All posts by Procurious HQ

Bankruptcy Spells Supply Chain Trouble on the High Seas

Global supply chains are sailing into troubled waters again this week following the bankruptcy of a major shipping firm.

Hanjin Shipping Bankruptcy

A storm is brewing on the high seas for global supply chains thanks to the latest issue for the global shipping industry. One of the world’s largest shipping firms has filed for bankruptcy, having lost support from its national banks.

Hanjin Shipping, South Korea’s largest shipping firm cited debts totalling $5.4 billion, following a long period of financial distress. It is the largest container line bankruptcy in history.

The bankruptcy comes at a time of major strife in the global shipping industry. A combination of oversupply of ships, and an undersupply of cargo, has led to a raft of mergers, acquisitions, and cost-cutting exercises.

Seized Ships and Stranded Cargo

Hanjin currently owns and operates nearly 100 cargo vessels, as well as a further 11 ports. The ships move an estimated 25,000 cargo containers across the Pacific every day.

As a result of the bankruptcy, Hanjin has stopped accepting new cargo from customers, while the situation spells trouble for those ships already in transit to and from Asia.

Dozens of ships have been denied entry to ports in North America and Asia, including South Korea’s largest port, Busan. This is due to concerns that the company wouldn’t be able to pay fees for loading and unloading of vessels.

In China, 10 ships operated by Hanjin have been, or are expected to be seized, on behalf of creditors. This is in addition to another vessel seized in Singapore earlier last week.

The South Korean Government has stated that it will start help to prop up the company, a move that will enable it to stop ships and other assets being seized. However, it is unlikely to save the operator, with experts stating that Hanjin will struggle to recover from losing both its business and reputation.

Unhappy Holidays

The company’s bankruptcy has opened the door for other operators to pick up the slack. However, the situation stands to make life more difficult for retailers, with holiday season shipping on the horizon.

Manufacturers are being forced to look for new routes for a number of products, while on some major trans-Pacific routes, shipping costs have jumped by up to 55 per cent. There are further concerns about the potential knock-on effect further down the supply chain.

Rising transportation costs, delays, and a reliance on Hanjin as a freight carrier, could push other trucking and logistics firms out of business too.

Retail Woes Continue

All of this is set to have a major impact on US retailers in the lead up to the traditional holiday season. Retailers are anticipating a two to three-month delay on the arrival of South Korean goods being transported by Hanjin.

Concerns about the impact on the US economy has prompted The National Retail Federation to ask the US Government to intervene.

“Retailers’ main concern is that there [are] millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise that needs to be on store shelves that could be impacted by this,” said Jonathan Gold, the group’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy.

The situation is the latest in a long line of shipping-related trouble for US retailers. In early 2015, a strike by West Coast port workers saw ships similarly stranded, causing months’ worth of delays.

Whether the impact this time around will be as great remains to be seen. Should cargo be released soon, retailers may not suffer as much as expected. However, irrespective of how long the delays are, it’s sure to test the resilience of major global supply chains.

Are you impacted by the Hanjin bankruptcy? Do you have contingencies in place to mitigate the delays? Let us know in the comments below.

Away from the high seas, we’ve been hunting down the top procurement and supply chain headlines this week… 

Fire Closes Gap Distribution Centre

  • Gap Inc.’s main distribution centre in Fishkill, New York State, has been shut down after a massive fire damaged the premises.
  • All employees were safely evacuated, and investigators are working to understand the extent of the damage and cause of the fire.
  • The clothing and accessories retailer has launched contingency plans to move product through its North American network of distribution centres.
  • However, there are concerns that the disruption will create a bottleneck ahead of the upcoming holiday season.

Read more at MarketWatch

DHL Trials Augmented Reality Glasses

  • Logistics giant DHL is to roll out a UK trial of “vision picking”, following a similar trial in the Netherlands.
  • In “vision picking”, warehouse operatives are equipped with advanced smart glasses which visually display where each picked item needs to be placed on the trolley.
  • The company expects that having a hands-free augmented reality display will increase productivity, decrease error rates and improve employee satisfaction.
  • The augmented reality trial is part of DHL’s move towards “Industry 4.0”, which includes testing technologies including robotics and the Internet of Things across the supply chain.

Read more at Logistics Manager

GE Acquires Supply Chain Software Company

  • GE’s Transportation division has announced the purchase of supply chain software company, ShipXpress.
  • GE said the acquisition of the cloud-based software developer would expand its portfolio into the logistics value chain.
  • The company also sees this as a way of increasing its ability to deliver information and transaction services for railway customers around the world.
  • GE Transportation President & CEO Jamie Miller said the acquisition would “deliver the industry’s most advanced, scalable cloud-based solution to accelerate the movement of goods and information”.

Read more at Railway Gazette

SpaceX Explosion Threatens Launch Programme

  • A SpaceX rocket has exploded during a test, destroying the rocket and the satellite it was due to launch.
  • The explosion happened while the rocket was being fuelled, but that the cause of the blast is still unknown.
  • The rocket was due to carry a Facebook satellite into orbit, aimed at providing internet connection to Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
  • The explosion could delay the launch of its programme to carry American astronauts in the future.

Read more at CNN Money

How Our Consumption is Driving Global Warming

Global warming isn’t just about the cars we drive, or the industries we run. Our consumption is a much bigger driving factor that we might know.

Consumption and Global Warming

This article was originally published on Farm Machinery Locator.

When we think about global warming many of us immediately think about cars and industry ruining the planet, but does this tell the whole story?

While transportation, including travel by road, sea and air, contributes over 13 per cent of our annual CO2 emissions there is another factor, which we may not initially consider, but which has a bigger impact.

Figures highlighted by Farm Machinery Locator show that there are nearly 8.3 million cows in the UK alone. These cattle provide us with hundreds of thousands of litres of milk, and thousands of pounds of beef every day. We often assume that agriculture is natural and therefore can’t be damaging to the environment, but that assessment is wrong.

The ever-increasing amounts of farm machinery – tractors, cultivators, combine harvesters and balers – for sale and in use, only adds to the current issue of rising average temperatures across the world, due to the pollution they expel.

So, whilst being natural, the negative connotations of farming and the agricultural industry mustn’t be brushed over. We will explain the role livestock plays in global warming too, below.

Livestock’s Contribution to Global Warming

In fact, if we look at figures published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, agriculture contributes 18 per cent of the total release of greenhouse gases worldwide, a much higher figure than that for transportation.

Emissions from cattle are particularly damaging because it is not CO2 that cows are releasing, but methane. Every single cow releases between 70 and 120kg of methane per year. While this is a greenhouse gas like CO2, its detrimental impact on the planet is 23 times higher than the negative impact of CO2.

In addition, livestock cause over two-thirds of the world’s ammonia emissions, and this greatly contributes to acid rain. When you consider there are over 1.5 billion cattle worldwide the damage quickly adds up.

Livestock figures are rising because of the general increase in our level of prosperity, which brings with it a higher demand for beef and milk. It’s not only emissions from cattle however that are causing problems to the planet. Intensive farming also leads to a whole range of other environmental issues.

Land Clearance and Deforestation

Livestock now use over 30 per cent of the world’s available land. Much of this is used for grazing although there is also a substantial portion which is utilised to grow feed.

A need for all this space has been a major contributor to deforestation, and with deforestation a further release of CO2 into the atmosphere occurs. This comes about due to two main reasons.

First, as the trees are cut down, the carbon dioxide they store is released. Second, fewer trees leads to lower levels of photosynthesis, a process which would normally help to absorb carbon dioxide.

In addition, once land has been cleared, if it is then overgrazed it runs the risk of turning to desert. This has already happened on 20 per cent of pastureland.

Drought

Cows also use a substantial amount of water. Each cow requires 990 litres of water to produce just one litre of milk. As global warming continues an upward trend, water becomes ever more precious.

Furthermore many of the antibiotics and hormones used to treat cattle can end up in drinking water. This can then lead to risks to human health.

Pollution

There will always be a level of pollution produced by livestock and ultimately this will wash down to sea level. Nutrient run off causes an overgrowth of algae which consumes oxygen in the sea.

This can kill coral reefs and lead to so called ‘dead zones’. One in the Gulf of Mexico is around 6,500 square miles in area. It has predominantly been caused by US beef production waste, which is carried down to the coast by the Mississippi River.

We all need to lower our carbon footprint. And when we realise how much of an impact agriculture has on the environment, we should consider reducing the amount of meat and milk we consume.

The planet’s population is growing substantially every year. The western diet, which is meat and dairy heavy, has a widening appeal, even in countries where fruit and vegetables used to be the mainstay of meals.

If we want to become greener in all areas of our lives we should all be a little more aware of the detrimental impact our own consumption of meat and milk is having and take steps to reduce it.

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #12 – Millennial Talent Response

The Millennial generation has greater expectations in relation to job roles. Only by changing the way they engage Millennials can organisations meet these expectations.

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.

Meeting Millennial Expectations

Nic Walden, Director – Procurement P2P Advisor at The Hackett Group, talks about the greater expectations that Millennials have for job roles.

These include expectations from on working on CSR projects, and building sustainable relationships, to the technology that they will be working with.

Nic argues that procurement needs to change the way it engages with the Millennial generation in the workplace to meet these expectations.

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 16,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

Changing Times for Low-Value Procurement Processes

Old practices die hard, particularly in low-value procurement. However, an Australian start-up aims to change this.

Low-Value Procurement

The dubious, but common, practice of ‘get three quotes but still use the same suppliers’ is firmly under the spotlight. And, thanks to public scrutiny and increasing procurement governance, it might soon be gone for good.

A growing number of Australian Governmental agencies and private sector organisations are looking to make their spend more transparent. And many of these organisations are turning to a Melbourne start-up to increase their accountability.

Ending Entrenched Procurement Culture

Award-winning platform VendorPanel is revolutionising decentralised sourcing in corporate Australia, with growth in the past two years exceeding all expectations.

Launched in 2008 by James Leathem, VendorPanel has been through a number of iterations over the years. It aims to put an end to the corruption-riddled ‘three quotes and no change’ procurement approach that has become entrenched in Australian corporate culture.

The platform is used by hundreds of Australian organisations, predominantly government agencies, to increase transparency, compliance, and savings in quote and tender-based purchasing from their approved suppliers and the marketplace.

Leathem explains that low-value procurement had been largely ignored across public and private sector organisations in Australia. This represents a multi-million dollar risk for procurement professionals, with massive corporate financial leakage, and formal governance processes being allowed to fall through the cracks.

“It’s confusing and difficult for buyers. Traditional procurement systems and processes are complex. Buyers are left to navigate preferred supplier panels, approved contractor lists and the market with no real assistance. This complexity serves to make processes slow and painful, so buyers often just go with what they know,” he explains.

“Problems are compounded when staff are dealing with arrangements managed by multiple external departments or organisations, and where contract information is accessed via multiple websites, documents and intranets.”

Undetected Low-Value Procurement Expenditure

Most low-value procurement expenditure remains undetected. This is because it’s either hidden in email, or the transactional amount is too small for management to bother scrutinising.

This makes it pretty easy for an employee get away with giving low-value contracts to the same business every time, instead of a better performing, or cheaper, company.

“It’s not necessarily full-on corruption, but a ‘better-the-Devil-you-know’ approach of using familiar suppliers. Either way it can land professionals in hot water, particularly in government when it’s public money being spent,” Leathem says.

While the broader procurement industry complained about the issues that came with low-value procurement, nothing was being done to bring about change.

“There was a quiet acceptance that things were never going to change. Procurement professionals appeared resigned to the fact that a solution was impossible, because the problem was too big and messy. This was especially the case for procurement of Services.”

VendorPanel Leadership Team (L-R): COO David Bubner; CEO James Leathem; Commercial Director Matthew Clyne.
VendorPanel Leadership Team (L-R): COO David Bubner; CEO James Leathem; Commercial Director Matthew Clyne.

Procurement Match-Making

Leathem set out to disrupt the market after working with a professional services firm for corporate clients such as ANZ Bank, Fairfax Media, Macquarie and GE.

As part of his role, Leathem was involved in sourcing and engaging with supplier markets. The approach being taken was the best available to anyone at the time. It was a mostly manual approach using a series of internal databases and search processes.

“I saw an opportunity to automate the procurement match-making process by creating a honey pot that attracts the right people to you, rather than buyers always having to scour the market for what they’re after.”

Leathem started out by working with the local government sector, with the rationale that if it could work there, it could work anywhere. He secured a pilot across 155 local governments, and based on its success, VendorPanel was rolled out nationally across 550 local governments within 18 months.

The platform’s growth comes as the broader procurement industry searches for better, more efficient ways to tackle their role.

However, VendorPanel then had an unexpected challenge of showing the rest of the market that the technology was transferrable. Several years down the track this has been achieved, with hundreds of organisations now using the platform.

VendorPanel has now processed more than AUD$1.3 billion worth of sourcing from organisations’ own preferred suppliers, plus an undisclosed amount of public tenders and marketplace sourcing, making it one of the fastest growing technology companies in Australia.

Throwback Thursday – Procurement’s Greatest Ambassador?

If we’re to change the image of procurement, we need a figurehead to point to. Could Apple CEO, Tim Cook, be the ambassador the profession needs?

Tim Cook - Procurement Ambassador

One of the key goals of Procurious is to improve the image of our profession. We are the brown cardigan brigade no longer (unless it’s a snazzy, modern cardigan!). The latest generation of procurement pros are highly intelligent, motivated, and tech-savvy.

However, to help push the image change along, procurement needs a figurehead. A high profile ambassador for the profession, who highlights just how far you can go. And Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook, could be that ambassador we need.

We take a look back at an article from last year, highlighting Cook’s journey to the top.

Procurement’s Greatest Ambassador?

It’s fair to say procurement has received a bad rap over the years. We’ve been dubbed corporate policemen, paper pushers, roadblocks, as well as a raft of other unflattering names we dare not mention.

Thankfully, due to the innovation and hard graft of procurement professionals, the function is shedding this negative image and starting to become recognised as an integral part of any successful business.

Perhaps the greatest exemplar of procurement’s ascendancy to date is Apple CEO Tim Cook.

In 1998, Tim was the vice president of Corporate Materials for the Compaq computer company. The role saw him hold responsibility for the organisation’s procurement and inventory operations.

Despite having no real intentions of leaving this role, the enigmatic Steve Jobs managed to convince Cook to take on a role at Apple (pre iMac, iPod, iPad, and iPhone).

Stellar Performance

Tim’s performance at Apple was stellar, particularly from a procurement point of view. In his authorised autobiography of Steve Jobs, Walter Issacson described Cook’s methodical approach to supplier rationalisation and inventory management.

“Cook reduced the number of Apple’s key suppliers from a hundred to twenty-four, forced them to cut better deals to keep the business, convinced many to locate next to Apple’s plants, and closed ten of the company’s nineteen warehouses.

“By reducing the places where inventory could pile up, he reduced inventory. Jobs had cut inventory from two months’ worth of product down to one by early 1998. By September of that year, Cook had gotten it to six days. By the following September, it was down to an amazing two days’ worth.

“In addition, he cut the production process for making an Apple computer from four months to two. All of this not only saved money, it also allowed each new computer to have the very latest components available.”

The procurement and supply chain decisions made by Cook highlight the critical importance of procurement to Apple’s success. The strength of the company (and arguably its competitive advantage) has been in building and managing a complex network of suppliers.

The company has then successfully leveraged this network to produce ground-breaking technology products. Put simply, without the supply network, there is no product.

Recommendation From The Top

Cook’s performance in Apple’s supply chain clearly caught the attention of Steve Jobs, who gave the follow recommendation of Cook during his departure from the firm.

Jobs stated, “I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.”

The promotion of Cook to CEO shows that the board of Apple understands the critical importance of external suppliers as a source of innovation for the company. Apple clearly sees the procurement function as the conduit to successfully managing these relationships and ensuring the future success of the business.

Apple is the world’s most valuable brand. It has undergone a remarkably successful business transformation, and has produced products that have changed the way we interact with each other and the world around us.

With so much of this success being attributed to great procurement practices, could there really be a stronger endorsement for our profession?

“Tim Cook came out of procurement which is just the right background for what we needed.” – Steve Jobs

The Benefits Procurement Can Realise from RPA Adoption

Understanding the benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can help sell adoption to the rest of the business.

RPA Procurement Automation

In our first instalment, we described the fundamentals of robotic process automation (RPA), how it is typically used, and some pricing trends.

Here, we discuss some of the benefits of RPA, as well as what to think about as your organisation considers adoption.

The RPA Value Proposition

Purchase-to-pay organisations that are implementing RPA expect benefits in higher productivity and lower operating costs (Fig. 2).

RPA
Fig. 2 – Benefits Expected By Purchase-to-Pay Organisations with RPA

These improvements are realised in a number of ways, including:

1. Ability to bypass the IT department

Because RPA does not require IT development resources, and calls for a very limited technical infrastructure, businesses are able to undertake these projects by themselves.

However, a big lesson learned from early pilots is that IT needs to be involved in some capacity early in the project, even though this may bring in extra bureaucracy and potentially slow down progress.

Getting IT to sign off on performance demands, system availability, security infrastructure, etc., will pay dividends later when RPA is in production.

2. Shorter, less expensive development cycle time

The typical timeline to develop and deploy RPA is six to eight weeks, dramatically less than traditional, IT-led application integration projects. The latter’s cost to design, program, test and maintain system interfaces is significant. In some instances, it can exceed the cost of the software itself.

The ability to link systems through the user interface layer in a non-invasive way, without these costs, is core to RPA’s value proposition.

3. Labour Cost Savings

RPA vendors claim to deliver as much as 60-80 per cent in savings. Feedback from participants in interviews conducted by The Hackett Group indicated that returns are much more modest, but still significant at 20-30 per cent.

4. Increased Auditability and Consistency with Fewer Errors

Routine tasks executed by humans are prone to errors and inconsistent application of rules. Robots apply the same set of rules consistently and operate without errors.

Furthermore, all tasks executed by robots are recorded, and these execution logs are auditable.

5. Improved Scalability

Human capacity is difficult to scale in situations where demand fluctuates, leading to inefficiencies such as backlogs or overcapacity.

In contrast, robots operate at whatever speed is demanded by the work volume. Multiple robots can be deployed when demand exceeds the capacity of a single one.

However, an RPA must still work within the performance limitations of the software with which it is designed to interact.

Looking Ahead

We predict that RPA may have an impact on the number of people needed to perform mundane, repetitive tasks. Ultimately, this is a good thing, because many of these resources can be reassigned to more rewarding activities and job satisfaction will increase.

Fortunately, this shift in the profile of source-to-pay talent is consistent with the direction that procurement has been heading in for some time, moving away from transactional work, to more of a trusted advisor and partner to the business.

This will require complex problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and intellectual curiosity. There will also be a strong need for people who understand how to orchestrate a combination of automation solutions to obtain the best results.

Patrick Connaughton is the Senior Research Director, Procurement Executive Advisory Programme at the Hackett Group. He has published groundbreaking research in areas like spend analysis, contract life cycle management, supplier risk assessments and services procurement. You can contact him via email or on Procurious.

You can also learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program here.

The Truth? Businesses Still Struggle with Indirect Procurement

The procurement industry is evolving at a rapid rate. But it still has broad issues with indirect procurement and how to determine value for money.

Indirect Procurement

No matter where you are in the world, indirect spend is a notoriously difficult area for CPOs to control. Because of this, it presents huge potential for savings for companies.

Direct Procurement refers to the act of acquiring raw materials and goods for production. Indirect Procurement is the act of purchasing services or supplies required to keep the day-to-day business ticking over.

However, there’s a consistent message out there that procurement, and indirect procurement in particular, is under-appreciated by the broader organisation.

Establish Internal Targets

Celia Jordaan is the founder of Australia’s Ichiban Commercial Solutions, which helps businesses with tendering, risk management and procurement solutions.

Over two decades, Jordaan has worked in a number of different countries, locations and cultures. She has experience across procurement, supply chain, contract management, law and risk.

The procurement function often influences the company budget, but doesn’t always entirely control it, she says. The difficulty with indirect procurement or procurement for internal use, is that it’s difficult to determine value for money.

“Indirect procurement is generally seen as soft services that aren’t adding direct value to the cost of production or core business. However, it’s a service that’s vital in order to be able to effectively make the business run,” Jordaan explained.

The downfall in many cases is a clear budget. Professionals need to establish their own internal targets around value created, and qualify what they do and the value they create.

“There’s no real crystal clear way to measure the cost avoidance elements of indirect procurement. It presents a lot of complexities.

Procurement professionals need to sell their own value, and put their own processes in place that helps them demonstrate the value they can create for an organisation, Jordaan says.

Procurement Outsourcing?

David Rae, editor of Procurement Leaders, wrote in ‘Procurement Outsourcing – Managing Indirect Spend’, that change will come when CPOs get involved and influence buying behaviour across the entire organisations, and in every category.

They must also apply the same rigour to the indirect categories as they do to direct materials, he wrote.

“The research shows that, while there is still much work to be done, CPOs are tackling this area. One way of doing so is to engage an outsourcing partner, who can often bring category expertise, greater buying power and improved compliance to an organisation’s indirect spend categories.

“And, while it continues to struggle to match the likes of HR and finance in terms of uptake, there are signs that procurement outsourcing is really taking off,” he wrote in the report.

Under-Investment in Indirect Procurement

Meanwhile, a research report by Proxima explores what procurement can do to redefine how it’s perceived by the broader organisation.

The report says that a vast majority of C-suite executives feel that indirect procurement is under-invested across the UK, Europe, US and further afield.

This prompted Proxima, in conjunction with NelsonHall, to run a research study to uncover perceptions, attitudes and desired outcomes of indirect procurement. It was hoped this would catalyse the common sense that procurement could and should play a greater role in most businesses.

Responses indicated that indirect procurement in some organisations is perceived to have a role that is tactical and administrative. Some respondents advised that it can create process blocks, and can, on occasion, even be antagonistic to specialist suppliers of the business.

Five Key Challenges

The research found five key challenges for the procurement function, impacting on CPOs’ ability to effectively manage indirect expenditure.

These include, as outlined here in the report:

1. Lack of capacity

The indirect procurement team has to focus on sourcing commonly purchased and high volume goods and services, as well as transaction processing.

2. Lack of political clout

CPOs involved in the research study tended to be quite self-critical. This was particularly prevalent in areas such as their ability to introduce process improvement, and to increase the level of spend under contract.

3. Lack of mandate

The primary responsibility for most indirect procurement categories often lies within the business units. For some categories, such as travel, it may not even be clear as to who actually owns the policy.

4. Lack of awareness and low visibility of indirect procurement

Indirect procurement is often seen as less important than direct procurement in the eyes of senior executives. It is seemingly even less important at the business unit level. Many stakeholders view an indirect procurement professional’s role as the ‘rubber stamper’ at the end of the process.

5. Organisations lack the skills required for effective stakeholder management

A common perception held by CPOs and CFOs is that the indirect procurement function has to find ways of working more effectively alongside the various business units and stakeholders within each business unit.

Taxi! Have Google & Uber Been Pipped to Self-Driving Cabs?

A number of major companies are developing self-driving taxis. But have they been pipped to the post by a Singaporean start-up?

Self-driving Cars - nuTonomy

Over the past few years, a number of organisations have been in a race to develop, and launch, self-driving vehicles.

Google and Ford have both entered the market for self-driving cars, while Uber has been more active in the taxi market. It’s even rumoured that Apple are set to join the competition in 2021 with ‘Project Titan‘.

But it appears that they have all lost the race to put a car on the road to a small, US and Singapore-based start-up.

Self-Driving Taxis in Singapore

nuTonomy was founded in 2013 by two MIT researchers, Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli. It has both a US and a Singapore base of operations.

On Thursday last week, nuTonomy started a trial of its self-driving taxis in the business district in Singapore. The company is starting its test with just six cars, but hopes to double this number by the end of the year.

However, the timing of the test makes Singapore officially the first country to allow autonomous, self-driving cars on its roads.

Passengers in the business district will be able to hail the cabs using a smartphone app. In the early stages at least, nuTonomy engineers will be sitting in the vehicles, partly to monitor performance, but also to take over driving if needs be.

Significant Market Developments

The nuTonomy testing marks a significant development in the self-driving car market. Ford has made large investments in new technology companies, and increased its development team in Silicon Valley.

This is all part of the company’s ‘Ford Smart Mobility‘ plan, which aims to make Ford a leader in autonomous vehicles, particularly those for ride-sharing.

Uber have also confirmed that they will start testing of autonomous taxis in the coming months in Pittsburgh. As with nuTonomy, cars will be hired via their smartphone app, and a driver and engineer will be in the vehicle too.

However, there are questions about how much autonomy the cars will be given on the Pittsburgh streets. Experts have pointed out that there are still limitations behind Uber’s, and other companies’, vehicles, and that completely self-driving cars are still a way off.

“The reality is these cars will be closely supervised systems because it doesn’t matter if they are 80 percent self-driving or 99 percent self-driving, you will still need a human involved for the bit that is not,” says Bryant Walker Smith, an assistant professor of law and engineering at the University of South Carolina.

Significant Issues to Overcome

It raises an interesting question as to when truly driverless vehicles will be on the road, and on the market. There still appears to be a number of issues that must be overcome before this can happen.

As one article from The Register points out, no matter how advanced the technology has become, there are still glitches. While the rules of the road are common nature for many of us, it takes a lot longer to programme this into a computer.

Google’s self-driving cars are prone to be confused by traffic lights (or things that look like them), poor road markings, and glare from sunsets. Junctions, cyclists, bad drivers, and adverse weather conditions also create issues that need to be solved.

And, of course, there’s no accounting for human interactions. Tesla have recently been forced to tweak the definition of their ‘Autopilot’ software to a “driver assist function”. This comes after confusion that it was actually a self-driving function you might find in an aircraft, or science-fiction movie.

There is an argument that people want a self-driving car that doesn’t require them to have any input. But, without the technology to support this, there will be a reliance on some level of human interaction for some time yet.

Would you be happy to get into a self-driving taxi? Or buy a self-driving car? What would be holding you back from taking this journey?

In a week full of scandal in the procurement press, we’ve been scouring the headlines for the hottest topics…

Major US Retailer to Investigate Fake Cotton Claims
  • Major US stores are investigating if bedsheets and pillowcases are made from non-Egyptian cotton despite being labelled as such.
  • The investigations follow Target’s severance of ties with large textile manufacturer Welspun India.
  • Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Costco and Macy’s are all supplied by Welspun India.
  • Welspun has announced the appointment of an external auditor to audit supply systems and processes.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune

Australian Companies Embroiled in Foreign Bribery Scandals
  • Two major Australian companies have been implicated in bribery scandals relating to foreign contracts.
  • Staff from mining company, Sundance Resources, have allegedly bribed the leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo to secure approval for a major iron ore project.
  • Additionally, Snowy Mountains Engineering Company staff allegedly bribed officials to secure a $2.3 million sewerage project in Sri Lanka, and a $2.2 million power plant project in Bangladesh.
  • The list of Australian companies implicated in foreign bribery continues to grow, with recent allegations implicating Tabcorp, Leighton Holdings and BHP Billiton.

Read more at The Age

Safety fears as Mylan Hikes EpiPen Prices

  • Pharmaceutical company Mylan is under intense scrutiny after raising the price of its epinephrine delivery system, the Mylan EpiPen, from $57 to over $500 in the US.
  • Mylan acquired the EpiPen auto-injector in 2007, but has only recently raised the price after the demise of its competitor Auvi-Q.
  • The single-use EpiPen delivers approximately $1 worth of epinephrine per injection. 
  • Commentators fear patients will stop buying the EpiPen, opting instead to inject by syringe. This risks an incorrect dosage or accidental injection in a vein, which can be fatal.  

Read more at Forbes

Fire Services Told to “Collaborate” on Procurement
  • The UK Government has told fire authorities across the country that they need to collaborate more on procurement.
  • It comes after a report that many authorities are paying vastly different sums for similar items.
  • The government said in a statement it was “determined to help authorities adopt a collaborative approach”.
  • This is the first time nationwide statistics on fire authority procurement have been released.

Read more at Supply Management

Procurement Goes Cloud-Based To Mitigate Risk

Many procurement professionals aren’t taking all available routes to mitigate risk in overseas transactions. Cloud-based solutions can change this.

Mitigate Risk

A high percentage of procurement professionals aren’t doing everything in their power to mitigate risk when trading with overseas countries, according to an Australian fintech startup.

Trade with international countries can be fraught with issues, warns Hugh Young, General Manager at Octet.  And while there are tools on the market to help mitigate risk, there are plenty of major companies that continue to trade without any kind of secure platform in place.

Mitigate Risk – Know Who You’re Dealing With

Young says that, to start with, it’s critical that you know who you’re dealing with. “It’s critical that anyone dealing with China and ordering meaningful volumes actually goes and visits the supplier on their own turf, which is a lot different to meeting them at a trade show,” he says.

He also adds that nothing can replace the peace of mind that comes with actually seeing the factory you plan to do business with. This helps to get get a clear picture of their production processes, something that’s paramount to mitigating risk.

Another thing for companies to consider is the importance of maintaining the professional relationship, and visiting at least once a year. Some businesses have chosen to engage quality control agents in China, or other countries, which is also worth considering.

Fraud Risk in Exports

“The other major issue is fraud risk. Quite often Chinese exporters are SMEs and they’ll require a company to pay a large balance to be able to finance the manufacturing of the goods for you.

“But we don’t recommend agreeing if they’re asking for the balance to be paid before the shipment has left China. The risk of fraud is too high. It’s also possible for these suppliers to go out of business, taking your money with them,” warns Young.

Another common issue is the exporter deliberately uses a related company bank account, which looks almost identical to the other one. This can cause confusion for procurement, and could mean money is paid into an account that isn’t the exporter’s at all.

Businesses must also be sure to carefully check bank account details, and the names on all of the invoices they’ve been sent. At all times, individuals must check the documented supplier paper trail carefully.

Don’t Get Caught With Hands in the Cookie Jar

While some companies have created their own secure online platform to mitigate risk, many others are leaving their company exposed by not utilising one of the myriad existing secure platforms on the market.

“The world is in a cloud environment. Procurement professionals need to catch up, and implement something that’s going to protect them and their company’s reputation. Everything is shifting toward a secure platform over the coming decade.”

Young says that it’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong for those not utilising a platform.

“The procurement department only needs to get their hand caught in the cookie jar once for the mud to stick,” he says.

Connecting Customers & Suppliers

Octect GM, Hugh Young
Octect GM, Hugh Young

Meanwhile, Octet has partnered with Chinese bank Asiafactor to provide SMEs with a global payment platform. The company will now connect its customers across China to more than 10,000 suppliers around the world.

The partnership means Octet can cater to both existing domestic small to medium enterprises, as well as a range of prospective exporters throughout China.

Octet has also been working with Westpac to offer Australian businesses a platform to facilitate overseas credit card payments. The platform supports 10 foreign countries, and is the first platform of its kind for Australian banks.

Octet is a supply chain management and financing platform that enables people to manage and pay international suppliers. 

The platform is utilised by more than 1,000 Australian and New Zealand importers, spanning more than 60 countries, and facilitating over $1 billion in transactions. Suppliers include Unilever, L’Oreal, Mars, BlueScope Steel and packaging giant Visy.

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #11 – Making Agility Core

Chris Sawchuk states that procurement needs to make agility core to all of its activities in order to survive.

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.

Agility Core to Success

Chris Sawchuk, Principal and Global Procurement Advisory Practice Leader at The Hackett Group, says that procurement needs to make agility core in all of its activities.

With new events, such as disruptive innovation, happening all the time, and new organisations being created, existing organisations need to be more agile in order to cope with these challenges.

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 16,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.