“What we’ve got here…is a failure to communicate.” – VMI: Vendor Managed Inventory

Vendor Managed Inventory Replenishment


Have you been approached by one of your customers about starting a Vendor/Supplier Managed Inventory (VMI or SMI) relationship, or are you considering implementing one with your suppliers? While there can be benefits to both parties in a VMI relationship, there are pitfalls to avoid in order to establish a successful partnership.

Potential benefits include:

  • Shorter lead time
  • Reduced inventories (for both parties)
  • Greater manufacturing efficiencies
  • Stronger relationship with your customer/supplier

Potential issues include:

  • Accuracy of data: Without accurate and timely reporting of current inventory quantities and planned consumption (planning schedule), it is impossible for a supplier to keep their customer properly stocked with inventory. 
  • Exchanging data: Are both partners “on the same page” with the transmission methods (traditional EDI, XML, spreadsheets, proprietary formats, etc) and frequency? 
  • Managing the data: Depending on the number of products a supplier provides to a customer, the volume of data to be managed on a daily basis can be staggering – current inventory quantities, month’s worth of planned consumption data, min/max inventory levels, etc. As a supplier, are you going to add to your staff to manage this additional data, or will you be looking for a software solution to help your existing staff manage all of this new data? 
  • Consignment inventory: Some companies implementing VMI are also wanting to convert the inventory to consignment – meaning that they don’t own (or pay for) the goods until they pull them out of inventory and send them to the production floor (or sell them in the case of a final product). This relationship model adds more overhead to the supplier, in addition to the data exchange between the two parties.

Properly implemented and managed, VMI can strengthen the relationship between a supplier and a customer, and provide tangible benefits to both parties. However, if not properly implemented, this relationship can cause issues for both parties, driving up costs, causing production downtime (due to a lack of available inventory), and can ultimately damage the relationship.

Keller Schroeder can assist you with the process of planning and implementing a successful VMI relationship. Please contact Dan Ehrhart at (812) 474-6825 to discuss this topic in greater detail.


“Honey, I shrunk the kids!” – VMware View 4

VMware View Desktop Virtualization

 

Part II: Improving the User Experience

In a previous newsletter, we discussed VMware View desktop virtualization software and it’s benefits. VMware has released the latest version of this software, called View 4, which helps lower the cost of desktop virtualization and simplifies the management capabilities, but perhaps most importantly, improves the desktop user experience.

The biggest new feature is a brand new graphics protocol called PCoIP, which radically improves the performance of virtual desktops to provide the richest user experience yet. It was designed specifically for desktop virtualization, and is optimized to run over wide area and high latency networks. It provides the fastest screen refresh rate for remote desktop displays, squeezing out any lag time that may have existed before with the RDP protocol. High end graphics and CAD users used to be excluded as desktop virtualization candidates, but with PCoIP and VMware View 4, that is no longer the case.

A wide range of vendors are throwing their support behind desktop virtualization now too, including Cisco, Dell, IBM, HP & Wyse. Some exciting new products being offered are zero client devices, which are OS-less thin clients that provide a very low power, no moving parts, hardware chip that provides a VMware View client using the new PCoIP graphics protocol for the best possible virtual desktop performance. These devices typically allow up to four independent monitors, with different high resolution and placement capabilities, plus local USB connections and speaker ports.

VMware View 4 also adds support for vSphere 4, which is the latest and greatest version of VMware’s server virtualization software that provides even better performance than it’s VI3 predecessor. vSphere 4 adds even more scalability too, allowing up to 1000 desktops per server and up to 10,000 desktops under a single management server. These and many other new features provide the leading Enterprise virtualization platform for desktops and servers alike.

With these latest improvements, especially around the user experience, desktop virtualization is definitely on its way to becoming main stream, and just like with server virtualization, VMware is leading the way in making that a reality.

Contact your Keller Schroeder Senior Account Manager to learn more or discuss the benefits of implementing Virtualized Desktops within your environment.


“Run Forrest Run” – WAN Optimization


Accelerating the Distributed Network


As the work environments of organizations and employees become more distributed, the productivity of users in branch and remote offices becomes increasingly important to the success of the business as a whole. All users need fast, secure access to critical applications from wherever they are working; at headquarters, in branch offices or when traveling. Contradictory to this, for ease of management, enhanced security and compliance, the current trend is to consolidate applications and servers, physically or through virtualization, to fewer, centralized locations,. This simplifies server and application administration but can create performance problems for distributed users. In some cases, a centralized application results in a poorly performing application.

Why?

The problem is latency (the delay in responsiveness between systems); another measurement of a network that isn’t often talked about by telecoms and ISPs. That’s because it’s largely outside of their control. Beyond buying the fastest routers or laying more direct cable between locations, there is an inescapable fact: the speed of light. It takes 150ms – about 1/8th of a second – to go over a network from New York to Tokyo when the conditions are right. That doesn’t seem very long, but it’s over 100 times longer than the wait on a Local Area Network (LAN). That turns out to be important, as LAN application best-practice is to use thousands or tens of thousands round trips of small packets for every action. Even 1/8th of a second can add up to a significant delay when thousands of round trips are needed. What was fine at low latency (over the LAN), is often impossible at WAN latencies.

Unaware of this problem, your employees still want to use LAN applications everywhere. They’re lightweight, flexible and easy for them to use – which results in higher productivity and lower support costs. On a LAN, they’re also fast. Ideally, there would be a way to enjoy LAN applications everywhere, regardless of the latency factor.

Of course, we can’t ignore the impact of bandwidth completely. Applications such as email and file shares are now joined on the WAN by a new set of time-sensitive applications, such as Voice and Video. Accommodating those on the WAN, alongside the existing traffic, requires a way to address not only the inherent latency, but also manage bandwidth. The right user needs to access the right application without having to over-buy bandwidth for peak loads or frivolous traffic.

Bluecoat‘s WAN Optimization Solutions accelerate performance to remote users to LAN-like speeds. In addition, policy based controls triage the use of network resources by matching users, applications and content with responsible use policies and your priorities.

The following are business benefits of a WAN Optimization project:

  • Use the Internet instead of expensive private WAN links
  • Reduce costs by delaying the purchase of additional bandwidth
  • Enable key IT mandates, such as server consolidation, outsourcing and SOA
  • Remove redundant and inappropriate traffic to ensure availability at peak times
  • Increased user productivity by faster delivery of applications and data to remote users

Bluecoat’s WAN Optimization Solutions are appliances to be deployed in the remote and headquarters offices. These appliances improve performance in several ways. By deploying WAN Optimization across the network, organizations can improve user performance while reducing costs. Server storage or consolidation can be centralized into the datacenter to reduce administrative expenses without negatively impacting the end user experience. WAN costs can be contained and possibly reduced as duplicate data is removed from the WAN connections. Branch users can become more productive no longer having to wait for applications and data.

Contact your Keller Schroeder Senior Account Manager to learn more, see a demonstration, or discuss the benefits of implementing the Bluecoat WAN Optimization Solutions within your environment.


“Watson come here! I need you.” – Unified Contact Center Express

Cisco’s Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX)


Do you use the telephone to communicate with your customers? If you said “Why, Yes we do!” then Cisco’s Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX) can help you deliver superior customer service.

“How can we do this?” you might ask.

We can answer that in two words, “Call Flow”…

Specifically, the Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX) system allows for complete customization of call flow. Applying techniques such as “Skills Based Routing” and “Call Queues” we can get your customer to the right person the first time. A call can be routed based on the time of day, the dialed number, or from an interactive selection made by the caller themselves.

If your customer does need to wait to reach an employee they can listen to pre-recorded information about your business, information regarding their hold time, or even a selection of music. If you would like to gather information about your caller, the system can be configured to prompt and collect that information from them and make it available to your employee when they answer that call. If your business application allows, the system can even “pop-up” customer information preparing the employee with information about the caller before the call is answered.

The reference to a “Call Center” often conjures up images of enormous rooms, spanning for miles, full of people at small desks taking calls. While those environments do exist and often exemplify the various needs for managing the call flow of customer calls, don’t let size fool you. Cisco’s UCCX product is not just for large businesses with large call centers. It can be used to improve efficiency, boost productivity, and enhance responsiveness in businesses, departments, and branches of all shapes and sizes.

With a little internal investigation, most businesses will find they have a group of employees (ranging anywhere from 2 to 200) that manage incoming phone calls from multiple phone lines, often using multiple line appearances on their phones, and currently juggle those exponential combinations by hand. If this sounds like a group within your business, we have news for you. You already have a “Call Center” in place, it’s simply being managed manually and although those individuals likely do a fantastic job of juggling all those callers, this situation can often result in a stressful and inefficient environment for both the employees and your customers.

Cisco’s UCCX product allows you to consolidate multiple line appearances on a phone into only one for each employee to manage. If your business has multiple numbers, they can be directed to a variety of “call queues” all represented by one line appearance on the phone. Rather than managing multiple calls and placing callers on hold, the system can do this for you. Employees can manage one line appearance (reducing their stress level) and be provided caller information on the Cisco Agent Desktop. This information can include caller id, dialed number, and information collected from the caller.

Not to worry, there’s something for the supervisors and managers as well. This system can provide them with real time call information, historical data and other advanced supervisory features. A supervisor can monitor live calls, barge in, or intercept calls to ensure a high quality level of service for your customers. Historical data allows you to track trends and help forecast the staffing needs, even by skill-set.

For more information or to see a demonstration of Cisco’s Unified Contact Center Express please contact your Keller Schroeder Senior Account Manager.


“What didn’t you do today?”

I love building shelves. I start the day with a pile of lumber, some screws and nails, maybe some glue and paint or stain, and a barren wall. At the end of the day, I’ve got shelves. My wife has more room to store more stuff, and I’m a hero. I check it off of my to-do list, and I’ve accomplished something. It feels great, it looks great (maybe), and it is a feeling that I do not often experience as I walk out of my office at the end of a typical business day. Can you relate?

An often frustrating reality of the business world is that accomplishments are incremental and difficult to quantify. Our impact can be governed by constraints, complexities, and dependencies. Aside from simple projects or clear-cut assignments with specific deliverables, it is difficult to say with confidence, “This is how I made an impact today.”

My advice: Shift your focus and change your scorecard. If my focus is on myself only and what I alone can accomplish, then my “impact scorecard” is very simple:

Max contribution = 24 hours/day x 1 person (me)

If, on the other hand, I shift my focus to include both my own personal contribution plus how I lead, influence, and impact others in my workplace, then I have limitless potential to score big every day. This is an adjustment that all professionals can make, regardless of whether we are considered by title or reputation to be leaders. The fact is we can lead wherever we are.

One of the initiatives at Keller Schroeder of which I am most proud is our annual Client Appreciation Event. Over 250 of our clients and several of our vendors converge on our humble headquarters for a cook-out-on-steroids on an October day each year. It’s a great time that gets rave reviews from attendees, and since 2008 it has also been leveraged as a way to give back to our community (to the tune of $10,000+ to the United Way in 2008 and 2500+ items to area food banks in 2009).

One of the things that makes me most proud of this event is that I had nothing to do with it. The idea for the event itself was voiced by one member of our sales team, and then it morphed and evolved out of the creative energies of a whole host of employee-owners at Keller Schroeder. The idea to include a community “give back” emphasis was also initiated by the compassionate spirit of one member of our sales team, and that aspect of the event has captured the hearts and passions of virtually everyone in our company.

Bottom line: Our Client Appreciation Event was birthed by a culture at Keller Schroeder that encourages individual initiative, and it was nurtured by a culture at Keller Schroeder that says each one of us has the privilege and the responsibility to lead from where we are – regardless of position title or job description. To me, one of the greatest thrills of leadership is the satisfaction that comes not from my own achievements or even the collective achievements of our firm. I’m pumped when I see individuals acting on their own initiative to do something without my help or knowledge because they are empowered by a culture to do so.

So, with your “impact scorecard” in hand, I would challenge you with these questions:

  1. What are you doing to promote/enable individual initiative as a leader from where you are?
  2. What are you doing to develop/inspire/empower those who work for you or alongside you?

The evidence of your contribution may not be as clear and tangible as a nice-looking shelf at the end of the day, but the lasting impact could have far greater benefits!

Larry May, President
Keller Schroeder