Serving Fries 24 Hours a Day at McDonald’s

MAY 29, 2013

mcdonalds salesI find the issue of running a restaurant 24 hour/day interesting. The Wall Street Journal (April 30, 2013) writes that “fast-food chains are hanging a lot of hopes on night owls and early birds.” With a lean economy squeezing their sales, thousands of restaurants are extending their hours to try to get more people through the door.

About 45% of McDonald’s 14,100 U.S. locations are now serving customers around the clock, up from about 30% in 2005. Dunkin’ Donuts has doubled its number of 24-hour restaurants over the past decade to nearly a third of its 7,000 U.S. outlets. Taco Bell implemented a breakfast menu for the first time last year, and today 825 stores open between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., instead of the usual 10 a.m.

For many franchisees, extending hours is an alluring idea, since it lets them bring in more revenue without boosting fixed costs like rent. It can also simplify other operations issues: Outlets that stay open around the clock, for instance, can eliminate procedures for opening and closing the restaurant.

But the practice doesn’t always bring big payoffs. Even though fixed costs don’t rise, there are added expenses such as higher utility bills and extra pay for hourly employees working the graveyard shift. Simply finding people to work those hours can be a struggle. “It is always difficult to get people to work overnight. It’s just contrary to the body,” says one consultant.

Meanwhile, the boost in sales can be meager. Consumers still prefer to eat at fast-food joints during traditional hours. Noon to 1 p.m. is the busiest time of day for quick-service restaurants, accounting for about 15% of customer visits last year. In contrast, the hours between 9 p.m. and midnight represented just 6% of visits, and the hours from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. less than 1%.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

Fill ‘Er Up…With Natural Gas

MAY 23, 2013

LNG pump at Blu filling station in Salt Lake City

LNG pump at Blu filling station in Salt Lake City

If you drive down I-15 in Beaver, Utah, you’ll see a 30-foot-tall silo with white letters that spell out “Blu.” Next to it is a truck stop. It is no ordinary truck stop. The silo contains liquefied natural gas (LNG) chilled to -200° F and ready to fuel specially outfitted 18-wheelers. The facility is owned by Blu Transfuels, which expects to build 50 natural-gas filling stations nationwide this year, according to Fortune (May 20, 2013).

Drawn to the vast potential of America’s fracking boom, Blu plans to convert natural gas into a liquefied form and use it to power the country’s fleet of 8 million heavy and medium-weight trucks, which account for 15% of U.S. oil consumption. The company’s partner, ENN, already operates 238 natural-gas stations in 59 cities in China. Blu’s VP of sales says, “LNG will allow our transportation fleet to save money and at the same time reduce its carbon footprint by 25%.”

Blu is not alone. Clean Energy, a company backed by T. Boone Pickens, says it will have about 150 natural-gas stations in 33 states by year-end. Shell’s first LNG station opened in April in western Canada. Shell’s president says, “LNG has the potential to transform the transportation sector in a big way.”

The new LNG trucks should cost only $30,000 to $40,000 more than diesels. Given that a typical 18-wheeler travels 100,000 miles a year at 5 mpg and that LNG is about $1 to $1.50 a gallon cheaper than diesel, a driver can save as much as $30,000 a year in fuel — a one-year payback. Many trucking companies lock in their fuel costs for five years, which would provide a total savings of $120,000 over the life of the contract.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.com. Professors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

The Turning of the Screw

MAY 21, 2013

Harley's York PA plant

Harley’s York PA plant

Companies’ pursuit of “big data”—collecting and crunching ever larger amounts of information—is often thought of as another way to figure out exactly what customers want. But big data is also a means of measuring millions of little things in factories, such as how many times each screw is turned. That is what Raytheon is doing at its Alabama missile plant, writes The Wall Street Journal (May 16, 2013). If a screw is supposed to be turned 13 times after it is inserted but is instead turned only 12 times, an error message flashes and production of the missile or component halts. Improvising with a defective screw or the wrong size screw isn’t an option.

Similarly, At Harley-Davidson’s plant in York, Pa., software keeps a constant record of the tiniest details of production, such as the speed of fans in the painting booth. When the software detects that fan speed, temperature, humidity or some other variable is drifting away from the prescribed setting, it automatically adjusts the machinery. In the past, says Harley’s VP, operators had leeway on paint jobs and each could do the work in a slightly different way. Harley has also used the software to find bottlenecks that could keep it from its goal of completing a motorcycle every 86 seconds. Harley managers recently determined that installation of the rear fender was taking too long. They changed a factory configuration so those fenders would flow directly to the assembly line rather than having to be put on carts and moved across an aisle.

Harley and Raytheon are just two of many manufacturers installing sophisticated, automated software systems, known as manufacturing execution systems, or MES, to gather and analyze factory-floor data. Semiconductor and other high-tech companies were early adopters of MES, but now others are catching up. Suppliers include  Apriso, GE, SAP, Siemens, and Rockwell Automation.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.com. Professors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

Japan’s Inability to Fire Workers

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japan oecd

The Wall Street Journal (May 11-12, 2013) provides an interesting insight into Japan’s weakening international competitiveness. 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has quietly put aside plans to overhaul a rigid labor system that is blamed for many of the woes facing once-dominant Japanese corporations.

A government study estimated that businesses maintained 4.6 million jobs that were actually unnecessary. And with few mid-career job changes, there is little opportunity for entrepreneurship. Japan’s corporate start-up rate is the lowest among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. “Japan should move toward a more flexible employment and wage system that is based more on ability rather than age to encourage productive workers to remain employed,” an OECD report states. Labor mobility would help to foster start-ups, says one Japanese professor. ”New businesses won’t be created unless human resources are set free, but big corporations are trying to prevent their workers from being free.”

The workforce at Japan’s largest corporations is one of the most inflexible among developed nations, with a tradition of lifetime employment, a low participation rate among women and strict labor laws. These have combined to make it difficult for companies to shed excess workers, because of the legal issues it would raise and the cultural issues involved. As part of their role in society, corporations have been expected to help ensure full employment.

At least seven Japanese electronic manufacturers still produce flat-panel televisions, almost all at a loss. However, some industry executives have said privately that they don’t pull the plug on the unprofitable business because they would need to find other jobs within the company for those TV employees.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.com. Professors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

How Technology Helps Kroger Reduce Queues

MAY 10, 2013

QueVision monitors tell how many lanes need to be open now and in 30 min.

QueVision monitors tell how many lanes need to be open now and in 30 min.

Supermarket giant Kroger, reports The Wall Street Journal (May 2, 2013), is winning the war against lengthy checkout lines with a powerful weapon: infrared cameras long used by the military and law-enforcement to track people. These cameras, which detect body heat, sit at the entrances and above cash registers at most of Kroger’s roughly 2,400 stores. Paired with in-house software that determines the number of lanes that need to be open, the technology has reduced the customer’s average wait time to 26 seconds. That compares with an average of four minutes before Kroger began installing the cameras in 2010.

Reducing wait times is becoming a top priority for retailers, from high-end department stores to hardware chains to fast-food outlets. Battling both online rivals that offer at-home convenience and intensifying competition among fellow brick-and-mortar outlets, many companies see enhancing the shopping experience as a way to build loyalty. Kroger’s system, dubbed QueVision, is now in about 95% of its stores. The system includes software developed by Kroger’s IT department that predicts for each store how long those customers spend shopping based on the day and time. The system determines the number of lanes that need to be open in 30-minute increments, and displays the information on monitors above the lanes so supervisors can deploy cashiers accordingly.

The company says surveys show customer perception of its checkout speed has improved markedly since 2010. “The bottom line is we want our checkout experience to be the best, and it’s our goal that our customers will enjoy the experience so much that they’ll want to return,” says Kroger’s senior VP.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.com. Professors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

Disney Cleanses its Supply Chain

MAY 8, 2013

Disney sweater found in the remains of a fire last year in Bangladesh

Disney sweater found in the remains of a fire last year in Bangladesh.

Ever since a building with garment factories collapsed in Bangladesh a few weeks ago, killing more than 1,000 people, Western apparel companies with ties to the country have scrambled to address public concerns about working conditions there. But one big American company, Disney, had already decided to leave the country — pushed by the devastating fire just six months ago that killed 112 people. The Walt Disney Company, the world’s largest licensor with sales of nearly $40 billion, recently ordered an end to the production of branded merchandise in Bangladesh. The New York Times (May 2, 2013) reports that on March 4, the company had sent a letter to thousands of licensees and vendors setting out new rules for overseas production.

This comes as no surprise to those of us in Orlando, where Disney, with its 60,000 “cast members” (employees in layman’s terms), is king. Its public image as a safe, clean, and wholesome company is carefully maintained. Disney’s move reflects the difficult calculus that companies with operations in countries like Bangladesh are facing as they balance profit and reputation against the backdrop of a wrenching human disaster. “We felt this was the most responsible way to manage the challenges associated with our supply chain,” says Disney’s president of consumer products.

With some labor groups urging Western companies to stay and fix problems rather than leave, Disney said that it would pursue “a responsible transition that mitigates the impact to affected workers and business.” It set out a yearlong transitional period for its contractors to phase out production in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Belarus, Ecuador and Venezuela by April, 2014. In deciding in which countries to permit production, the company relied heavily on the World Bank’s Governing Indicators, which evaluate performance on issues like government effectiveness, rule of law, accountability and control of corruption.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.com. Professors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

The Lean Startup Company

MAY 6, 2013

hbr coverLaunching a new enterprise—whether it’s a tech start-up, a small business, or an initiative within a large corporation—has always been a hit-or-miss proposition. According to the decades-old formula, you write a business plan, pitch it to investors, assemble a team, introduce a product, and start selling as hard as you can. And somewhere in this sequence of events, you’ll probably suffer a fatal setback.

The odds are not with you: As new research by Harvard  shows, 75% of all start-ups fail. We’ve now learned at least three things, writes the May, 2013 issue ofHarvard Business Review : 1. Business plans rarely survive first contact with customers. As the boxer Mike Tyson once said about his opponents’ prefight strategies: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” 2. No one besides venture capitalists and the late Soviet Union requires five-year plans to forecast complete unknowns. These plans are generally fiction, and dreaming them up is almost always a waste of time. 3. Start-ups are not smaller versions of large companies. They do not unfold in accordance with master plans. The ones that ultimately succeed go quickly from failure to failure, all the while adapting, iterating on, and improving their initial ideas as they continually learn from customers.

One of the critical differences is that while existing companies execute a business model, start-ups look for one. This distinction is at the heart of the lean start-up approach. It shapes the lean definition of a start-up: a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. With examples from Amazon, Roominate, GE, Qualcomm, and Intuit, this article makes the point that make people in every kind of organization—start-ups, small businesses, corporations, and government—are feeling the pressure of rapid change. The lean start-up approach will help them meet it head-on, innovate rapidly, and transform business as we know it.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.com. Professors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.