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CEO of ISM on the Importance of Social Media in Procurement

Welcome back to the final instalment of our recent chat with ISM CEO, Tom Derry.

Social media is key to procurement's future

 

To wrap up our chat with Tom, we discussed the important role that social media plays in the development of the procurement and supply chains professions.

Procurious asks: At Procurious we’re passionate about how social media and connecting a global network of procurement and supply chain professionals can improve the profile of our function, promote knowledge sharing and ultimately enable people be better at their jobs. Do you see a role for social media in the development of procurement and supply chain professionals?

Tom Derry: I honestly I don’t see how anybody could plan to be an effective professional in our field without using the social media tool kit. There are lots of reasons for this. Social media is a vital part of the way we work. The opportunities for procurement and supply chain professionals in social media are huge.

Social media is critical for connecting procurement professionals. It allows people to share information in a private and confidential manner and to leverage a global knowledge base to get answers to questions you just wouldn’t get otherwise.

Being connected through social media means people can understand and monitor the risks that are present in their markets. I’ve heard stories of our members getting procurement market information off Twitter, learning about labor unrest in their overseas supply chains and fires at supplier manufacturing facilities. All of this information is available in real-time through social media.

Twitter itself is becoming such an important source of data for the procurement and supply chain function.

More and more, we need to be able to contact people and pull on extended networks to gain reliable and current information.

I believe that social networks will continue to grow in importance over the coming years, particularly as younger people, who are more familiar with social media, move into managerial roles.

I really don’t see how you could be an effective procurement or supply chain professional without fully engaging in the social media space.

I think Procurious is right where it needs to be. By connecting procurement people across the globe, you are absolutely building on the right idea at the right time and adding greatly to the function. With the exception of possibly finance, I can’t think of a more globalised profession than procurement and supply chain. I certainly can’t see how procurement and supply professionals could even consider creating a successful career, without having an active presence on social media.

Want to read more from Tom?

Bridging the procurement talent gap with ISM CEO Tom Derry
Tom Derry on Innovating from your supply base

Big Data Will Revolutionise Supply Chains – And Here’s Why…

We know what you’re thinking – “Not another article on data”! But stick with us as, like data itself, the information on it keeps evolving. And can you really ever know all there is to know about data for your business?

Big Data Will Revolutionize Supply Chains - And Here's Why...

Every individual in an organisation comes into contact with data, and is in some way responsible for that data too. We all spend a lot of time with data at home too – it helps to inform our personal purchasing decisions, from coffee to holidays.

Using Data

The main problem, from both a personal and organisational point of view, is how to use the data we have (this is, of course, after working out what data to use first). For now, we’ll just focus on organisational data that can be used to inform procurement and supply chain decisions.

Increasing connectivity, plus an abundance of devices with the ability to collect data, means that decision making and analytics can be carried out with a greater wealth of information. In procurement, this data helps inform spend analysis, identification of correlations and drivers and trends across purchasing activities.

Identification of trends helps procurement create accurate predictions and improve spend management by knowing when and where items are being used and at what rate. This can assist with assessment of requirements, standardisation of products in a catalogue and will ultimately make a positive difference to budgets.

Data Quality

Dr David Hames, Founder of Science Warehouse, believes that data will be a driver in organisations in the future, both in B2B and B2C transactions. Speaking to Procurious at the Big Ideas Summit 2015, he caveated this by highlighting a concern that many procurement professionals have – data quality and integrity.

In order to be used effectively, David states that data needs to be:

  • Cohesive
  • Comprehensive
  • Accurate and detailed
  • Subject to Quality Control from experts

It’s difficult to guarantee all of these, but unless you can be confident in the quality of your data, you can’t be confident in the value of your analytics.

Cyber Security

Data integrity is another concern for organisations. Greater connectivity has lead to concerns that individuals are organisations are more vulnerable than ever to cyber attacks.

Sony Pictures, Ashley Madison, Carphone Warehouse and the US Government – in the past 6 months all of these have been high-profile targets for cyber attacks.

A report by Quocirca this year highlighted the concerns that organisations have around data security and data protection. Only 29 per cent of the organisations surveyed marked themselves as very confident about data security (this figure dropped to 16 per cent across the retail and distribution industries), while 10 per cent they were not confident at all.

Those who were very confident showed common policies around education of employees, defined and streamlined approaches to security and highly co-ordinated approaches to both internal and external threats to security.

The Secret to Good Data

Is there a secret to good data? We’d love to say that there is an easy solution for organisations, but it’s not as straightforward as that.

Good starting points include training and educating employees, having robust processes and policies and having someone who can check the quality of the data in the systems.

And, if you’re using an integrated system for procurement and other departments (e.g. Finance; IT), make sure your data is good before you switch on, otherwise you’re going to be fighting a battle from the off. Good data in, good data out. Bad data…well, you know the rest.

Do you have a secret to good data? A success story of leveraging data in procurement and reducing costs? We’d love to hear all about it, so get in touch.

And to set you up for your water-cooler/coffee line conversations this week, here are all the key headlines in procurement and supply chain.

Coca-Cola bottlers agree three-way Europe merger

  • Three of Europe’s main bottlers of Coca-Cola products are to combine in a $27bn deal to simplify manufacturing at the world’s largest drink maker as it seeks to cut costs at a time when consumers are shifting away from its famous sodas.
  • Coca-Cola Enterprises, the US-based bottler with exclusive Coke licences in several western Europe countries, will merge with its Iberian and German counterparts in the latest consolidation of the Coca-Cola Company’s supply chain.
  • The merger comes as Coca-Cola is confronting a decline in fizzy drinks sales, especially in developed markets, which make up almost 70 per cent of the company’s overall revenues. In response, the drinks group is looking to cut costs to boost profitability. Initiatives have included reducing the size of beverage bottles, generating more profit per ounce, as customers fall out of love with excess.
  • In an internal memo to staff, James Quincey, president of Coca-Cola in Europe, said the deal would improve the company’s ability to respond more swiftly to changing consumer trends. He added that the merger would enable the bottlers to improve efficiency in its supply chain, sales and distribution.

Read more at the FT

Britain in Summer Rush of Supply Chain Contracts

  • Supply chains for two of Britain’s largest defense programs have benefited in the last few days from a rush of production contract awards by industry primes BAE Systems, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin.
  • By early August, with Parliament on its summer recess and people’s minds here turning to the beach, it’s normally a quiet time on the announcement front for defense. The last few days were different, though. Fourteen contracts from across supply chains that include equipment from Austria, Germany and the US, as well as the UK, were announced for three British programs.
  • The contracts illustrated the increasing globalization of defense supply chains and emphasized the continued willingness of the British to look overseas for equipment. It’s something the British government hopes to see reciprocated more by its allies.
  • International supply chains, and Britain’s role in them, were on British Procurement Minister Philip Dunne’s mind when he visited Washington recently and talked up Britain’s ability as an equipment supplier. “We have been actively encouraging US and other non-UK domicile primes to come into the UK to explore our supply chain,” he said in a speech July 28.

Read more at Defense News

Fast fashion propels Zara into shopping stratosphere

  • Amancio Ortega, the co-founder of Zara, is now the world’s second-richest man, putting him above Warren Buffet and just behind Bill Gates. On Wednesday his Inditex parent company, under which Zara sits, reached a valuation of €100 billion for the first time in its 30-year history.
  • Of the eight brands housed under Inditex, which was founded by Ortega and his former wife Rosalia Mera in 1985, Zara is the flagship and, as of December 2014, represented 66 per cent of total sales.
  • Zara’s in-house design team can have an item in stores within three weeks. That’s three weeks from the beginning of the design process to the time it lands on the shop floor for us to buy.
    Where most companies will lock in 100 per cent of the forthcoming season’s stock six months in advance, Zara only locks in 15 to 25 per cent that far in advance, according to tradegecko.com.
  • By the start of the season that percentage will have increased to 50 or 60 per cent, meaning the remaining 50 to 40 per cent is still up for discussion; if a new trend appears mid-season, Zara has the capacity to follow it and get its interpretation into stores, while its competitors can’t.
  • Similarly, if things aren’t selling, it has the ability to alter them or simply discontinue supply. This is aided by the fact that between 51 and 55 per cent of Zara’s clothing is manufactured in what the company describes as “proximity” markets; Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Morocco, instead of Asia.

Read more at Telegraph

Cargill to map canola oil supply chain

  • Food firm Cargill is to map the supply chain of its high oleic canola oil as part of a transparency initiative.
  • From October, the ‘Knowing Your Roots: from farm to table’ programme will take customers and consumers through the whole supply chain, from seed development and the farmers who grow the canola, through oil processing and packaging, to the food service operators and food ingredient manufacturers who use the product, and to consumers.
  • Cargill said it could provide a transparent supply chain because it is a high oleic canola oil supplier and also a seed company. “Understanding where food comes from is a priority for consumers,” said Kristine Sanschagrin, marketing manager of Cargill Specialty Seeds & Oils. “This initiative offers our customers the opportunity to tell that story.

Read more at Supply Management

Supply Chain Analytics Are ‘Looking In The Rear-View Mirror’

Is this what the future of supply chain analytics looks like?

Supply chain analytics are 'stuck in the rear-view mirror'

A new study that highlights the current and future state of supply chain analytics has confirmed that the future of supply chain analytics is visual, multi-sourced and predictive.

According to the study, the majority of today’s supply chain analytics are “looking in the rear-view mirror” when it comes to evaluating performance, but realise the potential value of adopting advanced analytics.

More than 40 per cent of respondents said they are still almost exclusively backward looking when it comes to data analysis. However, the vast majority expressed the belief that predictive analytics would bring value to users, enabling them to leverage data at the point of decision. Additionally, more than 88 per cent of respondents ranked advanced analytic capabilities as an outstanding or good opportunity for their organisation. Respondents also noted that making improvements in data and analytic capabilities was either a high priority or something they were already focused on doing.

The study revealed that while companies are realising the value and urgency of implementing advanced analytics, few feel they are where they need to be. When evaluating their own current capabilities generally, less than 10 per cent felt they had high levels of user system flexibility and empowerment, data visualisation and supply chain risk management capabilities.

“Despite early stages of maturity, companies see significant potential from improvements in data management and analysis,” said Dan Gilmore, President and Editor in Chief at SCDigest. “Not surprisingly, improved supply chain decision-making tops that list, while similarly, becoming more ‘forward-looking’ was the number one opportunity identified by respondents from improved data management and analytics.”

The Qlik-commissioned study is a result of a global survey launched by SCDigest of its readership around the subject of how companies are planning to leverage their supply chain data, including the capabilities they have in place now or intend to develop over the next few years.

Will Millennials Kill The Email?

Will Millennials kill email?

Millennials on the whole are not fans of email and the formal style it dictates – instead they prefer instant communication platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook chat, which they have grown up with. However, the challenge this poses for the workplace is whether the social behaviours and technological preferences of Millennials can be incorporated into a business to promote greater collaboration and engagement. With a number of new technologies continuously entering the market, the question is whether and how these new platforms can replace the email? And equally as important is if they should?

Just because a technology works in a social environment does not mean that it will successfully transfer over into the professional sphere. Instant, open communications may be the preferred method for Millennials, but businesses need to consider which tools are best suited to achieve their wider goals.

For some companies, this could well be email due to its established compliance, auditability and control benefits. For firms seeking more free flowing communications, social tools like Yammer and Slack may be more effective. In either case, the first step is to identify the company’s objectives and then implement a solution that meets these.

Businesses want order, not chaos

For most companies, regardless of how flat their organisational structures are, there remains some form of hierarchy that has senior managers monitoring and driving the performance of staff. Where email brings structure, the open nature of social messaging platforms often brings an element of chaos, with message threads becoming long unwieldy streams of unverified “chit chat”, making compliance and measurement very difficult.

There are many examples of SMEs and small teams of up to 50 people using instant messaging and social networks to share information successfully. This is because the small number of users makes this form of communication manageable. Larger businesses, on the other hand, are still communicating in the same way as they did in the 1990s; with email.

Consequently, two key elements of the daily work cycle remain disconnected from each other: the electronic communication between staff and the work output itself. For a typical piece of work to be produced, employees may have an email exchange before deciding upon a course of action, but then switch from email to a file-based working environment to edit a Word, PowerPoint or Excel document, before again returning to email in order to send the completed document for review. This is clearly a tedious process appreciated by few.

Millennials are used to a ‘followable’ environment with seamless, real-time information sharing in their social lives – so why would they want to email their colleagues with a link to a file every time they make a change? If this activity could be carried out directly in a collaborative environment, teams could synchronously work together, removing the version control issues and delays that leave Millennials feeling frustrated.

Communication must lead to work

Business communication is a means to an end, not an end in itself. There is a growing desire amongst business users for improved integration between day-to-day communication and the processes that are needed to get the work done. Getting the work done is the key point – not just talking, but actually producing something.

There is an expanding market of applications available for this purpose, from message aggregators like Slack to social document authoring tools like Quip or GoogleDocs. Millennials are increasingly trying to patchwork together a better, more social way of working that is not entirely dictated by email.

This patchwork quilt remains the preserve of the individual and the SME workplace, however. Even Slack’s high profile growth and media awareness has not established it as a pervasive way of communicating in the enterprise. The same was true of Yammer five years ago, despite being the self proclaimed “Enterprise Social Network”.

What needs to be asked is why these communication platforms are not taking hold in the enterprise. Are email and attachments persisting because work continues to be authored off-line? If so, we need a new way of working, addressing the root cause of off line working, to move forward.

The current situation

Quip is a simple social authoring tool, and its multi-platform, lightweight user interface is certainly easy and quick to adopt. But could an entire enterprise use it instead of Microsoft Office? No. And that is not its intention. GoogleDocs has been adopted by some enterprises, and with its Office style tool set, it offers enough familiarity for workers to perhaps abandon Office. However, workers still end up following their behaviour from before, only now using Gmail instead of Outlook to communicate around the files they have authored.

As an industry, venture-backed start-ups need to focus on taking the time for deep thinking, complex design and substantial build out, not speed to market or speed of growth. Until such a rigorous approach to enterprise software development is taken, Millennials will not be able to drive the change they desire and replace email with a form of communication and style of work that best suits their desires and abilities – at least not entirely.

Written by Tristan Rogers, CEO – Concrete.

Concrete is a global enterprise collaboration platform used by brands including Vans, J Crew, Gap, Kate Spade, Williams Sonoma and Marks & Spencer.

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‘I Look Like An Engineer’… Machismo In The Workplace

As the dust settles around the #ilooklikeanengineer outcry, a poll reveals that macho behaviour, patronising colleagues and safety fears are putting women off working in male-dominated industries.

ilooklikeanengineer

If you’ve been on social media within the last 48 hours you may have noticed #ilooklikeanengineer trending. The trending topic is the result of the sexist reaction a female engineer received after appearing in a job ad for OneLogic.

By way of a follow-up, research conducted by foul weather clothing manufacturer Stormline reveals that a ‘macho’ atmosphere is the characteristic most likely to put a woman off a job in a traditionally male orientated industry. 

The research polled over 1000 women and found that it is the work environment – not the work itself – that has the biggest influence the attractiveness of a job. Pay levels, wording on job adverts and being asked to carry out boring work were found to be less off-putting.

A poll from February 2015 identified the ten industries perceived as most ‘manly’ among UK adults.

Poll about the 'macho' workplace

A separate poll of 1019 women conducted in April 2015 measured attitudes towards jobs in those industries by asking participants to identify the most off-putting characteristic of each industry.

Genevieve Kurilec is a commercial fishing captain and runs the Chix Who Fish Facebook group and website. She believes women are a balancing presence in dangerous, macho environments. “In my experience women tend to be more safety conscious and detail oriented, which makes us an excellent asset to any crew working in a dangerous occupation.

Genevieve says: “There will always be men in society who are patronizing towards women. The camaraderie found in the majority of the commercial fishing industry far outweighs the petty few who do not recognise the capabilities of women employed in marine occupations. If you do your job, put in your time and take care of your vessel you will earn the respect of your fellow fishermen, gender notwithstanding.”

Caroline Livesey is a geotechnical design consultant and often works on engineering projects in male-dominated environments. She believes attitudes to women’s work in general create barriers to participation in the workplace, stating: “I think societal bias tends to pigeonhole women and men into specific roles. The knock on impact of this is that both genders are inclined to assume women cannot make good engineers as it is not a role that we naturally see them in.

“The downside of this is that women continue to have to break down those barriers in order to progress in this industry. On a day-to-day basis for females in civil engineering is that they have to work far harder than their male counterparts to earn respect, to progress, and to be trusted technically.”

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4 Recommendations for Achieving World-Class Procurement Performance

According to newly-published research from The Hackett Group, world-class procurement organisations are now delivering services at 17 per cent less cost than typical companies.

World class procurement findings from The Hackett Group

The research identified that procurement organisations are able to gain an upper hand thanks to their deep understanding of the needs of their business, and in-turn reacting quickly to changing requirements, driving higher overall value and greater stakeholder satisfaction.

To achieve world-class performance, The Hackett Group recommends that procurement organisations take a structured approach to improving the customer experience, focusing in four areas:

Identify stakeholders

First they should identify and understand key stakeholders, and segment their internal customers based on attributes such as importance and level of influence within the organisation. In addition to seniority, issues such as language, culture, and even personality should be taken into account.

On average procurement organisations who’ve improved stakeholder alignment report 28 per cent higher savings than those that don¹t.

Satisfaction surveys

Next, procurement organisations can develop formal customer satisfaction surveys tailored to key stakeholders, taking care to use a variety of ad-hoc and structured approaches to gain deeper insights.

The research indicated that procurement organisations viewed as a true business partner report 68 per cent higher savings than those viewed as gatekeepers, reflecting higher effectiveness at both cost reduction and cost avoidance.

Take feedback onboard

Procurement organisations should also analyse the results of customer satisfaction surveys, and ensure that stakeholders understand their feedback is being valued and utilised.

Self-service tools

Finally, procurement can improve their level of customer service by taking a holistic view, and by implementing self-service tools to answer common inquiries and provide real-time visibility into order status.

Chris Sawchuk – Global Procurement Advisory Leader, notes: “They have increased the scope of their spend influence, the savings they are able to capture, and the value delivered beyond hard-dollar savings, in part by emphasising on-demand analytics and market intelligence, and realigning their service portfolio.”

To view the research in full visit http://bit.ly/1BQOSeJ

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Bridging the Procurement Talent Gap with ISM CEO Tom Derry

Welcome back to the Second Part of our interview with the CEO of ISM, Tom Derry. In Part One Tom spoke about the changes occurring within our function and outlined the vast opportunities a career in procurement and supply chain presents.

Today we’re discussing talent, more precisely, the procurement talent gap.

How to bridge the procurement talent gap

Procurious asks: We hear a lot of talk about the procurement ‘talent gap’. ISM itself has called this out as a potential issue facing the function. As a representative industry body, do you feel that your organisation has a role to play in closing this gap?

Tom: Within the United States we’re witnessing a demographic shift. A huge number of people will be retiring within the next ten years. By 2025, the so-called millennial generation, people born from 1980 onwards, will constitute three quarters of the global work force. So clearly, there is a lot of knowledge that is about to leave the workforce. We need to ensure that knowledge is transferred across to the younger generation.

Also, the rate at which technologies and the markets move now, means we need to be constantly up-skilling just to stay up to speed.

The skills issue real, it’s a challenge that most companies are aware of.

ISM wants to be the facilitator that addresses this skills gap and allows procurement and supply chain teams to succeed well into the future. We’ve recently developed a model that enables us to effectively do this; it’s called the Mastery Model.

The Mastery Model provides a strategic approach that allows procurement and supply chain teams to deepen their expertise. The model is designed to drive organisational success through increasing staff capability.

Whether you are early in your career, just entering in the field, or a highly skilled supply chain professional, the Mastery Model can be used to make sure you continue to build up your experience and expertise.

The model defines 16 major competencies and 69 sub-competencies, tailored to four different career levels: essentials, experienced, leadership and executive. Users complete a self-assessment process; this is linked to their own personal aspirations. The Mastery Model then maps out a competency based learning and development program that will enable the user to develop the skills required for their desired role.

The Mastery Model takes the mystery out of understanding the steps you need to make the next jump in your career. 

Procurious: It sounds like a great way to open up a conversation between an employee and a manager around personal development planning.

Tom: Absolutely, staff members can determine the sort of role or position they are after, fill out the self assessment section and be provided with a run down of the areas they need to develop in order to be effective in their desired role. This can lead to very constructive conversation between employees and their managers.

I have to point it out that the tool is multidirectional. We’ve had employees approach managers after having completed the assessment. Managers too, have used the Mastery Model as means to set a development path for their staff and we’ve also seen managers and employees sitting down together to work through the assessment to create a personal development plan.

Procurious: Can you give us some insight and background into how the Mastery Model was developed?

Tom: As an organisation, ISM has been certifying competency for a great number of years. Over this time, we’ve developed an amazing database detailing the evolution of peoples skills within a procurement and supply chain context. It’s at the core of what we do as an organisation.

Now what we’ve done, is build upon that knowledge base to develop a tool that can be actively put into practice in the supply chain and procurement community. An advisory committee that was comprised of procurement professional, practioners and internal staff here at ISM developed the tool. Working together with these great professionals, we’ve been able to develop a model that strategically maps and matches training materials to your career experience and aspirations.

Procurious: What sort of time commitment does an assessment on the ISM Mastery Model require?

Tom: Well, that really depends on individual company, but it’s not a long process. In one thirty-minute session most people would be be able to complete it. What we encourage, is for people to do it in stages; complete your own sections then take it to your manager and get their input and review.

At a conference back in June, I had three young professionals to come up in front of the audience I was addressing. I asked them specifically about their career goals “where are you headed?” I asked. As the conversation flowed, we did their assessments live on the website, we drove down into specific competencies and consulted their levels of experience in certain areas. At the end of the process, a series of resources popped up that showed them what they needed to do to get to where they wanted to go in their careers.

After that, they were in a position to go back to their bosses and say “here are some areas I can work on to get better at my job”. I think that’s pretty powerful.

Procurious: The Mastery Model sounds like a fantastic tool. How can people out there access it.

Tom: It’s simple, just go to the ISM website. If you’ve already got an account with us, just log in and away you go. If you don’t have an account yet, you can get one right there on the spot.

Stay tuned for part three of Tom Derry’s chat with Procurious where Tom will talk us through the importance of social media in the procurement and supply chain space.

If you would like more information on ISM’s Mastery Model you can find it here.

Does Artificial Intelligence Have A Place In Procurement?

With the recent innovations in artificial intelligence, will the supply chains of tomorrow be at the mercy of robotic overlords? If so, do we have anything to fear?

Does artificial intelligence have a place in the supply chains of the future?

There’s a change happening on factory floors the world over, as robots and automation increasingly replace the manual (human) workforce of old. We’ll dip into the possible effects artificial intelligence (AI) could have on production and procurement practices as we go along, but first, a bit of scaremongering… Elon Musk has previously aired his own warnings while giving a talk to students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), saying:

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful… I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.”

Of course it’s perfectly natural to fear change. We must also be mindful that artificial intelligence is still very much evolving, and at this stage it’s an unknown quantity. There are some camps that fear the worst, that AI represents the destruction of mankind, with robots and humans embroiled in a bitter battle for survival. Flesh vs. circuits, the human condition vs. sentience…

Not so according to Mustafa Suleyman – Head of Applied AI at Google DeepMind, who instead believes that this modern intelligence will help tackle some of the biggest problems facing the world today (think access to clean water, financial inequality and stock market risks). Indeed, the work of DeepMind was something Wired Editor David Rowan touched on at Procurement Leaders’ London gathering earlier this year.

David told us how DeepMind had created a “generalised artificial intelligence” – the earliest example of which was able to not only play Space Invaders, but master it to become the best player in the world. While this demonstration is certainly impressive, how can it translate to real-world scenarios?

The answer lies in Big Data as DeepMind observed: “We have global information overload from overwhelming systems complexity – they’re so complex and interlinked it’s possible that the US financial crash in 2008-9 caused the Egyptian revolution” [a time of widespread corruption and a stagnant economy that led to a national bread shortage].

If all of this (Big) Data is just sitting around, waiting for consumption, then why shouldn’t we make it available to robots for analysis and dissemination?

Indeed, the significance of Big Data has not gone unnoticed by procurement’s leading lights…

A 2010 paper entitled ‘Artificial intelligence in supply chain management: theory and applications’  reviewed the past record of success in AI applications to SCM and identifies the most fruitful areas of SCM in which to apply AI.

Similarly in an incredibly-thoughtful piece, Author of Supply Chain Visability.com -Jonah Saint McIntire, observed: “In time, as new generations of the AI are deployed, something truly game changing will occur. This is because machine learning will cross human learning capabilities fairly slowly. Remember that intelligence is modular and, as a result, machines may exceed humans in some forms of learning while lagging in others. The real breakthrough occurs when all necessary forms of learning are dominated by AI rather than human intelligence.”

He goes on to make a bold claim : “Our ability to manage data to the advantage of our supply chain and company will become a significant, perhaps even singularly important, part of supply chain visibility. It’s within the context of a mounting tsunami of data and the need for data-management that we must expect increasingly “intelligent” software to be deployed. The main users of supply chain visibility will probably switch from people to computer programs.”

This ‘bold claim’ was supported in an article written by Lora Cecere, founder of Supply Chain Insights – in which she said:

“Today’s supply chains are more complex than before. While the structured data and the systems that use them will not go away, new forms of data offer new opportunities for companies to solve previously unanswered problems. These new data types—from mapping and GPS sensors, to voice, images and video—do not fit into traditional applications or data models. That’s the bad news. The good news, as we learned in a survey of 53 IT and supply chain managers, is that companies are beginning to recognize that they have a problem and that they need to respond. While there is a general lack of understanding of big data terms and technologies, there is an awareness that supply chain best practices are moving from insights into supplies to leveraging insights into demand.”

If AI can help us realise that we have a problem, why then should we be fearful of this new technological dawn?

John McAfee – infamous programmer and creator of the world’s first antivirus software,  has long insisted “that if you are a ‘routine cognitive worker’ following instructions or doing a structured mental task,” then it is your job that’s most at risk from the inevitable rise of the machines… How does this make you feel? As ever we’re keen to hear your thoughts, so fire away in the comments below.

Meanwhile here are the other stories you need to be reading in procurement and supply chain this week.

Fears over state of Chinese economy increase supply chain risk

  • Concerns over the financial health of Chinese businesses have pushed supply chain risk up for the third consecutive quarter, according to the latest CIPS Risk Index.
  • Worries a speculative equity bubble is about to burst, and that state lenders have been supporting employment by lending to struggling businesses, meant the index rose to a figure of 80.1 in the second quarter of 2015. This compares with a reading of 78.7 for the first three months of the year, and the highest since the end of 2013.
  • Andrew Williamson, global leader and leading economist at Dun & Bradstreet which co-produces the index, said: “We became increasingly concerned in April that corporate finances in those industries that clearly have excess capacity were becoming increasingly distressed. Local governments have been propping up employment by pressuring banks, further exacerbating legacy financial misallocations in the country.
  • CIPS economist John Glen said: “The increasing trend in global risk that was observed towards the end of 2014 and predicted to increase in the early part of 2015 has materialised.

Read more at Supply Management
UK companies to produce anti-slavery supply chain reports, says UK PM

  • Companies with turnover of more than £36 million will have to publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement, under a clause in the Modern Slavery Act that comes into force from October. 31 Jul 2015. The measure will cover all businesses who do business in the UK and have supply chains elsewhere in the world, UK prime minister David Cameron said.
  • The statement must describe the steps taken to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of a company’s supply chains or their own business – or state that they have taken no steps on this. Speaking in Vietnam, Cameron said that the “scourge of modern slavery has no place in today’s society and I am proud of all that Britain is doing to wipe it out … But there is still much more to do”.

  • The planned disclosure measure “is one of the first of its kind in the world and it will be a huge step forward, introducing greater accountability on business for the condition of their supply chains,” Cameron said.

Read more at Out-Law.com

Supply Chain Risk: Five Worst Offending Countries For Human Rights Violations

  • Awareness of supply chain risk has been steadily growing among publicly listed companies all over the world. Today’s news is not reassuring: the risk of organizations breaching international human rights regulations has risen significantly over the last quarter as key Asian economies adapt to tougher economic conditions, according to a report just out.
  • Rising labor costs in China have led companies to diversify their supply-chains into other high-risk countries such as Vietnam, especially for electronics, apparel, and footwear says the British Standards Institution (BSI). Its latest Risk Index Report out today identifies China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Myanmar as the five highest risk countries for human rights violations.
  • These countries account for 48 per cent of global apparel production, 53 per cent of global apparel exports and 26 per cent of global electronics exports – making it very clear which are the industry sectors most likely to be at risk. The latest report also warns that efforts by Asian governments to boost their economies are resulting in a greater prevalence of child labor abuses to become more present in supply chains.

Read more at Forbes

Barclays Africa launches supply chain challenge

  • Barclays Africa Group Ltd (Barclays Africa) has launched the Barclays Africa Supply Chain Challenge, the first of several initiatives being driven into Africa with the aims of sparking ideas to drive the digital evolution on the continent.
  • According to Stephen van Coller, Chief Executive of Corporate and Investment Banking at Barclays Africa, the Challenge is about improving supply chain transparency for African businesses. “The journey of a product from manufacturer to consumer is often disjointed and inefficient and there is currently a huge amount of interest in finding ways to increase the transparency of provenance, not least of which is the use of blockchain technology,” commented van Coller.
  • The Barclays Africa Supply Chain Challenge is open to entrepreneurs and developers, between the ages of 18 and 35, who are based in Africa.