Never has a crystal ball been as desirable as it is currently. However, in a strange sort of way, I feel some clarity is emerging from the mud.
In business, part of what we are charged with is trying to guess what is around the corner. Generally this is met with mixed results and the odd surprise, and that is no different now. One thing we can be sure of now is that things will never be the same, and this is where innovation and being able to respond quickly to change comes to the fore. If I was to pick on some modern issues that I think we can all safely park as being here to stay, it would be labour and supply chain.
Labour was already a constraint, and that constraint has escalated to a point where the noise cannot be ignored and will never go away. There is no point sitting and waiting for RSE’s and backpackers to flood into the country to ease our access to labour. Equally, wages never go down, so the bar we have set this season scrambling for labour will stick. If we are to have viable businesses, and I count Jenkins in the same boat as we too rely on seasonal labour, then we must think differently. Just like we espouse the virtues of automation in the post-harvest sector, we practice what we preach and are investing heavily in automation in our own production facilities. Shifting our quality, loyal employees from menial to value add tasks is the only way the future makes any sense. Along with this is how our perception of a return on investment stacks up. Now spreadsheets can only help with half of the decision as it is much more holistic – if you can't operate, then what is the ROI on that?
Another done deal is supply chain management. Five years ago our sales people managed their supplier relationships, ordering, shipping and inventory management. This has gone from being an ancillary set of tasks to being a total science. We recently took on an expert imports and inventory coordinator. We pinched him out of Auckland where he was importing 300 containers a year across a large number of SKU’s, vendors, time zones and freight forwarders. Supply chain management will never be straight forward again. Specialist BI tools are needed for forecasting, calculating optimal days of cover and investigating options for how we deliver the best possible value to our customers and most importantly – never stock out!
We can’t know everything, but there are some things we need to accept as normal and innovate to own our new operating environment.