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How 4.0 Tech Is Cracking The COVID-19 Code: Procurement News

How to use Industry 4.0 technologies to weather the Covid-19 crisis


Industry 4.0 technologies have come into their own in helping combat COVID-19.

China confronted the virus with a futuristic mix of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robots.

Now that the epicentre has moved to the western world, leaders look to China for clues to stop the spread.

Here’s a look at how China’s use of 4.0 tech is now influencing the way America and Europe identify, treat and track the virus.

Predict

A voice of warning

Speed and accuracy of information are everything in a crisis.

The first global warning of the virus didn’t come from the World Health Organization (WHO) or the US government.

No, it came from artificial intelligence. A Canadian company named BlueDot used an algorithm to identify the possible outbreak days before WHO made its announcement.

BlueDot uses AI to analyse news reports and internet data to detect the spread of infectious diseases. The algorithm predicts where diseases will spread, based on millions of flight itineraries.  With this information proving invaluable, BlueDot is now working with countries in North America and Southeast Asia to predict virus hotspots.

Diagnose

Faster testing

There are widespread complaints of testing shortages.

On top of that, there are concerns about the long process of taking a sample, analysing it in a lab and reporting the result.

Luckily, necessity remains the mother of invention. Several companies are racing to invent easier, faster ways to test.

Researchers at UK universities are trialling a smartphone app that can give results in just 30 minutes. The app is linked to a small device that analyses a nasal or throat swab. No lab necessary.

And an invention from an American-based company can give positive results in five minutes using a device the size of a toaster.

Managing supplies

It’s no surprise that supply chains are still recovering from the shock of the pandemic.

Hospitals are experiencing a testing swab shortage, owing to supply chain disruptions from suppliers in Italy and China.

Several hospitals are making their own test swabs with the help of 3D printers. One medical provider in New York, called Northwell, is printing 3,000 swabs a day. Side-by-side test results show the 3D-printed swabs are just as reliable as the traditional swabs.

There’s also a swell of companies using 3D printing to make facemasks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Fever pitch

Authorities in China found a safer way to take temperature: augmented reality (AR) glasses.

Someone wearing the glasses can identify a person with a fever from 10 feet away.

To finish reading this article, join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. 

The article is available in the documents section once you’ve logged in. 

The World Is Running Out Of PPE. What Can We Do?

Could we have prevented the shortage through better supply chain management?


If we’ve learnt anything from the past few months, it’s that one supply chain matters more than almost all others, and that’s medical supply and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) one. Yet, it also seems to be the one that isn’t functioning half as well as it needs to be, with devastating stories emerging worldwide of doctors and nurses forced to wear bandanas for masks and rubbish bags for gowns. Many on the front line are also gravely concerned for their own welfare, and devastatingly, over 100 doctors and nurses have now died fighting the virus.

As procurement professionals, we look at these statistics, shake our heads and immediately ask ‘what could we have done better?’ But realistically, could we have prevented this? Is there anything we can do right now to change it? And what important lessons do we need to learn now that we can apply to our supply chains, forever more? 

Could we have prevented the shortage through better supply chain management? 

On the issue of preparedness, many in hospital procurement roles are facing the tough questions right now. Saskia Popescu, a US epidemiologist, recently told Vox that the issues we’re currently experiencing is something we all should have foreseen: 

‘Whenever we have done exercises for pandemic preparedness, supply chain issues were a well-documented challenge. It’s surprising that we let it get this bad.’ 

While some countries are taking drastic action to ‘catch up’ from a supply chain perspective, including in the US where Donald Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act to order companies to produce everything from ventilators to masks and hand sanitizer, many argue that it’s too little, too late – and that reactionary measures never quite work when it comes to supply chain management. 

Supply chain shortages now have life and death consequences 

Shortages of PPE equipment causes significant issues for our health systems. Hospitals around the world right now are approaching, at or over peak capacity, meaning that any nurse or doctor who gets infected is one less to treat patients who are already sick. Sick doctors and nurses have a domino effect and may threaten the ‘flattening of the curve’, which is something we all know we need to do in order for our health system to cope.

In a nutshell, sick doctors and nurses create even more fear within the health system community, and may lead others to refuse to come to work. This, in turn, creates a shortage of health staff when they are needed most. Val Griffeth, an emergency doctor who is leading the new movement #GetUsPPE, sums it up perfectly: 

‘If you have health care workers who don’t feel safe, you may very well have people who don’t come to work.’ 

‘Worse, you have people who come to work, get infected, and end up in the hospital taking up a bed and also not seeing patients that day, that week, or that month.’ 

But how did we get here? 

Many procurement professionals looking at the current issue with PPE point to the drastically increased demand we’re now experiencing as the key issue that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. But when you dig under the surface, that’s not the whole story. 

As with the virus itself, the issue began with China. As the world’s primary producer of face masks (China produces more than half of the world’s total supply), the Chinese themselves originally needed what they produced, so instead of exporting, they began to produce masks, and then hoard them. Around the world, the hoarding continued, with some countries, such as Germany, swiftly banning PPE exports. The problem, then, became one of supply and demand – as demand rose world-wide, there were already supply issues with the world’s major suppliers as they had effectively used what they would otherwise export. 

When the epidemic turned quickly into a pandemic, the demand side of the supply chain also suffered a major hit as the public soon began buying masks en-masse. Despite the fact that medical authorities have repeatedly suggested that masks aren’t needed for healthy people, they continue to be purchased in almost every country, meaning that demand is at an almost all-time high. In a situation like this, is it almost inevitable that a supply chain would fail? 

What should we do about it?

With the real life-or-death situation we as procurement professionals find ourselves in, the question now is not what we should have done but we can do.  According to Matt Stewart from RiseNow, the situation we find ourselves in isn’t inevitable. Matt believes that technology can be our ‘secret weapon’ to create the kind of supply chain agility we need to respond to events such as the coronavirus:

‘Technology integration inside your organization (and that of your trading partners), along with the ability to onboard new datasets and suppliers, can actually help you respond almost instantaneously to non-forecastable events, such as the current pandemic.’

Although this type of integration certainly sounds like supply chain nirvana, Matt also believes that a number of factors need to be in place to achieve the level of supply chain agility you’d need to respond to something as serious and sudden as we’re currently experiencing: 

‘Effective supply chain agility begins with developing one or more plans of action based on simulations to any potential supply chain threats, then determining their impact.’

‘To do this, you need an extremely high level of data integration. You also need an early warning detection program, and then, once a threat is identified, you need to retrieve a predetermined action plan, and modify it if need be.’

Also key to supply chain agility, Matt says, is the ability to increase sourcing and detect consumption-side threats: 

‘You need the ability to speed up sourcing, and quickly, which can be achieved through your technology system – but critically, your “data source of truth” must be clean, conditioned, harmonized and accessible.’ 

‘You also need to understand consumption threats, so you’ll need to understand acceptable substitutes, distribution capacities, and the ability to retask existing assets (as we’re seeing with the US at the moment).’ 

Finally, Matt says that logistics flexibility is the final key area you need if you want to respond in almost real-time to large, unexpected supply chain interruptions: 

‘Flexibility within the logistics environment is required as decisions may need to be made to change product offerings and warehouse assets and systems will need to respond to new locations to ensure that productivity stays as high as possible.’ 

Onward and upward? 

Although manufacturers worldwide are working harder than ever to resolve the current shortage of PPE equipment, it’s already proven to be a disastrous, life-or-death problem. But while we can’t change what has happened in the past, supply chain professionals have every opportunity to learn from this pandemic, and to do whatever we can to ensure we protect our supply chains – and the lives of our fellow countrymen – now and into the future. 

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.

Will Mexico Overtake China As The World’s Biggest Manufacturer?

Will Mexico soon overtake China as the world’s largest manufacturer of goods? Find out here.

With supply chains the world over now disrupted and many of us now scrambling to find a plan b, c and beyond in order to produce or procure goods, there hasn’t been much room for asking ourselves the big questions. But with life in China now quickly returning to normal, and some European countries already planning to lift restrictions, it’s time we did. If our supply chains can be broken so easily, so quickly, should we continue to trust China with almost all of our manufacturing? But if we move, where should we move? 

Many experts believe that China’s dominance is so well-established that moving elsewhere is simply infeasible. Yet others disagree, and Mexico is quickly becoming a favoured location for plan b – or potentially plan a – manufacturing for a number of reasons. Forbes even went as far as to say that Covid-19 will end up being the final curtain on China’s nearly 30 year role as the world’s leading manufacturer.

Given the monopoly China has had on our manufacturing to date, it’s sometimes hard to imagine an alternative. But many experts believe we have to, and now is the time to do just that. So when the crisis fades, will we all continue manufacturing in China as we’ve always done, or will we be forced, or will we want to, explore what a better alternative might look like?

Mexico has free trade

Ever since their manufacturing boom started nearly four decades ago, China has had various versions of near free-trade agreements with most countries. But in the US at least, that all changed when Trump became president in 2018. Trump, who had long accused China of unfair trading practices, promptly placed tariffs on more than USD $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, with the aim of encouraging Americans to buy local. China retaliated, and many US goods were also heavily taxed. 

Although the two countries are in continued negotiations and some tariffs have been removed, the US and China are far from reverting to anything close to a free-trade agreement. This, from America’s perspective at least, makes Mexico a very attractive prospect for manufacturing. Owing to the existence of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), goods manufactured in Mexico don’t attract a tariff if imported. 

But Mexico’s advantage is broader than just with the US, says Diego De La Garza, Senior Director Global Services and Delivery, Corcentric. He believes that Mexico has an advantage not just with the US, but with the world:

To finish reading this article, join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. 

The article is available in the documents section once you’ve logged in. 

Coronavirus: What You Missed

Last week’s critical covid-19 news

New technologies gaining traction in the fight against Covid-19

If our supply chains are at war with the coronavirus, then technology is our ammunition … and it’s working. Right now, we’ve got every reason to be excited about the future of technology and how it can help us better mitigate risks. Some technologies are proving particularly useful, including AI and automation, reports EPS, as well as a suite of other digital technologies.

Toilet paper, renewables and restaurant supply chains still broken

By mid-February (which feels like aeons ago), Fortune had already declared that 94% of the world’s supply chains had been disrupted. Now, we believe that number would be closer to 100%. But there’s a number of supply chains that continue to make the news for the issues they’re having, including restaurant supply chains, renewables, and perhaps unsurprisingly, toilet paper.

Can China still be trusted as the world’s factory?

With some countries already planning their transition back to ‘normal,’ whatever that might mean for the future, many supply chain professionals are wondering, is now the time to start asking ourselves the big questions? Many say it is, and something that’s come up often is whether or not we can continue to trust China as our key manufacturer. 

It’s a contentious question, and many people have heated views on it. Read all the  compelling reasons why Kobus Van Der Wath, CEO of Axis Group, Beijing, believes China’s dominance will continue unabated in our latest expose, Can China Still Be Trusted as the World’s Factory?

Coronavirus vaccine trials start mid-May

In the best possible news Easter could bring, The New York Times is reporting that Norvavax, a Maryland-based biotech company, will start human trials of a coronavirus vaccine mid-May. It’s one of two dozen companies that have announced promising vaccine programs. The solution to end this pandemic might be closer than we think.

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.

Easter Procurement – How Do They Make Yours?

They have been a staple in the Easter diet for many children (and adults too!) for decades. But just how does Cadbury make the Creme Eggs we enjoy so much?


The humble Cadbury’s Creme Egg has been an Easter staple since its launch nearly half a century ago. Global sales of the eggs are over 500 million per year, with the UK alone accounting for approximately 200 million per year (that’s around 3 each per year in the UK), with the majority of these manufactured in Birmingham, UK.

The Creme Egg brand has a value in itself of £55 million, which certainly isn’t bad for a confectionery item that’s only available between January and Easter each year.

Like them or loathe them, Easter just wouldn’t be the same without the instantly recognisable purple, red and yellow packaging (or green, blue, red and yellow if you happen to live in the USA). It’s no small feat to produce the volume of eggs to satisfy global demand, at such a specific time of year to take full advantage of the condensed sales period.

Before we delve into the supply chain and production process, some facts about this famous egg…

All Gone a Bit Egg Shaped – Fun Facts!

In fact, all Cadbury-manufactured chocolate is banned in the USA, Creme Eggs amongst them. The Hershey Company has the rights to manufacture all Cadbury chocolate in the USA and the move was to limit competition with imported items.

This is down to the recipes being altered slightly to adjust to different tastes, as well as to account for some ingredients that are banned in certain countries.

More on this below, but let’s just say that it did not go well…

Not only are the Eggs themselves shrinking thanks to ‘shrinkflation’, but in 2015 the multipacks dropped from six to five eggs. But that probably helps with the next fact…

  • They are really unhealthy (but you knew that and it doesn’t really matter anyway).

Each egg contains around the same volume of sugar as two bowls of really sugary cereal. And at around 6 teaspoons of sugar, it’s what the American Heart Association considers to be a full day’s worth of sugar.

Raw Materials

The Creme Egg that we buy and eat today has been in production since its introduction in 1963. It’s recipe has been the same since this time, using the same key ingredients. There was a brief period in 2015 when Mondelez, who currently own Cadbury, and Kraft, their parent company, changed the recipe. This involved changing the use of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate for the egg’s shell to a cheaper, cocoa-based shell.

And much like the ill-fated New Coke recipe, the outcry was much the same. After much protest the recipe was changed back, but not before the organisation had seen a loss in sales estimated at £6 million in 2015. FYI, for those of you outside the UK, don’t get a Brit started on what their feelings are on Cadbury’s chocolate in general since the firm was taken over by Schweppes and then Mondelez!

The key ingredients we’re looking at here are, of course, cocoa and, in Cadbury’s own words, “a glass and a half of milk in each bar”. The majority of the milk in the UK, over 50%, is supplied by dairy farm co-operative, Selkley Vale farmers, from Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

The cocoa is a bit more complicated and, in the past, a lot more controversial. As with most chocolate manufacturers, Cadbury sources its chocolate from countries with high volumes of cocoa production – Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, India and Brazil. Previously fully affiliated with Fairtrade, Cadbury drew criticism  of practices and its supply chain when it dropped this in 2016 in favour of a new scheme, Cocoa Life.

The scheme, which is, as of 2019 working in close partnership with Fairtrade, aims to use over $400 million to aid 200,000 cocoa farmers worldwide. Not only will this mean that more Cadbury chocolate is made from sustainably sourced cocoa, but farmers will still have benefits in line with Fairtrade goals, such as improved income, competitive pricing and tailored investment suited to their needs.

Cadbury has been able to leverage its supply chain well in recent years to provide a solid and stable foundation for its production in the UK, Canada and the USA. How do they go from that to the magic end product?

The Production

Ever wondered how Cadbury manages to get the very unhealthy, yet absolutely delicious, fondant filling into Creme Eggs? Had discussions over whether it’s an injection mould for the outer shells and then the fillings? Then wonder no more!

It’s actually quite simple really. The two halves of the shell are made separately and then filled with the fondant to create that ‘fresh egg’ look inside. The halves are then shut in a book mould to create the final product, that is then wrapped for sale. If you want to see everything in action, there’s a great video on YouTube (and below…) from Bloomberg on the full UK production process.

Probably the most bizzare thing in the whole production process, apart from the fact that there’s someone working for Cadbury whose job title is ‘Easter Shift Manager’, is that all of this happens in winter. Supply chains are year-round anyway, but production processes need to be done in such a way that the hundreds of millions of eggs are ready for shipping for the 1st of January.

There you have it – a brief history of, and the not-so-secrets behind manufacturing one of the pillars of Easter. Now, I don’t know about you, but we’re off to the shops for a few Creme Eggs before they disappear for another year…!

Leading Under Fire Is Leading With Heart

Leading with empathy in the face of adversity


When the Prime Minister of New Zealand declares the tooth fairy and Easter bunny as an essential service, it brings warmth to the otherwise repeated drudgery of Government press conferences. It brings a smile to those facing the grind of lockdown and isolation – even if only for a moment.

“You’ll be pleased to know that we do consider both the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers, but as you can imagine at this time, of course, they are going to be potentially quite busy at home with their family as well with their own bunnies.” Jacinda Ardern 6.04.2020

You can watch a short clip from the press conference here

Credit: Radio New Zealand

The way was paved long ago

Leading with warmth and heart is not a style of leadership that is learned and it does not appear overnight, you cannot pretend or try to switch it on. What was called an “Ardern effect” during her election campaign is now proven to be a signature style.  

What she was once criticised for now defines her. Ardern has an undeniable charismatic ability to relate to people. This is what cements her as a leader, when things get tough and when really crappy things happen to us, she is there to be our strength when we can’t hold ourselves.

Her response to the mosque attacks showed the world who New Zealand is. I was at a mosque in Wellington when she arrived unannounced to express her condolences. While the spontaneous songs that erupted through the crowd were captured by the media, what was not captured is what I saw. I saw her slowly approach the building taking time to look at all of the chalk drawings on the footpath that local children had made. She then took the time to embrace a Muslim woman who audibly gasped in shock that she was there right in front of her and so close – this is the same woman who stood at the gate handing out tissues to us well-wishers and providing us support while we tried to process the incomprehensible act.

While the Imans’ and Muslim leaders were being strong for us, Ardern became their strength. The strength she provided was through human connection and a hug. Warmth and heart. The cameras weren’t there and that’s what really counts. Her values are inherent to her as a person, she does not switch them on and off.

COVID-19 Ardern style

When the COVID-19 viral filled cloud looked to be approaching our shores and spreading, Arden was met with a barrage of criticism from the opposing side. Their volleys were able to land while she held off pushing us further up the alert levels, knowing that level 3 and 4 would begin to impact the economy.

As soon as NZ showed a potential case of community transmission she acted. “Go hard and go early” was her slogan and it seemed to work. We closed the border and went into lockdown.

Next, the nay-sayers said we didn’t have enough test kits and that we weren’t doing enough testing. This was only a lag due to supply issues. As of yesterday, NZ has the highest testing rates per capita in the world.

Leading with empathy in the face of adversity is perhaps the toughest gig of all. But it didn’t take long for the measures to start to make an impact and NZ was soon revered worldwide as a leader in this situation.

We aren’t just flattening the curve, we’re smashing it.

How does she do it?

She stays cool, calm and collected but she never switches off her heart. She acts when required but won’t be bullied or pressured into pulling the trigger too soon. She has a few trusted advisers and what must be an epic home base to support her.

We can all take lessons from her style and not step into a persona at work. Be yourself 100% of the time and lead with compassion. Ardern provides the perfect template of an authentic leader in action.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.

Can China Continue To Be Trusted As The World’s Factory?

After the coronavirus, can we still trust China to be the world’s leading manufacturer? Find out here.


With the coronavirus pandemic now spreading its deadly tentacles into most countries of the world, the temporary blip we all experienced when China (albeit briefly) went offline and disrupted 94% of the world’s supply chains seems a thing of the past. But is it? Many experts were asking then – just like they are now – whether the coronavirus could be the end of China as a world manufacturing hub. And the answer seems to be divided into two camps. 

Firstly, there are those that believe China’s dominance is so well-established that no other country could ever compete, or not anytime soon. They believe that although geopolitical issues and rising costs in China are a concern to some, that China is simply too good at what they do. They believe that it would be nice to have our eggs in more baskets, there is simply no other feasible basket. 

Then, there are those that believe the opposite, and specifically, those that believe it is now Mexico’s time to shine. Given its close proximity to the US and cheaper labour costs, these experts believe that Mexico is uniquely positioned to become a manufacturing hub, and more and more businesses will soon realise this. 

The Mexico vs. China question is exactly the type of debate we love having at Procurious, so we invited a number of the world’s foremost experts on the topic to have it in our latest webinar, ‘Alternate Sources of Supply: Is it Mexico’s Turn?.’ This article will explain why some experts believe China will definitely continue to be the world’s factory … and why you shouldn’t consider moving your supply elsewhere. 

History 

2020 marks the 40th year of mass manufacturing in China and in that time, China has become so proficient at what they do, that nearly 30% of the world’s goods are manufactured there. Beyond that, there isn’t much that China can’t produce, and they’ve certainly become experts in a number of niches, from electronics to textiles and steel. 

It’s for this reason that Kobus Van Der Wath, CEO of Axis Group, a global supply chain advisory group, believes that other countries simply cannot compete with China: 

‘Manufacturing in China began in the early 1980s so that has meant that the whole world has been dancing with China for three to four decades.’ 

‘It’s hard – or honestly, close to impossible – to compete when you’ve got a country that has had such a long lead time.’

Wages and conditions 

Beyond China’s long history as a global manufacturer, many experts also point to wages and working conditions as a reason that China has retained its stronghold on production. And at the time of writing, both of these reasons seem just as relevant as ever.

China is the most populous country on earth, with just over 1.28 billion people. This means that from a supply and demand perspective, China has a competitive advantage insomuch as there is a near-neverending stream of low-wage workers available for factory work. China’s history has also contributed to this – until the late 20th century, there were a lot of rural poor in China, and millions have now migrated to cities to work in China’s factory cities.

Although some people point out that wages in China have increased – and they have – they are still very cheap. As of January this year, the minimum hourly wage in China is…

To finish reading this article, join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news over an 8-week content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. 

The article is available in the documents section once you’ve logged in. 


7 Reasons Why WFH Is So Damn Difficult Right Now

WFH can be a struggle! So what can you do about it?


Even experienced WFHers are struggling. So why can’t you get anything done?

And what can you do about it?

1. TOO MUCH ANXIETY:

Stress and worry makes it harder to concentrate because you don’t have headspace for anything else.

TIPS:

  • Switch off the constant Covid-19 newsfeeds – you need a mental break or you risk having a mental breakdown.
  • Set yourself clear deadlines to achieve specific small targets in a short burst of time. So, 1 hour to finish a pitch. This will help you focus on one task at a time. Don’t look too far ahead – nobody knows when this will end. Just plan a day and or a week at a time. You cannot control the coronavirus, so focus on what you can control.
  • Every time you achieve a small goal you will boost your dopamine levels (the reward centre of your brain). So, make sure you have plenty of them in a day.
  • Combine this with regular exercise to reduce your cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

2. A LACK OF ROUTINE:

Without the daily rhythm of the commute, lunch breaks, meetings and an evening spent winding down, you might feel lost.

TIPS:

  • Ever heard that saying 90% of what we do is habit? Well, we are creatures of habit…you just need to create new ones. Get up at the same time each day, shower and dress, “go” to your workspace, plan your day – including your breaks – and you will put yourself into work mode.
  • Plan your downtime too – it will give you something to look forward to. For example, at 5pm I will switch off my computer and sit on the balcony/decking/lawn and have a nice cool drink while chatting to friends on the phone. A clear differentiation between work and rest, will enable you to ‘get away’ from work even if you are still in the same physical space.

3. FEELING ISOLATED:

If you are used to a busy office, constant interaction with colleagues and clients, demanding deadlines and a mountain of things to do, sitting at home in isolation can leave you feeling flat.

TIPS:

  • Recreate the office vibe at home. You and your colleagues can use apps like HouseParty or Microsoft Teams so you can all see each other during office hours – and get input from the team (remember to mute your voice if you don’t want everyone to hear everything going on in your home). Or Skype or WhatsApp so you can “see” people and work collaboratively.
  • Work is not just about work – for most people it’s also about socialising. Recreate Friday night drinks on HouseParty or have a virtual lunch break each day when you sit and eat or snack while chatting.
  • Also boost your network – sharing with others is key. Procurious has a great feed that you can follow either online or on twitter. The added bonus is that you will link to more people and that could lead to more opportunities or great ideas for doing things differently.

4. TOO MANY DISTRACTIONS:

While some are struggling to stay focused because their home is just too quiet, for others the opposite is true. Noisy children, several TVs all blaring at once from different rooms or flatmates/partners who want to chat all day, make it impossible to achieve anything.

TIPS:

  • Have you have spotted people conducting conference calls in their cars while still parked on the driveway?  It’s probably the only quiet place they can find during lockdown. Do the same, find a quieter space… even if it is the car/shed/basement.
  • If you can, agree a “quiet” time for you to get work done. Also, consider when you do tasks that require concentration – for example, do your report writing in the early hours or later at night.
  • Either invest in noise-cancelling headphones or listen to music on your earbuds to drown out background noise.

5. YOUR TECH IS NOT UP TO IT:

This is a difficult one to deal with – while tech stores might not be open, you can order plenty online. However, there’s probably very little you can do right now to upgrade your internet connection. This can not only be frustrating but leave you feeling that you just can’t get anything done.

TIPS:

  • Keep your work tech for work – if you are spending your day laughing at silly memes or watching funny videos, you might (inadvertently) download a virus or click on a link that gets you hacked.
  • Ask your employer – can someone send a laptop to your home? Or can you be provided with remote access to office servers?
  • Restrict your household’s use of the internet during your peak working hours – so that your internet access does not lag (or lag too much).

6. YOU DON’T SEE THE POINT:

You might not have a job next week or next month and you could fall sick and end up on a ventilator. So, completing a project or meeting a deadline might not seem worthwhile.

TIPS:

  • Focus your energy on doing something positive. Set yourself some interesting, challenging and achievable goals. Do a 75-hour coding course, build a personal website or even KonMari your house…anything that will give you a sense of achievement and purpose. It’s highly motivating, so try it.
  • If your job is under threat, online learning is a must. Many courses are free and you might have plenty of free time to complete them. Pick courses that lead to recognised qualifications – the ones in demand by employers.

7. YOU HAVEN’T GOT ENOUGH/ANY WORK:

This is almost worse than having too much work. You might find that it takes you all day to complete what you used to achieve in a few hours. Or you are forced into job creation mode – trying to come up with useful things to do from clearing out your inbox to updating your online profiles. Without a little bit of adrenalin pumping through your veins you feel like you are just plodding.

TIPS:

  • Take on a few extra commitments: Volunteer in the community – it will force you to complete your work more quickly. Or set yourself a home fitness challenge. If you are a bit of a deadline junkie, it will give you the motivation to get your work out of the way.
  • Relish this time – in a few months, you may be firefighting at work to get things up and running and might look back on this time and wonder why you were stressed about not getting enough done. Perhaps we should all learn to enjoy living at a less frantic pace.

Want to share WFH tips and tricks with other procurement & supply chain professionals around the world? Join our Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group and connect with professionals all around the world in the same position as you.

Webiquette: Webcam Woes Procurement Professionals Must Avoid

8 simple steps for improving your webiquette while working from home


Washing drying on a radiator, all that junk you thought was hidden away on top of the wardrobe and the unmade bed in the background… all within screen shot. Yes, your webcam will show it all! Not very professional, is it?

While the hashtag of webcam #covidiots is going viral online, the chances are that you too are guilty of revealing more than you realise when you hold your virtual meetings with colleagues and co-workers, clients and customers

It’s not something new (check out this BBC TV interview from a few years back which went viral).

Judging from some of the experts broadcasting live to the world during this COVID crisis, many pundits are still getting it wrong.

Is it just me, or do you too get distracted by a crazy pattern on their curtains, the peeling wallpaper, strange colour scheme or whatever else these talking heads have in the background? I love looking at their books (I’ve read that too), their DVDs (who’d have thought they were a sci-fi fan?) and critically judging their taste in home décor. Yet I should be listening to what they are saying!

It’s also incredibly irritating to hear their phone pinging constantly (presumably their friends WhatsApping them to say “I can see you on TV”).

So how do you get your screen performance right?

STEP 1: LINE QUALITY IS EVERYTHING

If you keep cutting out, nobody can hear you etc. it’s not going to work. If this is an issue, when you have important meetings switch off everything else connected to your internet router.

STEP 2: WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?

Dress for the office – it will put you in the right frame of mind to talk business.

Don’t forget basic personal hygiene too. Wash your hair, shave/make-up (which ever is appropriate) and check your top is clean (yes marks show up on webcams). You don’t have to wear a suit and tie – something suitable for dress-down Friday is fine.

STEP 3: WHAT’S IN THE BACKGROUND?

The easiest way to get round piles of washing and stacks of junk is to blur the background something that’s easy with Microsoft Teams and Skype etc.  For example, for Skype simply hover over the video button and select “Blur my background”. Or why not chose a virtual background feature during your Zoom Meeting – a forest perhaps or maybe an image of busy office? You probably don’t have a green screen at home (for that TV look) but will need uniform lighting for Zoom to detect the difference between you and your background.

Alternatively “stage” a background –  scholarly tomes and framed academic certificates (to make you appear intellectual), an electric guitar and framed vinyl album covers (to give the impression that you are a serious muso) or posters from art exhibitions and museums (who knew you were such a culture vulture?).

STEP 4: GET YOUR POSITIONING RIGHT

If you are looking down at your laptop it’s not only incredibly unflattering, you will find it harder to have a natural conversation. So put your laptop or screen up higher so you are looking straight into the camera.

Think about lighting too. A bright overhead light might cast a shadow over your face and the same applies to side lighting. Just watch the pundits on TV… often the light colour is all wrong and they appear either washed out or slightly yellow. So you might want to experiment with different light bulbs.

Also make sure you are comfortable. Constantly fidgeting is distracting. You need to be sitting up straight to appear interested and engaged in the conversation. Leaning forward to prop yourself up with your hand under your chin or looking away to constantly check your phone will just scream “I’m bored with this”. At least try to appear interested.

STEP 5: TEST IT OUT

Enlist a family member to sit in front of your screen and talk – you can then get a good idea of what you might look like. Perhaps your chair might need changing or adjusting. Or is the light from the window casting an unflattering shadow? Is your camera now so high you can only see the top of your head?

You will never know unless you try it.

STEP 6: DON’T FORGET THE MICROPHONE

People can hear more than you realise – the screaming spouse shouting at your children to “shut up”, the washing machine and of course your phone.

But you don’t have to worry about background noise if you use the mute button. Keep it on at all times – other than when you want to speak.

And to make it easier to hear every word, consider headphones. Wireless earbuds are best as you won’t have to worry about an unsightly wire.

As with your screen test, do a sound test too so you can check people can hear you and whether there is a nasty echo or your microphone is picking up too much background noise.

STEP 7: PRACTICE YOUR PERFORMANCE

Remember, when you roll your eyes, or smirk at what someone says, they can see you! The same applies when you scratch your face, pick your nose or lift up a buttock cheek to pass wind.

If you’ve been in self isolation for a while you might have forgotten how to behave in an office environment. You might need to practice your webiquette.

STEP 8: SET – OR ASK FOR – AN AGENDA

You want to reply to a point, but so does everyone else. You all end up talking over each other… and that does not make for great communication.

So, it’s best (as with any meeting) to have an agenda with a running order which is circulated before the meeting and a chair (who acts like the host of a radio phone-in).

Remember, the whole point is to be productive. That can mean limiting the number of participants or limiting the time for each question/point.

How To Lead Your Team In A Crisis: Covid-19 Procurement News

How should you lead your procurement team during a crisis? Here’s what you need to do

“The ultimate measure of a leader is not where they stand in moments of comfort, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was certainly onto something when he said that leaders are tested not in not the good times, but in the challenging times – and everyone can agree, we’re certainly experiencing the latter right now. All of us – literally every single one of us across every continent of the world – are experiencing our own unique stresses and pressures, and our leadership ability may not be our focus. But likewise, now is also the time when our teams need us most. 

So how do we lead amidst so much uncertainty? We talked to Justine Figo, People and Culture author, and Naomi Lloyd, Director Procurement and External Manufacturing Partnerships Asia Pacific at Campbell Arnotts, to get an insight into how to lead your procurement team during a crisis. 

Managing expectations

With the coronavirus situation changing weekly, if not daily, helping your team understand what’s expected of them, as well as manage the expectations of executive leadership, can be a challenge. But according to Justine and Naomi, what your team really needs from you at this time is a realistic challenge, and more clarity. 

Justine believes that leaders need to have the courage to challenge their team to be productive – but at the same time, understand that there might be significant barriers at the moment: 

‘Right now, it’s about taking stock of what is going on for everyone at the moment, and saying: “What is the best possible challenging standard I can set for myself and for my team?” 

‘Of course, you need to understand that people will be disrupted, but still have the courage to give them purpose, with compassion.’ 

Naomi believes while realistic challenges are important, what’s more important is that you realign your priorities with your team – and communicate your expectations clearly, with much more granular direction: 

Want to hear more of Naomi and Justine’s great advice? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news over an 8-week content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.