Working inside the business

Materials handling insights


The days of merely carrying out a warehouse site inspection at each location to review materials handling, forklifts and racking needs in order to develop efficiency improvements are probably largely over.

The materials handling industry in the USA defines materials handling broadly as the movement, protection, storage and control of materials and products throughout the process of their manufacture and distribution, consumption and disposal.

According to the MHI website: “This process involves a broad array of equipment and systems that aid in forecasting, resource allocation, production planning, flow and process management, inventory management, customer delivery, after-sales support and service, and a host of other activities and processes basic to business.”

“Solutions include sophisticated techniques that expedite information flow, including RFID and satellite tracking systems, and the electronic transmission of order and shipping information. These innovations along with traditional material handling and logistics equipment and systems are the solutions that make manufacturing and supply chains work.”

Wow! That’s some mouthful! But very real and relevant in our digitally connected world!

The reality is that supply chains contain multiple materials-handling platforms, processes and approaches to particular organisational and market challenges and cost streams (rather than revenues).

Leaders like me, I guess, probably have tended to rely historically on their ops leaders to drive continuous improvement via judicious capex through the supply chain and materials-handling side of the equation.

Not any more. The opportunity to initiate supply chain task projects, I believe, is squarely on the Group CEO’s list of KPIs; particularly when the potential to unlock efficiencies and deliver savings could be substantial. A buck saved, is a buck earned.

Who does it well in Australia?

Brett Ambrose is CEO of Blum Australia; well known for its high-stack warehousing and materials-handling solutions in servicing furniture and cabinet-hardware customers throughout the nation.

Blum was ahead of the game and still is when it comes to major supply-chain components like materials handling.

I asked Brett what were the key reasons, drivers and outcomes for Blum Australia in its investment in leading-edge materials handling solutions?

“Blum has around 15 ASRS’s or high-bay automated warehouses operating around the world. As Australia is one of the larger markets for Blum, it was logical for Blum to construct and operate one here. What also suited our operation here was that as Blum Australia sells through a distribution network, we are moving larger pallet quantity orders through the warehouse rather than small picks. This suits the particular ASRS installed at Hoxton Park.”

“With the ASRS, our customers benefit from this facility in a number of ways: 100% inventory accuracy, increased warehouse capacity on a much smaller footprint; and a simple process of adding additional cranes and racking to our original site.”

“With the additional storage capacity and the speed of the cranes, we have been able to double our output with minimal increases in staff numbers. As the warehouse is a machine-only site, we do not have the usual safety issues a typical warehouse with standard pallet racking would have,” he concluded.

In the forklift industry, Chris Spence is Chief Operating Officer of Hyundai Forklifts in Australia.

Interestingly, the company’s website focuses on the benefits of using the product from an operator’s viewpoint: “a forklift operator, who enjoys his work, does a better job. That is why we at Hyundai do everything we can to make that happen. We have merged operator preference, fast precision and lasting performance into a quality product.”

I asked Chris what were the key materials-handling issues and challenges at the client level in Australia now and in the future in major Australian user sectors.

“Our current focus in supporting our clients is to continue to innovate flexible and transparent rental solutions for the MHE market. The traditional fully maintained rental offering no longer suits many larger corporates that are always looking at ways of achieving cost down structures. Hyundai has globally been at the forefront of technological innovations and is now looking to partner this with a more customer centric approach to MHE rentals.”

“In regards to technological advancement, Hyundai will continue to produce new models to meet growing client demand and given our global footprint, we are able to take industry best practice from across the globe and implement it here in Australia.”

“The introduction of driverless equipment and full automation will start to impact in some operational environments, but given the diverse and irregular tasks undertaken in many of the shared operations, we expect it to be some time before automation takes the lead over operator controlled machines,” he concluded.

(This article was produced for Industry Update Magazine. Published March 2017. Click through the link here)

Materials handling insights 2018-01-31T09:09:48+11:00

Marketing’s true value

A rant? No. A rave about marketing’s true value

My goal is to reinforce to you that best-of-breed marketing processes can make a difference; particularly in these challenging times of relatively stagnant demand growth; growing intensity of digital connectivity and the ever-increasing complexity of communications channel-choice to reach target buyers.

Here we go…

In some business-to-business market segments, Australia in my opinion is relatively unsophisticated in the adoption and application of professional marketing practice, techniques and tools.

Why is this the case?

Probably, we’ve never had enough competition in some Australian ANZSIC sectors to stimulate and adopt the fundamentally important view that marketing’s role is to create value for customers.

Does this happen in your industry?

Is it your view too that marketing means only promotion for many?

Where’s the professional integration of product, pricing, promotion and distribution issues; not-to-mention critical strategic issues like development of value propositions, market positioning, brand strategy and executing implementation so well, that disruption actually happens… to access and satisfy previously-unserved potential customer bases. How does this  marketing integration make a difference? Would you play a  full round of golf  without all your clubs?

This is not a criticism of those segments; but an observation based on long-term involvement in and around those spaces. I’m reluctant to name those sectors; but I suspect you know which ones I’m refering to.

And guess what! Our digital revolution is creating a tsunami of data which presents some significant challenges for businesses. What do we collect? How do we collect it? What do we analyse? How do we use the information? How do we track the impact of decisions we make from information application?

That tsunami of opportunity is going to expand exponentially in my view. Are most of us digitally ready for that? Are you ready to understand that you could  segment more closely, make more money, save more money and improve risk management? Would these embedded  digital marketing processes make a difference?

Lastly, the communication channel options we have today are enormous compared with the pre-social and pre-digital media era some dozen years back or so. Communication channels are many, fragmented and often don’t provide adequate or reliable analytics around viewership, readership or participation. And, I’m not just refering to conventional communications channels; but the plethora of digital channels as well.

So the question I ask, is “so what?” “what do we do?”

Firstly, great strategy was never developed without the preparatory hard work around segment identification and viability, buyer needs and behaviour, competitor strengths and weaknesses and market positioning gap opportunities.

It has to be done, It isn’t cheap to undertake it. But, without the spadework, you might as well go fishing for a target species without the right bait, gear and sonar…in the wrong location. How costly would that be? Probably much more expensive than doing the hard yakka up front.

Secondly, don’t be afraid of the plethora of  conventional and digital media communication channel options. Pick the ones that seem appropriate. Insist on evidence of how  well those channels reach and engage the profiles of your desired buyers in preferred market segments. Media  channel mix selection is exactly a combination of science ( media planning software and insight ) and art ( media advisory services and experience ). Then it’s up to us to make a judgement. Just like we do as leaders day-in day-out. Imagine the difference these marketing processes can make. Now, we are in a stronger position to measure the outcomes over time. Does ROI seem plausible. Yep.

Test. Test. Test.  Test your promotional messages ( based on your value propositions ) and channel mix choices. That’s the key.

So,  in conclusion, here’s what I believe.

Yes, we’re in a different digital world. Yes. Things appear more complex. Yes, business is faster. Perhaps more competitively intense. More margin-sensitive.

But remember, the benefits and processes of professional marketing practice are in principle, no different to 5 years ago. 10 years ago. 20 years ago.

Professional strategic marketing processes will arm you for the future. They’ll allow you to determine strategic clarity from  ambiguous complexity. They’ll enable you to withstand margin dilution. They’ll create value propositions of yours  that customers of your competitors won’t be able to ignore. Imagine the difference that could  make to your revenues.

Professional strategic marketing processes and the right advisory support will make a difference; because you’ll be fore-warned and fore-armed before your competitors. In tight demand conditions, you want to be in better shape don’t you?

Make sense? Please contact me to learn more about marketing initiatives you could implement quickly. Details are below.


Pete Jeans is an expert business developer. He facilitates  the Marketing for Managers  unit at the Australian Institute of Management School of Business MBA programme; and is Chief Operating Officer at SMO Sydney which is celebrating its 25th successful year in 2017 as one of Australia’s pioneers in strategic mission-critical growth project leaders. Contact him on M: 0432 113 930.


Marketing’s true value 2017-09-20T14:38:57+10:00

What happened to customer service?

SMO Sydney associate Mike Godfrey – expert in coaching and training – comments on customer service today.


What Happened to Customer Service?   Time to Take the Lead Again 

Mike Godfrey September 2015 (150x200)

I thought that Australia went through a Customer service revolution during the 1980s. If we did, the lessons and benefits have been forgotten today. Whatever was done then seems to be missing now. 

Despite protestations that “your call is very important to us” we are now in never-ending queues to speak to someone personally or by phone; let alone in retail stores or service centres. 

And, despite the fact that retail sales are flat; major department stores and many boutique stores still resist putting staff on counters or on the floor – not to mention the right staff with the right attitude who know how to serve and sell. 

If they invested in this area rather than cutting back, retail sales would climb again. Just ask your partner or colleagues when the last time was that they felt well-served in a retail store. It’s a rarity these days. 

I recently had the experience with a couple of well-known large companies whose service offering fell way short of their value proposition – in other words what they said they would deliver to the customer, was not matched by actual customer experience. Their response? A phone call that they would pass on my concerns. That is a fob-off and they know it and I know it. Will I deal with these companies again – not if I can help it. Do they care, or is senior management aware? – I bet they are not. 

The focus on the customer – not lip service but real interest – has disappeared under the pressure in tough economic times to deliver results. But good customer service – which can be viewed as an extension of the sales strategy for a business, helps deliver results too. 

But it doesn’t get the necessary focus.  Your opportunity?

It is time for you to review your Customer Service strategy and get input from a wide range of sources – including dissatisfied customers.

Include your internal processes to handle customer complaints and whether, as a customer yourself, you would regard these as acceptable.

By the way, customer service skills development is relatively easy and inexpensive. Skills training, alongside process improvements, will pay financial dividends to your business.

The ROI is impressive.

Take a leadership role and suggest to your colleagues it is time to open this up for discussion in your company.

Mike Godfrey. Director. Godfrey & Associates

What happened to customer service? 2017-08-26T01:07:36+10:00

2015 Marketing & Communications Governance Survey – click through

Contribute and learn in 5 minutes which governance framework options you may have right now to reduce risks in the marketing & communications spaces… risks that can be very serious in this  connected and litigious world.

Click through here to take the 2015 Marketing & Communications Governance Survey





2015 Marketing & Communications Governance Survey – click through 2015-08-06T16:34:09+10:00

…the value mentors deliver is wider that the scope of their specialisation

Mentors need to be chosen for the deep subject expertise and judgement you need.

Mentoring is not a new management concept…but it is an investment worth much much more than its cost in my view.

My experience with mentors has been fantastic. For more than 20 years, I’ve listened to and acted on my mentors’ insights and advice; with outcomes that have meant I’ve learned and benefitted.

But interestingly, the value they deliver is usually wider that the scope of their specialisation.

For example…because of  the mentoring experience, I’ve re-assessed planned initiatives. I’ve re-aligned  sales propositions. I’ve evaluated new market territories. I’ve re-allocated operational expense budgets….and much more… thanks  to guidance from people I respect enormously.

What’s been your experience?


…the value mentors deliver is wider that the scope of their specialisation 2015-03-22T22:53:40+11:00

Metrics that really matter…which ones do you use to measure and manage?

Plans need metrics to measure and manage.

Marketing and communications metrics need to be relevant to your own organisation and your competitors.

How can you reliably obtain data that covers you and your opposition?

Survey customers. They’ll give you a good representative view on your performance around metrics that matter.

And, collate internal data from customer interface mechanisms like CRM programmes.

Options for key metrics can include:

  • perceptions of product & services quality
  • customer complaints
  • on-target customer service standards delivery
  • customer base growth
  • customer loyalty
  • unaided brand awareness
  • return on marketing investment
  • gross margin growth
  • targeted sales revenue growth
  • share of defined market segment
  • unaided recall of brand positioning
  • product availability through the distribution channels
  • tenders won and lost

What metrics do you use?

Metrics that really matter…which ones do you use to measure and manage? 2015-03-22T22:54:20+11:00

immediate solutions when you’re under-resourced

Middle management has just about disappeared in some sectors. And as order volume is starting to rebuild and everyone is busy,  the challenge is who’s available now to lead implementation programmes for growth or change?

Here’s some ideas:

  • form a team of future leaders. Give them the responsibility to build and execute a growth  implementation plan.
  • hire an interim leader to lead delivery
  • re-employ a retired former manager who understands the organisation and the issues
  • retain a sales representative agency to drive in-field  customer acquisition goals
immediate solutions when you’re under-resourced 2015-03-22T22:55:07+11:00

Under-resourced? Under-skilled? Swamped with urgent priorities? Once-in-a-lifetime mission-critical project coming up?

Mission-critical projects exist in most industries and major players. And many organisations are spread so thin that resources can’t be easily collated to exploit once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

That’s where we come in. Our broader and deeper industry sector experience means we can apply learnings elsewhere to your challenges and bottom-line quickly.


Pete Jeans. M.A.I.C.D. Director & Chief Operating Officer. SMO Sydney.

“We develop and implement new value propositions with you that switch customer volume to you profitably.”

Under-resourced? Under-skilled? Swamped with urgent priorities? Once-in-a-lifetime mission-critical project coming up? 2017-08-26T01:07:38+10:00

…it’s all about passion for the project and great discipline

…over years of experience…multiple sector exposure…varying team dynamics…competitive challenges…no matter what the mix of project variables, there are some golden rules:

Interview your project sponsors closely to clearly define their actual agendas

  • Define and re-define the project scope and brief closely and regularly
  • Conduct stakeholder analyses closely to define buy-in levers and active support engagement initiatives. Ask for their active support. Deliver against their needs.
  • Integrate deep issues knowledge into the team structures
  • Reject team candidates whose contribution is less than constructive
  • Meet deliverables quality expectations on time every time
  • Communication and feedback mechanisms need to be regular, real time and linked to decision tree and timetable frameworks

Engender a sense of project passion and planned urgency.


…it’s all about passion for the project and great discipline 2017-08-26T01:07:38+10:00