All posts by Procurious HQ

Supply and demand is alive and well in the British toy industry

With sales at a four-year high, is it all fun and games for the British toy industry? 

Toy Fair is the only dedicated toy, game and hobby trade exhibition in the UK. Through Jan 20-22 London’s Olympia opens its doors to the UK and European toy trade, as more than 260 companies debut their wares to retailers, buyers, and the media.

The British toy market has increased by 4.4 per cent in 2014, its best result since 2010 (+8 per cent), to reach £3 billion at retail, an increase of £130 million.

According to the global information provider, The NPD Group, 2014 was boosted by a comeback of collectable brands where unit sales rose by over 12 per cent to 416 million toys, as sales under £5 increased by 9 per cent. This comes after a flat performance was recorded for 2013.

“This is a tremendous result for the British toy industry during a year of challenging trading conditions. The industry continually evolves to remain relevant to the demands from children and their families and this innovation combined with many consumers’ desire to prioritise their children’s playtime has undoubtedly had a positive effect on the year,” commented Roland Earl, Director General of the BTHA.

For the first time ever, toy sales during Black Friday week increased by as much as 10 per cent as consumers snapped up big ticket items and electronic toys. This resulted in Black Friday sales exceeding those of the week prior to Christmas, traditionally the largest selling week in the toy market. Overall, the Christmas season was strong with an overall increase of 3 per cent year-on-year for December.

Dog eat dog

It’s not just the supplier trying to keep their costs down, and losses at a minimum.

Despite the health of the British toy market, there are pitched battles being fought in the retail space, as Brian Simpson – Buyer and General Manager of the family-run SMF ToyTown observes:

“Our industry is set on slaughtering each other, with most of the majors trying to be the cheapest on every line and leaving the rest of us to try and shift the stocks we bought at cost price or below.”

Simpson continues: “Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of good stuff happening in 2015… but we really need another craze that captures kids minds. I know that sales of other items reduced because of the Loom craze, but I don’t see things being balanced with the natural uplift of other items to cover off the demand from Looms, it will be an interesting Q1 for us to see what trends there are… I’m finding my attention is increasingly drawn towards trying to see which products I feel will be price-slashed at Christmas, and therefore my approach is far more defensive.”

Peering into the crystal ball – Jonty Chippendale from The Toy Shop in Cumbria comments: “[2015 needs] better margins, lower carriage paid enabling me to order frequently, and lower volumes to thereby range better.” 

Coiledspring Games - a UK success story with Robot Turtles

Coiledspring Games: a UK success story

Coiledspring Games are completely UK-based (Twickenham to be precise), but the moderate-sized distributors are growing rapidly. Coiledspring has now amassed a portfolio of a few hundred games, and to-date it has shifted over three million Rory’s Story Cubes. Last year Coiledspring Games had three of the Guardian’s top 5 new games for 2014…

Coiledspring told us that they’ve started to turn their attention to manufacturing their own games and products. Why? For profitability of course.

There are two ways of achieving this: either buy a game that’s already available in another terror and rebrand it, or in the case of Dodekka (otherwise known as Numberwang) take preexisting elements to carve a new theme.

Dodekka was a cross-collaborative effort. Coiledspring initially (and remotely) worked with an artist in the States, a UK-based designer helped with the rules, before Coiledspring started talking to manufacturers about box sizes, texture of the card, as well as card quality.

This has proved a good process to run through – so much so, that Coiledspring plan on bringing their first full-sized board game to market later in 2015.

WowWee demoed the MiPosaur at Toy Fair 2015

Is WowWee’s football playing dinosaur the saviour of toys?

From Coiledspring’s humble beginnings to a Hong Kong-based behemoth that designs, develops, markets and distributes its own brand of breakthrough consumer technology.

In 2014 WowWee’s MiP proved to be one of the world’s most popular consumer robots – shifted 750k units, capping-off a truly successful year.

For 2015 WowWee toyed with different forms, maybe a dog, maybe another different robotic form. They settled on MiPosaur – a highly intelligent, gesture controlled, robotic creature that can sense its own surroundings and environment.

WowWee’s product is all made overseas [in China], the stock is then imported, and stored domestically ready for distribution.

We spoke to a WowWee representative at the show: “We [WowWee] were the pioneers of robotics, it’s definitely a more-cluttered space these days. Spin Master is obviously a big competitor with tech stuff. But still think we deliver top quality product in the space, and it’s nice, it’s nice to have competition. It expands the category as well; it’s a very growing category in a lot of retailers. With regards to cutting corners: for someone to knock us off – the amount of technology in here [MiPosaur] is huge – I’d tip my hat to them.” 

“WowWee’s goals for 2015 will continue on its path of providing great innovation with proprietary technology and methodology that will deliver fantastic experiences at affordable prices within the field of robotics and youth electronics,” said WowWee Canada President Richard Yanofsky.

2015 will also see the launch of REV (Robotic Enhanced Vehicles).

Extreme Fliers will launch Micro Drone 3.0

The Drones are (still) coming

As regular readers will know this isn’t the first time the humble Drone has entered our airspace… Companies are increasingly looking towards Drone technology to provide logistics solutions – see Amazon, DHL, and more.

Of course kids need Drones too, so we were thrilled to see the Olympia’s skies awash with buzzing machines – some big, some small, and some even smaller.

But with Drones being in vogue, are there any worries that the market will soon be saturated?

We spoke to Extreme Fliers (the folks behind the Micro Drone) – a palm-sized Drone whose development dates back to 2010. They told us that when it comes to sourcing the highly specialized parts a lot of their competitors will elect to buy 1000 units (from China) to help drive costs down. Micro Drone differs because it’s taken a great deal of research and investment to get to this point – added to that; the company uses Makerbot 3D printers to build its toys. The investment spans a five-year period – and the end result is clearly not something that just happened overnight.

The third iteration of the popular flyer will incorporate HD camera-toting skills, a micro gimbal (for a smooth and stable flight), and support for the Google Cardboard VR Headset. All of that has been achieved at one of the most-affordable price points on the market – the Micro Drone 3 is expected to retail below £100 (competing models come in anywhere between £200-300+).

Does procurement have a role to play in cyber security?

In the past few months alone there has been a significant number of cyber attacks on high profile targets including Sony Pictures, celebrities’ phones and personal computers, and, just recently, an attack on the US Military Command’s Twitter account.

Now, as the World Economic Forum labels emerging technologies as one of the major global risks for 2015 in light of these attacks, we consider what procurement can do to aid organisational efforts in cyber security.

How big a worry is this?

If the WEF is highlighting it as a major global risk, then it’s certainly something to be taking seriously. Emerging technologies will allow hackers and cyber terrorists to carry out attacks that are more sophisticated and harder to stop. Additionally, there is a reported increasing skills shortage in cyber security personnel, expected to peak in 2017.

However, it’s not all bad news. The high-profile attacks have helped increase the focus on this subject. As a result, the UK Government has issued advice and information to organisations to help them be cyber-safe, as well as signing up to a second US-UK Cyber Security Innovation Summit. There are also now cyber governance health checks and a Cyber Essentials Scheme available to help organisations.

Procurement’s Role

A representative from the organisation that compiled the WEF report, Marsh & McLennan Companies, was quoted as saying “As a company you are not protected [against cyber attacks] unless your supply chain is protected.”

So what can Procurement do to help? Individually, you can do everything you would do to protect your personal accounts and computers:

  • Report all phishing and suspicious e-mails
  • Don’t click on links in e-mails unless you are sure of the source
  • Be wary of unsolicited e-mails asking for information

There are other steps that you can take as part of an organisation to assist with the overall security

  • Ensure your knowledge is up to date by attending conferences
  • Work with suppliers to put security plans in place
  • Make security plans part of your evaluations
  • Take responsibility in your team for checking and ensuring compliance
  • Investigate the Cyber Essentials Scheme

By making this part of day-to-day activities, procurement can do its bit to make organisations more secure.

Biggest Global Challenges in 2015https://www.procurious.com/blog/trending/what-are-the-biggest-global-challenges-in-2015

Cyber Security Boosthttps://www.business-cloud.com/articles/news/cyber-security-boost-uk-firms

Cyber Essentials Scheme (UK)https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/procurement-policy-note-0914-cyber-essentials-scheme-certification

Read on for more of the biggest stories commanding headlines right now:

Supply Chain woes help doom Target in Canada

  • Minneapolis-based Target Corp. said Thursday it was shuttering its 133 stores in Canada, laying off 17,000 workers and placing its Canadian operation under bankruptcy protection.
  • “While this is a difficult decision, we believe it is the right one for Target,” Brian Cornell, Target chairman and chief executive officer said in a press release. “We had great expectations for Canada but our early missteps proved too difficult to overcome.”
  • New York Times article Friday said that supply chain problems helped doom Target’s operations in Canada. “Differences in suppliers and other factors meant that Canadians found Target’s Canadian stores to be more expensive than they anticipated, and a poorly executed distribution network meant that shelves were often missing basic products,” according to the Times.

Read more on CFO

Troubled McDonald’s Japan to put CFO in charge of supply chain 

  • McDonald’s Japan Holdings Co is putting its chief financial officer in charge of its supply chain, according to an internal email seen by Reuters.
  • The move comes after foreign objects were found in customers’ food, the latest trouble for a fast-food chain hit by sliding sales and a shortage of french fries.
  • Andrew Brough, senior vice president and chief financial officer, will take over the company’s Supply Management Division from Feb. 1, the Friday email from CEO Sarah Casanova said. The email does not say who was previously responsible for the supply chain.
  • Hidehito Hishinuma, senior vice president and chief support officer, has in recent days appeared at news conferences to discuss the company’s procurement, in one case apologizing for the objects, including a tooth and plastic, getting into food.

Read more at Business Insider

Yusen Logistics expands Sydney operations

  • Yusen Logistics Australia has announced that it will open its sixth Sydney warehousing facility this month. The site is at Greystanes in Western Sydney and is ideally located for all major arterial routes.
  • The new warehouse, which is dedicated to a major US retailer, consists of 12,500 square metres and will comprise 18,500 pallet locations. Operations will commence immediately.
  • Yusen Logistics’ Managing Director for Australia, Ian Pemberton said: “This additional facility continues the expansion of our portfolio in line with our three year growth strategy, and demonstrates our commitment to increase the range of international clients to whom we provide supply chain solutions. The capital investment is in excess of $2 million Australian dollars and the facility will employ an additional 25 Yusen staff.”
  • Yusen Logistics Australia is a leading provider of supply chain and transport solutions with over 26 years of service in Australia and revenues of over $125 million Australian dollars in 2014. The business has 12 offices throughout Australia with 420 people covering international freight forwarding, in-house customs clearance and contract logistics (warehousing and distribution) services.

Read more at Supply Chain Digital

Jailed Military procurement official blackmailed

  • Former Greek secretary general for military procurement Yiannis Sbokos is being blackmailed by a fellow convict, revealed a Greek police case file. Sbokos has been in prison for the last two years, since his conviction for money laundering.
  • According to the case file, Sbokos is being blackmailed by a convict (Yiannis Sk.) who found out that the former Greek government official had 10 million euros in cash. Yiannis Sk. allegedly received this information from Akis Tsochatzopoulos, fellow convict and former Greek Defense Minister.
  • Yiannis Sk. allegedly threatened Sbokos, requesting part of the money. However, when the former official refused, his fellow convict attempted to bomb his house in Athens.
  • Sbokos and Tsochatzopoulos were imprisoned after it was revealed that they had received multiple bribes for arms deals during their time at the Ministry. Furthermore, it was revealed yesterday that Tsochatzopoulos had ordered a bombing attack against Sbokos.

Read more at Greek Reporter

Thailand drafts public procurement law following UNDP review

  • The Thai government is drawing up legislation to manage the risk of corruption in public procurement, following the UN Development Programme’s ‘integrity risk assessment’ of the country’s public purchasing system.
  • The assessment found evidence of “weak integrity in public contracts” and a concentration of improvements in public services in Bangkok and the central region, leaving “significant deficiencies” in other parts of the country.
  • Risks to integrity in Thailand’s non-regulated public procurement process are “rife” because of the large amounts of money at stake and the interface between the government and private sector, which is characterised by a high volume of transactions.
  • The assessment was conducted as part of the ‘Mitigating Risks to Integrity in Public Procurement project’, established by UNDP Thailand with key stakeholders in the Thai Government, including the Offices of Public Sector Development Commission and Public Procurement Management Department and the State Enterprise Policy Office.

Read more on Supply Management

What’s got you motivated in 2015?

Thanks to everyone who has been contributing to the Discussion forum, both in asking and answering questions. We really appreciate the contributions, as do those people who are posing the questions.

Eugene Onischenko/Shutterstock.com

As it’s a new year, we’ve picked out a few popular questions on topics you might be considering as part of your professional and personal goals this year.

As ever, we’ll be linking these discussions to our great blog content so you can get further into the topics and read more about them.

What’s got you motivated in 2015?

This question looked at both the personal and professional side of people’s aims for the coming year.

On the personal front there were some interesting and enviable responses. Procurious HQ will admit to being jealous of Peter’s travel plans, while agreeing with Antoinette in hoping that all our members will be enjoying time with friends and family. And don’t worry Georgia – none of us are particularly green-fingered either!

Professionally, 2015 seems to be a year for development. A couple of common threads were social media and digital strategies and how these are going to impact working lives. The use of social media is on the rise in organisations and many are looking at specific strategies to manage their profiles and presence.

At Procurious, we think there’s a great chance for procurement to be an early adopter and lead the way for businesses. Why not think about a Procurious workshop on social media for procurement.

Also on the professional front, motivations for 2015 included fresh starts, either in a new role, or after some time off (good luck, David!), increasing the profile of public procurement, developing skills through e-Learning and removing silos in businesses through working on internal relationships.

Also remembering the importance of external relationships, networking and meeting fellow Procurians!

Tips to stay on track – make a plan, don’t make excusesrespect your abilities and chipping away at your goals.

I will be starting out as a new face in procurement in May 2015. Any advice on how I can and should be preparing myself?

We’ve all been there at the start of a new job or when we moved into procurement, so unsurprisingly this question was well answered.

Top answers from the community included:

  • Reading about procurement and your new company and understanding their policies and processes
  • Never being afraid to ask questions (there is no such thing as a stupid question!)
  • Speaking to experienced professionals to learn from them
  • Finding a mentor to help you out

Social media can play a big part in this process too. It allows you to connect with and ask questions of experienced professionals, develop your knowledge through eLearning and follow news stories – either via industry publications or #procurement on Twitter.

Other things the community suggested included:

  • Finding templates for policies and processes
  • Understanding how the procurement process fits in the organisation
  • Getting your hands dirty straight away and get out and see the other functions
  • Performing basic spend analysis to help give you a quick overview of the company spend
  • Thinking about the end-to-end process including sourcing and assessment of vendors, payment and delivery terms, risks and how to mitigate/manage them.
  • Remembering that your face and your voice are the ones of your company

It’s often overlooked that it can be challenging starting a new role or in an unfamiliar profession and, as a result, individuals can struggle to adjust to new ways of working or feeling like they are capable.

However, these tips aren’t just for new starts. Even people who have been in procurement for a longer period of time can still learn from this and put these tips to good use.

Hope that helps, Zach! And good luck!

Helpful links

Get involved with a workshop on social media for procurement – (https://www.procurious.com/blog/procurious-news/procurious-announces-webringthedonuts-campaign)

Kick off your learning on Procurious with our ‘Introduction to Procurement’ videoshttps://www.procurious.com/class/all

What can you do in 2015 to make the most of social mediahttps://www.procurious.com/blog/procurement-news/procurement-in-2015-a-new-years-revolution

Getting the most out of networking – https://www.procurious.com/blog/procurious-news/step-up-your-networking-game-the-basics

Know what other skills you might need in procurementhttps://www.procurious.com/blog/life-style/job-survival-skills-get-a-grip-on-the-numbers

What are the biggest global challenges in 2015?

WEF summit to look for answers to major global challenges.

Water crises, interstate conflict and climate change number among the top risks that the world will face over the next twelve months. This is according to the Global Risks 2015 report that the World Economic Forum has readied ahead of its summit on 20 Jan.

Emerging technologies were also cited in the forward-looking document, an area that’s come under considerable scrutiny of late owing to the numerous cyber attacks (hacks) made against major organisations.

The report was put together (in part) by Marsh & McLennan Companies – a representative commented: “As a company you are not protected [against cyber attacks] unless your supply chain is protected.” 

We’ve compiled a collection of tweets around the highlighted issues (as well as some educated guesses) that are all expected to come out of the 2015 discussions.


5 minutes on Procurious – a primer for new members

Following on from our call to step up your networking game, we’ve published a quick, digestible guide to spending five minutes on our network.

Five minutes on Procurious

If your Community Feed is looking a bit empty, then that big green ‘Build your Network’ button (1) is your friend…  We’ve waxed lyrical on the benefits of this tool in the past, see here. Invite your LinkedIn contacts, send a personalized email link, or use the filters to select members by country/industry/category.

For instant gratification, can we instead draw your attention to ‘Get Connected’ (2). This presents a selection of Procurious members we think you should connect with. Click ‘View more’ when you’ve exhausted the recommendations.

Got something you want to get off your chest? Post a status update (just like you do on LinkedIn/Facebook, or send a Tweet on Twitter) to your Community Feed. Just start typing at the ‘Share your thoughts’ prompt (3). Don’t feel like you need to be restricted to text either. Feel free to post a fun/informative/thoughtful photo, or upload a document that you’d like to share with the rest of your network.

Posted a status? Great! Hopefully other Procurious members will take a shine to it and comment (4). Try it yourself by leaving a comment on a post in your network.

Remember, you can tag other Procurious members in comments and statuses by prefixing with the @ symbol.

If commenting on statuses isn’t enough for you then look to ‘Latest discussions’ (5). Here you’ll see a list of the most recently submitted discussion topics that Procurious members have posed.

Click into the topic to answer and air your thoughts. You can also elect to follow discussion topics, and share them to your Community Feed if you so wish.

See something in your Community Feed that you like? Click the thumbs-up to give it your seal of approval (6), or click the share icon to repost to your network.

The Oil Crisis for Dummies

I’m sure like me, most of you have watched with interest the price of oil plummet from well over $100 a barrel to below $50 a barrel in the space of just a few months. I’m quite sure that, like me, most of you have been in the dark as to why this is the case.  So I thought I’d do some research into the matter and try to uncover what is driving this price collapse, and what it means for you as an individual as well as a procurement professional.

While fluctuations in the price of oil are not particularly rare, ones as significant and unpredicted as this certainly are.  We’re talking about the largest fall in the price of oil ever, and one that, even as it was beginning, was discarded by most analysts as a small correction ahead of yet another uptick. Even when the price of oil was in the 80’s in October, analysts at Barclays noted, “It seems extremely unlikely that oil prices will remain below $100 for very long.”

So why has everybody been so wrong about predicting the price of oil, and why has it continued to fall while most analysts have continued to remain bullish on the price of Brent (the global oil benchmark)? If there’s one short answer to this – it’s OPEC – but more on that later. Instead we’ll begin by looking at two strong causes behind the slump.

Cause Number 1: US Oil Production

With rapid advances in drilling technology (particularly in extracting from shale), oil production in the US has increased by more than 50 percent in the last 2 years.  For anyone who’s done Year 7 economics, you’ll know that when supply increases and demand remains steady, prices come down.

US Crude Oil & Natural Gas Production 1970-2015
US Crude Oil & Natural Gas Production 1970-2015

Cause Number 2: A lack of intervention from OPEC.

Traditionally, when there’s a slump in the price of Brent, OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries – fundamentally an oil cartel) bands together to cut supply and therefore prop up the price of oil.  In this case, for whatever reason, they decided not to step in.

The technological advances that I mentioned earlier don’t come without a cost, so by deciding to let things play out, OPEC basically condemned a lot of new shale explorers to bankruptcy, as their production cost per barrel sits at anywhere between $50-$70.  With the Brent Crude Oil rate sitting below this, it has become no longer financially viable for these ventures to continue exploring and drilling new wells . 

Production Cost Per Barrel of Major Oil Producers in 2020
Production Cost Per Barrel of Major Oil Producers in 2020

Why hasn’t OPEC stepped in?

Well basically they’re driving all of this new shale competition out of the market.  This reduces total global oil production temporarily, and when they’ve effectively bankrupted all the new kids on the block, OPEC can start manipulating the price back up to historical levels.

How long until they decide to intervene?  Suhail al-Mazrouei, The UAE’s Energy Minister, said a few weeks ago that OPEC would wait “at least three months before considering an emergency meeting”.  Good news – you can expect some very cheap petrol at the pump for at least the next few months. (You might even get some cheap flights in too, although the aviation industry strongly hedges their AVGAS purchases, so it might just be a pipedream)

So what does this mean for you?

I’m going to come at this very simplistically and from the point of view of someone in a developed country. It’s a good thing.  Consumer spending accounts for approximately 60 percent of GDP in most western countries, and cheap oil means two things.  First of all, you’ll have more disposable income as a result of a decreased cost of transportation – and secondly you can buy more with this disposable income, as the cost of goods is likely to fall. On the other hand, if you live in a country that is heavily reliant on oil production, like Russia or Venezuela, it’s not good news.

As a Procurement & Supply Chain professional, I won’t go out on a limb and give you an unequivocal answer as to the impact this will have on your job – I’m certainly not qualified enough to answer this – but I think some of the articles mentioned in this Procurious post might give you a good idea.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the situation, and if you have any comments or thoughts on the matter (or if you think I’ve got it completely wrong) please comment below!

7 gadgets to help improve your sleep

Suffering from back to work blues?

Whether you’re putting on that extra layer to protect from the cold or basking in altogether warmer climes, January’s unlikely to ever win any accolades for favourite month of the year…

To that end we’re providing you with a few good excuses to hide away and snuggle down for that little bit longer each morning. Eyes down for a selection of bizarre gadgets that will do everything from analysing your sleeping patterns to guaranteeing a good night’s sleep.

Sleep Number x12 bed

Sleep Number x12 bed

If someone were to remark that they thought your bed was pretty clever, you’d probably wonder whether they’d been getting enough sleep themselves… But you’d be forgetting that we live in an age where just about everything has become ‘smart’ – that’s right, even beds are getting in on the act.

US bed maker Sleep Number has gone and made the world’s first smart bed. The built-in Sleep IQ technology tracks the usual measurements (heart rate, breathing rate etc.) but also responds to voice commands to easily activate a wealth of other features. The x12 bed is also dual-sided and it (for example) allows you to make minute adjustments to alleviate a noisy snoring bedfellow.

At $8000 it certainly isn’t cheap, but with all that gadgetry onboard we’re sure you’ll enjoy a jolly nice sleep.

Clocky robotic alarm

Clocky Robotic Alarm

This little wonderful wheeled alarm clock started life as an engineering student’s project. Having trouble waking up herself, Gauri Nanda developed Clocky to shriek annoyingly and effectively, waking you up. The fun doesn’t end there though, Clocky will leap off your bedside table (without a thought for its own safety), and drive around your room, all the while performing random turns to whizz away from your grasp. There’s only one thing for it, you’ll have to get out of bed and hunt the little blighter down yourself.

Ostrich Pillow - sleep gadgets

Ostrich Pillow

“What is that silly thing around your head?” Enquires a bemused work colleague. “Why it’s only a revolutionary new product to enable easy power naps anytime, everywhere” you answer, Right, of course it is.

The Ostrich Pillow really can be used anywhere – be it airports, trains, aeroplanes, libraries, at the office, on a sofa and even on the floor. Heck we know it looks silly but its creators have been beavering away on the Ostrich Pillow for one year, testing and exploring the perfect dimensions and materials to create the best possible experience for the nap.

Selk'bag

Selk’bag

The strangely-named Selk’bag looks like a giant onesie, and has clearly been designed for those adults among us who just refuse to grow up (that makes most of us then).

It’s based on the Japanese Snuggie (which resembled a giant mutant tadpole) and amusingly became the stuff of Internet-lore back in 2009. Perfect for a variety of adventures, the Selk’bag is used by outdoor enthusiasts the world over for camping in a tent, under the stars, at the lake, on the beach, or log cabin (just don’t go scaring others in the woods…)

shapeup alarm clock

Shape Up Alarm Clock

It’s hard enough to get up in the morning and the Shape Up Alarm Clock (shaped like a dumbbell) is set to make things that little bit harder… OK so it’s a bit of a challenge, but you’ll look buff.

This is a digital alarm clock and dumbbell all wrapped up into one novelty alarm clock package. Set the digital alarm clock as normal using the friendly buttons and then wait for your wakeup call with a twist. Only the upward swing of the dumbbell shuts off the repeating buzz – 30 upward swings of the dumbbell that is – meanwhile you can watch your progress using the LCD display.

Sleep Recorder app for Windows Phone

Sleep Recorder App (for Windows Phone)

Prone to talking in your sleep? If you’ve ever wondered what you (or a loved one) sounds like then download the excellent Sleep Recorder app and see for yourself. Sleep Recorder uses your phone’s microphone to capture audio and saves the recording if it detects voice. It won’t record silence or noise. Editor’s tip: keep your phone plugged-in overnight to ease battery drain while in-use.

Sound Oasis Sleep Therapy Pillow

Sound Oasis Sleep Therapy Pillow

This unique pillow allows the weary to enjoy their favourite music or sounds in optimal relaxation and comfort. Audio is delivered via two high fidelity, ultra-thin stereo speakers positioned deep within the pillow, there is also an in-line volume control so you don’t need to faff around when turning the pillow up or down.

What’s more the pillow is finished with a soft brushed cover and hypoallergenic polyester fibrefill.

How falling oil prices are impacting Procurement and Supply Chain

How falling oil prices are impacting Procurement and Supply Chain

According to the BBC, the price of Brent crude oil has fallen to a new six-year low this morning. The price of a barrel dropped by a further 3% to $48.54, its lowest level since April 2009. Goldman Sachs have also stated that they believe the price of a barrel will stay around $40 for the first half of this year.

Why is this happening?

Well, in short, the global demand for oil is falling due to weakened economies, increasing efficiency and a move away from oil to other fuels. There is also a surplus in production due to America’s fracking programme and high output in Libya and Iraq despite instability.

Personal vs. Professional

So while it may be a cause for personal celebration when we fuel up ours cars, what does it mean for us all professionally?

Supply Chain and Logistics organisations should see the benefit of falling prices at the pump, while procurement in other areas should see falling commodity prices and lower costs.

However, for those people purchasing travel for their organisation it’s not such a celebration. It is widely expected that travel, particularly air travel, will not benefit from lower prices, as airlines tend to purchase fuel in advance to lessen impact from price shocks.

The picture is also not so rosy for major oil companies. Most are now likely to have to rethink investment decisions and step up cost-cutting programmes. Onus for this cost cutting is likely to fall on procurement and suppliers.

Moreover, we need to consider our suppliers’ position if the focus is on cost cutting. Deflation in industries such as food and beverage and FMCG, is already causing issues for supply chains. An early example of this is in the dairy industry, with First Milk delaying payments to suppliers by 2 weeks due to falling prices and cashflow issues (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30771288).

What can we do?  

1. Focus on relationships and partnerships, not just cost cutting. Supplier Relationship Management can play a big part here (https://www.procurious.com/blog/in-the-press/three-key-insights-on-the-importance-of-srm).

2. Work out where you can add value. Deloitte offered a broad range of thoughts in their 2014 CPO Survey (https://www.procurious.com/blog/in-the-press/procurement-time-to-move-through-the-gears).

3. Be more open to innovation from suppliers. It’s not something that procurement are traditionally good at, but there is value to be found by working more closely with suppliers (https://www.procurious.com/blog/trending/2015-will-be-about-innovations-in-the-logistics-world).

Read on for more of the biggest stories commanding headlines right now:

How sloppy security exposed Apple’s supply chain secrets

  • Incredibly sloppy security at one of Apple’s key suppliers exposed some of Cupertino’s most closely guarded secrets to anybody who could conduct a simple Google search.
  • For months, one of Quanta Computer‘s internal databases could be accessed using usernames and a default password published in a PowerPoint presentation easily found on the Web.
  • The path to Quanta’s database started last September when, on the eve of the big Apple Watch launch event, an anonymous Reddit user posted drawings and details of the super-secret device.
  • The document dates from January 15, 2013. It describes a Quanta database for managing the environmental aspects of products and components. The PowerPoint presentation appears to have been made to show Quanta’s customers how to log in and use the system. Incredibly, it includes a link to the database and details of the usernames and default password for at least two customers, including Foxconn, Apple’s main manufacturing partner in China.

Read more at Cult of Mac

Self-driving trucks to revolutionize logistics

  • DHL Trend Research has launched their latest trend report, titled “Self-Driving Vehicles in Logistics”, which takes readers on a journey of discovery, highlighting the key elements and incredible potential of autonomous technologies.
  • DHL plans to “maintain pole position in the world of self-driving vehicles,” wrote Matthias Heutger and Markus Kueckelhaus, the authors of the study. “The question is no longer ‘if’ but rather ‘when’ autonomous vehicles will drive onto our streets and highways.”
  • A boom in electronic commerce is making it harder for delivery companies from DHL toUnited Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) to satisfy consumers who expect first-attempt delivery even though they’re not home during daytime hours.

Read more at Supply Chain 24/7

Jaguar to create 1,300 manufacturing jobs with new sports car

  • Lode Lane plant in Solihull will receive largest investment in its 70-year history as manufacturer unveils plans for ‘practical five-seat vehicle’.
  • The new sports car, which will go on sale next year, will follow this year’s launch of the Jaguar XE sports saloon, also produced at Lode Lane, which has seen several thousand new jobs created in recent years.
  • The XE will create 1,700 in-house jobs at Solihull, 700 more at parts supplier DHL and well over 2,000 in the supply chain. Jaguar Land Rover chief executive Ralf Speth said: “Today’s announcements once again demonstrate our commitment to the UK and the advancement of a hi-tech, high skilled, manufacturing-led economy.
  • The Lode Lane facility incorporates Europe’s largest aluminium body shop and final assembly hall, collectively the size of 22 football pitches.

Read more at Birmingham Post

Industry shake-up as policy uncertainty forces a quarter of businesses out of the wind

  • FTI Intelligence has published its latest renewable energy publication: Global Wind Supply Chain Update 2015. The Update is part of a series of data-driven publications evaluating competitive markets, policy, finance, technology and business models across the energy spectrum.
  • The report examines the supply chain situation for 12 key components (350+ suppliers) and three key materials (150+ suppliers), which account for more than 95 per cent of a wind turbine’s total cost.
  • One of the key findings tells of the delicate balance in the offshore wind supply chain at present. Challenges remain in the medium-term – one third of the cost reduction of offshore wind energy partially relies on supply chain industrialization for disruptive technologies and key elements including the offshore wind balance of plant. This ambitious target is, however, unlikely to be achieved without long-term market stability.

For more info (and to access the publication) head here

What are the burning issues affecting retailers in 2015?

Black Friday was arguably an important time for retailers, but what about the fragile post-Christmas when retailers are more at risk?

In retrospect it looks like Black Friday gave many high street retailers a much-needed shot in the arm. The last ONS retail sales report highlighted overall sales in November rose by 5.6 per cent and online sales increased by 12.9 per cent compared to the year previously. With the post-Christmas period expected to be a fragile time for the retail sector, as rents become due, for many companies it will be make or break.

With this is mind we’ll begin with some sobering words from the tail-end of 2014 courtesy of Dan Wagner, veteran retail expert and CEO of Powa Technologies: “It is apparent for me from the sharp rise in sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday that retailers have been caught napping and many now have left it too late to respond to the rapid changes in consumer behaviour.”

“Consumers are driving this change and retailers need to review and innovate based on consumer behaviour – but the reality is that they have not innovated fast enough. These retailers are fighting for their own survival… In my view, changes in business rates alone are not going to be enough to halt the tide in the demise of those retailers that have failed to evolve. The post-Christmas period will be a bigger blood-bath than last year, and for some retailers, it is already too late.” 

In addition Nick Miller – Head of FMCG, writes: “As the festive season creeps closer, organisations, especially those operating within the FMCG sector, are ramping up their supply chain processes in order to cope with the influx in demand. Supply chains are pushed to the extreme limits and retailers are all too aware of the fact that getting it wrong at Christmas is the cause of many retail casualties.”

Crucially, Nick’s wasn’t issued on the eve of Christmas 2014… instead, an entire twelve months prior.

So what does this tell us? The same issues – year in, year out… Only some would argue that for every year that goes by, the stakes only get higher. Indeed, it seems some of the UK’s biggest retail powerhouses have been left licking their wounds after an especially vicious winter.

We’ve heard that Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Marks & Spencer have all experienced struggles of their own in the post-Christmas period.

Although Sainsbury’s announced a 1.7 per cent fall in like-for-like sales over Christmas, the grocer had actually matched the same volume of sales as the previous year – except this time around (and perhaps crucially) the prices were lower. This is the first time in more than a decade it has experienced such a loss over the festive period.

Meanwhile Marks & Spencer has reported its 14th consecutive drop in clothing sales – a fall of 5.8 per cent during the third quarter. Online sales were also down 5.9 per cent, despite the introduction of a revamped website – a crucial entry point that should have borne fruit for the retailer.

Neil Saunders – Managing Director of retail research agency Columino commented: “This Christmas online was a critical channel for growth, accounting for a higher proportion of sales than ever before.”

He continued: “Unfortunately, M&S’s logistical problems meant that it could not properly enjoy the fruits of this growth.”

Year-on-year sales over at Tesco were down just 0.3 per cent – or up 0.1 per cent if fuel was factored in. But this hasn’t been enough to save it from a somewhat bleak aftermath, with bosses saying they will shutter 43 unprofitable stores across the UK.

Tesco’s plans for 49 ‘very large’ stores that had provisionally been given the go-ahead have been scrapped.

RetailWeek is also reporting that Tesco boss Dave Lewis is expected to scrap the system of rebates and penalty fees the supermarket forces on suppliers and instead focus on a scheme based on sales volume alone.

What do you make of all of this – if it’s happening to the UK’s most powerful retailers then surely no one is safe?

Step up your networking game: the basics

It’s a New Year so what better time to step up your networking game and make a splash among your peers.

Invest just a little time into sprucing up your Procurious profile and you have an effortless method of spreading your online influence.

How to build your personal brand online

Is your profile up to scratch?

First thing’s first, make sure you have a profile picture. The idea behind social networking is to make meaningful connections with people – so if you’re looking to strike out in this game, your peers will want to see who they’re talking to.

From your Profile page just click ‘Edit Profile’ to get things rolling.

Here you can choose a profile picture (or pick a new one if your existing one is getting old-hat), and add a header photo to your page if you so choose.

Just remember that you can move and resize the boundaries of your chosen pic as you see fit – make sure to select ‘Save Selection’ before moving on.

Tell us your story

You wouldn’t pick up a book without reading the blurb, or go and see a film without glancing at the synopsis first… So why leave your ‘About Me’ blank?

We’ve seen it time and time again on Procurious – this is your opportunity to tell other members a little bit about yourself.

Enter the desired information using the ‘Edit Profile’ page. Go nuts, it’s your stage!

How to add a profile picture

Make sure you’re contactable

We hope you find the Procurious messaging system useful, but we appreciate there are times when a direct email is the preferred option. To that end, make sure you have an active (and current) email address as your main point of contact.

You can add additional email addresses to your Procurious account quickly and easily on your ‘Settings’ page.  If you move company, or get a new email provider that’s cool too – just select the ‘Make this address primary’ option. Remember, you can add up to 3 email addresses to use as your Procurious login details.

If comfortable with it, why not leave your Skype handle or business telephone number too?

Import your work history

Gaps in your work history might be understandable to you, but look bad to other professionals. Save yourself a job by copying over all your essentials from LinkedIn.

When you registered on Procurious you were given the option to link your LinkedIn account to your profile. If you ignored this in the first instance don’t worry, it’s as easy as clicking a button.

Look to the top of your ‘Edit Profile’ page and press the ‘Import LinkedIn Profile’ button. Easy.

Connect your Procurious profile to other networks

Share your Procurious updates on other social networks

If you’ve got something to say then why not shout it from the top of your lungs? If you’ve successfully connected your Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn accounts to Procurious then you’ll benefit from the extra amplification that these networks offer.

Manage what you put out on other social networks by scrolling down to the bottom of the ‘Edit Profile’ page and unlinking the accounts of your choosing.