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A conversation with Brian Ferris

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, at 11:18 p.m.

Brian Ferris has spent hundreds of hours teaching operations management to college students and professionals.

Now he’s broadening his customer base by opening a consulting firm, Cost-Effective Consulting.

His business has a unique twist.

Clients don’t pay a flat fee for his services.

Instead, they pay a percentage of the first year’s savings realized because of his work with the clients.

“We do not invoice until after those savings are realized,” Ferris said. “After the first year, 100 percent of the savings are yours forever.”

Ferris will advise companies on process improvements in purchasing, planning, inventory management, supply chain assessment, lean manufacturing, Six Sigma and Total Quality Management.

Target customers are service industries and small to midsize manufacturers, he said.

Ferris is president of APICS (Advancing Productivity, Innovation and Competitive Success), the Association for Operations Management-Wichita.

He is a master instructor for the nonprofit education organization.

He also has earned designations as a Certified Fellow in Production and Inventory Management, Certified Supply Chain Professional and Certified Purchasing Manager.

Ferris is currently teaching operations management as an adjunct professor at Wichita Area Technical College.

He also teaches at area manufacturers, who hire him to train employees.

Ferris was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, a minister, moved the family to Winfield, where Ferris graduated from high school.

He holds bachelor’s degrees from Friends University in business administration and management and in e-commerce.

Early in his career, Ferris, 61, worked in purchasing at Electromech Technologies and at Advanced Industries.

Historically, consultants charge a flat fee. You have a different concept.

I decided to do a different approach based on a percentage of dollars saved. If I can’t save them money, there’s no charge. Plus, they don’t have to pay for it until the savings are realized. … It’s also a percentage of the first year’s savings. It doesn’t go on for eternity.

Is that a little risky for you?

It seems like the classic win-win situation. There’s no risk to the client. I have saved a lot of companies lots of money. I feel confident I can save just about anybody money.

What’s the biggest mistake buyers tend to make?

In the purchasing field, it’s not taking into account total cost of ownership. A lot of buyers will just look at unit cost for whatever it is they’re purchasing. They ignore things like freight, tariffs, insurance, quality — all these things can affect the total cost of an item. … They can end up paying more in the long run.

What’s the biggest mistake made on the planning side of things?

Probably making too much inventory (and) not taking into account carrying costs. Planners (are) tempted often times to make up a lot of product. They just want to do one setup. Inventory costs from 15 (percent) to 35 percent per year to keep on the shelf. I know that’s hard for some people to believe. We try to find that sweet spot … where we can offset the setup costs and the inventory carrying costs so the company will turn their inventory and ultimately increase profits.

You mentioned that you did consulting work for Plipdeco (Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corp.) in Trinidad, which unloads container ships, and you helped it improve its inventory. What can companies learn when it comes to inventory?

A lot of companies will just do inventory once a year. With “cycle counting,” we select a few items and count them every day, so inventory is a continual process. It allows us to catch any mistakes. When you count inventory once a year and you find a mistake, that mistake could have happened six to eight months ago. The odds of finding out what happened (are difficult). … The point is, you (do inventory) daily and you catch mistakes much quicker.

What part of teaching do you like best?

What I really find rewarding is when you see the light bulb is going on in the students — that they’re finally getting it. That they’re learning something practical that they can take back to their job and start applying it immediately. That’s why so many companies will send so many students to the class, because it takes everybody speaking the same language.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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