Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tuitear y Tutear no son el mismo verbo

De cómo algunos creen que las redes sociales no son la sociedad. Alejandro Serrano – . Mar 2012 | Spain

Desde que leo asiduamente entradas en twitter vengo observando cómo algunos usuarios se dirijen a otros que no conocen de nada con una familiaridad asombrosa. Esto incluye tuits a personajes públicos, como políticos o empresarios, que están en las redes sociales porque su presencia en estos foros ha pasado a ser de facto obligatoria.

Aunque muchos de ellos son extremadamente respetuosos (por ejemplo, éste iba dirigido ayer a Mario Conde: “Don Mario, respeto sus fuentes, pero la TV está diciento otra cosa. Ojalá sea cierto lo que dice”) hay otros que traspasan las fronteras del respeto, la educación y el buen gusto, todas a la vez. Tres perlas recientes:

@Jiwert @gaceta_es vosotros no teneis ni p. idea de lo que necesita la educación pública.” (dirigido al ministro de educación, la abreviatura es mía)

@Rubalcaba No tienes vergüenza

@nnn Juan Roig es muy HDP infinito”. (dirigido al dueño de Mercadona, la abreviatura es mía)

¿Cómo es posible semejante atrevimiento? Es cierto que en twitter no hay filtros: por defecto, cualquiera puede opinar, a diferencia de lo que ocurre en muchos blogs, donde los comentarios a las entradas requieren el permiso del autor para publicarse. Esto libera muchas restricciones para expresarse, pero nunca debe eliminar las limitaciones legales o las naturales propias de la libertad de expresión. Parece que algunos usuarios olvidan esto. O quizá lo ignoran. O hacen caso omiso. O se sienten protegidos por un anonimato que es ficticio.

En cualquier caso, opino que no es deseable para la sociedad permitir en el mundo “virtual” de las redes sociales lo que no se permite en el mundo “real”. Como sociedad, debemos protegernos de nosotros mismos. Para no llegar a acostumbrarnos; ni a contagiarnos.

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When too much is as bad as too little

Why your firm should not aim at achieving 99% service level for all products (most likely)

Alejandro Serrano – . Mar 2012 | Spain

Last week I attended a nice talk given by the head of logistics of an e-commerce retailer. His firm holds roughly 10,000 SKUs and serves daily demand to end users from a central distribution center. A characteristic of the industry in which this firm operates is that orders should be satisfied in less than 24 hours. Since suppliers’ lead-times are on the weeks or even months (some are based in Asia), the firm is forced to hold large amounts of inventory to cope with uncertain demand.

The firm has a customer service level goal as high as 99% for all products. This figure, 99%, may be judged as appropriate by some people, but rises at least two questions: 1) why 99% and not, for instance, 90% or 99.9%, and 2) why 99% for all 10,000 products.

The answer to the first question might have to do with the fact that achieving 100% service level is virtually impossible. Therefore (put yourself in the CEO’s shoes,) if you want to provide your customers with an excellent service level, a feasible, close-enough-to-100%, easy-to-remember, and popular figure is 99%. And why not, you want to keep that figure high for all 10,000 SKUs in your warehouse.

Picture: directindustry.com

A key point that is missed here is the fact that service level that maximizes expected profit should at least depend on the price and the cost of each particular item. In fact, inventory theory (or common sense) says that one should increase service level until the marginal benefit of adding an additional unit be exactly as high as the marginal cost of adding that additional unit. Note why this makes sense: given the cost of an specific item, if its market price goes up, the firm should increase the service level for that item. Why? a higher price implies a higher unit margin, and you want to capture that additional margin with higher probability, thus inventory should go up. Likewise, if given a price, the cost of an item increases, service level should be reduced to avoid a higher probability of holding too much inventory (as measured in moneys,) which is mainly driven by obsolescence, insurance, spoilage, and financial costs.

There are other factors that have an impact on service level above and beyond price and cost, such as the so-called salvage cost or goodwill cost. But as a conclusion,  and without entering into details on how to compute optimal service levels, it should be apparent that 1) There is an optimal service level that depends on the margin of the product, which may be below or above 99%; and 2) service level should be computed for each SKU, or type of SKUs, thus defining it for all items in a firm does not make by and large much economic sense.

 To know more about Supply Chain www.zlc.edu.es

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Conocimiento y experiencias logísticas innovadoras

Sesión organizada por el IAF y las Cámaras de comercio en Zaragoza

Alejandro Serrano – Mar 2012 | España

“Conocimiento y Experiencias logísticas innovadoras”

El 19 de marzo participo en esta sesión para hablar de la “Supply Chain and Finance Initiative“, puesta en marcha desde el Zaragoza Logistics Center. Haré una breve introducción de qué es ZLC y en qué consiste esta iniciativa. Después ilustraré con un ejemplo cómo cambia el comportamiento de un comprador cuando tiene que preocuparse por el impacto de sus decisiones no sólo en la cuenta de resultados, sino también en el balance de la empresa.

Más información e inscripciones en este enlace.


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Do not call it Logistics if you mean Supply Chain

The messy shift from Logistics to Supply Chain Management

Alejandro Serrano – . Feb 2012 | Spain

The word Logistics, initially borrowed from a military context, has had to do with the ability to move materials and personnel in an efficient way from one place to another. In a business context, according to the APICS dictionary, its meaning has changed to include additional activities, such as procurement and production. Sure enough, in this context, Logistics is defined as

“The art and science of obtaining, producing, and distributing material and product in the proper place and in proper quantities.” (APICS dictionary on line, accessed in Feb 2012)

However, the CSCMP dictionary does not include production activities, but specifically mentions storage and refers also to services and information:

“The process of planning, implementing, and controlling procedures for the […] transportation and storage of goods, including services, and related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption […] This definition includes inbound, outbound, internal, and external movements.” (CSCMP. Terms and Glossary. Feb 2010)

which is closer to its original meaning, i.e., “just” transportation and storage. it seems that, as the realm of the discipline was increasing an attempt was done to adjust the word logistics to the broader context of application, what explains the broader scope of logistics according to APICS.

Enter Supply Chain

In the early eighties, logistics was not enough to refer to all the increasing types of activities performed by  “logistics” managers, and a new term was coined: “Supply Chain Management”. A strategic flavor was added and the scope was enlarged both longitudinally (from “end to end,” or E2E) and transversely (not only material flows, but also information and cash was considered.) The two aforementioned dictionaries agree on this scope, except for the CSCMP dictionary, which does not mention cash.

“The global network used to deliver products and services from raw materials to end customers through an engineered flow of information, physical distribution, and cash.” (APICS dictionary on line, accessed in Feb 2012)

“The material and informational interchanges in the logistical process stretching from acquisition of raw materials to delivery of finished products to the end user. All vendors, service providers and customers are links in the supply chain.” (CSCMP. Terms and Glossary. Feb 2010)

Since then, the two terms have coexisted, but the evolution of the word Logistics towards Supply Chain (as it can be seen in the definition of Logistics according to APICS) still creates a lot of confusion in industry and academia. In my opinion, the relationship between the two could be defined as follows: “Logistics is the portion of Supply Chain that is concerned with the activities of transportation and storage of parts,” which is line with the CSCMP definition.

Supply Chain, however, is concerned not only with transportation and storage, but with many other key processes, such as demand forecasting, planning, purchasing, collaboration (contracts), outsourcing, facility location (network design), or inventory management (how much and where to hold inventory.)

To learn more about Supply Chain www.zlc.edu.es

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