The need for speed: clothing ‘sweatshops’ in the UK

Garment workers getting paid £3 an hour, it’s a claim we’ve sadly become accustomed to over recent years. As our appetite for fast fashion and low prices continues to grow, clothing retailers continue their search for cheaper and faster ways to produce the clothes we wear.

Fast fashion

Although these disturbing headlines are becoming more frequent, we normally associate them with outsourced foreign workforces in the developing world, which makes a recent report from the University of Leicester quite unique.

The report titled, New Industry on a Skewed Playing Field: Supply Chain Relations and Working Conditions in UK Garment Manufacturing, claims that low wages, a lack of worker rights and poor safety standards are not reserved for garment workers in the developing world and are in fact present in the United Kingdom.

A growth industry

After a period of decline in the early 2000’s, driven largely by outsourcing to the developing world, the UK clothes manufacturing sector has seen a remarkable revival. It’s estimated that between 2008-2012, when most of the country’s economic activity was contracting, the garment manufacturing industry grew by almost 11 per cent.

A significant amount of this growth has been attributed to the proliferation of the ‘fast fashion’ business model, exemplified by firms like Zara and H&M. Fast fashion, dictates that clothes be produced in small batches and delivered to stores very quickly, if the items sell, the store will order more. The model is thought to be successful because it not only reduces the time taken to get fashion from the runway into stores, but also allows retailers to hold much lower inventory levels, maximising their cash flow.

Clearly, the need for speed in ‘fast fashion’ has meant that producing garments offshore has become less appealing and many firms are now looking to source much closer to home.

UK Garment Workers 

The report which focuses its efforts in Leicester, the traditional hub of British garment manufacturing, suggests that while ‘fast fashion’ has driven a revival in the British garment industry, the requirement for quick, cheap clothing has meant that British workers have been exposed to less than ideal working conditions.

Wages for the workers surveyed came in at around £3 and hour (less than half of the national minimum wage of £6.50), these wages were generally paid cash-in-hand and most employees held no contract of employment or workers rights. The report estimates that these underpaid wages would amount to roughly £1 million a week.

As well as inadequate wages, workers raised concerns over poor safety standards, verbal abuse, threats and health problems in the workplace.

Exploiting the vulnerable

The report suggests that the largest group of workers exposed to these poor conditions were women who have been living in the UK legally for more than 10 years, but possess a level of English insufficient to find other work opportunities. Also exposed to the employment law violations are groups of workers that don’t hold the requisite paperwork to legally work in the United Kingdom, these employees tend to work at an even lower rate of pay than the others survey in the study.

Structural change is required 

The report points to the fact the large retail organisations buying garments from these small factories need to take greater responsibility for the activities in their supply chains – this is a point I’ve argued often on Procurious. However, I do feel that in the case of ‘fast fashion’ operations, we as consumers need to take some the blame for these practices.

Our desire for ridiculously cheap, ‘fast fashion’ has created an fashion industry where margins are so low that supply chains must be as lean as possible in order for organisations to stay competitive. This rampant competition to the lowest price point is resulting in the exploitation of workers. Whether workers are located in Bangladesh or Leicester is irrelevant. As long as we, as consumers, continue to drive demand for £3 t-shirts and jeans, we are fuelling an industry that will inevitably focus on price above sustainability, both in the form of human rights and environmental protection.

Clearly, action is required from a legislative point of view in this case, wages need to pulled in line with national minimum standards and worker rights needs to be addressed, but as long clothing retailers continue to compete primarily on price, I can’t help but feel we’ll continue to see headlines like this.

Fighting for the animal’s right in the food chain

The Sunday roast, the Christmas turkey dinner and the summer BBQ – most of us enjoy meat as part of our diet. But do we give enough consideration to animal welfare in the supply chain?

Fighting for the animal's rights in the food chain

For many people, meat plays a part in most meals during a week. Traditionally, the Sunday roast was a time for families to sit down and enjoy a long, relaxing meal and some quality time together.

However, over the past couple of years, there has been increasing focus on the welfare of the animals, from battery and caged hens, to stall-bred pigs and cows. Despite the best efforts from some high-profile organisations, there are concerns that there is much still to be done.

Meat Sales on the Rise

In the past year, sales of all meat in the UK have increased, following falls in 2013 in relation to the horsemeat scandal. It may come as a surprise to many, but sales of horsemeat have actually increased too, with more people enjoying the meat as a leaner alternative to beef.

Sales of Scottish meat have been given a boost by a new partnership with Swedish retailer ICA, while Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) – Meat Promotion Wales – aims to increase Welsh beef and lamb sales by more than one-third by 2020. Part of the HCC plan involves ensuring that farmers are balancing efficiency with sustainability and strong environmental credentials.

Welfare Concerns

But further afield, welfare concerns still abound. Australia has seen a boom in exports of live cattle for slaughter to Vietnam, with a 274 per cent increase in sales between 2013 and 2014. However, exports are predicted to slow dramatically in coming months due to a number of factors, one of which is the suspension of facilities due to animal welfare concerns and suspect supply chain practices.

It was also reported in the USA last week that both McDonalds and Costco are phasing out the use of human antibiotics in their chicken supply chains. The move comes after consumer pressure and concerns that the common use of these antibiotics could increase bacterial resistance to treatment, potentially creating ‘super-bugs’ in humans.

Although McDonalds has given suppliers two years to comply, many experts warn that it will take up to a decade to fully eradicate the practice.

Similar timescales can be expected on the eradication of caged-hen eggs in supermarkets. In Australia, Woolworths and Coles, both came under public scrutiny for stocking caged-hen eggs in the past year. Both have since removed own-brand caged eggs them from their shelves, but they won’t be fully removed from shelves until 2018.

Global Efforts

Full-scale, global change in animal welfare will take time. Organisations need to take responsibility for not only their own practices, but also the practices of their supply chains, down to second and third tier suppliers and beyond.

In late 2014, Nestle signed an agreement with World Animal Protection to improve the standards of animal welfare in its supply chain, while Subway, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer all have existing commitments to sustainability and animal welfare as part of long-term goals.

As consumers, we can also play our part by purchasing sustainably. If it becomes unprofitable for organisations to source in a way that is not sensitive to animal welfare, then it’s more likely that change will take place.

Find out more about UK animal welfare policy by clicking here.

Read on for the other procurement and supply chain stories making the headlines.

Fairtrade Foundation assesses female participation in international supply chains

  • As the world prepared to celebrate International Women’s Day Sunday (8 March), Equal Harvest, a new study published by the Fairtrade Foundation, states that enabling more women to join the organisations that grow produce such as bananas, cotton and tea, could benefit businesses and support global development, as well as bringing gains for women.
  • Although women make up almost half the agricultural workforce in developing countries, they account for just 22 per cent of the farmers registered as members of the 1,210 small producer organisations that are certified by Fairtrade. Legal, social and cultural norms often act as barriers to women’s participation, for example, membership of co-operatives can be dependent on owning land or crops, some agricultural work may be deemed inappropriate for women, and women may be expected to undertake most of the domestic work in the home, giving them less time to participate in producer groups.
  • Fairtrade says that increasing the participation of women farmers could boost productivity, improve development outcomes for communities and provide opportunities to launch new products such as the ‘Grown By Women‘ range marketed by Equal Exchange.
  • A female banana producer in the Dominican Republic said that enabling women to become members of producer organisations is important because “it gives women the right to vote, to participate in decision making, to receive benefits and to live with dignity.” A male cotton producer in India said that women should be supported to take up leadership positions because “women are more disciplined and organised and will run these institutions better, whereas men fight amongst themselves and let egos come in the way.” 

Read more on Supply Chain Digital

Retailers told to step up

  • The retail industry is not doing enough to “clean up its act” with suppliers, the UK’s supply chain body has warned alongside a new survey highlighting the damage that bullying tactics are having on the sector’s reputation.
  • Figures from the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) out today revealed that 88 per cent of supply chain managers think supplier bullying is giving procurement a bad name. Nearly half (49 per cent) of respondents cited“pay to stay” charges as the worst bullying tactic being used to squeeze suppliers, while 35 per cent gave late payments or long payment terms as the worst example of malpractice.
  • David Noble, CIPS group chief executive, said: “It’s time the industry sat up and took notice.”

Read more at City A.M.

Saudi Arabia world’s biggest, Turkey 9th defense importer

  • Saudi Arabia passed India to become the world’s biggest arms importer last year whileTurkey was the ninth country, as concerns about Iran’s ambitions have increased tensions in the Middle East.
  • India was the second-biggest arms importer in 2014, followed by China, the UAE, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea, Indonesia and Turkey. Saudi spending rose 54 per cent to $6.5 billion last year, while India imported $5.8 billion, according to data released Sunday by IHS, a leading analyst of the global arms trade. Imports will increase 52 per cent to $9.8 billion this year, accounting for $1 of every $7 spent globally, IHS estimated, based on planned deliveries.
  • “This is definitely unprecedented,” said Ben Moores, the report’s author. “You’re seeing political fractures across the region, and at the same time you’ve got oil, which allows countries to arm themselves, protect themselves and impose their will as to how they think the region should develop.”

Read more at Todays Zaman

Clogged transit costs billions, highlights supply chain weaknesses

  • Both government and private research agree: America’s freight system is under serious pressure, and supply chains are particularly vulnerable to the strain.
  • Over the next two decades, 45 per cent more freight will move over America’s already crowded roads, rails, seas and skies, according to the Department of Transportation, which recently released a white paper, Beyond Traffic 2045. The report highlights the need to ease congestion and warns that without a solution, companies are wasting significant funds on their procurement operations.
  • Nike, the DoT found, spends an extra $4 million every week and carries up to two extra weeks of inventory to cover anticipated shipping delays.
  • But these delays impact more than just the procurers of these goods stuck in gridlock… Research shows that technology and innovation will be paramount in smoothing out the congested supply chains across the U.S., and throughout the globe. But findings also show that players in the supply chain are using highly outdated technology, if any at all, to make the procurement process more efficient.

Read more at Pymnts.com

The next generation of location aware supply chain applications

  • It has long been possible to build a geofence and detect when an inbound carrier was 20 miles out from a warehouse.  But warehouse managers, and transportation planners are busy.  What good would those notifications do?  These managers and planners don’t have time to look at every carrier notification and examine whether that truck will hit their dock on schedule.
  • Supply chain planning applications have long been in-memory applications.  This is a fancy way of saying that these applications were based on technologies that allowed them to solve very big problems very quickly. But now there is a new generation of in-memory computing.  That means the problems we can solve quickly are getting bigger and bigger.
  • JDA is an example of one supply chain software firm looking to utilize the new generation of in-memory computing to build larger supply chain models spanning planning and execution. Today a company with advanced logistics capabilities would have a warehouse management system (WMS), a dock scheduling and yard management solution, and a transportation management system (TMS) in order to improve their logistics capabilities. Both WMS and TMS have good business cases associated with them.  But these applications are laser focused on their own domains.
  • JDA is beginning to build JDA Intelligent Fulfillment, a set of logistics planning and execution solutions that understand constraints that cross warehousing, the yard, and transportation.

Read more at Logistics Viewpoints

International Women’s Day: it’s time to tackle career stereotypes

It’s time to tackle career stereotypes and get more women to enter ‘male professions’.

International Women's Day

The lack of women in typically male professions like engineering is being highlighted ahead of this weekend’s International Women’s Day (Sunday 8 March). Currently, just six per cent of engineers are female, one of the lowest percentages in Europe. And women are also under represented in occupations such as science, graphic design and broadcasting*.

The next president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Naomi Climer, believes that International Women’s Day is a good time to draw attention to the problem.

Naomi says: “When I started in engineering I was very against events or quotas to highlight the lack of women in business.  However, 20 or 30 years on, the number of female engineers remains worryingly low, despite the best efforts of all kinds of different organisations.

“Increasing the number of women in engineering and science isn’t simply a feminist issue – there is a compelling business case for it too. There simply aren’t enough engineers to meet expected demand over the next decade. So the time has come to create a step change. Otherwise we risk many more years of seeing women excluded from creative, rewarding, interesting and challenging careers in certain sectors.

“Diversity can be a very emotive issue and it is proving hard to shift subconscious social attitudes, stereotypes, and ingrained habits in schools and companies. Diversity needs to be on everyone’s agenda, not just women’s, and will only be achieved when we all have a better understanding of the unconscious bias that we have as individuals, employers and collectively as a nation. 

“Put simply, good practice that creates a level playing field for women is also generally good for everyone. We will all benefit from measures such as flexible working, better pay and a more inclusive culture. 

“But if we have roughly 50 per cent of the population who do equally well in school and university at technical subjects, who appear to join engineering in much larger numbers in some other countries, but we’re only getting about 6 per cent into the engineering workforce in the UK – something is undeniably going wrong.”

*Not just for boys campaign, Department of Work & Pensions

Elsewhere, Google’s Women in Search initiative (which will begin next week) will highlight those women who are making a difference within the field, and highlight to other women that this is a field they should be aware of as a potential career path. Visit this page for more information.

You’ve got two ears and one mouth: why listening is critical in negotiation

How to be a better listener

Last week I kicked off a series of articles aimed at helping you to prepare for your next negotiation. You can read the first entry around strategising and preparing yourself to negotiate here.

Today we are going to address the other side of the equation as we look to understand the motivations of the person/people you are negotiating with.

Clearly some of your interests will be shared, however it’s likely that some interests will be opposing. By putting some time into understanding the motivations and limitations of person you will be negotiating with, you will begin to understand not only the balance of power in the relationship, but also the potential levers you have to move the discussion in a direction you are happy with.

Before the negotiation: Put yourself in their shoes

What do they want from you? Where do their pressures come from? What are their concerns?

If you enter a negotiation understanding the concerns of your counterpart, you have the opportunity to address these fears outright, thus proactively removing some of the obstacles to achieving a positive outcome.

Similarly, understanding the constraints of the other side can help you to frame your own argument. If financial constraints have forced your boss to let go of some staff, perhaps negotiating for more training or some flexibility to work from home is a better course of action than pushing for more dollars at the risk of shutting the whole conversation down.

If you are able to understand what the other side is looking to achieve, not just in this negotiation, but also more broadly as a business, you can begin to engage with them on a collaborative level.

By addressing the ways that you can help them to achieve high level aspirational goals, you move your conversation away from one of ‘what I want vs. what you want’ to something far more strategic that is more likely to be mutually beneficial.

Understand the other side’s BATNA

Last week I introduced the concept of BATNA (basically, your next best option if the negotiation fails to reach a conclusion). While understanding your own BATNA will help you establish a walk away point and will clarify your thoughts as to what constitutes a good result from the discussion, it also pays to hypothesise what the other sides BATNA may be.

By understanding the BATNA of you opposition, you go a long way determining the balance of power in the relationship. Do they need to strike a deal with you? If so, you can push a little harder in the negotiation. If they have other strong options, you clearly have less leverage in the discussion.

During the negotiation: Listen – It’s the most important skill there is

Obviously, any insight you have generated on your opposition prior to the negotiation is based on little more than your own assumptions and best guesses. The only way to test these assumptions is to prompt the other side to speak and to listen carefully to what they have to say.

When you get into the negotiation, leave your preconceptions at the door and listen actively. The best business advice I have ever received came from my father, he said: “You’ve got two ears and one mouth and you should use them in that proportion.”

Remember, you have to address what people actually say, not what you think they are going to say.

Creativity is critical

When you are in a negotiation (and trying to reach a mutually beneficial outcome) its important to think beyond financial motivations. Be creative, keep an open mind and address the full range of interests that the other side may hold, perhaps there is something else you can offer up other than dollars that would satisfy both your needs and those of the other side.

Suggesting collaborative projects, better payment terms, and commitment towards initiatives outside of your previous remit show that your are committed to the relationship and that you are bringing something more to the negotiation than a stubborn point of view on an acceptable savings or salary figure.

The art of negotiation

I’ll leave you with the following quote from Sun Tzu’s Art of War which I think sums up the importance of not only preparing yourself to negotiate but also preparing yourself for your opposition.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

What is procurement like in your country? Next stop – Ukraine

Procurement expert, former CPO and current Procurement consultant, Elena Kononenko, talks about the profession in her home country of Ukraine.

What is procurement like in the Ukraine?

How do you think procurement differs in your country, as opposed to elsewhere in the world?

Up until April 2013, procurement in the Ukraine was mainly focused on reverse auctions (which were used poorly, causing lost savings), RFP/RFQ techniques and local tender procedures, with little or no e-procurement. Procurement professionals rarely shared their experiences and the profession was closed off.

This only changed following the I Procurement Forum in March 2013 and after the launch of the Ukrainian Association of Procurement Professionals. E-auctions were opened up, achieving savings, and procurement professionals had the opportunity to expand their networks and share their experience and knowledge.

Procurement is still a passive function in most organisations and tends to be reactive, based on requests from other functions. It doesn’t play a strategic role in the organisation and strategic tools like category management, strategic sourcing and outsourcing are rarely used.

Fewer than 10 per cent of organisations co-operate with the three PO providers there are and only 5-10 per cent use an automated system for e-procurement. There aren’t any companies whose procurement process is fully automated.

The current trend in procurement is to focus on more modern, specific techniques in the areas of vendor selection, sourcing spend management, e-procurement and contract and inventory management.

Do you know how many other procurement professionals are in your country?

A few hundred, I suppose. Maybe 200-300.

In terms of accreditation,there is a lack of certified procurement professionals in Ukraine due to the lack of knowledge about CIPS and ISM. Only around 1 per cent of procurement specialists and CPOs know about these institutes, their certification and its advantages.

How did you get started in procurement?

Absolutely by chance! I decided to try something new and sent my CV to Metro Cash & Carry and got a job as a Purchasing Manager’s Assistant. After that, I went back to work for the World Bank, firstly as a Financial Manager, then as Procurement Manager for one of Bank’s projects in Ukraine.

What do you see in procurement’s future in your country and how can social media play a role?

The future of procurement in the Ukraine depends on a few things:

  • Education and continuous professional development of procurement professionals
  • Strong external and internal PR campaign showing procurement as a strategic function
  • Changes in senior managers’ attitude to procurement
  • Progress on advanced development opportunities for the profession

Social media can help by providing a platform for peers in different countries to connect, share positive experiences and success stories. It can also be a source of knowledge on the latest best practice, instruments and soft skills and act as a global supplier database.

Why did you join Procurious?

Procurious fulfilled a few key things for me. It allows me to communicate with colleagues and peers from around the globe, find new sources of knowledge and understand what I have to learn and improve to build successful international career in procurement.

What are you hoping to get out of the network?

Everything that’s mentioned above and more!

How are you going to get your peers involved?

I’ll be getting them involved by putting links across my social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) and inviting them to join.

Moving on up: the ascendency of the Chief Procurement Officer

Big CPO moves in both Myer and Honda

It’s been a big few weeks for the ascendency of the CPO. Since Procurious ran this post discussing Tim Cook’s rise through the supply chain ranks to the top job at Apple, we have seen two more procurement professionals ascend to top position at major businesses.

Honda

Last week saw the Honda Motor Company promote Takahiro Hachigo to its top role. Hachigo joined Honda in 1982 initially working in research and development He became a manager of a purchasing division in 2008 and in 2013 was promoted to the role of representative of development – purchasing and production (China).

His promotion, which came a surprise to many, comes off the back of a number of challenging years for the automaker. Ito Tankanobu is leaving the post of CEO after having guiding the company through the financial crisis, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that wreaked havoc on supply chains across the island nation, an extended period of unfavourable exchange rates and more recently concerns over product quality of airbags used in the company’s vehicles.

Despite news agency Reuters labelling Hachigo a ‘low profile engineer’ the new CEO was hand picked by the outgoing boss, has 32 years experience at the automaker and has risen through company ranks holding executive roles in the US, Europe and China.

Myer’s stocktake

The Second major announcement for procurement professionals with aspirations of holding their company’s top job is the recent appointment of Richard Umbers to top role at leading Australian retailer Myer.

Umbers replaces Bernie Brookes as the company’s CEO after holding the position of chief information and supply chain officer for the retailer. The new CEO has also held senior roles with supermarket chains Aldi, Woolworths and at Australia Post.

Analysts have questioned the timing of the announcement, which comes just three weeks before the company is set to release its half-yearly results. Myer has not listed profit forecasts ahead of the announcement, but neither has it corrected analyst’s predictions of an $89 million profit, a significant decline from the figures the firm recorded in 2014.

Investors too, seem to be a little spooked with the new appointment with the company’s share price dropping 10 per cent on Monday with news of the leadership reshuffle.

The appointment of Umbers (not a traditional retailer), suggests an intention from Myer to clean up its internal operations. It’s thought that as the retailer received a more 70 per cent upturn in traffic to its online store last year it’s possible that the company’s future lies in the way it integrates technology, back office process and distribution to support a shopping model that will be based increasingly online – an area that Umbers has significant experience in.

Procurious wishes both former Procurement bosses all the best in their new roles.

How Generation Y is shaking up retail and digital marketing

It is expected that by 2026 the main consumers of luxury will be millennials (or generation Y). This is notable for two reasons… The ways in which we consume digital content is steadily changing, and our newfound reliance on social networks will also have a profound effect on our shopping habits.

Some Millennials, tomorrow.
Some millennials, tomorrow.

This is a guest blog post from fashion entrepreneur Daniela Cecilio, Founder and CEO of ASAP54 (and previously of Farfetch.com).

It’s a well known fact that the world’s population is ageing , but what are the consequences from a marketing point of view for brands and consumers? The teenagers and young adults of today, often referred to as millennials, are expected to be brands’ center of attention in the near future. While at the moment their contribution to brands’ profits is small, they will soon increase their consumption capabilities as they will have their own families and reach senior and managerial positions professionally.

By 2026, the main consumers of luxury goods are predicted to be digital natives i.e. people born between 1980 and 2000 who’ve had technology penetrate every aspect of their lives from a young age. .

The main challenge here for brands will be to understand and adapt to this generation. Luxury companies are known to be reluctant to develop their online presence as it is often seen in the business as harming the image of exclusivity – but these companies might not have a choice anymore.

Shopping codes and references are evolving, being deeply linked to digital innovations: the path-to-purchase is getting more complicated and dense as the number of potential touch-points increases with new social and technological innovation. Social media is playing a bigger role in people’s lives, with consumers expecting to be able to interact with brands in the same way, whether online or offline.

The consequence of a missed interaction can be devastating for brands, as word of mouth coupled with the speed of the Internet is enough to spread negative perceptions and sentiments.

With 1 billion active users on video platform Youtube and 420 million users on blogging and image-sharing platform Tumblr, for example, brands cannot stick to traditional touch-points anymore and are forced to leave their comfort zones and to experiment – often for the best.

By teaming with social platforms, brands are creating immersive shopping experiences, enabling shoppers to discover and buy products at any time, anywhere. This ‘World Wide Window shopping’ concept is pushing messaging in a seamless way, taking digital strategies beyond the retailers’ websites. The American clothing brand Gap recently developed its own Instagram micro-series with a Valentine’s Day hook to showcase its line of jeans in a new and more integrated format, while luxury brand Burberry is now seen as a digital leader, being one of the first to live stream its fashion shows.

That being said, 2015 should be all about mobile apps, which were the biggest growth area in the mobile world in 2014. Internet shopping via computers and laptops dropped from 78 to 63 per cent last year, whereas smartphone and tablet shopping nearly doubled; from 8 to 15 per cent and 5 to 10 per cent respectively.

In the near future, I expect to see a significant development in integrated shopping experiences, as the number of users of visual social channels such as Instagram is consistently growing. Recently, we chose to integrate a new update within our visual recognition-based fashion app ASAP54, allowing users to access all their Instagram photos as well as all pictures they liked on the platform, to use within the service without having to switch platforms. I wonder then, what could be next? 

Receiving too many notifications? Show your inbox who’s boss!

Show your inbox who's boss

We’ve had a few emails from Procurious members asking how to better tailor email notifications to suit their preferences. Take control back and customise the notifications you see by following our quick tips.

We provide you with the option (by default) to be notified whenever a fellow Procurious member invites you to connect, accepts your invitation to connect, or sends you a message.

Obviously you are free to silence some or all of these as you please, and it only takes a second to put the changes into action…

How to turn your notifications on or off

To do this look towards your Procurious header bar and open the drop-down menu under your profile picture/name. From here click ‘Settings’.

Scroll down until you locate your ‘Email Notifications’ (they’re right below the ‘Change Password’ area).

Procurious notifications

To stop receiving a specific notification just untick the relevant box, making sure to click ‘Save Changes’ to make good your choices.

What about weekly Procurious newsletters?

You can also control the arrival of our Procurious newsletters that pop into your inbox on a weekly basis. We currently publish two: a best of the blog where we highlight some of our favourite editorial from the past week, the other focuses on a news story that is making the headlines that week.

Read more about our weekly newsletters here.

Accenture acquire Brazilian supply analytics firm Gapso

Accenture acquire Brazilian supply analytics firm Gapso

Management consultancy Accenture, announced last week it had acquired the Brazilian supply chain analytics firm Gapso. The merger will see the Brazilian firm’s operations integrated into Accenture’s Analytics division.

Analysts have suggested the decision by Accenture to purchase Gapso will benefit the firm in two ways. The first is that it will provide a solid foothold for the company in the rapidly growing Brazilian market, allowing the firm to explore opportunities in the region’s lucrative mining, oil and gas and agricultural sectors.

As well as opening up Latin American markets, the purchase of Gapso also points to the future of supply chain management and Accenture’s role within it. Gapso specialises in using data and advanced analytics to solve complex supply chain and logistics challenges. Accenture’s purchase of Gapso sees the firm acquiring a team of skilled data scientists, analysts and developers, suggesting the consultancy is keen to explore different approaches to supply chain management.

This position is strengthened further when you consider that less than 12 months ago Accenture acquired i4C Analytics, an Italian provider of advanced analytics software programs.

Rodolfo Eschenbach Accenture’s Digital lead in Latin America, said: “Accenture are happy to be extending its analytics reach in Brazil through the acquisition of Gapso.”

“By combining Accenture’s and Gapso’s broad analytics skills and capabilities, Brazilian companies in the natural resources and agribusiness industries will have access to the best data scientist talent and solutions in the market for driving real, data-driven, operations outcomes at scale. When businesses harness, optimise and analyse their data for insight, value in the form of improved productivity or a competitive advantage can be realised,” he said.

Oscar Porto Gapso’s Business Director, was quoted saying: “Over the past twelve years, Gapso has curated an impressive team of analytics experts and capabilities that enable faster and better outcomes in connection with a client’s most critical logistics issues.

“By joining Accenture, we will be able to build on our achievements and engage in a more powerful, broader-scope of analytics conversations with clients. I’m proud of the Gapso team and I am looking forward to taking our methodologies further and continuing to disrupt the resources and agribusiness industries through insight-enabled decision-making.”

Robotics in the supply chain will enhance humans, not replace them

The mind of the machine

Could automation actually lead to humans enhancing their skills, and ultimately enable them to perform their job functions better?

Could robots replace humans in the supply chain?

Discover how Jon Gibson (Head of Logistics at global supply chain consultancy Crimson & Co) believes the growth of robotics and automation in the supply chain will actually enhance the role humans play, not replace them.

Recently, the government announced its intentions to be at the forefront of driverless technology following the approval of a new code of practice, which will be launched in the spring allowing for testing of autonomous cars. While supporters have been quick to champion the benefits of driverless technology, in terms of road safety, emissions and congestion, there are notable concerns, particularly the knock-on effects for the British supply chain industry.

Last year, a report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) underlined the importance of strengthening the British supply chain industry, which could potentially add a further £30bn to the British economy. A key factor within this report focused on addressing the skills shortage which exists amongst British supply chain firms, notably the need for greater STEM graduates inducted into the industry.

In light of an industry skills shortage and the growth of robotics, there have been suggestions that this could be the beginning of the end for humans across supply chains, but Gibson does not believe this to be the case:  

“If removing humans is about driving up productivity through standardising processes, improving design and sharing components across different products, it could be argued that this has always been the case in the supply chain industry. When looking particularly at the emergence of driverless cars, yes, it will mean changes to the industry but to suggest this is the start of a new era in which humans will be rendered effectively useless across the supply chain is very wide of the mark.

“Essentially, the introduction of robotics can do two things – firstly, it can replace humans. Secondly, it can make them do their jobs better. Examples of where humans might be replaced could be for tasks that require greater accuracy, such as precision cutting, or in instances where there is a need to process vast amounts of data. Processes like these are traditionally very labour intensive, so from a budgetary perspective it’s understandable why organisations pursue this route. It can also improve safety while reducing the chance of human operating error, risk of thefts, as well as the need to address wage inflation.

“What is often misunderstood is how robotics can assist humans in doing their jobs better – barcode scanning for example, reduces human error, providing huge cost savings to a business. In reality, organisations automate their supply chain to improve cost efficiencies. This might be to address issues with skills and labour shortages or align budgets – it is not always at the expense of people.”

Gibson continues: “Ultimately, we are likely to see an evolution of roles and responsibilities. For instance, machinery will need to be maintained and this could result in retraining and reskilling staff to do this. Also, in the event of an error occurring during the production line, humans need to be on hand to address this. As we get better at analysing operational effectiveness it will become clear that organisations will need to strive for a balance between automation and human involvement across their supply chain – there is no one size fits all.”