Monday, May 3, 2021

Share Your Hard Lessons Learned with Others Do Not Embellish Them

 


Share Your Hard Lessons Learned with Others Do Not Embellish Them

This is an excerpt from my book Leadership by Storytelling available on Amazon. Enjoy.

The production scheduler of a large Paper Mill was forced to retire and was downsized. He had been there for over thirty years. Much to my surprise and chagrin, I was forced to take his place. It was a large integrated paper mill with over 2000 employees and over 3000 different SKUs or brands. There were over 200 constraints and, in a scheduling, meeting the biggest bully usually got their way. I had industrial engineering experience but no experience in process industry scheduling. Worst, the retiring scheduler refused to help or train me. He did the entire scheduling by hand using long green sheets on his desk. All his knowledge was locked in his head and he refused to release it.

The job was a great responsibility, and downtime in a Paper Mill was tabulated by accounting, as being worth over $100,000 an hour negative impact to the budget. My boss got me a personal computer, the first in the plant, and I proceeded to put the production schedule on Lotus 123 file spreadsheets. I would print out the files and they sort of imitated the long green sheets.  I would glue them together on the wall of the office. I was so nervous that I actually scheduled an entire year’s worth of production, and hung up all the spreadsheets on the office wall. This project took me over a hundred hours. I did not stop until it was done.

After all this work, I was in my office late one evening staring at the hung-up production spreadsheets and had an “ah ha” moment. There was a pattern to the schedule for each quarter. The pattern roughly repeated itself for every quarter in the year. In other words, the schedule remained very similar for each quarter.

I decided to look up information on process industry scheduling. In one journal article I stumbled upon a concept called cycle scheduling. Basically, the concept establishes an optimal production cycle for the plant or mill. If the scheduler is forced to break the cycle for an extraordinary reason, the scheduler tries to get back to the cycle or pattern as soon as possible. The pattern or cycle remains approximately the same when in place.

I was ecstatic, now I was using a best practice for process industry production scheduling. I soon expanded my production schedule and built an in house MRP (Material Requirements Planning) system which really improved material flow.

At a corporate meeting of production schedulers, I shared my findings with all the other schedulers and explained the concept of cycle scheduling. I made sure that they also knew that it was an industry best practice and not something that I had invented on my own.  I made it clear that it was optional for them to use cycle scheduling and not a requirement. They understood the large amount of work that I had done and were very appreciative of my sharing it with them. I then helped many of them set it up for their plants. Share your hard lessons learned with others do not embellish them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Dr. Tom = thomasdepaoli@yahoo.com drtombooks.com for newsletter sign up https://drtombooks.com/contact/ My Books link: https://www.amazon.com/Tom-DePaoli/e/B003XSV1IQ

Friday, April 9, 2021

Interview with Dr. Tom DePaoli about His New Edition Common Sense Purchasing book available on Amazon

 


 

Interview with Dr. Tom DePaoli about His New Edition Common Sense Purchasing book available on Amazon

 

Interviewer: Why did you write a new edition on purchasing, procurement, supply chain and why the title Common Sense Purchasing?

 

Dr. Tom: I originally wrote it first and foremost to help purchasing, procurement, supply chain and logistics professionals. They are some of the most misunderstood and abused people in corporate America. I wanted to share many of my hard knock lessons learned so they do not repeat them. I also wanted to de-mystify many misconceptions about purchasing and the supply chain. The book needed a major update in the digital age and with the growing importance of the supply chain.

 

Interviewer: You changed the book format and organized it by topics into chapters. Why?

 

Dr. Tom: There are important categories that purchasing must deal with. I updated them with my latest writings, thoughts and predictions. I have added many new articles, resources and insights. Visit my website  https://drtombooks.com/ for more information. The articles are first organized by subject matter into chapters. Then the articles are presented in alphabetical order within the chapter. In the rear of the book has a convenient master reference list of all articles sorted alphabetically.

 

Interviewer: Do you expect endorsements from academic folks or Purchasing societies?

 

Dr. Tom: Possibly. This is however a practical book meant to help all purchasing related professionals with day-to-day decisions and strategy. This is sort of an unauthorized field or operations manual for a purchasing professional to refer to and cherish.  I would hope that some academics would recommend it just to give some practical advice to students. I wish I had it when I started out at a junior buyer level. Most of the theory stuff they teach you just doesn’t pan out or work, we get way too hung up on terminology. Purchasing, procurement, supply chain, supply chain management etc. This confuses everyone. Purchasing professionals know what I mean and what I am talking about. Do not be a terminology absolutist!

 

Interviewer: You certainly have had a unique purchasing career. Talk about it.

 

Dr. Tom: I literally made all the mistakes one can make in purchasing. They were hard lessons but I kept going and kept a positive attitude. I was never one not to roll up my sleeves and pitch in. I typed purchase orders, traced shipments, dealt with suppliers and did a lot of grunt work in purchasing. It gives you a perspective about purchasing that many today just do not have. I loved it, but the boring transaction stuff does get to you. It also gives many purchasing folks a semi-cynical attitude. I just developed the grizzled veteran grit attitude but didn’t let it destroy my creativity. I obliterated useless transaction work.

 

Interviewer: What about change? You describe it as very hard to make happen. Explain.

 

Dr. Tom: Most folks hate change and have extreme difficulty dealing with change. Usually they will only make radical changes if they are in imminent danger of something very bad happening to them personally.  It is the biggest challenge in motivation. It requires constant persuasion, cajoling etc. It demands a good sense of humor. It is very challenging to get folks to accept change in their hearts. Just explaining concepts to them requires extreme perseverance. The book says explain a new concept seven times seven different ways and this may not be enough. It is an endurance contest.

 

Interviewer: What do you see in the future for purchasing?

 

Dr. Tom: I see a lot of traditional concepts in purchasing being demolished. The area of e-procurement, artificial intelligence, digital tracking, worldwide visibility of goods and services, will make quantum leaps in the next five years. Transaction costs will be minimal. Communication with suppliers and customers will be instantaneous. Companies will actually know what they spend their money on and why. Purchasing will lead the way in supplier collaboration and intelligent world-wide sourcing. Reaction time to upsets will be in seconds or the speed of the net.  Predictive buys will occur not reactionary. However, purchasing folks still must know the basics of purchasing, their transactions, negotiating etc. Cross functional teams will be the norm and purchasing folks won’t be tucked away in their bureaucratic department dungeon but out and about not only in other company areas but with suppliers and customers. It is an exciting time that will develop. The burden of dull transaction work will disappear and liberate purchasing to accomplish more value adding strategic work.

 

Interviewer: You still talk a lot about purchasing cards in you book. Isn’t this an antiquated method?

 

Dr. Tom: No not really. From a customer perspective it is still a much easier way to buy stuff than filling out a purchasing order. Face it, internal customers hate paperwork and wasting their time on procedures.  I foresee some type of integration for purchase cards with the web that provides intelligent spend information to companies.  Your customers don’t want to waste time on transactions. We should make them as painless as possible.

 

Interviewer: What about sourcing? You cite it as key.

 

Dr. Tom: The most savings still are in disciplined objective sourcing. You need world class suppliers or you will be at a tremendous competitive disadvantage. The savings for most companies are still immense in this area.

 

Interviewer: You really knock the RFP process in you book. Explain.

 

Dr. Tom: Unfortunately, most of them are corrupted by biases, traditional thinking and rules of engagement. Purchasing folks need to make sure the chemistry is right with a supplier. This isn’t something that can be put on a consultant’s quad chart. It has to come from the gut and be tempered by experience. I don’t think any of us want to live in a world populated by materials and services from the lowest bidder. I know I don’t. Too many purchasing folks or sourcing teams compromise or cheat on bids. My experience tells me this almost always leads to disaster.

 

Interviewer: You talk about integrity and being true to your word as key to being a good purchasing professional. Why do you say that?

 

Dr. Tom: Because in the purchasing arena, if folks don’t trust you, you will fail at any attempt to establish good relationships with suppliers or customers. Most folks won’t follow a leader who lies. I strongly believe purchasing is the art of relationship building and if you can’t build good relationships, you are at a distinct disadvantage.

 

Interviewer: You emphasize relationships Dr. Tom any biases or lessons learned in this area?

 

Dr. Tom: First off women are much better at relationship building than men. This is not meant to be sexist. Women are deeply into relationships even as children. Men tend not to be as good in relationship building. The good part is that men can learn a lot from women about relationship building. I learned a heck of a lot from a fine team of women I had the privilege or working with in the paper industry. They were just darn good at relationship building with suppliers, customers and internal folks. They practice it all their lives.  Whenever a relationship needed shoring up, I asked a female to take care of it and usually they did.  Relationship building is their best pitch let them go with it and give them lots of slack and free rein.  Men tend to be over analytical and women more intuitive.  Relationships don’t work like some mathematical equation. They require deft handling.

 

Interviewer: In the book dedication you talk about your upbringing. What was so special or different about yours?

 

Dr. Tom: I had great parents who loved me and set the expectation bar high. They were people of their word and just darn trustworthy. They worked very hard and never complained. They had more common sense that I will ever have. I also had a literal army or Italian aunts and uncles who participated greatly in my upbringing. They were just great and good folks. It was a lot of fun. I grew up in a small town where most of them lived so there wasn’t much I could get away with. The bad report from one of my aunts or uncles would often reach home before I did. They were not afraid to correct me or encourage me. They all loved kids and knew that kids were important and the hope for the future.  They were not shy about expressing their pleasure or displeasure in my behavior.  They were very positive and knew this was important to children. This above all showed that they really cared. I of course had a lot of freedom in my neighborhood and played with many of the kids outside. We didn’t have the technology to stay in the house and become “video-idiots” like kids today. We had to invent and imagine our games. 

 

Interviewer: You talk despairingly about contracts in your book. Explain.

 

Dr. Tom: Contracts keep lawyers employed but often they make true trusting relationships impossible. Face it, many contracts are just exercises in “I gottcha.” If you think that in some way a contract will protect you, you are sadly mistaken and have no understanding of out judicial system. Yes, you need to be reasonably prudent with contracts but to try to put a clause in to cover every eventuality in a relationship is foolhardy.  Relationships fail also. The attrition rate can be high. Over 50% of new marriages end in divorce. I’m not saying that commercial relationships have the same failure rate but don’t expect nirvana in all attempted relationships. It won’t happen. They take a lot of work and effort.

 

Interviewer: Where can our readers get your book?

 

Dr. Tom: On Amazon or go to my web site www.drtombooks.com. I hope folks enjoy the new edition book. Even non-purchasing folks get a kick out of the book. I will continue to publish a newsletter and special reports that can be obtained at the web site.

 

Interviewer: Any future book plans Dr. Tom?

 

Dr. Tom: I am considering a book on relationships and relationship building specifically with supplier and customers.  It will be practical but more of a roadmap not a mechanistic method. Relationships are like tides that have ebbs and flows. Many lessons in personal relationship building apply in this arena.

 

Interviewer: Dr. Tom thanks for your time for this interview. You certainly provide a different perspective about purchasing.

 

Dr. Tom: You are welcome. Enjoy the new edition book.

 

 

Dr. Tom DePaoli, (Dr. Tom or Captain Tom), is currently an independent management consultant, the CEO of Apollo Solutions, which does general business consulting in the human resources, supply chain and lean six sigma areas. His organization was self-founded in 1995. He retired as a Captain from the Navy Reserve. In other civilian careers, he was a supply chain and human resources executive with corporate purchasing turnaround experience and lean six sigma deployments. He has worked for over ten major companies and consulted for over fifty organizations throughout his career. Some of his consulting projects include: information systems projects, re-engineering organizations, organizational transformation, e-procurement, e-commerce, change management, leadership training, creativity improvement, global sourcing and negotiating, especially information-based negotiations. His industry experience is in the chemical, paper, DOD, pharmaceutical, IT, startup, automotive, government, consumer, equipment, business services and consulting industries. He has been published extensively in journals, magazines and books. He is the author of twelve books all available on Amazon.  He has instructed at six education facilities in numerous roles. He is active in supporting the YMCA, Wounded Warrior, and the prevention of the bullying of children.

https://www.amazon.com/author/tomdepaoli    = Dr. Tom’s Amazon author’s page

http://www.apollosolutions.us  = Website of Apollo Solutions his business

drtombooks.com  = More information on Dr. Tom’s books and writings

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dr-thomas-depaoli/0/736/6b3/  = LinkedIn home page

https://apollosolutionsbooksandconsulting.blogspot.com/   = Dr. Tom’s blog

@DrTomDePaoli = Twitter    https://twitter.com/DrTomDePaoli

https://www.facebook.com/ApolloSolutionsConsulting = Facebook of Apollo Solutions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Dr. Tom = thomasdepaoli@yahoo.com drtombooks.com for newsletter sign up https://drtombooks.com/contact/ My Books link: https://www.amazon.com/Tom-DePaoli/e/B003XSV1IQ