All posts by Procurious HQ

Nobody Said Procurement Was Easy

Are you ever tempted to give up on your career aspirations at the first hurdle? Tania Seary explains why you’ll thank yourself in the long run for sticking it out!

What is the hardest job in the world? This newspaper job advert has, in fact, awarded the title to motherhood! 

We recently launched Bravo – a Procurious Group addressing gender disparity in the workplace through the celebration of women.

As part of Bravo, Procurious will be asking a number of high profile procurement leaders their advice to other women in Procurement, and how we can help them to get ahead in their careers.

We’re kicking things off with our founder Tania Seary. Tania is the Founding Chairman of three companies specialising in the development of the procurement profession – Procurious, The Faculty and The Source. In this interview, Tania shares her thoughts on what makes a great leader, how we can motivate more people to join the procurement profession and her advice to the next generation of rising stars.

How can procurement motivate more women to join the profession (and stay with it!)?

A career in Procurement offers fantastic and diverse opportunities, which are not always readily, or well, conveyed to budding young professionals.

In my opinion, the function could be doing a lot more to engage with universities, both to encourage the development of the curriculum and to educate undergrads about what constitutes a career in procurement. Several global companies have integrated procurement rotations into their graduate schemes and I would love to see more organisations following suit. Not only has this proven successful in terms of recruiting the hottest new talent but it also gives the business as a whole the chance to see what valuable and interesting work procurement is doing.

Finally, as always, I would encourage and urge procurement professionals to share, share, share! Become an advocate for procurement by sharing your stories, experiences and insights to encourage the best talent, both male and female, to join our profession.

What tips/advice would you give to Procurement rising stars?

Stick it out!

One of life’s greatest achievements is making it across the finish line to collect the medal, or at least the participation award!  In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to give up at the first hurdle and pull out of the race. By abandoning your plans you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Those who are ambitious, push through in tougher times, keep working hard and are able to bounce back onto the career track after a knock back are the ones who go on to the greatest successes.

Of course, this can be easier said than done, especially when it comes to juggling family and working life. Women are under so much more pressure to balance the two and it’s this that I believe explains the gender disparity at the top of organisations.

What has been your most rewarding experience and greatest accomplishment to date?

Being a full time working woman and a mother presents a whole host of logistical and emotional challenges. It’s even harder without a strong support network. I’ve been so fortunate to have had some inspiring female mentors and colleagues who supported me through the early stages of my career and when I was setting up my own businesses

It’s extremely rewarding to now be in the position to pass on some of the things I’ve learnt. I’m always keen to mentor, inspire and, of course, employ fantastic women in procurement!

My three companies (The Source, The Faculty and Procurious) have helped to connect thousands of procurement pros. It’s exciting to see how Procurious has helped to shape the careers of procurement professionals globally and in so many different ways.

What 3 attributes make a great leader?

1) Accountability – The best leaders will take full responsibility for their mistakes as well as their successes. They can look in the mirror, own their decisions, embrace the outcomes and be proud of what they see.

2) Vision – This is what separates leaders from managers. A manager simply does the job they are tasked with. A true leader has vision and, as such, a passion (that they can hopefully make contagious) for what they are trying to achieve.

3) Empathy – Understanding the motivators, drivers and feelings of those around you is so important when it comes to unlocking the power of the people in your organisation. Solid, working relationships make the world, and business go around.

Why is procurement the perfect career for you?

As someone who get bored easily, the variety of possibilities within procurement was initially a big drawcard. I love to continuously learn, problem solve and bring people together.  Procurement has allowed me to do all three of these things on a global scale.  

What are three pivotal things that have brought you to where you are today?

Working hard, never giving up and continually learning.  There’s always a lot of discussion surrounding the first two points but I’d really like to stress just how important it is to keep learning, no matter what stage you have reached in your career.  We’ve made eLearning a huge part of Procurious and in the work we do in my other companies so it is easy for procurement pros to learn quickly, any time and on the go!

Take every opportunity you can to learn from your colleagues, managers and even your employees. Make sure you work for “learning” organisations that are likely to support your ongoing career development.

At Procurious, we want to make it easier for women to get into, stay in, and thrive in the procurement profession. This is why we are launching Bravo – a Procurious Group celebrating and promoting women in Procurement. Join the conversation here.

Colin Powell To Complete Stellar Keynote Line-Up At ISM2017

The fact that the Institute for Supply Management can attract keynote speakers of this calibre offers proof that the profession truly has come of age.  

ISM has announced that the former U.S. Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, will join former UK Prime Minister David Cameron to deliver a keynote at the year’s biggest conference in Supply Management, ISM2017.

General Powell will inspire and motivate ISM2017 attendees with stories of leadership under fire – and how to deliver complex supply systems when facing immovable deadlines.

As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell assembled a multibillion dollar supply chain involving 42 nations during Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf. Powell and his team pulled together millions of coordinated supplies: military goods, machinery, food, weaponry, and critical spare parts.

“As Secretary of State, General Powell used the power of diplomacy to build trust and create alliances, while also having the grit and experience forged by his military career in delivering results when it matters most,” said Tom Derry, ISM CEO. “Powell’s insight will be critical to ISM members and other purchasing and supply chain professionals as they focus on the challenges of working in a tough, ever-changing global economy.”

David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who stepped down from the position in 2016 in the wake of the Brexit decision, will also keynote ISM2017 conference attendees about his experience navigating geopolitical and public policy issues and their impact on the global supply chain. He will address a range of events in Europe and worldwide, and what they could mean to supply managers everywhere.

Powell and Cameron’s keynotes share a theme that will resonate with supply managers everywhere – how to deliver effective short-term solutions – and leadership during a time of crisis. The inclusion of two political veterans is particularly apt in 2017 as Europe continues to adjust to the effects of Brexit and the U.S. recovers from one the most divisive presidential races in recent memory.

Registrations are now open for ISM2017, which will be held May 21–24, 2017, at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Focused on “Critical Insights, Powerful Results,” the event expects to draw more than 3,000 attendees from around the world. ISM 2017 features keynotes, learning tracks, and sessions about leading in times of stress. More than 75 interactive sessions will be part of six learning tracks at ISM2017, and executives from firms such as Google, Toyota, Pfizer, Direct Energy, Zimmer Biomet and others will present.

Find out more about ISM2017

What Would You Do If The President-Elect Criticised Your Supply Chain?

Major US organisations are starting to rethink their manufacturing strategies for fear of being labelled “un-American” by the President-Elect. 

Every US-based supply manager with outsourced supply chains should follow Donald Trump on Twitter. Why? Because for major companies with overseas manufacturing operations, there’s every chance that the President-Elect will label your organisation “un-American”.

Since November 2016, Trump has criticised companies including Ford, Toyota, GM, United Tech and, more recently, pharmaceutical organisations including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Bristol-Myers for moving U.S. jobs abroad. His focus appears to be on companies outsourcing to Mexico and China, where historically low-cost labour enables organisations to manufacture their products at a competitive level.

Companies changing plans

According to a report from Reuters, boards of a number of U.S. companies that manufacture overseas have directed their public relations teams to plan a response in case the President-Elect singles them out on Twitter.

Similarly, some companies are reportedly re-thinking mergers and other moves that would involve outsourcing to China for fear of being cast as “anti-American” by the President-Elect. Ford has backed away from plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico, while United Tech has announced plans to keep half of the 2,100 jobs it was shifting over the border. Reports have also emerged of dozens of major organisations contacting government relations and PR advisors to assess if they have any “red flags” that would draw Trump’s attention and lead to a damaging Tweet being sent.

New risk metric: weighing national interest

According to the Reuters report, “corporate leaders can no longer focus only on maximising shareholder value; they must now also weigh national interest.” Essentially, being labelled as un-American has become a new risk metric that needs to be weighed against the cost benefits of overseas manufacturing.

Trump’s aggressive rhetoric against China may also lead to a reduction of outsourcing to the manufacturing powerhouse as the relationship between the two countries is expected to decline. Trump has also flagged high tariffs as another way in which he plans to move manufacturing jobs from China back to the U.S.

The effects of a Trump Tweet cannot be downplayed. Lockheed Martin lost $4 billion in value as share prices feel immediately after Trump criticised the organisation on Twitter, while Toyota saw $1.2 billion in value wiped in five minutes following a similar Tweet. Developers have even created an App to alert investors to Trump’s market-moving Tweets. This week, the nine biggest pharmaceutical companies that use manufacturing plants in Europe, Asia and Africa lost roughly $24.6 billion in 20 minutes during a news conference in which Trump singled out the industry.

Alongside potential losses in share value, coming under fire from the soon-to-be President puts organisations at risk of brand damage and consumer boycotts.

It is unclear whether Trump will continue to use Twitter to drive his “Made in America” agenda, or use more traditional tools to affect change such as policies and import tariffs.

What do you think about “Made in America”? Are organisations right to be wary of a tweet from Trump?  Let us know in the comments below. 

We’ve kept one eye on the news headlines from around the world this week…

Proliferation of “non-human workers” accelerates

  • Amazon reportedly placed 15,000 robots across 20 fulfillment centres in 2016, increasing its machine workforce by 50%.
  • Similarly, iPhone manufacturer Foxconn has replaced 60,000 Chinese employees with robots, while Wal-Mart is automating up to 7000 jobs, including roles in the accounting and invoicing departments.
  • In the U.S. alone, up to five million jobs are expected to be replaced by robots by 2020.

Read more at Supply Chain Dive 

Blood supply chain faces an uncertain future

  • Due to changes in medical practices, hospital demand for blood has been dropping steadily for the past decade.
  • The strong supply and weak demand for blood has led to a 10 percent drop in the cost of a unit of red blood cells in the US, with overall revenue for the blood banking industry dropping to US$1.5 billion per year in 2014, down from $5 billion in 2008.
  • S. blood banks are expected to lose 12,000 jobs in the next few years, or roughly a quarter of its workforce.

Read more at  The Conversation

 

Top Reasons to Advance Your Career With an MBA

Competition for the top procurement jobs is fierce. Have you considered that an MBA might be one way to get ahead of the pack?

MBA

Procurement can be a very competitive industry. Both procurement managers and officers are continually looking for ways to advance their career and beat out other job candidates for the best roles.

If you’ve been in the same position for a while and seem to be struggling to rise higher, it might be time to get your nose in some textbooks and build up your network of contacts through a higher degree.

A Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) can, in particular, be a fantastic option to study. You can choose one of top online MBA programmes to work on part-time, or opt to quit your current role and study full-time instead.

Here’s why you should consider enrolling in an MBA program today.

Job Prospects

One of the major reasons why it’s worth completing an MBA is the job prospects that can come from such qualifications. Having an MBA listed on your resume can help you to stand out from other job candidates in a crowded marketplace, particularly if you’re keen to get into a higher, leadership position.

Employers typically tend to see MBA graduates as having greater business acumen, skills, and knowledge than those who haven’t completed the higher degree. They also appreciate the fact that students will often be more likely to “hit the ground running” on day one.

In addition, having an MBA under your belt can also give you more job security with your current company or within your industry. Employers tend to feel that business school graduates bring more value to their roles and to an organisation in general, by:

  • Having a broader business understanding
  • Being able to handle complex situations
  • Improving adaptability, nimbleness, and innovation
  • Being able to spot inefficiencies and better problem solve

This kind of belief can mean that if the economy tightens or a firm’s results decrease, and people start to be let go, your name will be much lower down on the list than others.

Relationship Building

Another major benefit of studying an MBA is that doing so gives you the chance to meet, and build solid relationships, with like-minded graduates from around the world.

Many people who have completed MBAs find that contacts they made during their studies become invaluable contacts in the long-term. Having this network to use as a sounding board, and to turn to for advice, ideas, and referrals, as you build your career is priceless. These connections can help you to really stand out from others in your company or industry.

Getting to know graduates from across the globe exposes you to different cultures, business practices, points of view, and networks. It’s something you wouldn’t necessarily have in many other types of degrees. MBAs are very international studies, and tend to have strong alumni networks which stay close even in spite of distance.

Learning Practical Skills

Of course, completing an MBA is also certain to give you a wide variety of practical skills which you can use at work every day. For starters, communication is something that graduates really have to get good at during their studies, whether through completing team projects, individual presentations, or work placements.

Working together in teams, and getting a group of potentially strong personalities to move in the same direction, can also help you to learn helpful leadership, management, and negotiation skills for the future. Completing studies while you’re still in a full-time job also requires fantastic time-management skills.

Other transferable skills which students can graduate from an MBA with, and use throughout their career, include:

  • Creativity;
  • Problem solving;
  • Critical thinking;
  • Computer proficiency; and
  • Cross-cultural understanding.

Learn About the Bigger Business Picture

Lastly, completing MBA studies also gives you the chance to stop and think about the bigger business picture. This will help you not only in your current role, but also throughout your career.

MBA coursework typically always involves students looking at the global economy and trading markets. This gets people to think about more than their own little world where they currently work. It also makes it easier to see how events impact on both a micro and macro level in a business.

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Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #30 – Buy Social Challenge

Supply chains need to be transparent, and also more socially and environmentally sustainable. That’s why we’re challenging professionals to ‘Buy Social’.

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Buy Better, Buy Social

Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK, introduced the assembled professionals to the ‘Buy Social Challenge’. The aim of the Challenge is to grow £1 billion of spend in the UK with social enterprises.

Peter argues that procurement needs to make supply chains much more transparent, as well as more socially and environmentally sustainable. By working with social enterprises, they can both do well, and do good, at the same time.

Catch up with all the delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016? And maybe what we have planned for 2017? You can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today. Get connected with over 18,500 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

5 Hot Topics on Social Media for Procurement Professionals

Social media makes it even easier to keep you finger on the pulse. But what topics are global procurement professionals discussing right now?

Procurement colleagues around the world are increasingly embracing social media to share their views, concerns, and (most importantly) their success stories. This sharing has the positive effect of broadcasting the value our function brings to any organisation.

As you know, social media runs rings around traditional media in terms of early access to news. We have access to unadulterated commentary from diverse sources, as well as an interactive forum for discussing, rather than just reading about, the biggest issues facing our profession.

From enduring topics such as risk management to disruptive events such as Brexit, this list will give you an idea of what’s keeping CPOs and their teams chatting on Procurious and other social media platforms.

1. Brexit and what it means for procurement

It takes a truly momentous event to catch the attention of procurement professionals all over the world. Brexit was one such event. It generated so many comments, articles and questions posted on social media, that it deserves top spot on this list.

ISM CEO Tom Derry told Procurious that his organisation received hundreds of queries about Brexit’s impact in the US. This prompted them to survey their members to cut through the speculation with hard facts.

Their supplemental “Brexit Report” found that despite the hype, Brexit will have a “negligible” impact on US business decisions in the short-term, with the main concern being currency fluctuations.

We’re still seeing a high level of chatter about Brexit and its potential impacts, but thanks to ISM’s leadership in this area, resulting business decisions in the US are more likely to be based on facts, not fear.

Other political events are also taking major prominence in conversations. However, we anticipate that Brexit will continue to hold everyone’s attention for many months to come.

2. Risk – Managing the unmanageable

Risk is one of those enduring topics in procurement that will never go away – and nor should it. Questions abound on the Procurious discussion board about measuring, managing and mitigating risk, all tapping into collective knowledge and experience.

The discussion board is simply buzzing with questions and answers about risk in procurement. We’ve had members getting their questions answered across a variety of topics, including:

  • Balancing supply chain efficiency versus risk;
  • Segmenting suppliers by risk profiles;
  • Governance and risk management;
  • Travel risk management;
  • Risk and resilience;
  • Avoiding “unknown” risks; and
  • Risk-mitigation KPIs.

The disturbing frequency of disruptive events such as natural disasters, labour strikes, cyber crime and brand-damaging scandals in the supply chain keeps risk firmly in the spotlight for procurement professionals in the US and elsewhere.

3. The e-procurement debate

Choosing the right e-procurement system to support your business’ objectives and targets is a big decision. It’s for this reason that a lot of procurement professionals reach out to their colleagues online for advice on this very topic.

Discussion boards regularly feature recommendations, warnings and also (we’re sorry to say) complaints about the various options available.

Recommendations have focused on the importance of going with a cloud-based system. We’ve also seen debate on whether having multiple “best-of-breed” systems is preferable to the convenience of a single, unified solution.

Procurious members regularly share their challenges around implementation, struggling with overly-complex functionality and looking for advice on winning stakeholder buy-in.

The big systems developers are becoming increasingly aware of the discussion going on online, and are jostling for social media users’ attention to win their business.

4. Capability and training

Hard skills, soft skills, core skills, essential skills…the list goes on. Capability is another of those enduring topics that will always feature in social media discussion in our profession.

Again, the burgeoning choices around what kind of training is required, and how it will be delivered, leads many people to ask for recommendations on social media. There’s plenty of discussion around which certification provider to go with, and also a steadily rising level of interest in eLearning options for procurement.

One question that frequently crops up on Procurious is “What are the most important skills needed in Procurement?”.

This demonstrates that we’re still debating this question as a professional community, despite the training providers out there who claim they have the definitive skill-set. There’s no ‘right’ answer, of course, as capabilities will always need to be tailored to circumstance and industry. But the frequency of this discussion really highlights that the skills needed to be successful in Procurement are in a constant state of evolution.

5. Social procurement

Corporate social responsibility, and the role procurement can play in building a sustainable future, has well and truly entered the mainstream and is now a significant part of every procurement professional’s role.

Social media users are sharing articles and discussions on the many aspects of social procurement, including:

  • Environmental sustainability;
  • Slavery;
  • Diversity; and
  • The role innovation can play in creating change in this area.

Social procurement is one of those topics that tend to be driven by champions such as Alis Sindbjerg-Hemmingsen. They quickly gain a following of like-minded people on social media, and come to be known as experts in their fields.

Hemmingsen is adamant that sustainable procurement is worth fighting for. She has argued passionately that it can be achieved through greater transparency to drive change, having regulators and first-movers showing the way with best-practice collaboration, and integrating sustainable supplier innovation.

Keep your finger on the pulse

Procurement leaders are using social media to stay ahead of the game when it comes to the latest thinking and development in the profession.

Perhaps the most exciting aspects of social media – which you can’t get from reading an article in a traditional industry publication – is the ability to ask a question and receive a solution from someone halfway across the country (or the world) who has experienced and overcome the same challenge as you.

How to Hit a Target 10 Years Away – An Olympic Effort

How do you sustain your focus on a goal that’s 10 years away? One Olympic legend shares her story – how will you apply it to your career?

Australian Olympic legend Chloe Esposito trained 45 weeks a year for an incredible 10 years before the day she won gold in the Modern Pentathlon in Brazil. Chloe visited The Faculty CPO Roundtable National Meeting in Sydney to share her inspirational story with our members.

In case you missed it during the Olympic Games, here’s the incredible moment Chloe broke away from her competitors to cross the finish line in first place.

Chloe’s interview with The Faculty’s Sally Lansbury was packed full of life lessons, insights, and a strong message about persistence and resilience that can be applied to every career.

At what point of the event did you know you were going to win gold?

I only knew I was going to win after I put down the gun (in the final shooting event) and started to run for the finish line. I just bolted out of the shooting range – I didn’t know where the other competitors were, but I just focused on myself as that’s really all I could control. When I glanced back, I knew that I had it. It was such a pinch-me moment, and one that I’d trained for basically all of my life.

What exactly does the Modern Pentathlon involve?

It’s actually five events in one – fencing, swimming, show-jumping, shooting and running. They’re spaced over the day, and you start each event with a penalty depending on how you’ve performed in the previous event.

The challenge is to train across five different areas – my father (who is also my coach) and I have deliberately focused on my weakest area, fencing.

We moved to Budapest, Hungary, to concentrate on fencing. Budapest is like the boiler room of Modern Pentathlon. It’s right in the middle of Europe, with so many competitions and pentathletes there.

My favourite event would have to be horse riding. You only get 20 minutes with an unknown horse before the event, so there’s no point trying to train the horse in that time. You just spend those 20 minutes getting to know each other.

What do you think gave you your edge over the other athletes?

Putting in the extra 1 per cent. In Budapest we doubled the hours of all training. Whether it was pouring rain or snowing, I’d still train, no matter what. My family and I got to be known as the “Psycho Espositos” – our training schedule is nuts, but it gets results!

The other factor that gave me an edge is the incredibly supportive network around me. My dad, mum, brother and sister all got behind me to help me achieve a life-long dream.

How do you sustain focus on a goal that’s 10 years away?

The secret is to set up a series of short-term goals and focus entirely on those. These were smaller competitions, world cups and so on. If you try to think too far ahead, you’ll go crazy and you won’t get there.

You also need to have the flexibility to change your short-term goals as circumstances require. For example when I tore my Achilles tendon, we changed a lot of my goals to focus on recovery, mainly through spending more time in the pool.

What’s next, now that you’ve achieved such a major life goal?

Tokyo 2020! There’ll be huge pressure now that I’m a gold-medal winner, but I’m definitely going to give the Tokyo Olympics a go. In the meantime, I’m stepping into a completely new world to what I’m used to – speaking, presenting, television appearances. I’m starting to build another career for myself.

What life lessons have you learned through your Olympic journey?

I can think of five lessons that will take me right through my career:

  1. Hard work always pays off at the end of the day. When you’ve worked so hard, something good has to come out of it!
  2. The extra 1 per cent always pays off in the results.
  3. You’ll need huge determination to achieve your career goals.
  4. Don’t rush into things – the opportunity will eventually come.
  5. Give yourself some time off. I like to do something completely unrelated to training at least once a week, such as going to the beach.

Packed with value, The Faculty Roundtable gives member organisations access to cutting-edge thought leadership and commentators, a ready supply of valuable expertise through exclusive market intelligence, as well as networking and professional development opportunities for CPOs and their teams.

Please contact Sally Lansbury for more information.

Flying Warehouses & Fashion Buyouts – Amazon Dominates Headlines

No sooner had 2017 started than Amazon appeared in the news in a big way. From flying warehouses, to buyouts of fashion chains, no-one dominates the headlines quite like the online giant.

flying warehouse

Disruption. It was a buzzword of 2016, and even if the word is falling out of favour, the activity looks set to continue this year. And the company at the forefront (again) of this disruption is Amazon.

The online giant has proven time and again it’s not content to rest on it laurels. So when the company appeared across the news headlines for a variety of reasons, you might not have been surprised. However, when you consider the headlines it was making, you might think again.

Flying Warehouses – The New Reality

Many companies will consider the cost of new facilities to meet demand trends in their strategies. Amazon, however, appear to have bypassed the real estate question with their proposed flying warehouse.

The company submitted patents late in 2016 for these warehouses, which would be serviced by a fleet of drones. The purpose of the “airborne fulfilment centre” would be to visit spectator-heavy events (think music festivals, sports events) where they could sell in-demand goods.

Analytics firm, CB Insights, were responsible for finding the flying warehouse patent, originally filed in 2014.  Additional patents serve to outline other plans in line with the warehouses too. These include a fleet of shuttles to keep warehouses stocked, the creation of an interconnected network of drones, as well as docking stations for drones to allow them to be picked up by the shuttles.

A diagram from Amazon’s patent (image courtesy of South China Morning Post)

The idea might sound a touch fantastical, but there are serious potential benefits that Amazon could realise. Not only would it save Amazon money in building warehouses, but it would also save on energy costs. Drones would be able to glide down to deliveries before being picked up.

Add to this using the airships as flying billboards, and Amazon could sell advertising space above some of the world’s biggest events.

This could represent a huge step change in the retail environment, with Amazon at the forefront. And you wouldn’t bet against them making it a reality. After all, it wasn’t long ago they completed the first drone delivery – something people dismissed when the idea was first proposed.

The Fastest Fashion of All?

It’s not just logistics and warehousing that Amazon are interested in disrupting either. There are strong rumours in the USA that Amazon are set to purchase American Apparel out of bankruptcy.

The clothing retailer went into bankruptcy in November for a second time. Now, with bids submitted late last week, it is suggested that Amazon might come out victorious. The move would fall in line with Amazon’s strategy to add to it’s nascent fashion arm.

The buyout would help to protect 4,500 jobs in America, and allow them to access American Apparel’s 100 plus stores across the country. It could also give Amazon a political boost following heavy criticism of its practices from President-elect Donald Trump.

Throughout his Presidential campaign, Trump criticised Amazon (amongst others) over its tax payments and business model. However, by purchasing American Apparel and maintaining its ‘Made in America’ promise, it’s thought that it may help smooth tensions between the company and the future President.

Technology Trends

Finally, Amazon has also been making headlines in the technology world. Even without attending the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, Amazon is making its presence felt.

Not only is Amazon’s ‘Alexa‘ AI assistant gaining in popularity, it’s also the chosen system for many other companies. Prominent companies, including Ford, LG, and Lenovo have all opted for Alexa as the AI interface in some of their products.

Increasing number of products are integrating voice commands, and Amazon’s decision to release an Alexa developer kit last year appear to be paying off. The company is seen as the early mover in this space, and looks set to continue its dominance over its rivals.

Even if there is still potential for glitches in the system delivering unwelcome surprises!

Do you think Amazon will make its flying warehouses a reality? Is this the next step in retail? Let us know in the comments below.

With the new year flying past, we’ve saved you some time by searching out this week’s top headlines…

Tesla’s Gigafactory Begins Mass Production of Battery Cells

  • In partnership with Panasonic, Tesla has begun producing lithium-ion battery cells for energy storage products and the Model 3 vehicle.
  • The Gigafactory is being built in phases, with manufacturing beginning inside finished sections. It is expected to be the largest building in the world when completed.
  • The current structure is only 30 per cent complete, yet houses 4.9 million square feet of operational space.
  • Tesla anticipates cost reductions through increasing automation, process design, locating most manufacturing processes under one roof and economies of scale.  

Read more on the Tesla website

Trump “Personally Involved” in Procurement Decisions

  • An analysis of Donald Trump’s campaign promises and policies has revealed that he is unlikely to make significant changes to U.S. Defence procurement policy.
  • However, he will seek to be personally involved in the negotiation of major acquisitions.
  • The President-elect tweeted about cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet, and encouraged Boeing to compete with its F-18 Super Hornet.
  • Trump’s focus appears to be on technology that is immediately available rather than future research and development, and leans towards Airforce and Navy investment rather than Army.

Read more at Defense News 

Top Supply Chain Universities Ranked in U.S.

  • SCM World has released the results of a survey ranking the top institutions for Supply Chain courses in the U.S.
  • Practitioners were asked to list their top three institutions that are “markers of supply chain talent”,
  • The top five places went to: Michigan State University; Western Michigan University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Penn State University; and Arizona State University.
  • Connection to industry, through practical education and internships, was also flagged as an important factor in the results.

Read more at Forbes

Apple Removes New York Times from App Store

  • Apple has removed the New York Times App from its Chinese app store, in compliance with a request from the Chinese Government.
  • The Chinese Government began blocking the NYT website after a series of articles on then Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, in 2012.
  • An Apple spokesperson stated the reason for the removal was “that the app is in violation of local regulations”.
  • Both Apple and Chinese authorities declined to comment on what regulations had been violated, or if the app would reappear in the future.

Read more at the New York Times

Financial Troubles Spell Tough Times for Small Businesses

The start of 2017 looks set to be a tough period for small businesses. With increasing number of businesses being wound up, it appears the high street’s suffering is far from over.

insolvency small businesses

The past twelve months have been hard for small businesses, and it doesn’t look as though 2017 will offer much respite. Changing consumer trends, and economic and political factors, are already taking their toll on the UK’s High Street.

Over 760 businesses ceased trading in December 2016, with a further 1093 small businesses scheduled to be wound up this month. And, according to a survey of the latest insolvency notices published in The Gazette, some industries are being harder hit than others.

Small Business Suffering

Between the companies wound up in December and January, as well as those which failed in the third quarter of 2016, it brings the total number up to nearly 5,500 failed businesses.

With the official figures for the final quarter of 2016 due for publication in January 2017, cause and effect is yet to be confirmed. But it is certain that wherever a business is unable to weather restrictions in cash flow, insolvency looms.

The research was carried out on behalf of London insolvency practitioners Hudson Weir. It reveals that some industries are being hit harder when it comes to failing businesses. The study revealed that 14.5 per cent of these companies were operating in the retail and food and drink sectors.

However, it’s in the construction industry where the impact is felt most acutely. According to data collected during the second quarter of 2016, 2450 construction companies ceased trading. Next most affected was the wholesale, retail and repair of vehicles sector, with 2065 company insolvencies.

And it’s not only small businesses suffering from lower trading towards the end of 2016. Retail giant, Next, has issued a warning over trading for 2017. The company saw a drop of 3.5 per cent in the run up to Christmas, and anticipates a similarly gloomy picture for 2017.

Brexit or Cash Flow to Blame

The reasons for company insolvency can be complex, ranging from unrealistic planning through fraud and unforeseen loss of market share. But the root cause of is it frequently simple: inadequate cash flow.

Financial trouble tends to strike early in the business life cycle. Only 41.4 per cent of the UK businesses started in 2010 survived to their fifth birthday.

But how much of an impact has the Brexit vote and uncertainty had on insolvencies? Although the UK economy seems to be surviving the immediate post-referendum period, vulnerable business sectors – like construction – have experienced contraction.

Restaurants, cafes and other food outlets are heavily represented in the latest insolvency reports, too, a trend which could reflect the recent well-publicised rise in food prices. Even large companies such as catering giant Compass have been affected by the consequences of a weaker pound.

Hasib Howlader, a chartered accountant at Hudson Weir Ltd, commented on the survey results.

“Brexit is unlikely to bring good news for small businesses, and it seems now it’s just a question of how bad it’s going to be. With more than 40 per cent of small businesses struggling to survive beyond five years even in a pre-Brexit climate, it’s now more important than ever for them to be looking for warning signs that their business may be unhealthy.

“If cash flow is a problem, and you can no longer pay your bills as they fall due, the earlier you speak to an insolvency practitioner the better.”

Mitigating the Effects

Even though businesses are at the mercy of circumstance, it’s possible to mitigate the effect of uncertain situations like Brexit. Hudson Weir recommends that business owners:

  • Get to know the normal patterns in cash flow data

When a business keeps good records of its cash flow over a period of years, it’s possible to identify seasonal and other trends, and plan for them.

  • Look to the future

The logical next step after record-keeping is making a cash flow forecast. A clear-eyed view of incomings and outgoings six months to a year in advance helps manage business expectations.

  • Keep up to date with invoicing and payments

Each invoice should be accompanied by clear payment terms, and it’s well worth enforcing these. It’s also worth getting to know customer payment habits, since any unusual delays can be early indicators of financial trouble.

  • Make long payment terms the exception, not the rule

30- and 60-day terms make cash flow management more complicated.

  • Focus on managing cash flow

This is something even highly profitable business should do, as out-of-control cash flow undermines profitability and jeopardises future prospects.

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #29 – Hug a Maverick

Need a different solution to help stop maverick spend in your procurement organisation? Why not hug a maverick?

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Give Them a Hug

Stuart Brocklehurst, Chief Executive at Applegate Marketplace, argues that procurement’s importance to the organisation has never been greater. However, it still only has influence over a small proportion of the spend area it’s responsible for.

Stuart also believes that this change cannot come about by ordering changes and laying down the law. But procurement can start the process by “hugging a maverick” – engaging with people and enabling them to understand the benefits of working closely with procurement.

Catch up with all the delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016? And maybe what we have planned for 2017? You can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today. Get connected with over 18,750 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.