Mention the phrase “supply chain management” at a cocktail party and no doubt you’d notice those around you stifling yawns or shuffling away to refresh already full drinks. Not so J.C. Sparkman and Lew Solomon, old friends and cable industry veterans who, along with many of the top managers at their latest venture, Broadband Services Inc., are betting their own cash that cable operators can use a little help with such mundane tasks as inventory management, warehousing and tracking of the myriad set-top boxes, cable modems and assorted other equipment deployed in the field. Over drinks at the Four Seasons in New York, Solomon chatted about how the need for the services BSI provides—from its nationwide warehousing and distribution network to its inventory tracking and demand-driven purchasing models—has increased in recent years as the cable industry has evolved from simply transmitting video signals to an extremely competitive, technology-driven, multiple-service-providing and cash-generating (and cash-gobbling) industry. Managers “get fired for not having enough equipment to install a subscriber,” Solomon says. “But you never got fired for a year’s worth of inventory, because that
wasn’t the measure.” An operator outsourcing its inventory management and warehousing functions to BSI can save millions in costs, Solomon says, depending on its size, and cut down the number of warehouses it uses by some 50-70%, he adds. The trick for BSI is to get the word out to the regional managers and vice presidents who set budgets. To that end, the company will break a $500,000 to $750,000 marketing and promotional campaign in coming weeks targeting those hard-to-reach managers. “The message is that we really do save you cash, save you fixed assets and deliver the services that help you run your business,” Solomon says. “That’s what [operators] care about.”

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