because everything ultimately quickly converges to the boss, the, so rather than the traditional cross-training, educational program, organizational progression opportunities, you know, the look for the simple stuff. What am I going to learn this month? That’s a great one, you know, the, and that will happen back to that, because it kind of ties to work-life balance. The important idea in, to know and be acutely aware of, in the small manufacturing environment, is the job never ends. You can happily spend many, many hours, and many people do, many hours, many days a week trying to finish this job and never get there. And dirty little secret, employers won’t criticize you for doing that.

So be very careful, that’s an unhealthy habit, especially if you’re a Band-Aid to a supply chain that has not been dialed in. Training and development, you know, big companies have workshops, big companies have budgets, big companies have success of seminars, certifications, you know, planned and mapped out, less so in the small company. So what I’ve found to be great is to have a weekly check-in, safe space. Clearly, I’m a candid, open kind of person and okay with being told no, you’re not thinking about it right most of the time, but try and have a purchasing team weekly meeting, just talk about what’s going on. Have everyone check in, what’s on their mind. And as you go around the table, you can tell by what people offer up, are they thinking about the business, are they elsewhere, are they distracted by something, are they working a problem, and see what the rest of the team can come up with.

And what we’re trying to do is build up the level of the team, and that’s having that safe environment takes a few months of regular weekly repetition to demonstrate that it’s a safe environment. But what I’ve seen is we’ll have guest speakers come from the quality department or receiving, and we’ll get the feedback, “Can I join your meeting?” You know, how often do you hear that in an organization? “I’d like to join your weekly meeting, I like the way you talk about what went wrong this week, and what we can do differently, and how we should deal with certain issues as part of our job.” And in that theme, you know, the cross-training, no formal cross-training in a small organization, but look for understanding what really goes on in the other departments. Try and spend a few hours in the stockroom, try and spend a few hours with receiving, you know, work at least half a mile in their shoes, to one, to build the empathy, but two, to understand where the organizational gaps are. And then, one thing that I’ve been able to do in my career on this cross-functional experiences, volunteer for projects that are going to stretch you. Don’t just sign up or take on projects that you’re comfortable with and look for projects that will give you cross-functional exposure. So if you know you’re going to have something where you’re going to work with leaders or people from other departments, raise your hand and take those on whenever you can. Yeah, and, and, and you know, don’t shy away just because it’s uncomfortable or it’s not the normal portfolio of tasks or skill sets that you work with. Then look, you’re actually looking to take on the uncomfortable stuff, and you know, that kind of speaks to the idea of a mentor. You know, the value, potential value of a CFO-type mentor, because they bring a very different perspective to the supply chain, and it can be really aligned with what supply chains meant to do. Perhaps there’s less of an opportunity to find a mentor in this small manufacturing environment, in which case, look outside. Sarah, the queen of social media on LinkedIn, you know, the power of the network out there, there’s a lot of people out there, 3DX Theory, you know, there’s a bunch of them that are inherently good people and would be happy to say, “Yeah, I’ll talk to you for 20 minutes, you know, 1 or 2 times a couple of weeks.” You know, there’s people out there who will do that just out of the goodness of their heart. I’ll also say, you don’t need to have a formal mentor to learn from someone, so there are people that I follow online that I haven’t formally asked, “Hey, will you be my mentor and meet with me regularly?” but I learn a lot from them because I listen to their podcasts, I watch their videos, I read their content. So you can learn from people without having a formal program in place. Yeah, and absolutely, and you know, when you walk into that meeting if you have your one-pager and you have your discussion bullets planned, you’re demonstrating organization, you’re demonstrating preparation, you’re demonstrating respect for the individual.

You’re not wasting your time, you’re not just hanging out because Lindsay’s cuter, because Sarah’s got good stories, the value of the value of this feedback is knowing who we are, you know, that’s very important, that we know who we are, where am I doing well, where am I working well in this organization, and is that the skill set that I want to be known for? If I’m known for working hard and working long hours, what’s the end game there? You know, the I can I go and work for a world-class manufacturer one day and walk in and say, “Oh yeah, I work hard and work long.” Yes, so does a high school kid who’s leading a shift at McDonald’s. Well, that’s not a differentiating skill set, versus if I say, “Yeah, I better integrate ERP systems by developing doing needs assessments with the user groups and developing tailored reports and incorporating new technology apps like a SourceDay PO coordination tool and drive that increase the efficiency, reduce lob inventory, improve supplier on-time delivery.”

That’s a very different to the two very different ways of viewing ourselves. So know what know what are know both what our top three, because there’ll be many, so know what our top three value adds are, but also know what my time sinks are, where does this organization where’s the gaps, where does this company suck, you know, what do you mean I have to print the POS or I have to go to the stockroom on Friday afternoons and help pack out shipments, okay, you know, that’s not that skill set that’s going to get you a job in the future, but it’s certainly something that might be needed in the current environment, you know, we kind of talk about the continuous learning, continuous improvement, don’t don’t get, you know, there’s being in a, my wife and I say we’re not in a rut, you know, we go to Tuscany every year, guilty as charging, we’re in a groove, you know, but if you’re in a rut, you know, the compromise processes, the yeah, the it’s one thing to be in a groove, it’s a different thing to be in a rut, you know, so look for look for continually look for how do we improve the process, how can we streamline and how can we make it better, and Lindsay, I would say in the continuous improvement area, learning how to leverage and use technology is absolutely essential if you want to be able to add value now and in the future, learn what systems are important.

Know how to use them, know how to implement them, know how to manage change management that will really, really set you apart and should be a key focus area for your learning and and no no’s a big work no no no. In terms of how I might explore this, you know what you did at the weekend Sarah was using AI for your headshot. Well, you know you have the a room full of people talking, I’ve been in room falls of Executives and they they they kind of they’re confused about what the heck is AI and you know I I hear about chat GP but I’ve never turned it on, oh for God’s sake you know that would take you 45 seconds you know yes I I’ve used it yes I’ve applied it yes I’ve come up with a cute picture, you know I spent the weekend with with SAG employees up in LA and they’re very upset about AI, you know it’s changing their world and very upset about the fact their clients are embracing it because it’s a low-cost option.

So at least understand how it affects my environment. The last thing I want to talk about is recognizing reward game the system right the no one ever got into trouble for saying you know that Sarah Scara did a great job last week, you know she did this she created this document she engaged us with this new potential client and everyone listens everyone listens when you when you say that hey when they save this $200,000 last year or hey Carrie great job you place ten thousand PO lines last year you know the that’s one that’s you’re reinforcing the values of the organization through the performance of the individual but we’re also sending a little message to the the leadership team that here’s where we add value it’s not that supply chain sits there and works long hours it’s that Wendy can pay additional attention get a couple of extra quotes and buy golly we take $200,000 out of a buy or that Carrie just doesn’t sit there here just getting frustrated with the the the relentless request he placed ten thousand orders last the PO lines last year so you know it forces folks to to look at supply chain in a different kind of light and I would say have that as a process where it’s something that’s incorporated regularly so maybe it’s an email strategy where you send out a weekly update and in in there you have a call out section or maybe you have a team meeting and you have a section in your team meeting where you shout out or call out or recognize for us we have something called karma points and Slack so you can acknowledge great work by applying Karma points when people get a certain number of points they actually can get gift cards or there’s some financial incentives tied to them the other thing I’ll add is make sure you only give it when it’s warranted if somebody’s just continuously handing out great job or high five it’s going to mean nothing over time so make sure there’s really it’s warranted and that there’s a measurable metric or impact yeah the values of employee recognition absolutely the I kind of left I’m glad you said that Sarah I kind of left off the communication part of this deliberately because we kind of focused on that I think two weeks ago when we talked about getting supply chain a seat at the table and that was kind of a big part of that was, communicate for God’s sake, Don’t just do the job communicate what’s going on to the rest of the organization. Don’t assume everyone knows. Yep we have people who are joining us from Ecuador Athens Texas Sheffield UK so nice to have a global audience today. Lindsay and I will be back next Monday at 10 A.M Central to talk about another topic relevant to those working for small and mid-sized manufacturers thank you.