Migration, Terrorism and Industry 4.0 – Highlights from WEF 2016

Almost a year ago to the day, Procurious published an article on the outcomes of the World Economic Forum 2015. We also took a look at the key topics that were to be discussed during the 2015 event.

WEF 2016

You might be forgiven for thinking that, since the leaders from the world’s largest economies gathered in Davos twelve months ago, very little has changed. There are still major issues with global markets, falling oil prices, interstate conflicts and climate change.

Add to these factors the growing migration from war-torn regions, and terrorism, both on the ground and cyber-related, and it was a recipe for a very busy Forum.

What Was Different?

Despite all the pressing issues highlighted above, the WEF organisers picked a different topic to be the main theme for 2016 – Industry 4.0. This topic focuses on the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, where industries are increasingly digitised, and humans are replaced in many professions by robots or AI.

While this might be a positive thing for some of the attendees, including Jack Ma (Founder of Alibaba), Sheryl Sandberg (CEO of Facebook) and Eric Schmidt (Head of Alphabet, Google’s parent company), it is potentially very bad news for both blue and white collar workers, with an estimated 7 million jobs at risk over the next 5 years in the world’s largest economies.

Klaus Schwab, founder and president of the WEF, has written a book on ‘Industry 4.0’, in which he states, “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.” This theme also included a discussion on ‘smart machines’ being used in war zones.

What Else Was on the Agenda?

A number of other major themes appeared on the agenda, including terrorism, the migration crisis, cybercrime, and the on-going impact of the slowdown in the Chinese economy on the financial markets of the rest of the world.

In the run up to the 2016 event, the Global Risks Report published by the WEF highlighted large-scale ‘involuntary migration’, for example from civil wars, as this year’s major risk in terms of impact, and mitigation of climate change as the most likely global risk. This is the first time that an environmental issue has topped this particular list.

Climate change was one of the hot topics of the Forum, as leaders discussed the next steps and how to build upon the COP Climate Change Agreement that was signed in Paris in December last year. Global climate change is seen as having a major impact on other risks, such as food and water shortages and regional conflict, so the topic was never far from the centre of discussions.

Anything else?

Leaders also managed to find time to talk extensively about the global markets, including the impact of the slowdown in the Chinese economy. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, spoke on Friday about the need for Chinese authorities to communicate better with global markets over moves in equities and foreign exchange markets, in order to head off any further market downturns.

However, it’s not all bad news, as Lagarde stated that China’s move from an export-led to domestic consumer market economy was “manageable”, while holding estimates for Chinese growth at 6.5 per cent. It’s hoped that this turnaround will arrest fears of another global recession.

Major Conclusions

As the Forum drew to a close on Friday, there was a sense that 2016 could be a year of major upheaval, with markets not expected to recover immediately, slow growth predicted for at least the first half of the year, and a solution still required for mass migration.

However, there also appeared to be a feeling of tangible outputs from a business point of view. The central theme of ‘Industry 4.0’ raised interesting points around the future of many industries, and in a number of sessions, there was agreement that business needed to step away from a narrow focus on profits and take steps to improve workers’ conditions, promote diversity and take a perspective that covered a wider group of stakeholders.

It will be interesting to see if we are still talking about the same issues when the 2017 Forum rolls around in 12 months.

Need some headlines and stories for your morning coffee with your friends? Procurious has got you covered…

BMW Top Sustainable Corporations List

  • BMW has topped Corporate Knights Magazine’s annual ‘Global 100’ list of sustainable corporations for 2016
  • The study looks at companies with a market valuation of $2 billion or high, and scores them against global industry peers on a list of 12 quantitative KPIs not exclusive to to environmental sustainability
  • Companies are scored on these KPIs, and the top performer from each industry outlined in the Global Industry Classification Standard goes to the final list
  • 2016’s list also included Dassault Systemes (Ranked 2nd), Outotec (3rd) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (4th)

Read more at Corporate Knights

Thai Shrimp Migrant Workers Risk Being ‘Sold Off’

  • Following a number of high-profile reports and news headlines, the Thai shrimp industry is cleaning up its supply chain, but with unintended consequences
  • Migrant workers, the subject of many of the headlines, are being laid off without any form of compensation, leaving them at risk of being “sold off” to other companies
  • Activists claim that some workers are still in debt to their employers, and have just been moved on to another industry and face similar conditions
  • Firms are now being urged to offer these workers employment in the regulated operations

Read more at Thomson Reuters

Changing Thrift Shopping in Vancouver

  • A new business has been launched in Vancouver to change the way residents approach thrift shopping in the face of ‘fast fashion’
  • ‘My Modern Closet’, founded by Chloe Popove, is the first consignment store to offer people donating to the business a collection option, with customers then being given 20 per cent cashback or credit to shop online
  • It is hoped that the business will encourage more people to donate used or unwanted clothing and fight the impact of fast fashion
  • Any un-sold clothing is donated on to charities helping to give clothes to the homeless, and to Syrian refugees

Read more at Vancitybuzz.com

Starbucks Mobile Ordering Hits 1m Users Per Month

  • Starbucks has revealed that it is processing over 6 million transactions per month on its mobile app, as more people use it to order their coffee
  • In the final quarter of 2015, 21 per cent of all orders in the US at Starbucks were placed through the app, and this is expected to grow this year
  • First launched in Portland in 2015, the service is now widely available across the USA, Canada and the UK
  • The coffee giant is now looking to extend the service by offering delivery of coffee to users of the app

Read more at NBC News

Is There A Case For An Annual Price Decrease Letter?

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI), the UK’s key measure of inflation for goods and services, was negative for two consecutive months in September and October 2015, and recorded a tiny increase of 0.1 per cent in November 2015.

PriceDecrease

This article was originally published on Future Purchasing.

This is a world away from when I first walked into a purchasing department in 1982. Back then the inflation rate was 8.6 per cent and older buyers could still tell war-stories about the eye-watering 24 per cent inflation rate in 1975.

As L. P. Hartley said in his novel The Go-Between “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there”.  And, of course, suppliers and buyers did do things differently to deal with continually rising labour and raw material prices.

One of the main differences was that every supplier sent an annual price increase letter (and we were fortunate if they limited themselves to just one increase a year).  In the weeks leading up to the arrival of the letter there would be a phoney war of leaked information and rumour from the suppliers until the fateful day, usually just after the supplier had settled on a pay increase for their workers, when the post trolley would come rattling around the smoke-filled office and deliver the bad news to your in-tray. Typically there would be a couple of paragraphs highlighting major cost rises in raw materials, energy and labour, followed by an explanation of how the supplier had sought to minimise these increases before the sting in the tail: “therefore, we have no alternative other than to apply a price increase on all corrugated cases and trays of 6.5% to be effective in 4 weeks time”.

Both parties knew that the letter was simply a signal to let negotiations commence. For me it was also a signal to review volume allocations between suppliers, look for alternative sources and trial different specifications. Then, after a few rounds of negotiation, we would settle on the new, usually higher, price for the coming year.

The idea of an annual price increase has been consigned to history. But given the recent deflation statistics is there a case for an annual price decrease? Suppliers are still making capital investments in manufacturing plants, implementing quality programmes and achieving manufacturing efficiencies to reduce costs and increase margin, so why not?

These days, whenever buyer requests for a price decrease are reported in the media we invariably read about “strong-arm tactics” from “bully-boys” who have sent an “extraordinary letter”. But why is a price decrease so abhorrent when it was perfectly acceptable for suppliers in the past to demand price increases?  Is it simply that we have some long-held conviction that prices only increase over time? I know that when the more sophisticated suppliers receive price decrease letters today they view them as a call to the negotiating table (just as I did back in the eighties) and, perhaps, an opportunity to increase volumes or secure longer agreements.

There are less contentious ways of securing short-term price decreases and certainly better ways of securing long-term value improvements from suppliers but there is a little bit of me that wishes the annual price decrease letter was a more acceptable part of the toolkit – if only because I had to field so many of the annual price increase letters all those years ago “in a foreign country”.

We’d like to hear your views on the best ways to achieve short-term price savings without creating bad press.Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and share using the social media icons below.

Procurious Big Ideas Panel Discussion #3 – Are Business Costs Too High or Too Low?

Are business costs too high? Or too low? And where does procurement sit in this matter?

The third discussion panel at the Big Ideas Summit 2015 took place in the innovative format of a ‘fishbowl’ discussion, where participants argue both sides of the lead question, but where the audience can also get involved.

The panel started with Chris Lynch, Theano Liakopoulou, Chris Sawchuk and David Noble, gradually interchanging the other thought leaders as the discussion progressed. In an often heated environment, a number of hot topics were raised and some great insights released.

Watch the full discussion here.

See all the keynotes and panel discussions from the Big Ideas Summit, plus Big Ideas from our 40+ Influencers.

Like this? Join Procurious for FREE and meet like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

Rethinking Procurement Metrics

Last year, I attended the ProcureCon Marketing event in London. The event was focused on procurement marketing and digital services and attended by procurement professionals from across industries.

ProcurementMetrics

Over the course of the event, I attended a number of sessions and it was interesting to hear that pain points in procurement are very consistent across industries. Much of the debate during one of the sessions focused on the story of PepsiCo eliminating their procurement marketing department to give marketers more flexibility and faster turnaround time.

I really don’t believe this will be a trend among corporations, but it has made me think about the importance of raising procurement and sourcing’s supplier knowledge, efficiency and internal partnership. Is procurement seen as a valuable partner or a roadblock?

Procurement Building Trust

The answer depends on the company. Factors such as senior leadership support, employee perception or experience with procurement and how successfully procurement has built internal relationships and value lend to valuable positioning for procurement and sourcing.  For some, it is a steep hill to climb.

What we heard at ProcureCon was that savings metrics are important but they need to be balanced with other important metrics that are more aligned with internal business partners’ goals. Focusing on helping them meet their objectives can go a long way in building trust, partnership and good reviews.

Enabling sourcing and procurement to be more efficient, proactive and knowledgeable is critical. Often under-resourced (we also heard that from all industries), innovative tools that elevate current workflow and processes are essential. Some organisations have built them in-house, but their people still struggle or spend too much time searching and gathering good market intelligence.

Giving procurement access to better and faster information is a must and will enable procurement to keep up with fast-moving functions such as media, marketing and digital. It was good news for our team and validated once again that tealbook fills a much needed gap and supports a new wave of strategic sourcing professionals that are looking ahead.

The Innovation Debate

The topic of innovation was also pretty hot. Some of the roundtable discussions I attended debated the meaning of innovation. Innovation doesn’t always have to come in the form of catalyst ideas. Small changes and innovative thinking can also add tremendous value to day–to- day process and relationship building.

When it comes to disruptive innovative ideas, I heard that companies are not always walking the talk. They want employees to be innovative, but ideas are not often implemented. The main roadblocks come from fear of failure, lack of budget or efforts/time involved championing the idea internally. In our group, we explored ways to overcome these barriers and enable employees and companies to foster innovative thinking. I liked the following ideas:

  1. Putting a budget aside yearly to champion two or three innovative ideas from procurement employees.
  2. Build a culture that allows failure, to foster innovative thinking without fear.
  3. Allow for one or two pilot programs per year to assess interest and adoption.
  4. Set metrics based on the outcome from the above.

I welcome your own ideas about how to enable innovation within your company. How would you like to be measured on innovation? What can be done differently to allow procurement to be forward thinkers and enablers while ensuring that internal business partners immediate needs are quickly addressed?

Stephany is the Founder of tealbook, an online company helping procurement and supply chain professionals gather comprehensive, credible and up-to-date supplier information in order to assist with due diligence processes. For more information, visit the tealbook website.

5 Things You Need to Know About Working in Germany

When you think of Germany, pretzels, beer and BMWs are common stereotypes that come to mind. But there is much more to Deutschland than that – especially if you are planning to work.

Reichstag

A country built on research, innovation and its ability to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), with the biggest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world – who wouldn’t want the opportunity to work in Germany?

Not only home to many of the European and Worldwide market leaders, recent figures show more than 45,000 foreign companies are also conducting business there. Although many more factors have helped shape German industry, this structure has consequently had deep impacts on the Procurement (Beschaffung) role.

The Need to Know

Procurious founder, Tania Seary, recently had the opportunity to meet the leadership team from the German Association of Materials Management, Purchasing and Logistics (BME) in Frankfurt. BME have established themselves as a professional association for buyers and logistics, supporting members in developing new markets and the configuration of economic processes.

According to BME, there are more than 100,000 procurement professionals working in Germany, so here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to join them:

  1. Germans can be considered the masters of planning

Doing business in Germany without adequate cross-cultural awareness is a risky proposition, and businesses should ensure they carry with them an appreciation of both the business landscape and the culture. Hierarchy is highly valued in Germany, and there are often myriad procedures and policies which can slow things down, so having a bit of patience is crucial to the success of business negotiations.

The desire for orderliness spills over into the business life of Germans – surprises and humour are not welcome! According to the German Business Culture Guide, everything is carefully planned out and decided upon, with changes rarely occurring after an agreement is made.

  1. Get used to some straight talking

There are cultural differences at play. The German business culture is perhaps less instantaneous than in countries like the UK, and personal relationships that are developed slowly over time are seen as a more desirable way to do business. Don’t be surprised if you jump straight into business talk, as there is little time for small talk.

  1. A series of villages, not really a country

Germany is a country with a long history and vast cultural differences throughout. For a country of its size (only 357,000km² – Australia is 21 times bigger), it has 16 states and over 400 districts.

This means you’re going to need to recognise the contrasts across the country, especially as industry is fragmented and big companies operate often in small villages. Although complex, this presents a fantastic opportunity to learn how to work with, and understand, different cultures – a brilliant training ground for future leaders.

  1. If you’re a social media nut – this is a different landscape

By sheer numbers, social media is as popular here as the rest of the world. According to the EU’s “Passport to Trade” more than 75 per cent of all Germans over 14 years of age use the Internet in some way, and 90 per cent of 14 to 29 year olds are on social media.

What is different about social media in Germany is the popularity of the local, German-only networks, in addition to the global players. The most popular networks listed according to their number of users are (get ready – you may not have even heard of some of these):

  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Xing
  • Wer-kennt-wen
  • MeinVZ/StudyVZ
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
  • Lokalisten.

Up until 2009, there were up to 15 million German-speaking users on a German language network resembling Facebook called StudiVZ. But Facebook eventually conquered Germany (as it has for most of the world), as it enabled users to socialise and interact with people outside Germany too.

There is a Russian joke that says:  “Twitter can’t be popular in Germany, because 140 characters are basically two words in German.”  There are certainly enough short words to compose tweets in German, but when you read that only 10 per cent of Germans use Twitter, it makes you think there might be some truth to that joke.

With words like “kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung” meaning ‘car liability insurance’, and “donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitaenswitwe” meaning ‘widow of a Danube steamboat company captain’, let’s hope Twitter changes to a 15,000-character limit soon!

  1. And your role in procurement…

Procurement is not the only function of choice – it’s one of hundreds – and, if you’re coming from a large multinational corporation, a word you need to understand and add to your vocabulary is “Mittelstand”.

We often throw in terms like MNCs and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) around when asked who your employer is, but statistically what is the real difference?

Statistically, any business with fewer than 500 employees is classed as an SME. However, in Germany this would mean that 99 per cent of businesses would fall into this category.

So the Germans created the world “Mittelstand”, which can refers to both SMEs and much larger companies, if they are run in the same spirit. This typically means the owner or owners take business decisions largely on their own, but retain close ties with both the business and the employees.

This involvement with the business applies to over 3.6 million “Mittelstand” companies, providing more than 60 per cent of all jobs in Germany, and making up 53 per cent of the country’s GDP. So the chances are you’ve already conducted business with a potential employer.

There you have it – some top tips for working and doing business in Germany. And if you’re looking for a job there, or plan on working there in the future, good luck (or as the Germans say…viel Glück!)

3 Ideas To Support You In Developing A ‘Circular’ Supplier Relationship

No business can escape the fact that global economic conditions, the status and future availability of affordable resources, energy supplies and a growing global population are creating an ever more complex business environment. It is time to act.

CircularEconomy

There is no such thing as ‘business as usual’, and collaboration with suppliers is key in the transition to a better and more circular world. Suppliers should be involved in the ‘circular innovation lifecycle’ – from initial idea all the way to manufacturing and continuous improvement.

Supplier relationship management is a key tool. The question is, what can you do in order to view suppliers as actual or potential partners, who can help you “stay ahead of the curve” in terms of going more circular?

The question is also how you can expand the scope of interaction with them beyond purchasing and fulfilment transactions and tap into their expertise and capabilities to drive innovation, enter new markets, improve quality and exchange insights about marketplace trends?

Idea #1: Understand Even More About The Relationship

It is key for the supplier to understand your business in detail, as well as for the buyer to understand the supplier’s business too. You need to understand the cost and value of their entire supply chain. Without a thorough understanding of all costs, from raw materials through to the end product or service, and the value provided by each supplier in the process, a supplier relationship cannot be, first, evaluated and, second, further developed.

Remember that supplier strategies go two ways. Most companies focus on what suppliers can do for them rather than on what they can do with the supplier to lower costs. A true partnership leverages the total production cost – and knowledge to both parties’ advantage.

Also I suggest that if you work with LCA (Life Cycle Assessments) that you share them with your suppliers, so they can understand where your critical areas are and where they can help you improve or at least generate ideas for improvement. Perhaps it does not environmentally or economically make sense to create a closed loop, just as an example. Perhaps a dialogue with the supplier and a look at the LCA will show that.

Idea #2: Share Meaningful And Critical Information

Share critical information as early as possible. Information is the grease that makes an integrated supply chain work. Sharing information constantly, with appropriate security and confidentiality, is critical for successfully managing a supplier relationship. Make relationship meetings meaningful. Relationship meetings should focus on critical issues, areas for supplier improvement and discussions on how the buying organisation can improve the relationship.

Idea #3: Define Clear Objectives For Your (Circular) Relationship

If you decide to use SRM as part of your toolbox then it is key to define objectives clearly and specifically. At the same time acknowledging that many of the benefits of SRM may be hard to track and measure with precision.

As a matter of fact evidence also suggests, that suppliers that are engaged through SRM programmes are more willing to put in effort and resources above and beyond what is contracted. More than half of respondents in a recent survey conducted by State of Flux say that their key suppliers’ senior management team is more committed to their partnership as a result of their SRM activities, while the same proportion see improved account management as a result.

Other examples of additional commitment from suppliers include: proactive ideas for continuous improvement (46 per cent); collaborative problem-solving (45 per cent); and priority access to the best people and resources (21 per cent). All of these can help the business stay ahead of the curve and implement more circular business models.

You can download the latest research from State of Flux here

Labour Market Figures Suggest Need for New Approach to Skills Gap

The Open University says businesses and universities must work more closely to address skills shortages.

Skills-Shortage-Graduates

Figures released today show that the UK continues to face up to a worsening skills crisis. Despite the overall rise in job creation, the vacancy rate continues to increase, and is particularly acute in specialist areas such as IT and engineering.

The latest Labour Market Figures, produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal there are 588,000 more people in work than this time last year, but that there has been a 6 per cent increase in the number of unfilled roles over the same period, as there are now 756,000 vacancies.

Concerns for Businesses

The on-going shortage in skilled workers is increasingly causing concern for businesses. Decision makers are facing up to the effects of this market on their businesses: hard to fill vacancies can cause delays in developing new products and services, meanwhile the latest CBI/Accenture Employment Trends Survey, published last week, reveals that over half (52 per cent) of respondents believe that developing and maintaining digital skills within their organisation has a new urgency in this climate.

Despite there being over 2 million students enrolled on degree courses in 2014/15, with a 3 per cent increase in full-time first year enrolments in engineering and technology subjects, businesses often find that graduates are not adequately prepared for the workplace.

The skills gap is affecting UK productivity, for instance, engineering companies have reported an annual shortfall of 55,000 skilled workers. It has been estimated that addressing the shortage of skills in this area could generate £27 billion per year from 2020, roughly equivalent to 1,800 new secondary schools or 110 new hospitals. 

Issues for Small Business

Michael Martins, Economist at the Institute of Directors said: “These jobs figures, which show the British labour market ended 2015 strongly, could be just what the doctor ordered as we see nothing but storm clouds gathering across the global economy.

“While this is clearly good news and the increasing number of vacancies means that the unemployment rate could continue to drop, addressing the skills gap takes on a fresh importance. For small firms that employ fewer than ten employees, the struggle to find workers is particularly acute, with vacancies rising by 13.1 per cent in the last quarter.

This is another reason why employers hope the government will not follow through on suggestions to restrict skilled migration from outside the EU, especially as the monthly quota for Tier 2 visas has been shown to be inadequate in addressing skill shortages.”

An Answer in Workplace-Based Education?

The Open University is arguing that a greater emphasis on workplace-based higher education is necessary to create more value for businesses and individuals alike. Steve Hill, Director of External Engagement at The Open University, comments: “The skills gap is affecting everyone, holding back businesses and having a knock-on effect on British economic productivity.

“In most cases, the answer to this shortage is right under our noses – with up to 90 per cent of the current workforce still in work over the next decade.  With the right training and up-skilling, these individuals can become the engineers, data scientists and high-skilled digital workforce the UK needs to compete on the world stage.

The challenge now is for Governments and the academic sector to work together to develop courses that meet the needs of businesses, and provide the right support for those committed to developing their careers.”

The OU regularly supports over 1,300 organisations, including KMPG, Hay Group and the NHS, delivering flexible learning solutions at scale to address skills shortages and develop high performing workforces. With a global reach and as the UK’s leader in part time education, with 76 per cent of OU’s current students studying whilst working full or part time, the OU is well equipped to deliver consistent learning at scale to dispersed workforces.

Lessons in Accounts Payable Fraud

In these days of greater reliance on technology to save us from the perils of fraudulent activity, it’s interesting to consider that tip-offs and accidental discovery remain the two most pertinent methods of detection.

AP Fraud

This article was originally published on APN.

So what does this tell us about the way AP departments are run?  Overall, it points to a degree of complacency and perhaps overwork.  With more people unemployed, the remaining employees are expected to do more with fewer resources.  Without doubt this is an environment where fraud can flourish.

In addition, perhaps because of the new technology, there has been a move away from the labour intensive checking evident in the past.  In a busy AP environment, some managers are happy to leave the ‘checking’ and controls to the technology.  However those controls and that technology are only as effective as those who monitor it.

Yes, technology can stop duplicate payments going out for example, but if it’s flagging up errors in the vendor file time and time again without the appropriate action being taken – then somewhere along the line the checking systems have broken down.

Look out for the Warning Signs

  • Unexpected Invoice Number Frequency

Using “Benford’s Law” we can expect numbers to behave in a certain way – i.e. that the number one will be the first digit 30 per cent of the time, and the number six roughly 7 per cent of the time.  Therefore if you have invoices starting with the number seven, 40 per cent of the time – it could be time to investigate.

  • Multiple Invoices Under Checking Radar

A supervisor may only be allowed to process invoices up to a certain amount – i.e. £3,000 or less.  The easiest way to skim a few pounds off would be to create an invoice or two just below the approval amount at say £2,900.  Therefore a part the checking process should include a routine check on all invoices at just below any approval levels in the department.

  • Rounded up Invoices

It would seem unlikely – but this is one of the most frequent reasons why fraud is uncovered – fraudsters use rounded up figures.  So a simple test would be to go through your vendor list and flag up any with a suspiciously high volume of rounded up invoices.

  • Unusual Employee Activity

While 99 per cent of the time employees are working for the benefit of their organisations, occasionally they are working against.  If an employee is consistently and unexpectedly in the office early and/or leaving late, works weekends or nights – it’s probably worth running a quick check.  By nature perpetrators are those who don’t play by the rules, ignore internal controls and who may be contracted workers or temporary.

As I mentioned earlier, fraud is rare and is not something which many of us will come across on any large scale during our working lives.  However, during times of difficulty very occasionally the ethics of some begin to get a little blurred around the edges – whether that’s petty cash, payroll or travel and entertainment fraud – it still impacts on your organisation’s bottom line and ultimately its viability.

How an Agile Supply Chain Can Enhance New Product Development

Is your Supply Chain bolstering or hampering the success of your company’s new products?

new-product-development1

Josh Nelson, a Director in The Hackett Group’s Strategy and Business Transformation Practice, discusses Supply Chain and New Product Development.

An agile supply chain can deliver value to the new product development (NPD) process (outlined in Figure #1) by quickly and pragmatically supporting new products / innovation through the core supply chain processes – plan, procure, manufacture, and deliver.

NPD SCIR Report Slide 1

Figure 1: The New Product Development Process

The Hackett Group’s Perspective

Supply chain plays a critical role across the NPD process, because it drives both the investment of capital into production and distribution capabilities and, in many cases, the critical path for launch dates. Yet, the large task of driving agility and flexibility throughout the supply chain may seem daunting to leaders.

As a starting point, The Hackett Group suggests assessing your current capabilities across the supply chain function against best practices to quickly identify the overall maturity level of your NPD process and highlight improvement opportunities. For example:

  • Can procurement identify and incentivise suppliers to participate in enhanced open innovation capabilities?
  • Can the supply chain and finance organisations develop NPD COGS estimates quickly and accurately?
  • Has the company made the correct investment in piloting plants or scaling up facilities?
  • What is the ability of the planning function to mitigate risk by developing inventory build strategies, identifying NPD demand projections accurately, and aligning lead times to common launch date?

Additionally, when assessing improvement opportunities for supply chain’s role in NPD, consideration should be given to:

  • Marketplace trends
  • Establishing or standardising global metrics to track and assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the NPD process

From there, a transformation roadmap can be created to develop the needed structural and infrastructural elements to enhance and enable new product development though agility and flexibility. This enables your organization to:

  • Identify and develop product concepts with the greatest likelihood of success.
  • Reduce costs by relying on your network of suppliers, customers, and other partners to generate ideas and test products
  • Select and manage a portfolio of projects that are aligned with the company’s revenue and margin growth strategies

Download the full Hackett Group Supply Chain Insight Report here to learn more about trends, best practices, and metrics which help supply chain enable the new product development process.

Josh Nelson has over 18 years of both consulting and industry experience, managing and leading large-scale product development and supply chain improvement programs.

How Generation X Managers Can Help Generation Y Succeed

Hundreds of column inches and pixels have been dedicated to the challenges of managing Generation Y, that group of upwardly mobile professionals that are currently in their twenties or early thirties.

Generation-X-Vs-Generation-Y

Also called millennials, they have had a lot of bad press, not all of it deserved. Generation X managers, born somewhere between 1965 and 1980, and now with their youth behind them, have inherited Generation Y, and are grappling with both age and cultural differences in their teams.

Generation Y employees need flexibility, interesting team-based work, and freedom to work with new technologies. The over 50s may work independently, prefer to be office-based and are often reluctant to embrace new ways of communicating.

The key is to be able to align the two without providing any special treatment to the newcomers, which can have its own pitfalls, legal and otherwise.

What Does Generation Y Want?

Human resource managers and recruiters tell us, in no particular order, that they want:

  • Interesting and challenging project-based, non-routine, exciting work
  • Career growth opportunities and active mentoring
  • Inspiring and enabling leadership including regular feedback.
  • Flexibility – telecommuting, working remotely and time for their other life
  • Access to key decision makers. They need to know about strategy and how their job fits into the organisation’s goals
  • Community-centric and supportive working environment
  • Access to data and information. They want to see the full picture.

This shopping list may look impossible at first glance but some organisations are making strides to adjust their HR policies and operational guidelines to accommodate at least some of the requirements.

Retention of key staff in procurement needs a new approach. Some US companies that are leading the way with Generation Y are Shell, Boeing, Caterpillar and Cisco. They must be doing something right as they have some star employees under 30 years old who love their jobs.

What Generation X Managers Need to Provide 

  1. Leadership and guidance.
  • Don’t try to manage Generation Y, just lead them
  • Provide guidance and direction while giving consideration to their input; they don’t take kindly to direct instructions
  • Facilitate mentoring between different levels of employees, not only top down
  • Focus on the results employees produce rather than on how they get it done
  • Set aside time to provide honest feedback – feedback is coaching
  1. Provide flexibility in their work life
  • Consider offering partial telecommuting and/or working offsite
  • Build in some scheduling flexibility to allow management of their personal time. It doesn’t matter as long as the work gets done.
  • Review conventional approaches to face-to-face meetings – use available technology
  1. Career development and training
  • Keep employees engaged by providing inter-active and technology-based educational and training opportunities as well as career growth advice.
  • Make small promotions regularly – don’t make them wait for a year.
  • Regular performance management systems won’t work – more regular and constructive one-on-ones are needed
  1. Team-based projects
  • Take advantage of Generation Y’s preference for teamwork
  • Fulfil their high expectations with special assignments.
  • Give them full responsibility for a sub-project or make them a “champion”
  • Consider putting them on a task force to solve an outstanding problem.
  1. Open communication channels
  • Let everybody to contribute to decision-making through sharing of information and collaboration.
  • Allow multiple communication methods depending on preferences.
  • Use available electronic tools to speed up project delivery

What Does Generation Y Need to Do to Succeed? 

Generation Y individuals need to show a willingness to learn more and feel free to ask for help. The internal culture must support this approach, if it doesn’t, find out what the problem is and fix it. My advice to young procurement professionals is:

  • Build your technical skills and get qualified to give you a head start on the competition
  • Take ownership of your job by taking pride in your work and assuming responsibility for your results and outcomes. Go beyond the job description to do whatever it takes to get a task done.
  • Grow your job by making it your own and taking on any challenges that are offered. The expression “it’s not my job” is not in your vocabulary.
  • Ask for technical guidance and advice when needed from subject matter experts. Most successful people are keen to share their knowledge.
  • Read widely on your chosen field and make it your mission to learn about best practice and apply it in your own environment.

3 Final Tips for Managing Generation Y

  • Understand and accommodate different learning styles.
  • Consider personal employee needs, such as flexibility with scheduling.
  • Be careful not to follow blanket age stereotypes.