Category Archives: Supply Chain & Logistics

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Five Questions CEOs Should Ask Their Supply Chain Manager

By Rebecca Langdon

Many leading organizations such as Amazon are using their supply chains to delight customers. In fact there are a growing cohort of businesses that rely on their supply chain to deliver competitive advantage and a marketable unique selling point. We are not expecting CEOs to understand the minute details, but we do expect them to recognize the huge contribution the supply chain has to their success and to be asking the right questions. So what are they?

  • Is the supply chain strategically important?

For some organizations the supply chain does not hold the same level of strategic importance as it does in other organizations. Therefore the level of attention given to it by the CEO should be proportionate to its importance.

  • Is quality embedded?

The ideal situation is for quality of product or service to be built into the workings of the supply chain. You could consider this a TQM approach to the supply chain. It is important for quality to be integrated and checked at every stage, otherwise you are always operating corrections after the event. For example, is a customer happier with a faulty product replaced, or a product that arrives in perfect condition?

  • Is the supply chain optimized?

A lot of supply chains are complex and they have developed over time. This can often lead to inefficiencies which go unnoticed. The CEO of any company should be asking for the supply chain to be mapped, analysed and for any duplications or inefficiencies to be reduced, thereby streamlining the supply chain.

  • Where are the risks?

Each supply chain will have its own inherent high pressure/risk points. The key is to identify where these are and to have a back-up plan. An example might be a material in the supply chain which has a high risk of being unavailable from the incumbent supplier. In that scenario an alternative supplier or material should be pre agreed as a substitute.

  • Is the supply chain able to change?

The supply chain is not static and will need to change to maintain effectiveness and meet business demands. Therefore it is important what whilst change is overseen, it is not overly restricted by policies and procedures.


The strategic importance of the supplier change varies between organizations, but I can’t think of one where it should not warrant interest from the CEO. The supply chain will undoubtedly continue to gain interest as it is successfully being used by the likes of Amazon to gain competitive advantage. It is a great time to work within a supply chain role, and if you are interested, then have a look at the CSCP course information.


 4 Quality Decision Making Six Sigma Tools

By Rebecca Langdon

Six Sigma has tools which allow organizations to make quality decisions. We all know that an organizations ability to make good decisions quickly is imperative to their success in the modern day economy.


The facilitator helps the team devise a list of potential decisions or improvements. Then a specific number of votes is given to each participant which they can then allocate to the options. The decisions or improvements with the most ideas may then go through another round of multi voting depending on the original number of options, and the desired number to implement.

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis

This is essentially a risk assessment whereby the team are asked to consider all possible problems which could arise in each particular improvement if it were to be implemented. They then rate the likelihood of it happening, the impact if it did, and the likelihood of early detection before the impact. That then produces a rating which allows the team to determine a solution.

Pugh Matrix

Team members compare improvements using a simple rating system whereby a list of criteria are established and a weight is agreed for each criterion. The weight itself relates to the importance of the improvement for reaching organizational or project goals. The criteria are compared against a standard which is usually the current situation. For each of the criterion the team member will decide if the improvement would be better or worse than the current situation. The total for each improvement based upon the weightings and ratings will guide the final choice.


Six sigma itself is a set of tools and techniques to improve processes. Of importance is making sure that the improvements to be implemented are going to contribute maximum organizational benefit, recognising that there will be resource constraints for any changes made. In all cases, Six Sigma encourages team based approaches to decide upon which changes will be implemented. To become accredited in Six Sigma, you could undertake a Certificates in Quality.


Sustainable Supply Chains


By Rebecca Langdon

Many organizations speak about increasing the sustainability of their supply chains. In reality this can be achieved in many areas of the supply chain and it is something that you will learn more about if you decide to study for your CSCP. In the meantime, here are some key ideas.

  • Logistics

Planning routes effectively to minimize fuel use, and also utilizing lower emission vehicles where possible. As a Supply Chain Manager, ensuring these things happen will likely be part of a tender process if the organization outsources haulage for example.

  • Reverse logistics

The idea behind reverse logistics is giving re-use to a product or parts of the product at the end of its normal lifecycle. For example, once a mobile contract is up, encouraging the user to send it back for component re-use. Very often there is a small reward offered for trading the mobile device back in.

  • Recyclable packaging

This is of course only relevant for products as opposed to services, but ensuring that suppliers use recyclable materials where possible is a good way to increase the sustainability of the supply chain. It is recognized that some recyclable materials will be less expensive than the non-recyclable equivalent, therefore this will be a consideration.

  • Giving back or taking less

Many organizations that take from the environment to fulfil their supply chain requirements give back via schemes such as the planting of trees. Others run low energy offices whereby they make use of technology such as solar panels and LED lighting.

In Summary

Sustainability in the supply chain is an important and much publicized topic. Supply Chain Managers should have awareness of the key methods to achieve increased sustainability, although it may not be among the strategic objectives of all organisations.


Effective Project Management

I have worked in organizations where Project Management has become an industry in itself, becoming an overhead and a burden. In this specific case, no matter the type of project, the value, complexity, or risk, a Project Manager was assigned. This caused frustration:

  • For managers and teams within the business who felt like projects were being overwhelmed with bureaucracy that added no value.
  • For the Project Managers assigned to work on projects that clearly could be more efficiently run by the line managers within the business.

Process Layer or Process Improvement

In the same organization I referred to in the introduction, this frustration went on for a number of years. The result was overspending on Project Management and slow delivery of business change. Line Managers started to try and find ways to implement changes outside of the formal process. So how can an organization strike the balance and use Project Management effectively, and not introduce an unwanted process layer?

The answer itself is very simple. Organizations must have thresholds and measures to decide if a piece of work should be done by the business itself, or if Project Management is required. Factors will likely include budget, risk, complexity and so on. If this framework is implemented correctly, Project Management can be used for what it was intended, and empower the business to manage everything else.

A Step Further

Once an organization has found a way to put all business change into these two groups, it can push its maturity a step further and introduce project delivery methodologies such as a ‘lite’ and a standard. This recognizes that some projects will require more or less support from the PM’s. This then drives the process that particular project would be supported by.

In Summary

The good news about organizations taking the above approach is that Project Managers will only work on the more interesting and complex projects. If you are considering undertaking a Project Management qualification such as the PMP, please do take a look at the course details.


The Strategic Sourcing Process


By Rebecca Langdon

There are a few slightly different versions of the procurement cycle or strategic sourcing process. However in most cases the cycle depicted has 7 key steps and in this article each will be explained.

Step 1: Category assessment

If you imagine the category as being all of the spend that you have responsibility for. For example you might be an IT Sourcing Manager for a firm in Jordan managing a spend of 10 million JOD. The assessment would entail reviewing the spend profile and all of the contracts to look for any opportunities.

Step 2: Requirement definition and scope

One you have an idea of potential opportunities, or perhaps new requirements, you can start to produce a scope. For example perhaps the firm has a contract for 50 blackberry devices but there is a business requirement to move to iPhone. We will carry this example through for the rest of the article.

Step 3: Strategy development

You need to now look at the detail of the current relationship with the Blackberry provider, for example do you have a termination clause you need to execute. You will then need to design the sourcing process you plan to undertake. Perhaps you will conduct an RFI and then an RFP, or maybe there is only one suitable vendor so a competitive process is not applicable. This is the point at which best practice would be to pull together a sourcing document which explains the strategy you plan to execute, and why.

Step 4: Strategy execution

It is time to execute the strategy you developed.

Step 5: Negotiation and contract award

This step covers final commercial and contractual negotiations with the supplier of choice.

Step 6: Implementation and transition

You should have already been considering the implementation plan and the transition from Blackberry to iPhone. This is when the users will actually give their blackberries back and be given iPhones. There will be lots of other technology details going on in the background, and you will want to make sure the new tariff gets implemented correctly.

Step 7: Supplier relationship management

Once the new iPhone supplier is in place, you need to agree how you will manage the relationship. It may be a quarterly review of the service, or more or less frequent as appropriate.

In Summary

Each of the 7 steps of the strategic sourcing process has been explained. However it is important to note that not every procurement exercise will cover all 7 steps, and there are also many examples where the steps will not be linear. This is not necessarily a sign of bad practice, but designing the sourcing process to align with the business requirement. This article has only given the high level details of each of the steps, and for more information you might consider undertaking the CSCP program.


10 Steps for a Successful Team Meeting


By Kate Rawdon


Our Lean Six Sigma course covers the most effective way to hold meetings that actually benefit your projects and your business, by teaching key principles that can completely overhaul your team meetings.


Here are 10 simple steps that you can follow to make your team meetings more productive.

1.       Have a clear meeting purpose

It might sound obvious, but many meetings are conducted almost for the sake of it, so make sure you’re having a meeting for a clear purpose, even if it’s just a progress report.

2.       Assign meeting roles

Having defined meeting roles ensure that all relevant levels of responsibility for a project are covered. Think about what aspects of a project need to be represented as you put together the meeting plan.

3.       Create an agenda

Having an agenda that sets out the order and flow of the meeting is key to making sure it actually achieves its purpose.

4.       Manage the meeting

Managing a meeting means making sure the agenda is followed, and the meeting is completed within the set timeframe of the meeting itself, with all points concluded to the satisfaction of all attendees.

5.       Group dynamics

It’s important that each attendee at the meeting is heard from and feels useful, because each team member at a meeting has a part to play in the project.

6.       Decision making

Knowing and agreeing on how you’re going to reach decisions in a meeting means your meetings can lead to definitive actions.

7.       Make clear notes

You can have the best and most productive meeting you’ve ever had, but if it’s not properly documented then confusion can inevitably follow. Make sure you have clear minutes to refer back to.

8.       Have clearly defined actions

Giving all relevant attendees clearly defined actions to complete as a result of the meeting will mean the meeting actually moves the project on.

9.       Create clearly defined deadlines

Discussing timescales for follow-up actions means everyone is on the same page and working to the same timetable.

10.   Book your next meeting

If you’re going to have progress meetings then make sure you book your next meeting as soon as possible. This motivates team members to achieve progress.


To find out more about Lean Six Sigma meetings, methods and roles, sign up for our Lean Six Sigma courses today. Not only will you bring great value to your business, but you’ll also boost your own earning potential when you gain this valuable certification.


What is reverse logistics-02

Reverse Logistics – Reuse of Products


By Rebecca Langdon

Reverse logistics kick off where traditional supply chain management stops. By that I mean that supply chain has typically been cradle to grave, and has not given much thought to what happens after the grave. Recent years have seen a seismic shifts as organizations have been under increasing pressure socially and legally to ensure they take some responsibility after they no longer require the product. In some cases that responsibility even extends to when the organizations’ customers no longer require the products which they have sold to them.

Example of graveyard products

Some products are discarded more often than others, and reverse logistics has a specific interest in products which could be reused. Good examples include

  • Mobile phones
  • Products returned under warranty
  • Product recalls

Transforming trash to treasure

The old adage of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ is at the heart of reverse logistics. However there are many complications with getting the discarded products from the current owner to new owners. Why? Because in the example of the mobile phone, the new owner may be in one of many destinations. Typically the new owner will depend on a number of factors, such as the current quality of the item. In most cases the items are not being shipped back to the supplier, and therefore this causes a logistical challenge in itself.


If companies can find a way to make reverse logistics work, it has many potential benefits to offer:

  • Legal compliance (in countries subject to WEEE regulations or other regulations)
  • Demonstrating corporate social responsibility – it keeps the product out of landfill
  • Potential to profit if the product or by-product can be resold
  • Minimizes your product being sold illegitimately

In Summary

The concept in principle is noble, and offers many benefits, which in my opinion would predominantly be charitable and/or tackle environmental issues. However the logistical issues of moving the product may outweigh the benefit of reuse. A Supply Chain Manager would be best placed to analyze the options in their organization for designing a reverse logistics process.


5 Ways to Become a Project Management Star


By Lyndsey Mclaughlin

As a project manager, you can meet the requirements of the role or you can take that extra step to becoming a star! It is more complicated than it looks to manage a project; there are always unexpected risks and a good project manager will be able to deal with these efficiently and keep the project on track. An excellent project manager will complete a project to a high standard, on time and within the allocated budget. These are five ways to go from a project manager to a project management star.

Strong Leadership

One of the key aspects of project management is the ability to select and build a strong team, allocating resources efficiently for the best results and to ensure the team are motivated and productive. This can be full of complexities, but a high performing project manager will display strong leadership skills to keep everything on track.

Great Communication

It is essential that project managers are excellent communicators as they need to be able to lead a team and to report on any issues encountered throughout the project. A project management star will ensure communication is strong at all times and that the team are aware of any changes which might affect the project.

Plan Ahead

A strong project manager will be able to plan ahead and deal with any issues along the way. They won’t just focus on the end result, they will constantly monitor the project to ensure it is within budget, timescale etc.

Problem Solving

Projects never run smoothly, there are always going to be issues encountered and potential risk to the success of the project. For example, staff may leave or there may be unexpected costs and a great project manager will be able to identify problems and solve these, while ensuring the project remains on track.

Updated Knowledge

Project management is constantly changing and evolving and a great project manager will always be updating their skills. This will include professional training such as the PMP certification program.


Top Tips to Developing a Balanced Scorecard


By Joanne Jeffries


A balanced scorecard is often used as a way to track and measure service provision, whether that is internally or externally provided by third party suppliers. A balanced scorecard includes both quantitative and qualitative measures which makes it a holistic approach to service management.

Tip 1: Metrics DO matter


The best metrics – bite-sized bits of data and information – are the ones that show you clearly moving, hopefully in the direction you want to go. The key is to only measure what it is of business value to measure. Decide which metrics are most important and focus on those.

Tip 2: WHAT does success mean to you?


What does success look like for you? It may be mentoring new and upcoming talent within your organization, or being seen as the go-to influencer in facilities management.

The point is, success means different things to different people. When you understand what it looks like to you, you can develop goals and metrics that get your there.

Tip 3: Producing your scorecard


With goals written, you need to measure progress. Where possible, this progress needs to be quantifiable, that is, a number, a percentage etc.

But not all goals lend themselves well to being quantified. How, for example, do you measure your progress as being a go-to influencer in facilities management?

Take these examples:

  • If your goal is to be a top influencer, calculate your market share within the industry – how much more are people recognizing you and your brand?
  • If you want to have thousands of happy customers, track online reviews, monitor referrals, take note of feedback and note repeat custom.
  • Becoming a leader in your field is a common goal that many people aspire too – check out media mentions, in print, online and across social media platforms.
  • For financial goals, the quantification is possibly easier – financial reports and forecasts etc. give a clear indication of which direction you are moving in.

In Summary

There is an art to producing a balanced scorecard which measures what you actually want to measure, and drives positive behaviors. We have provided our top tips, but for more guidance and information, perhaps consider undertaking the FMP accreditation.



What Does the Future Hold for Procurement?


By Rebecca Langdon

According to the highly publicised study by Osborne and Frey; The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization – out of 702 jobs most likely to be automated, purchasing was 111th. In recent years the procurement function has received renewed attention as the likes of Amazon have demonstrated the importance of the supply chain to organisational success. It is always interesting to consider disruptive forces which alter the shape of the profession. You will not be surprised to know that our top 3 are all technology based!

  • Artificial intelligence

When people talk about artificial intelligence, it often goes hand in hand with robotic imagery. However what we are really talking about is incredibly powerful computers which have the capability to ‘learn’. This is typically paired with ‘big data’, which has the capability to handle repetitive tasks quickly and without the need for human intervention. A potential target within the procurement space would be tasks in the accounts payable and accounts receivable space. For example the matching of invoices, and pushing through workflows.

  • The internet of things

The internet of things is already disrupting procurement. Digitized stock means that suppliers are able to monitor the levels of throughput. There is a positive side to this as let’s say for example you are the procurement manager of a retailer and you always want the shelves to be stocked at 80-100%. If the supplier has access to the stock levels you can set up an agreement for them to deliver without you having to be involved in tactical ordering.

  • Driverless logistics

I am sure you have read a lot about driverless cars, and they are set to become a frequently seen reality imminently. It will transform supply chains as drivers will no longer be required, and in the long term as the roads are full of driverless cars, it is set to reduce traffic on the roads. In fact, Dubai based port operator, DP World, is already using remote controlled quay cranes, security drones, and driverless trucks at its Jebel Ali terminal.

 In Summary

We should not fear change, and in fact technology is set to make procurement careers all the more exciting, by allowing humans to focus on the more strategic work and generate organisational value. It will be the more qualified candidates who are more resistant to technology making their jobs redundant. Therefore if you are in the profession, and you are not yet accredited, perhaps you should consider the CSCP.