Wednesday, 17 November 2010

New location for blog

My company, Bluefin, now has the capability to run blogs on our website (I know, I know).

So to stay tuned, and join the debate, please check out


Thursday, 11 November 2010

Consumer Products - Social Media

I've written a short piece about whether "keeping it real" is really necessary any more in social media. I've been following a few manufacturing companies - consumer products primarily, almost by definition - and observed differing ways of using channels like facebook and twitter.

Engaging effectively doesn't necessarily mean being authentic...

Monday, 8 November 2010

Tomorrow's Manufacturer - Efficient, sustainable operations

Part of most any organisation's operations is the efficient sourcing and managing of supplier relationships. This is an area that can be dragged right back with bureaucracy, lack of clear authority, decision by committee and all manner of other red tape.

Tackling drags on processes in this area is actually reasonably straightforward. And although shining a light on where process delays occur can cause friction within the organisation - within purchasing, within requisitioning areas, and between the two - it is a great tool for empowering business leads to source with greater speed. It also enables purchasing to collaborate with areas that may harbour resistance.

Here's an article on the critical success factors in this area.

Tomorrow's Manufacturer - Collaborative Partner Networks

One aspect of improving your ability to collaborate with partners, is to properly understand who your partners are.

Although that sounds simple, in reality it is not. Partners often have complex organisational structures that can hide how much activity you undertake with them. M&A activity means that subsidiaries often change hands. Networks are increasingly global, involving trading with partners in a wider range of countries. For large organisations, customers are often suppliers too. And the sources of data can be spread across many different types of platforms, with differing data standards.

This article looks at the considerations in play when trying to tackle that issue with partners who are suppliers.

Tomorrow's Manufacturer - Optimised Global Value Chains

I've posted a blog on our company's site, about optimising working capital against customer service levels, which is part of optimising any value chain.

How does a company understand enough about its working capital to be able to cut where it can to deliver financial benefits in the form of reduced capital requirements and increased profitability, while at the same time not jeopardising the top line through reduced customer service.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Health, Safety and Marmite

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I was struck this week by a couple of articles, both illustrating (to me anyway) the difficult balancing act of Consumer Products.

One was about how promotions can excite an almost physical response in people's brains. Apparently a free jar of Marmite is akin to being physically aroused.

I get that.

The interesting thing for a lot of my customers, is how that can be used to counteract a little-known aspect of promotions - the fact that almost all promotions are short lived. Let's call it the "Jenny Thompson" effect. Get the free jar of Marmite. Get excited. Get a jar of Bovril next time.

Apparently the researchers are going to figure out how to make promotional excitement last longer - I would call that the 64 billion dollar question. Or maybe the £1,200 money back question.

Then I read another article about the much more mundane - but infinitely more tragic - health and safety aspect of the companies that make our favourite products. Somebody, in a plant, somewhere, had an accident that gave them brain damage. Sorry, but there's no happy ending and no punchline.

Promotions, efficiencies, effectiveness and consumer engagement are all well and good - even better when people are kept fit and healthy.

2010 IfM Symposium

Looking forward to the 2010 Cambridge IfM symposium on International Manufacturing next week.

Whither paper?

I went to a very well organised event this week.

Traversing a very bleak part of London, we arrived at a particularly clean and well run manufacturing facility in the middle of what many attendees called a proxy northern European part of the country. It was slightly alien, and very efficient.

All the concepts were right - 8D, 6s, lean, all that. But I (as an SAP consultant) had a bit of a heart attack when I saw that their ERP system appeared to be a massive piece of brown paper!

Visually brilliant. When it worked. Not at all timely. Totally dependent on people's mood. Not at all visible to senior management. How this business turned over 4 times our revenue I don't know.

But. great machines. And able to export the vast - VAST. No VAAAASSST - majority of their output to other countries. A triumph of physics.

And I'm a physicist, so I approve!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Plain English Guide to key topics

I was alerted to this blog post on explaining key topics in Manufacturing in plain english For those readers of this blog who might find this useful, I suggest taking a look - it's a short read, not too onerous, and could help if you find there's a lack of clarity in some areas.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Tomorrow's Manufacturer - Mobile Workforce

Just a teaser post, really! Mobile is interwoven with most of the other topics, and one of the key facts in any discussion around mobile is the sheer number of mobile devices - 4bn mobile devices in the world as opposed to PCs that just about get to a billion.

Instead of Microsoft and Intel being the ones to beat, the fight appears to be between newer players such as facebook, google and apple. (NB: was at an interesting dinner where Hermann Hauser spoke on how the value chain structure for mobile computing is fundamentally different from that underpinning the PC wave, which puts the preceding players at a distinct disadvantage)

So, against that backdrop, in my company's part of the world, 2 interesting pieces of news: SAP acquiring Sybase, and Bluefin being the first in the world to rollout Sybase-enabled SAP CRM. On the iPhone in my case, of course!

SAP acquiring Sybase:
Bluefin rollout Sybase SAP CRM:

Tomorrow's Manufacturer - Effective Co-Innovation

I have been discussing the Tomorrow's Manufacturer key themes with various people, and one conversation in particular stands out. I asked out of all 8 areas, which one did the person think was the most important. He thought for a while, and then said "Innovation. If we don't continually innovate, we will eventually die out".

This must be true for any manufacturer in higher-cost economies - particularly as companies in lower-cost economies are also starting to compete on innovation - companies like Huawei of China for example. Huawei would have been lucky to get into the top 100 list of suppliers to most major telecoms providers even as recently as 5 years ago. Now they are in the top 5 of many of them.

I also have an interest in Procurement, because of my background. One of the key themes in Procurement over the past 3 years has been Supplier Relationship Management. The idea that purchasing professionals should in some cases put away their price-bashing baseball bats when going to visit a supplier about a requirement, and start to look at them as a partner to develop a trusted relationship with. John Henke has done research to suggest that "Trust" in a supplier-customer relationship can result in revenue growth on the part of the customer, not just cost reduction. Why? Because if a supplier trusts you, they are more willing to invest in the relationship, more willing to take risks for you, and importantly, more willing to give you a greater share of their innovation.

With the fragmenting of supply chains, and increasing globalisation, co-innovation is becoming ever more important.

Of course, involving third parties in innovation would tend to increase lead times. So it will be interesting to see what good looks like, in terms of harnessing the discretionary effort of suppliers in the innovation process, and at the same time, accelerating the time to market.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Tomorrow's Manufacturer - Excellent Customer Service

I'm working on the first round table event which is going to deal with Excellent Customer Service. I've been fortunate enough to have been put in touch with Irene Ng (, whose research lends a provocative perspective to this area. Having read some of Irene's work, and having seen a broad range of Manufacturer's offering different levels of Customer Service and Support, I'm beginning to view it like this:
  1. Traditional Manufacturer. Offers “customer support” – i.e., if a product fails, they’ll come and reactively fix it
  2. Progressive Manufacturer / Today’s Manufacturer. Offers “customer service” – i.e., is able to proactively offer services alongside the product, to help the customer get the best from the product
  3. Tomorrow’s Manufacturer. Co-creates value with its customers within a value-based system. Barriers between product, service, supplier and customer are blurred and dynamic
I'm looking forward to what should hopefully be a lively debate in June!

Tomorrow's Manufacturer - The Key Battlegrounds

Drivers for change

Today’s Manufacturer exists in a rapidly changing, increasingly global marketplace. Decisions on how and where to locate facilities, what to make and what to buy, how to innovate and how to take new ideas to market are becoming more complex and less permanent. Value chains are becoming more fragmented and therefore more complex to manage, whereas customers are demanding more for less, more quickly.
Low cost manufacturing locations are more accessible, putting intense pressure on traditional manufacturers in developed economies. Existing concerns are also being given more urgent priority, such as environmental sustainability, supply chain risk and governance.

The accelerating pace of change

Furthermore, the pace of change will increase. Underlying trends in technology that drive some of these trends – such as available computing power per $ - are exponential. The growth in the number of connections and interactions between stakeholders – such as customer feedback events on social networking applications – is also exponential. And exponential growth has a habit of catching out those who are travelling along the flatter sections of the curve.

The need for focus

Tomorrow’s Manufacturer needs to embrace these changes, as good manufacturers have always embraced continuous improvement. In particular, there are 8 key strategic and operational deliverables, which in the coming years will mean the difference between being competitive, and being in decline.

The battleground for Tomorrow's Manufacturer is defined by 8 strategic deliverables:

  1. Increased value-add
  2. Effective co-innovation
  3. Optimised global value chains
  4. Mobile workforce
  5. Realtime connected enterprise
  6. Excellent customer service
  7. Efficient, sustainable operations
  8. Collaborative partner networks

Taking the next steps

Today’s Manufacturer may already be embarking on initiatives in some of these key battlegrounds. Indeed, if initiatives to transform one or more of these areas do not exist, CEOs should be asking “why not?”

What is certain is that there is existing technology, which can be implemented now, at low cost, to realise big gains in each of these areas.

Tomorrow’s Manufacturer will have a Strategy Map that ensures the Leadership Team and all its stakeholders are agreed on the priority objectives for the business. The list of 8 strategic deliverables will have been considered, and factored into the Map.

The Strategy Map will be the basis for a Technology Roadmap that describes how current – and future – technology will be used to support the business’s goals.

SAP enablers for change

For Tomorrow’s Manufacturers with SAP as part of their IT strategy, much of the enablers are bundled in core products, in which SAP has invested huge amounts of R&D over the last decade, to close the gap with what would have been viewed as a “best of breed” strategy.
For these manufacturers, the SAP portfolio will form the backbone of the Technology Roadmap that supports the new Strategy Map.

And its reach will extend into surprising parts of Tomorrow’s Manufacturer’s operations.

Tomorrow's Manufacturer - Introduction

I am Dan Hawker, a founder and director of a company called Bluefin, which specialises in helping organisations increase their business performance with SAP technologies.

I look after the Manufacturing sector for our organisation, and this blog is part of my contribution to the debate on how Manufacturers can adapt and win in what a lot of people term the "new reality".

Over the next few months, I'll be outlining the key battlegrounds that I think will shape Tomorrow's Manufacturer. For each one, I'll aim to provide some insight into how organisations can win in each of these battlegrounds.

I hope you'll find it of interest, and I'll be looking out for comments and feedback.