Category Archives: In The Press

New report raises alarm of modern slavery in supply chains

Tackling slavery in supply chains

The latest Risk Index Report from BSI identifies China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Myanmar as the five highest risk countries for human rights violations.

The report highlights the significant rise in organisations breaching international human rights regulations over the last quarter as key Asian economies adapt to tougher economic conditions.

Rising labour costs in China have led companies to diversify their supply chains into other high-risk countries that now account for 48 per cent of global apparel production, 53 per cent of global apparel exports, and 26 per cent of global electronics exports.

The latest BSI Risk Index report warns that efforts by Asian governments to boost their economies are having the unintended consequence of allowing child labour abuses to become more present in supply chains. Also highlighted were proposed changes to labour laws that may incentivise firms to restructure as “family enterprises”, making it easier to employ under-age workers in a country where 4.4 million children are already put to work. Two thirds of child workers are found in agriculture (69.5 per cent), and 17.5 per cent in industries such as garment manufacturing.

The Quarterly BSI Risk Index is based on intelligence from BSI’s Supply Chain Risk Exposure Evaluation Network (SCREEN) tool. The tool identifies major CSR concerns, such as brand protection risks and changes to global regulation including the US legislation aimed at eliminating forced child labour, EU draft conflict minerals law, and the UK’s Modern Slavery Act.  All of which relate directly to complex supply chains worldwide and can subject an organisation to prosecution if their suppliers exploit human rights.

Those companies found in breach (legal repercussions notwithstanding), will also have to worry about brand reputation and the compromise of consumer trust. The latest generation of consumers, millennials, are focused on buying from ethical and responsible businesses, thus highlighting the increased importance for organisations to adopt a supply chain risk management program and implement risk-based sourcing strategies.

Modern incidents of slavery

 

Likewise the ability to ascertain country-level threats provides the needed intelligence to filter risk to underpin a socially compliant and responsible supply chain. On this very subject Mike Bailey, EMEA Director of Professional Services, BSI commented: “Some organisations underestimate the damage that can be caused by not adopting and enforcing ethical practices across their supply chain. Command and control from the centre means nothing if it is not rigorously monitored and enforced. For too long, extended supply chains have obscured ethically questionable practices, tools such as SCREEN highlight country level corporate social responsibility risks helping increase visibility and awareness, and enforce a responsible and ethical supply chain.”

Mike continued: “Organisations can no longer turn a blind eye to the actions of their suppliers. The laws we are seeing today may only apply to larger firms, but they set a benchmark for the industry and smaller organizations will be forced to comply to work with the larger companies, by default. Products assembled or services provided by child labour or depending on minerals from conflict zones have no place in the modern world.”

Premium payments are empowering cocoa farmers in Brazil

Under the Cargill Cocoa Promise, the livelihoods of cocoa farmers are being improved.

Empowering Brazil's cocoa farmers

In 2014 a total of $19 million was paid to farmers in Cote d’Ivoire, Brazil, Cameroon, Ghana and Indonesia, bringing the total to $44 million paid to date under the Cargill Cocoa Promise. The premiums, which are achieved by farmers for selling their UTZ, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade certified cocoa beans, are funded by confectionery and food manufacturers and retailers and are positively supporting the ongoing development of a sustainable cocoa supply chain.

Premium payments for certified sustainable cocoa are not only helping with meeting the growing demand for sustainably sourced cocoa and chocolate, but continuing to make a significant contribution to improving the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their communities.

“Premium payments and cocoa certification remain a valuable catalyst in making progress toward a sustainable cocoa supply chain,” said Taco Terheijden, Director Cocoa Sustainability at Cargill – a provider of food, agriculture, financial and industrial products.

“We are proud to be part of this process and to see the positive developments in the sector. Not only are cocoa farmers and their communities benefitting from higher incomes and better health and education, at the same time manufacturers, retailers and consumers can be confident about where their cocoa is coming from and how it is being produced.”

The premium payments are made to certified farmer cooperatives with 50 per cent going directly to individual farmer members, and the remainder being invested in projects by the farmer organisation to boost productivity, farm development and benefit the community. The premiums are an incentive to adopt good agricultural practices and directly support improvements to make a positive difference to local communities.

Demonstrable progress can be observed  in Cote d’Ivoire, where a first of its kind public-private partnership between the Conseil du Cafe-Cacoa, Cargill and CARE has enabled 14 farmer cooperatives to use their premium payments to access additional funding.  With this they have built 11 new schools and three new health centres – teaching over 1650 children and providing access to healthcare for 25000 people.

Supply chain and procurement SMEs must act to future-proof pensions

If you’re doing business in the UK, you might want to heed this new warning issued by Lighthouse Group…

SMEs must act now to secure pensions

Supply chain and procurement SMEs must act fast to untangle payroll data to meet pensions auto-enrolment.

Many of the country’s 1.8 million small employers  approaching their pensions auto-enrolment staging dates are in danger of missing deadlines by underestimating the amount of data needed to complete the process.

According to the financial advisors, tens of thousands of supply chain and procurement SMEs and micro employers are now starting to grapple with the complexities of employer pension schemes for the first time. The Pensions Regulator recently stated that only 29 per cent of those staging in 2016 were fully aware of their date and only 46 per cent of those staging in 2017 were aware of their responsibilities.

Pensions expert Roger Sanders, OBE, cautions business owners to familiarise themselves with the requirements and assess their business as soon as possible, even if their staging date is two years away: “Employers’ auto-enrolment duties go far beyond setting up a pension scheme and enrolling staff in it,” he said. “They must assess their workforce, work out who to enrol and decide how much they and their employees will contribute. They also need to keep records of all this information, together with any changes, all of which represents a significant amount of work for smaller employers.

Roger continues: “However, we are finding many businesses in supply chain and procurement lack the accurate, up-to-date information on employees vital to completing enrolment smoothly. Firms that leave their enrolment preparation too late will be in for a shock when they discover years of payroll and employee data needs to be sorted before they can properly begin.”

Lighthouse advises that employers who use a payroll bureau should ask whether their systems and software are geared up to deal with auto-enrolment, assessing if they can extract needed information easily, in a suitable format, and on a regular basis.

A payroll bureau generally holds information such as an employee’s full name, their salary or wages and National Insurance number, but may not have the employee’s address and other contact details such as email, which is often held by the employer. However, under auto-enrolment all this information needs to be brought together each time an employee is paid, whether monthly, fortnightly or weekly.

SMEs should begin the process at least six months before their staging date, starting with checking what data their payroll function holds and how to export it, as well as what information is missing and must be tracked down. At three months before the staging date, businesses must have a process to collate all the information needed in a suitable format and on a timely basis. Data must be in a standardised format and should cover all employees, even if they will not be enrolled automatically.

‘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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Logistics, Pricing Wars and a Lack of Innovation…

The Logistics industry is lagging far behind in both innovation and price innovation a new report has said.

Price wars in the logistics industry

Simon-Kucher & Partners – a global strategy consulting firm, has published its latest Global Pricing Study. In it, it found that logistics firms succeed with only 40 per cent of their planned price increases. And almost 80 per cent of the companies are experiencing higher price pressure compared to last year. Logistics providers say these poor results are due to fierce competition and the fact that customers have more negotiating power now. As a result, the percentage of logistics companies that only compete on price is twice as high as in other industries.

Dr. Philipp Biermann – Partner, Simon-Kucher laments  that blame is quickly placed on the competitors, although the inability to raise prices is generally self-inflicted: “Logistics firms often lack confidence and negotiation tactics. They are frequently at the mercy of their customers’ professional purchasing departments. Recognising the value of your services, developing a negotiation strategy and turning this into an implementable price – logistics managers must get this into their heads!”

The price isn’t right

Kornelia Reifenberg – Senior Director, Simon-Kucher, comments that the combination of external pressure and low confidence in their own performance has caused almost two-thirds of the respondents to suffer from price wars: “The phenomenon that companies make concessions to their customers in the heat of the moment that they actually cannot justify is very widespread in the logistics industry. In the process, they often don’t see the signals that their dumping prices give to the competition. They don’t grasp that these ‘isolated cases’ ultimately have a negative impact on the market price level.” 

Top of the flops

The study also provides some colour when it comes to charting the success of new products and services. Stating that only 18 per cent of all new products achieve their profit targets, which is the lowest rate that has ever been recorded (considering that in all industries, it’s 28 per cent). And 35 per cent of logistics companies haven’t even been able to reach the anticipated profit targets for any of their new products (compared to the overall percentage of 24 per cent), although these new products and services could well be used to shift the focus of negotiations away from the price and towards value, Reifenberg says.

The results contained in the study were based on responses from approximately 1,600 managers (of which C-levels made up 39 per cent), from over 40 countries across Asia-Pacific, the Americas and Europe.

Unilever China and Alibaba are building something big together…

Unilever China and Alibaba hope to innovate in Big Data, cross border e-commerce and supply chain management.

Alibaba and Unilever China work together

We’ve been watching Alibaba with increased fascination during the last twelve months: Rakuten, Alibaba and Amazon: the battle of the electronic storefront, and Sourcing things differently: the world of alternative storefronts.  

Unilever China and Alibaba Group recently signed a Strategic Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Under this the two companies will make a joint effort to build the biggest online and offline platform for sales, branding, cross-border ecommerce and innovation.

The partnership provides Alibaba with the opportunity to develop a full channel, whole field group corporation with a FMCG company

Marijn Van Tiggelen, Unilever North Asia President, on the announcement: “Alibaba is the leading internet company in China, with the most innovative thinking. It’s not only an online store, but also a solution platform for online payment, e-finance, and e-commerce logistics. In cooperation with Alibaba, Unilever can provide more convenient services to consumers in China.”

“We are very pleased to amplify our partnership with an industry leader such as Unilever,” said Daniel Zhang, Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group. “We look forward to building on our success in sales over the years and taking the collaboration to the next level. Moving forward, Alibaba Group and Unilever will jointly innovate in Big Data analytics application, cross-border e-commerce, and supply chain management. In this rapidly changing business landscape, we are committed to continually provide greater value to merchants and better experiences to shoppers.”

In the years that follow it is hoped progress will be made in the areas outlined below:

  • An improved and expanded distribution channel, which will in-turn provide consumers in rural areas with more convenient access to Unilever products.
  • Unilever and Alibaba will further develop the cross-border ecommerce business.
  • The two companies will further develop the application of big data, with which Unilever China can optimise the online advertising strategy and drive online to offline sales.
  • During a trial period special QR codes developed by Alibaba will be put on the packages of Unilever products. This will help consumers easily identify counterfeit products with its mobile app and provide a safer shopping experience.

5 Recommendations To Get The Haulage Industry Back On Track

Shortage Of Drivers Puts Transportation Industry At Risk.

5 recommendations to get the haulage industry back on track

Comensura has revealed to Procurious that the UK transportation industry could become gridlocked due to a growing driver shortage.

Newly-published research claims that a shortage of UK driving staff could bring £74bn transportation industry to a standstill.

Half of specialist driver recruiters cite a low candidate availability, coupled with the rising demand that creates a staffing gap in the sector. Around half of recruiters claim that the time it takes to fill a driving role has increased by over a week compared to 12 months ago, suggesting that the increasing lack of candidate availability is consuming more time for the sector and reducing efficiency.

The situation is being compounded by an ageing workforce (the average age for an LGV driver stands at 53) and the high costs (£2000) facing young candidates applying for their Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC).

Over half of recruiters also say that it is a challenge finding drivers able to do manual work: another factor that dissuades young people to enter the profession, in addition to uncomfortable working conditions, such as lack of lavatory facilities, and the lifestyle impacts of long and difficult shifts.

Commenting on the findings, Jon Milton, Business Development Director at Comensura, said: “The entire logistics industry is worth more than £74 billion to the UK economy and employs around 2.2 million people in over 196,000 companies, so it’s playing a big part in helping our economy recover. It seems vital that the sector attracts more young people and equips them with the skills to become competent professional drivers so that it isn’t held back in the future by a lack of skilled workers.

Comensura has therefore set out five recommendations that it believes will better help businesses narrow the gap between the supply of drivers and demand:

  1. Find a balanced pay rate: Establish what the average pay rate is for drivers and try to match it for your staff. But equally, determine how much you can afford to pay them. By finding a balance between the two, you can attract candidates while not paying them over the odds. 
  2. Look at the long-term: Forecast your needs over the next 12 months, taking into account workers’ holidays and times when demand is high. 
  3. Consider the company’s wider picture: Ensure that you have realistic expectations of your drivers and don’t promise your clients anything that the driving staff can’t deliver. 
  4. Contact recruitment agencies promptly: Procure the candidates you need as early as possible to maintain a constant flow of staff. 
  5. Look within the organisation: Instead of looking externally for candidates, see if there is anyone internal to fill the vacant roles. Carry out in-house training to make individuals who already work for you suitable, which you may be able to do by gaining support funding.

Spotlight on Logistics and Transportation – The Unseen Supply Chain

Logistics and transportation services can sometimes be overlooked in the supply chain and seen as something that ‘just happens’. However the reality is that they play a vital role in the successful working of all businesses.

Logistics and transportation news

A greater focus from organisations can be critical for ensuring continuity of supply and saving time and money from disruption. However, organisations also have to contend with outside influences, as these news stories indicate.

Channel Disruption Headaches

Logistics organisations in both the UK and France are counting the increasing cost of Operation Stack after another weekend of disruption. Although cross-Channel services returned to normal yesterday, some lorries were forced to wait up to two and a half hours to cross the Channel on Saturday.

A combination of migrant activity and industrial action in Calais was to blame for the delays this weekend, making it a total of 21 days in the past 3 months that Operation stack has had to be enacted. And logistics companies are beginning to feel the pinch, with costs estimated at £750,000 per day.

James Hookham, Deputy Chief Executive of the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said, “Given the value of goods lost and the subsequent cost to business, these figures show that Operation Stack is not just an issue for Kent and the south east of England but a serious national strategic problem.”

The knock-on effect of disruption to the UK economy for tourism, holidaymakers and businesses in Kent is estimated at approximately £250m per day. In order to try to mitigate further disruptions, a multi-agency meeting was held last week to discuss the issue and make recommendations to the UK Government.

US Port Report

From disruption European ports to a report on disruptions at major US ports. Earlier in the year, Procurious reported on the strikes at ports on the West Coast of America, which forced the shutdown of 29 ports and caused a flotilla of vessels to be anchored off the Californian coast.

Now, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has released a report on the future of all American ports. The report outlines the requirement for investment in the port system to ensure an “efficient and reliable international ocean transportation system and the relevant supply chain”.

With US ports becoming busier and hubs for movement of increasing volumes of international freight, the report offers an overview of the causes of potential issues, as well as solutions that could be implemented.

It is hoped that the measures will help to ease congestion and get the ports operating as smoothly as possible. Download the full report here.

Concerns over New Transportation Bill

Still in the USA and there are increasing concerns over proposed changes to the trucking industry outlined as part of a new transportation bill from the US Senate.

Amongst the proposed changes are a lower age limit for interstate drivers (from 21 to 18) and a measure preventing the public from seeing federal safety rankings for trucking companies. This comes at a time when an investigation by FOX News has shown that one company, Davis Transfer, has had vehicles involved in three fatal accidents since 2014.

There are concerns that these proposed measures would adversely impact health and safety in the trucking industry with potentially more relaxed monitoring of driver logs.

Mazda and CEVA Partnership

Finally to Australia, where Mazda Australia has awarded two new contracts to CEVA Logistics, making them their sole national provider of transportation services.

CEVA, one of the world’s leading supply chain organisations, already hold contracts for transportation to dealerships from docks and storage and processing of vehicles in New South Wales and Queensland, will add the states of Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia to their books.

Casey Fisher, MD of CEVA in Australia and New Zealand, said her organisation was delighted with the growing relationship, seeing it as “confirmation that our past performance and future plans are meeting their needs.”

Have you got any logistics or transportation headlines we have missed? Tell us about your success stories by getting involved on the Procurious website.

To round off, here are some of the other major headlines in the procurement and supply chain profession this week.

UPS said to be in talks to buy Coyote Logistics for $1.8 billion

  • United Parcel Service Inc. is in talks to buy Coyote Logistics LLC for about $1.8 billion, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
  • A deal for the Chicago-based provider of transport-management services could be reached as soon as this month, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. No agreement has been reached and discussions could still fall apart. Coyote is backed by New York-based private equity firm Warburg Pincus, which first invested in the company in 2007.
  • A deal between Coyote and UPS would be the third-largest logistics deal this year, as the industry goes through a wave of consolidation amid rising consumer demand. In April, FedEx Corp. agreed to buy Dutch parcel-delivery company TNT Express NV for $4.8 billion. Later that month, XPO Logistics Inc. agreed to acquire European counterpart Norbert Dentressangle SA in a deal valued at $3.53 billion including debt.
  • Representatives for Warburg Pincus and Coyote declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Atlanta-based UPS.

Read more on Internet Retailer

Supply chain professionals still not fully represented at board level

  • Almost 60 per cent of logistics professionals in FMCG feel underrepresented at senior board level. A poll by The Grocer of over 150 industry professionals at the Scala Annual Logistics Debate 2015 revealed the majority feel their function in logistics is not accurately represented within the rest of their company.
  • “Influence at this level is now needed more than ever as companies have the opportunity to make, or not make, critical decisions about how they operate their supply chains,” said Scala senior consultant Simon Eagle. “The companies that are successfully innovating in collaboration and demand driven are those in which logistics have significant ‘share of voice’ and this requires board level representation.”
  • However it would seem that the voice of those in supply chain and logistics is more audible than in recent years.“If you’d have posed that question three or four years ago, you would have had an even higher percentage,” said independent logistics consultant Paul Nixon.“I think the function is better represented today and people perceive it to be better represented. As the likes of e-commerce and business to consumer fulfilment continues to grow for many retail businesses the supply-chain and logistics efficiency and effectiveness will continue to grow in importance and representation.”

Read more at The Grocer

World Bank approves new procurement framework

  • The bank said the framework, which comes into effect in 2016, would allow it to “better respond to the needs of client countries, while preserving robust procurement standards throughout bank-supported projects”. The framework replaces the previous one-size-fits-all” procurement policy with one that is tailored to the needs of individual projects.
  • The changes will:

    • Allow contract award decisions to be based on criteria other than cost, such as quality and sustainability, for the first time.
    • Increase support to help countries develop their own procurement systems.
    • Allow the use of procurement systems from development partners or national agencies in certain circumstances.
    • Speed up the process as reviews of contracts will be limited to those with the highest risk and biggest value.

  • The bank said it would “allocate resources to provide hands-on help to fragile countries, small states or others in the greatest need to assist them in procurements financed by the bank”. The bank’s procurement system covers a portfolio worth around $42 billion (£26.9 billion), comprising more than 1,800 projects in 172 countries.
  • Hartwig Schafer, vice president for operations policy and country services at the World Bank, said: “A portfolio this size needs a modern and nimble procurement approach that gives our clients the best value for each dollar that we invest.”

Read more at Supply Management

Gibbs S3 officially certified as an EMB (Ethnic Minority Controlled Business)

  • Gibbs S3 has become the only corporate-level business to be officially certified as an EMB (Ethnic Minority Controlled Business) by MSDUK, the country’s leading non-profit membership organisation driving inclusive procurement.

  • The certification comes as Gibbs S3 celebrates record growth in its 10th year of business, with revenue growing 38 per cent to reach £41.58m, and on track to hit £46m this year. The company has also previously been certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) by WEConnect, the leading global supplier diversity initiative connecting women-owned businesses with multinational corporations.

  • Minority-owned businesses have established a clear track record in providing stronger value to their customers. Companies with established supplier diversity programmes that include SMEs and EMBs generate 133 per cent better return on their buying operations, according to research from leading strategic consultant The Hackett Group. Companies working with smaller and more diverse suppliers were also found to spend 20 per cent less on their buying operations and secure significantly greater value.

The Rise And Rise of Amazon Continues – Now Bigger Than Walmart

It looks like Amazon’s ballsy initiatives have paid off after all… as the online retailer announces earnings surge.

Amazon's earnings skyrocket making it bigger than Walmart

Amazon has announced a whopping 20 per cent uplift in second quarter sales.

News outlets are reporting that the jump means Amazon was valued as high as $267bn (£172bn), that eclipses Walmart’s market value by $32bn (£21bn) – making it the most valuable retailer in the United States.

It’s been a busy twelve months for the online retailer as Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com reveals:

“We unveiled Amazon Business, opened Amazon Mexico, launched Prime free same-day, rolled out our ninth Prime Now city, broke our Black Friday record with the first-ever Prime Day, received 11 Emmy nominations for Transparent, debuted six new kids pilots, brought Echo to general availability, introduced the Alexa Skills Kit and Alexa Voice Service, opened FBA Small and Light, continued to double down on our fastest growing geography — India, launched 350 significant AWS features and services so far this year (ahead of last year’s pace), introduced AWS Educate, and entered into agreements for new solar and wind farms — enough to exceed our 2016 goal of 40 per cent renewable energy.”

In the past few days Amazon also announced it had sold more units on Prime Day than the biggest Black Friday ever. It saw more new members try Prime worldwide than any single day in Amazon history, with customers placing orders of 34.4 million items across Prime-eligible countries. Prime Day was also a great savings day – members globally saved millions on deals. Customers ordered hundreds of thousands of Amazon devices – making it the largest device sales day ever worldwide.

Prime Day could become an annual event

Despite commentators on social media critically panning the initiative, Amazon Prime Day was heralded as a “a huge success” by Greg Greeley, Vice President, Amazon Prime. “Customers worldwide ordered an astonishing 398 items per second and saved millions on Prime Day deals. Worldwide order growth increased 266 per cent over the same day last year and 18 per cent more than Black Friday 2014 – all in an event exclusively available to Prime members. Going into this, we weren’t sure whether Prime Day would be a one-time thing or if it would become an annual event… We’ll definitely be doing this again.”

“Prime Day was a record-breaker globally – it surpassed all of our expectations,” said Alexandre Gagnon, Country Manager for Amazon.ca. “This week has been the busiest ever for Prime signups and we saw more members shopping on Amazon.ca on Prime Day than on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. We can’t wait to do it again next year.”

Amazon Prime has an estimated 44 million U.S. customers, according to a study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, a Chicago investment-research firm. That’s up from about 41 million at the end of 2014.

But it’s not all about Prime. Taking from the call to investors, the Wall Street Journal observes: “Amazon showed big growth in its cloud computing division, and rising operating costs suggest that the company is still investing in building its supply chain. Amazon is building sprawling warehouses in places like Kenosha, and pushing its bid to get anything to pretty much anyone in the U.S. in two days or less.”

You can view the full earnings call over at the Amazon Investor Centre.

3D Printing – The End of Outsourcing?

From golf clubs to firearms, pharmaceuticals to trainers, 3D Printing is disrupting the manufacturing process of an increasing number of products. But what are the long-term implications for the supply chain as a whole?

3D Printing - The End of Outsourcing?

It’s a common misconception that 3D printing is something new. Although the processes and thinking for it have been around for a number of years, it’s taken a while for the technology to catch up and allow wider functionality and usage.

As a procurement and supply chain professional, this opens up a world of possibilities – a world of potential cost savings as a result of lower manufacturing costs and a centralised supply chain. Of course this isn’t going to happen overnight, but organisations can start to think differently.

The End Outsourced Manufacturing?

Manufacturing in particular has the potential to see a big change. The advances in 3D Printing can allow certain products to be made in house, instead of being outsourced to ‘low cost’ countries. While good news for organisations bringing more jobs back home, it doesn’t provide a rosy outlook for countries like Mexico and China, traditionally strongholds for low-cost manufacturing.

By bringing manufacturing closer to home, it also gives organisations an opportunity to reduce risk in their logistics, reduce lead-times and make savings on transportation costs. Plus, there’s the lower carbon footprint of global activities as an added bonus. This is all illustrated in this neat infographic.

3d printing supply chain infographic

In the pharmaceutical industry, manufacturers are using 3D Printing to improve medicines delivery systems for patients. Printers are being used to produce pyramid-shaped pills, which provide a more rapid drug release than cylindrical pills, and layered tablets that dissolve quicker and more efficiently.

While these processes are still in their infancy, manufacturers are hopeful that technology and science will work hand in hand, lowering production costs, enabling local production and, in the long run, reducing the end cost for patients.

Changes in the Supply Chain

Beyond enabling organisations to bring manufacturing back to a local setting, lowering logistics and transportation risks and costs and even maybe reducing globalisation as a whole, there are other impacts in the supply chain to think about.

Organisations will be able to produce prototypes of designs much faster than before and facilitate testing by being able to print on site. Organisations will also be able to print packaging materials, more tailored to certain products, as well as tools, jigs and other aids for manufacturing.

Finally, the requirement to hold inventory can be reduced by having designs for applicable products and other parts held on a hard drive, ready to be printed on demand, rather than physically stored in a warehouse.

Beware the Magic Bullet

A word of warning, though. As great as all this sounds, there are still risks and issues that need to be considered with 3D Printing.

Protection of copyright and security of patents is a big deal when all the designs are held on a hard drive that could be hacked from outside the organisation. Some organisations have taken steps to protect their intellectual property, but can you be 100 per cent sure you’re safe from cyber attack?

On the environmental side, although footprints are lowered for transportation, the need for printers to run continuously to be cost-effective means increased energy usage and costs. This would lead also to increased carbon footprints for local factories.

Finally, with greater efficiencies in the supply chain, reduced transportation requirements and potentially fewer warehouses, where does that leave the supply chain manager? If parts are going to be printed on site as required, there isn’t going to be the need for someone to manage an end-to-end process.

Best learn how to use the printers then!

Do you work in an industry that’s seen an increase in 3D Printing? Do you work with printers – have we missed any big benefits? Let us know and get involved in the discussion! 

Meanwhile, we’ve been very good to you again this week and rounded up all the stories you need to be reading in procurement and supply chain.

Tapping into the ‘big data’ that can help Greek supply chains to be more agile

  • Supply chain platform provider GT Nexus has begun tapping into the big data that has accumulated in its system to help shippers, carriers and forwarders provide “assurance of supply”.
  • In an interview prompted by the possibility of a Greek exit from the Eurozone, GT Nexus’s EMEA director of marketing, Boris Felgendreher, said the Greek crisis bore all the hallmarks of major disruption – the sort that shows the limitations of supply chain planning.
  • “This sort of situation puts a premium on being agile, in respect of companies being able to move from one sourcing location to another, and that is always difficult. This particular disruption has an added element in that it is financial,” said Felgendreher, alluding to the fears of a ‘Grexit’ and the problems Greek companies have with making and receiving payments.
  • And although Greece itself has accepted the terms of its bailout, a number of Eurozone countries have still to ratify the deal, meaning the threat of a Greek exit persists. However, Mr Felgendreher explained that a recent development by GT Nexus could offer firms a way to circumvent these issues through a “fusion of the physical and financial supply chains”, following an agreement between the platform developer and trade finance solutions provider SeaburyTFX.

Read more at The Loadstar

UK food supply chain on the brink

  • Much of the UK’s food supply market is on the brink of collapse as the UK’s largest supermarkets continue to slash prices, according to business recovery specialists Begbies Traynor.
  • The recovery firm said that delaying payments to suppliers means that the food retail industry has never been tougher for the UK’s smallest food suppliers, independent grocers and farmers.
  • According to Begbies Traynor’s Red Flag Alert research for Q2 2015, which monitors the financial health of UK companies, the UK’s food retailers continue to experience rising ‘Significant’ financial distress, increasing 38 per cent to 5,258 struggling businesses over the past year (Q2 2014: 3,804), 97 per cent of which (5092) are SMEs. However in reality the UK’s food supply chain that keeps these stores stocked is by far the biggest loser.
  • During Q2 2015, the UK Food and Beverage Manufacturers, which include many of the food suppliers and farmers that supply the major UK headquartered supermarkets, witnessed the highest year on year increase in ‘Significant’ distress of all sectors monitored by the Red Flag research, rising 54 per cent, with 1,622 companies now struggling to make ends meet; up from 1,052 at the same stage last year.

Read more at Fresh business thinking

Mercedes revamps supply chain, logistics to trim costs

  • Mercedes-Benz aims to reduce logistics costs by about 20 per cent per vehicle as the company invests hundreds of millions of euros in a sweeping global reorganisation of its supply chain network.
  • The automaker has increased production outside of its German home over the past decade but many of the components used in its cars are still sourced from Europe. The shift has increasingly stretched its supply chain because of the distances parts have to travel, placing a bigger strain on a system that is already trying to cope with record demand.
  • Logistics is a “very significant” cost position, according to Mercedes production and supply chain boss Markus Schaefer, who said supply chain costs can exceed manufacturing costs in some of the division’s lower-wage plants.
  • “With more than 30 vehicle derivatives each built from several thousand parts, the complexity is immense,” Schaefer told reporters in Speyer, Germany, where the carmaker last week opened a 90 million-euro consolidation center. Here components from European suppliers will be consolidated and repacked more efficiently for shipping abroad to Mercedes plants in China, the U.S., and South Africa.
  • Mercedes may establish similar centers in growth regions like China and North America, the company said in a statement.

Read more at Automotive News

McDonalds vow to end deforestation in its global supply chain

  • McDonald’s, the world’s largest chain of hamburger restaurants, has recently announced a huge global commitment on deforestation across the company’s expansive global supply chain.
  • The commitment builds upon McDonald’s Framework and longstanding leadership in the area of sustainable sourcing. The pledge encompasses all of the company’s products and focuses on beef, fibre-based packaging, coffee, palm oil, and poultry for which the company will begin developing specific time-bound sourcing targets in 2015.
  • McDonald’s will continue working collaboratively with a broad range of stakeholders, including suppliers, governments and NGO partners, to develop long-term solutions designed to combat deforestation around the world.
  • Francesca DeBiase, Senior Vice President of McDonald’s Worldwide Supply Chain and Sustainability, said: “This commitment to end deforestation demonstrates another major step for McDonald’s as we work to increasingly embed sustainability throughout our global business. Making this pledge is the right thing to do for our company, the planet and the communities in which our supply chain operates. We’re excited to continue collaborating with our supplier partners to achieve our goals.”

Read more at Supply Chain Digital