Archive for the ‘ OCD ’ Category

Supply Chain Porn!

From Wikipedia:

Logistics is the management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of destination to meet the requirements of customers or corporations.

Logistics involves the integration of information, transportation, inventory, warehousing, material handling, and packaging, and often security. Today the complexity of production logistics can be modeled, analyzed, visualized and optimized by plant simulation software, but is constantly changing. This can involve anything from consumer goods such as food, to IT materials, to aerospace and defense equipment.

I love logistics. I love thinking about how stuff is moved from A to B to … Q and all the major steps in between. This week my thoughts were dominated by the topic.

I also like talking about it but I never had the ability to engage anybody on the subject. It turns out not that many of my friends care how stuff goes from a web shopping cart to their front door. But I try anyway. You clicked, but probably because you were looking for the porn: It’s a great TEDxBoston video a few paragraphs down.

Logistics should be easy to discuss: During the rise of e-commerce I paid particular attention to Amazon, sometimes trying to configure a shipment that would force them to combine packages from all over the place into a distribution center (DC) just to see how quickly they could do it.* My sister did a college paper on WebVan.

In what feels like a lifetime ago in the Pacific Northwest, I was lucky to work with some amazing folks on a supply chain Data Warehouse project at Starbucks Coffee Company. Starting as a contractor, they seated me next to a grizzled veteran of the trade, a no-nonsense woman who barked advice to persons working in the DCs about how to “pick, pack” and eventually “ship confirm” stuff using the new system under testing. I eventually converted to a FTE “Partner” and Starbucks was a really cool company to learn about supply chain operations because from “bean to cup,” the entire business is vertically integrated. The only way to extend the integration would be to actually own the coffee plantations. Eventually, the company grew so fast that their supply chain needed an overhaul. I would like to think that some of the BI tools we worked on were useful for this exercise.

Earlier this week a colleague shared a link to a TEDxBoston presentation titled ‘The Hidden World of Box-Packing’ (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1) Wow! A logistics presentation explained in an easily digestible way complete with videos of a series of robots and predictive analytics. Sweet jeebus, this is supply chain porn!

And to top it all off, later this week I was playing Legos with my first-born, and he combined his love of trucks and stories to build a re-enactment of a classic Curious George tale with a distribution center and an earth-mover (fig. 2). How great was that? My excited and enthusiastic reaction surprised him.

But if you read this entire post, surprised I garner you are not.

Fig. 2) My son's first DC, with awaiting transportation

Fig. 2) My son's first DC, with awaiting transportation

*Environment be damned: I think I might have been the inspiration for their ‘Group My Items Into As Few Shipments As Possible’ feature


Study: Workers Spend $1,000 Yearly on Coffee

A recent headline caught my eye today, which led me to a report published by Accounting Principals (the new name of AccountTemps, if you’ve driven by a billboard lately).

The report summarizes employee coffee expenditures thusly:

Americans love their coffee.

  • Half (50%) of the American workforce buys coffee regularly at work, spending more than $20 a week on coffee, an average of about $1000 a year.
  • Better coffee in the office might help cut back this expense. Nearly one-quarter (22%) of American workers wish their company would invest in better coffee in the office.
  • Younger professionals (18-34) spend almost twice as much on coffee during the week than those aged 45+ ($24.74 vs. $14.15, respectively).

I agree with the first sentence. I love coffee. Adore it. Not sure what I would do without it I once gave it up for Lent (and it was the only successful 40 days I ever accomplished).

I thought about the headline and the 2nd bullet and my OCD kicked in: I have transaction history of my Starbucks Card reloads. So I plotted my expenditures in EXCEL to see what I would get.

Did I spend $1,000/ year like the article suggests? Let’s see what the data says (fig.1):

Cumulative spend at Starbucks vs. Coffee Satisfaction

Fig. 1) This is what happens when you cross auto-reload with OCD


  • I spend far less per year on coffee than the “average” persons cited in the study. I consider myself above average in many ways, but this time I think I’m correctly deficient this time for once. Woo Hoo!
  • I agree with the sentiment of the respondents: if office managers spent a little more on coffee the world would be a better place. In 2011 I worked at an office that enjoys good java (thanks, Kate!) and I curtailed my Starbucks visits altogether. The data displays a nice plateau when I was cheerfully pouring cup after cup of Peets into my mug.

Observations on “the $1,000-ers”

  • I drink drip coffee. No cream, no sugar. A “grande drip” is less than two bucks.
  • I’ve noticed the majority of people who share the queue with me order lattes or specialty drinks (easily >$3) and sometimes even a pastry or sandwich to go. Average tickets are probably well into the 4-5 dollar range at the Starbucks in my neighborhood. That’ll get you to $1,000/year pretty quickly.

How much do you spend on coffee a year?

Bonus: What data of your own could you obsessively plot on EXCEL if prompted?