Category Archives: Procurement News

Gender Diversity: Would You Leave $12 Trillion On The Table?

Anne Tesch is one of those professionals who has facts and figures at her fingertips to back up every point she makes. As she tells Procurious, it’s vital that supply managers have the facts in their possession when pursuing a goal as important as increasing gender diversity.

Why should gender diversity be high on every company’s agenda?  

Where should I start? There’s a vast amount of global research and evidence on the importance of women’s economic empowerment and the benefits of hiring women-owned businesses. To list a few key studies:

  • McKinsey’s Global Institute report found that $12 trillion could be added to the Global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. Economies most impacted (with GDP gains) would be India (16%), Latin America (14%), China (12%), and Sub-Saharan African (12%);
  • Another McKinsey survey found that 34% of companies said working with women-owned suppliers had increased their profits;
  • Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn only 10% of the income, and own very little of the world’s private property;
  • There are approximately 187 million women entrepreneurs worldwide who own between 32% and 39% of all businesses in the formal economy;
  • Women dominate the global marketplace by controlling more than $20 trillion in consumer spending that will rise to $30 trillion in the next decade; and
  • According to research conducted by WEConnect International, women-owned businesses globally earn less than 1% of the money spent on products and services by large corporations and governments.

What are your recommendations for supply managers looking to increase their engagement with women-owned businesses?

1. Know your numbers

Firstly, it’s important to know the percentage of women-owned businesses in your supply arrangements.  Why not do some research and ask suppliers if they are “women-owned” which, by definition, means that they are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by one or more women. Furthermore, why not consider tracking tier 2 spend, as smart companies will often increase spend with women-owned businesses to win large contracts.

 2. Spread the word

Convince others in your team that working with women-owned suppliers is good for business. A recent McKinsey survey indicated that working with women-owned suppliers increases profits, while the Hackett Group’s research last September shows 99% of diverse suppliers meet buyers’ expectations, with nearly 25% exceeding expectations.

Though improvement to the bottom line is always important, incorporating women-owned businesses in your supply chain also provides an opportunity to grow your customer base, attract and retain talent, and enhance your branding – all while increasing profits and reducing costs.

 3. Network, network, network

Accessing networks of women-owned businesses, even just to participate in RFPs, is a critical success factor but one of the more difficult parts of starting and managing a supplier diversity program.  Engaging with third parties that specialise in connecting buyers with diverse suppliers, such as WEConnect International, can assist this process. Our organisation certifies women-owned businesses through a rigorous, globally accepted process, and provides access to these organisations through our eNetwork.

What are the proven benefits of having more women in your supply chain?

Women influence the vast majority of purchasing decisions globally, but they are significantly underrepresented in global value chains. Even though more than one third of private businesses are owned and controlled by women, on average, women earn only 1 percent of large corporate and government spend globally. Benefits of having more women in your supply chain include:

  • Mirroring your diverse customer and employee base – it’s important to reflect the communities around the globe where you operate, not only with staffing, but also with your supplier base;
  • Supporting your corporate clients – more corporates are growing their tier 2 inclusive sourcing programs and requesting reporting from their prime suppliers;
  • Supporting business growth in new markets;
  • Accessing innovation and securing competitive advantage from new SMEs offering more creative options;
  • Reducing costs through competitive bidding;
  • Accessing local networks and knowledge; and
  • Enhancing the company brand and community engagement by promoting success stories about working with women-owned businesses.

Anne Tesch and other leaders in the profession will be speaking at Quest’s Women in Procurement 2017 event in Melbourne on 26-27 April. Visit Quest Events to download a brochure and find out more.

WEConnect International is a global network that connects women-owned businesses to qualified buyers around the world.

You Could Be In For A Nasty Shock This Easter

What’s “shrinkflation”? It’s the practice of selling a smaller product at the same price, and it’s increasingly common in the chocolate industry. Procurious looks at three big stories about Chocolate supply management that have hit the news in the past week. 

Regulation impacts complexity, complexity impacts costs, and costs impact the size of your chocolate bar.

Shrinkflation: Why Brexit means Cadbury chocolate bars will get smaller

It might be time to panic-buy your favourite Cadbury chocolate bars in bulk, because Cadbury UK’s parent company (Mondelez International) has warned that Brexit could lead to higher prices, or shrinkflation.

What’s shrinkflation? It’s the practice of selling smaller products for the same price. Mondelez has done this before, when its new-look Toblerone was revealed to have wider gaps between its iconic chocolate triangles, reducing the weight from 400g to 360g but selling at the same price. A pack of six Cadbury Creme Eggs – an Easter favourite – was also reduced to five eggs with only a slight decrease in the recommended retail price, from £3.05 to £2.85. The company has pointed to rising commodity costs, the falling value of the pound and an increase in cocoa prices, while Brexit is expected to make it increasingly costly to do business with other countries in the future.

Mondelez’s UK boss Glenn Caton told The Guardian that his organisation is watching the Brexit negotiations closely. “First of all [the Government] needs to make sure we have a stable and thriving U.K. economy,” Caton said. “If the economy is growing, all businesses benefit from that. Secondly, ensuring there is no new, more complex regulation and that there is free movement of goods and minimal barriers to trade. Regulation impacts complexity, complexity impacts costs, as do trade barriers and tariffs.”

Mondelez has invested more than £200m in Cadbury UK, including £75m on modernising manufacturing at Bournville in Birmingham, the home of the 193-year-old Cadbury brand. Bournville is also home to the global R&D team, which has grown from 25 to 250 people since Mondelez took over in July 2013.

Mars reinvests US$70 million in US supply chain while president warns of protectionism

Mars is re-shoring its manufacturing operation in a move that will mean over 95% of its chocolate products sold in the US are made domestically.

The investment of $70 million will add approximately 250 new jobs to production sites across the US, including a Mars Food factory in Greenville Missouri which will receive a $31 million injection. Last year, Mars poured US$52 million into its chocolate factory in Ontario, Canada.

The announcement was made on the same day that Mars Good President, Fiona Dawson, told the American Chambers of Commerce to the EU that protectionist trends worldwide are “threatening to undermine global trade and make the world less connected”.

“The absence of hard borders with all their attendant tariff, customs and non-tariff barriers allows for an integrated supply chain, which helps to keep costs down. The return of those barriers would create higher costs, threatening that supply chain and the jobs that come with it.

“If Britain ends up trading with the EU on the basis of WTO rules, ‘Most Favoured Nation’ rates would come into force. In the area of confectionery that alone would mean tariffs of around 30%.” 

Prince Charles seeks to halt chocolate-industry deforestation

HRM Prince Charles, a keen environmentalist, convened a meeting with global cocoa and chocolate companies to target deforestation in the cocoa supply chain. Delegates from twelve major companies, including Hershey, Mars and Nestle, met with senior government representatives from two of the world’s leading cocoa-producing countries, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

In his speech to the attendees, Prince Charles noted that aside from environmental damage, “The most powerful direct reason for action is that deforestation threatens to undermine the very resilience of the cocoa sector itself, and with it the livelihoods of the millions of smallholders who depend on it, due to the increased climate variability that follows forest loss.”

The meeting resulted in a Collective Statement of Intent to end deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain.

That’s more than enough about chocolate. In other procurement news this week…

UK Grocery Chain Waitrose introduces trucks powered by rotten food

  • Waitrose has partnered with bio-fuel company CNG Fuels to place an order for 10 flatbed trucks that will be powered entirely by rotten food.
  • The fuel will be sourced from unsold food at supermarkets across the UK. Globally, an estimated one-third of all food, or 1.3 billion metric tons of produce – goes to waste every year.
  • The new biomethane trucks have an average range of nearly 500 miles, with the biofuel to cost 40% less than diesel fuel. The biomethane emits 70% less carbon dioxide than diesel.

Read more on Konbini.

Boeing’s VP Supply Chain nominated for US Deputy Secretary of Defence

  • The White House has nominated Boeing’s Patrick Shanahan as Deputy Secretary of Defence, with a view to tap Shanahan’s knowledge of the business side of military aircraft procurement.
  • In December, Trump rattled Boeing management with a Tweet complaining about the high cost of replacing the presidential plane (Air Force One) and threatening to cancel the program. Since then, the relationship between the White House and Boeing appears to have improved.
  • Under new ethics rules, Shanahan will be required to recuse himself from any Boeing-related procurement contract decision for the next two years.

Read more on Seattle Times.

Tender Of The Year? Bidding Opens For US-Mexican Border Wall

Tuesday 4th April marks the deadline for companies to submit papers detailing their proposals to build the Trump Administration’s “big, beautiful, powerful” Mexican border wall. But will the massive construction project ever win the funding it needs?

US Customs and Border Protection has issued two 130-page RFPs, offering a glimpse into the Trump Administration’s vision for the 2,000km barrier designed to stop illegal immigration and cut off drug-smuggling routes. More than 1,100 kilometres of the border has already been fenced, but the existing walls are nowhere near as imposing as those detailed in the RFPs.

The RFPs indicate a massive construction project, with specifications including:

  • A 9-meter-high reinforced concrete barrier, extending 2 meters underground to prevent tunnelling.
  • A similar barrier made from durable, see-through material.
  • The wall must be “cost-effective to build and repair”.
  • The barrier must be “physically imposing” and capable of resisting almost any attack by “sledgehammer, car jack, pickaxe, chisel, battery-operated impact tools, battery-operated cutting tools [or] oxy/acetylene torch for a minimum of one hour.”
  • At the same time, the wall must be “aesthetically pleasing”, reflecting Trump’s campaign promise of a “beautiful wall”. Reports note that this requirement only applies to the North-facing side of the wall.
  • Features to prevent anyone from scaling the barrier or attaching grappling hooks to its summit.
  • Incorporation of electronically controlled gates for vehicles and pedestrians.

Customs and Border Protection intends to award multiple contracts based on responses to its request statement. The selection process begins with an initial elimination round, after which the contestants will submit more detailed technical proposals. After a second round of eliminations, finalists will gather in San Diego, California to construct a small-scale “mock-up” of their wall design. Sledgehammer-wielding government representatives will then “test and evaluate the anti-destruct characteristics” of the designs before awarding contracts.

What will the wall cost?

During his presidential campaign, Trump estimated that construction would cost $12 billion, citing his personal involvement as a factor in driving costs down. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has estimated $15 billion, while a US Department of Homeland Security internal report indicated the wall would cost as much as $21.6 billion and take over three years to build. A preliminary version of the president’s budget for fiscal 2018, beginning in October, includes $2.6 billion for the first phase of construction.

While the RFPs appear to require a highly-visible and physically imposing barrier, some companies have proposed hi-tech solutions to border security that could provide a 90% saving to the government. Examples include having two chain-link fences with a “no man’s land” in between and intrusion detection systems in place. Other invisible or “virtual” wall proposals would use AI software to analyse satellite and surveillance imagery and alert border guards to area where activity is detected.

An alternative idea for a physical barrier put forward by a Florida architecture firm is to use shipping containers as the building blocks for the wall. This could be a cost-effective and sustainable solution, particularly as the U.S. has a surplus of shipping containers due to the slowdown in global commerce.

Will the Mexican border wall ever be funded?

While Donald Trump famously promised his voters that “Mexico will pay” for the border wall, the Mexican Government has repeatedly stated that it would not do so. The Trump administration is yet to reveal how it would compel Mexico to pay. The budget request for $2.6 billion to begin construction was seized upon last week by Graco Ramirez, the leader of Mexico’s national governors’ association, who claimed this proves that U.S. taxpayers will foot the entire bill.

The proposal is likely to face fierce opposition in Congress, where Democrats and fiscally-conservative Republicans are expected to block expenditure on this scale, particularly if estimates blow out to $21.6 billion.

Who will build it?

Ironically, although Trump may be unable to make Mexico pay for the wall, he could end up paying Mexican businesses to do the work. A report by Quartz found that “of the roughly 700 firms that have expressed interest in building prototypes for the wall, about 10% are Hispanic-owned” or based in Mexico. However, the Mexican government has warned Mexican businesses that it would “not be in their best interests” to participate in the construction of the wall, while the Catholic archdiocese of Mexico issued an opinion that participating would be “immoral” and those involved “should be considered traitors to the homeland”. The considerable political pressure notably caused Mexico’s largest cement firm, Cemex, to announce that it would not be providing quotes for the vast amount of cement the project would require.

As far as U.S. construction firms go, few of the large, multinational corporations that would actually have the capacity to carry out the $21 billion project have indicated interest, presumably due to public opposition to the wall and the difficult path through Congress to funding it. Meanwhile, state representatives and lawmakers are putting in place boycott measures such as California’s “Resist the Wall Act”, essentially a divestment campaign to ensure no Californian money goes towards building the wall.

In other news procurement news this week…

Shocking lack of digital transformation strategies in procurement organisations

  • The Hackett Group’s 2017 Procurement Key Issues research has discovered that nearly 85% of procurement organisations believe digital transformation will fundamentally change the way they deliver services over the next 3-5 years.
  • Despite this, only 32% currently have a formal digital strategy in place, and only 25% have the resources and competencies in place to meet the digital transformation challenge.
  • The research gathered data from executives across 180+ large companies globally, with an annual revenue of $1 billion or greater. Areas expected to grow most dramatically are the use of cloud-based applications, advanced analytics, cognitive computing and robotic process automation.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says robot job displacement “50 to 100” years away

  • In an interview with Axios last week, Mnuchin said the concern about artificial intelligence taking over human jobs is “not even on our radar screen”. When pressed, Mnuchin estimated that concern might be warranted in “50 to 100 more years”.
  • This estimate is significantly out of touch with machine learning experts, who are increasingly vocal about the imminent “national emergency” that will see up to 50% of jobs at risk due to advances in automation.
  • Mnuchin’s apparent disinterest in the AI jobs crisis could be due to an inability to “think the unthinkable” – a phenomenon introduced by Professor Nik Gowing at Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit. It may also reflect Mnuchin’s falling into line with politicised assertions that foreign workers and cheap pay, rather than automation, are responsible for job losses in former factory towns over the past decade.

Read more at Business Insider.

U.K.’s Crown Commercial Service slammed by Public Accounts Committee

  • The U.K.’s Crown Commercial Service (CSS) was set up in 2014 to centralise all purchasing, eliminate duplicate and act as a single entity for central government procurement. It replaced the Government Procurement Service and was expected to manage £13 billion spend across 17 departments.
  • However, a recent report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found that the CCS has only managed £2.5 billion spend across 7 departments, with PAC Chair Meg Hillier calling the results “a dismal showing that calls into questions exactly how willing government departments are to accept the authority of the Cabinet Office in this area”.
  • A CCS spokesperson has responded to the report, saying: “”With an experienced senior leadership team now in place, we are confident in our ability to deliver even greater value for the taxpayer moving forwards through the centralised procurement of common goods and services.”

Read more at Computer Weekly.

What’s The Catch-22 In Procurement Technology?

From here to eternity: what does the future of procurement technology  look like? Download Wax Digital’s Procurement 2020 report here

Procurement technology has undergone a long road of change that has consequently altered procurement functions, processes and the very nature of the business itself. But while we spend much of the time understanding how technology is governing what we do today, it’s how technology is shaping the procurement role in the future that should be our focus.

There is a widespread belief that procurement ‘intelligence’ could significantly change the goalposts for the profession, and go beyond informing and processing data, to predicting, learning and deciding.

Procurement technology’s Catch 22

With analytics and intelligence comes a dilemma. Do you outline the questions you need to answer before you perform analysis, or use the data to work out the answers to ‘what you didn’t know, you didn’t know’? It’s a catch 22 scenario.

Thanks to big data and artificial intelligence (AI), this dilemma is becoming easier to manage. A procurement system using intelligence exhibited by machines can learn from users’ mouse clicks, purchases, and line of information to make its own choices, rather than requiring approval from users.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that procurement skills and knowledge will become any less sought-after. But those in demand are likely to change, perhaps even for the better, if cognitive technologies allow experts to think, consult and use their human skills more wisely.

Our panel’s three key intelligence priorities were:

  1. Anticipating supply and demand decisions

    The power of big data enables procurement systems to foresee the needs of the business, such as anticipating demand based on historical spending or seasonal demands. And the data that systems are based on will only expand as new internal and external dimensions are added to the mix, such as social media and newsfeeds, assessing demand more accurately. Intelligent systems may then begin to question human decisions, such as the validity and need for supplier orders and assessing the risk and ongoing performance of suppliers. Supercomputer IBM Watson’s ability to answer questions shows AI’s and sophisticated analytical software’s ability to surpass a human’s ability to answer high-functioning questions, and to work as an instructor to human processes.

  1. Uber-personalisation

    From marketing to IT, departments across the organisation use purchasing systems, meaning that there are different roles and backgrounds to accommodate. Through machine learning, procurement could lead the way in uber-personalisation, in which its systems are integrated with others such as ERP and CRM to determine and define each users’ preferences and needs.

  1. Intelligent supply relationships

With the introduction of AI comes a potential new landscape of supplier management, as eTendering, eSourcing and contract management have the potential to become more automated. This could see systems monitoring supplier behaviours and performance based on buyer feedback, or keeping a close check on adherence to contract terms; and possibly even interpreting eAuction behaviours and leading negotiations to make sourcing decisions on the procurement professional’s behalf. 

Even with vast use of intelligence, the procurement department will still require human involvement. While intelligence can be used to purchase everyday office products such as paper, strategic projects like building a new office will require procurement’s involvement in business planning and meetings, meaning that procurement professionals should strengthen their strategic skills in this area to ensure that they’re indispensable. But a new type of ‘colleague’, which is highly efficient and has extreme attention to detail, could well be on the way. Combining intelligence with vital people skills is how you can make procurement a strong and effective force in the business.

Learn more in Wax Digital’s Procurement 2020 report, a set of future gazing in-depth interviews with global senior procurement professionals and experts.  Integration of procurement technology in the wider business was the first topic. 

WikiLeaks Reveals CIA Interference in iPhone Supply Chain

WikiLeaks has released new information on CIA programs aimed at monitoring Apple device owners. Has the CIA redirected iPhone shipments to its own facilities to infect them with spyware?

President George W Bush visits CIA Headquarters, March 20, 2001.

For many readers of the latest data dump from the controversial website WikiLeaks, two surprising facts stood out:

  1. The CIA has been hacking iPhones, Macbooks and other Apple products for a decade
  2. To install the malware, the CIA requires physical access to “factory fresh” machines. WikiLeaks suggests this is done through redirecting Apple’s supply chain through their own facilities

What has the CIA been up to?

According to the documents, CIA’s Embedded Development Branch (EDB) implants malware called NightSkies 1.2, a “beacon/loader/implant tool” that apparently allows the CIA to “gain persistence” (spy) on the device. Notably, this program has been in use since 2008. WikiLeaks also describes a project called “Sonic Screwdriver”, which allows spies to remotely hack a Mac computer from a USB accessory plugged into the machine. The release also contains details of other malware products with striking names such as “DarkSeaSkies”, “DarkMatter”, “SeaPea”, “Triton”, “Dark Mallet” and “DerStake”.

Listen to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange’s commentary on the CIA’s malware specifically developed for Apple products:

How is the malware installed?

According to the CIA documents, NightSkies 1.2 is physically installed by a CIA operative on “factory fresh iPhones”, or handsets that users haven’t yet interacted with.

The two key words here are “physically” and “factory fresh”. The malware cannot be installed remotely, which means the CIA agent needs to get their hands on their target’s phone to install the program. This brings to mind a Hollywood-style manoeuvre where the operative would somehow pickpocket the target, install the malware with a USB, and return it to the unsuspecting iPhone owner who will never realise they’re being tracked.

However, as the iPhone needs to be “factory fresh”, WikiLeaks believes it’s possible the CIA has redirected iPhone shipments to install the tool. The organisation wrote:

“While CIA assets are sometimes used to physically infect systems in the custody of a target, it is likely that many CIA physical access attacks have infected the targeted organization’s supply chain including by interdicting mail orders and other shipments (opening, infecting, and resending) leaving the United States or otherwise”.

This raises two questions, neither of which are answered in the WikiLeaks documents:

  • Is the CIA infecting Apple products en-masse, or are they only intercepting, infecting and re-sending specific phones that have been ordered via mail by persons of interest?
  • Does the CIA visit the factory floors of Apple’s suppliers to install the malware?

Has Apple responded?

Yes. Apple has released a statement pointing out that nearly 80 per cent of the vulnerabilities exploited by the CIA have already been fixed with security patches (years ago in some cases) and added that it “will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities.”

In its statement, Apple did not directly condemn the CIA for interfering with its products, choosing instead to distance itself from WikiLeaks:

“We have not negotiated with WikiLeaks for any information. We have given them instructions to submit any information they wish through our normal process under our standard terms. Thus far, we have not received any information from them that isn’t in the public domain. We are tireless defenders of our users’ security and privacy, but we do not condone theft or coordinate with those that threaten to harm our users.”

In other news procurement news this week…

London Mourns Victims of Westminster Attack 

  • Thousands of Londoners gathered in central London to honour the victims of Tuesday’s terrorist attack
  • On the 22 March, Khalid Masood drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing his rented four-wheel drive into a fence outside parliament
  • He attacked two police officers as he tried to enter the building, fatally stabbing Keith Palmer before he was shot. Five people, including the attacker, died, and at least 50 people have been injured.
  • On Thursday evening, a candlelit vigil was held in Trafalgar Square. In what was a moving tribute to those affected, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, addressed the crowd to much applause and a minute of silence was observed.

Read more on BBC

Avian Influenza resurfaces in Asia

  • An outbreak of H7N9 avian flu that has been described as the worst in seven years is dramatically impacting the poultry industry across China, Japan and South Korea.
  • The outbreak has been linked to over 140 human deaths in China in January and February, along with enormous stock culls including 30 million chickens in South Korea alone.
  • Chinese poultry imports are expected to grow by 10%.

Read more on the Wall Street Journal.

Starbucks announces aggressive expansion plans

  • Starbucks will open 12,000 new cafes globally by 2021, including 3,00 new stores in the U.S.
  • The new stores will require a workforce of 240,000, with the company planning to hire 25,000 military veterans and military spouses.
  • Starbucks has also announced it would hire 10,000 refugees in response to Donald Trump’s executive order calling for an immigration ban.

Read more on MarketWatch.

Game-changer: Elon Musk intervenes in Australian energy crisis

Energy politics has reached fever pitch in South Australia, where an increasingly fraught situation has been disrupted by a single tweet from Elon Musk.

Take a moment to feel sorry for your procurement colleagues working in the Australian energy sector. Since former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s now-famous “axe the tax” campaign against a national carbon trading scheme in 2011, Australia has been without a clear federal energy policy, leading to very little certainty about future direction for the sector.

This is a problem, as power companies plan three to four decades ahead. A lack of bipartisanship on this issue means that even if a policy is put in place, any future change of government (from Coalition to Labor) would mean a rollback of the hard-won legislation of their predecessors. Power companies know that at some stage in the near future, a carbon trading or emissions intensity scheme will need to be put in place, but they don’t know what form it will take, when it will happen and what the targets will be.

Compounding the issue, the Federal Coalition government is at odds with Labor-majority state governments around Australia on energy policy, culminating in this tense exchange last week between South Australian Premier and the federal energy minister, Josh Frydenberg. South Australia has drawn the lion’s share of criticism from the federal government on its energy situation. The state has an aggressive renewable energy target of 50% by 2025, with a high reliance on wind power.

South Australia’s energy crisis started in earnest on 28th September last year, when the state experienced a once-in-50-year storm event. Gale force and storm force winds, including tornadoes and 80,000 lightning strikes, damaged 23 pylons on electricity transmission lines. As a result of the initial damage and automatic safety features shutting down undamaged parts of the network, the entire state power grid cut out for at least three hours while emergency repairs were underway. 

Power gets political

Even before the power was switched back on, a number of politicians in the federal government commented on the crisis, linking the storm damage with the state’s renewable energy target. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said South Australia had paid “little or no attention to energy security”, while the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, told the ABC that “Wind power wasn’t working too well last night, because they had a blackout”. One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts took the opportunity to urge all government to “exit all climate change policies.”

Much of the news cycle following the storm was dominated by a debate over renewables and energy security, and whether the storm damage or the state government’s policy was to blame. The situation was compounded by a series of further blackouts while calls increased for an urgent review of energy security at the state and national level. The debate spilled over into the international media, with South Australia rapidly becoming a much-cited example of a failure for renewable energy. Renowned Danish wind farm expert Soren Hermansen, who helped create the world’s first 100% renewable island, defended wind power by saying, “I’d have to go to Australia to deal with a blackout. We have a very powerful grid – we don’t experience any failure.”

Musk intervenes

Dropping unexpectedly into this politically-charged debate, billionaire co-founder of Tesla and SpaceX Elon Musk presented a game-changer with a single tweet earlier this month:

The offer was originally made by Lyndon Rive, Musk’s cousin and Tesla’s vice-president for energy products. Tesla has offered to install the 100 megawatt hours of battery storage that would be required to prevent further power shortages, price spikes and blackouts in South Australia. When pressed on Twitter by Mike Cannon-Brookes (Australian co-founder of Silicon Valley start-up Atlassian) on the seriousness of the offer, Musk himself doubled down with the pledge to “get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free”.

Tesla’s confidence in its ability to deliver stems from the stepped-up battery production out of its new Gigafactory in Nevada, along with a recently-completed installation of an 80MWh grid-scale battery farm in southern California. The Californian project took 90 days to complete and cost US$100 million.

After a flurry of tweets and an hour-long phone call between Elon Musk and Prime Minister Turnbull, the debate around energy policy in Australia appears to have switched to an entirely new (renewable) direction. South Australia has announced a $550 million energy package, with:

  • $150 million for a 100MW grid-scale battery
  • $75 million in grants and another $75 million in loans to eligible projects which support private innovative companies and entrepreneurs
  • A $360 million state government-owned gas-fired 250MW power station to provide energy security when needed.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Turnbull has unveiled $2bn expansion plans for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, aimed to add 2,000MW to the scheme’s 4,100MW  capacity, or enough power for 500,000 homes. In a sign that the tension between federal and state energy policies continues to play out, Turnbull told reporters that the hydro-electric scheme will provide 20 times the capacity of the South Australian battery system.

Encouragingly, in the past month the national debate seems to have shifted away from the decades-long opposition between renewables and coal, to the state and federal governments trying to outdo each other on renewable projects. Cannon-Brookes wrote the following in a series of tweets that capture this shift:

“The national energy conversation seems to palpably have changed. We’re debating lithium ion vs flow vs pumped hydro storage solutions … whether 100MW is enough [or whether] 2GW is too much. $150m [investment in grid-scale batteries] in South Australia, $30m in Victoria, $2bn Federally. I’m confident there will be a series of good bids [for battery storage tech providers] in South Australia. Super funds, power operators, HNWs and many individuals wanting to invest. Most importantly, Australian people and the tech community and speaking up, loudly, that they want change.”

In other news:

Heavy construction equipment manufacturers waiting on Trump’s infrastructure plan

  • Executives in the construction industry are concerned that President Trump has not yet invested time to win congressional backing for his $1 trillion spending plan for large road, rail and bridge projects.
  • Equipment manufacturers have experienced low activity from farming, construction and mining clients in recent years, and are reportedly impatient for information about what form the investment will take.
  • The administration has indicated that an infrastructure plan would come after Congress deals with complex health care and tax reform.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

Kids @ Work: Children crash professor’s live interview with BBC

  • In a now-famous video interview, Professor Robert Kelly’s children burst into his room while he is discussing the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye with a BBC anchor.
  • The interview was interrupted first by his daughter, who dances into the room to join her father, then a baby in a bouncer and finally by his wife rushing in to herd the children out of the room.

Read more about incorporating your children into your work day on the Procurious blog.

Data, You’re The One That I Want – I’m Just Not Sure Why!

When it comes to managing data, we all know we need it. But it’s important to note that the quality of your output is entirely dependent on the quality of the planning. 

Register for  free webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, on the 28th March. 

In the information age, data is everything. With our ability to store swathes of that binary gold, and to pull it from scores of different sources, we have access to more information than ever before. What’s more, by using analytical tools, we can blend datasets and create rich insights that were previously impossible to do (or at least incredibly arduous!)

At the heart of this utopia is the premise that data is ‘great’; if we’re not measuring something, then we’re missing out.  After all, data tells the ‘truth’…right?

Well actually, that depends on what you mean by ‘truth’. After all, the ‘truth’ can be subjective and open to interpretation – and the same goes for data; the conclusions you draw ultimately depend upon what you’re looking at and how you’re looking at it.

Have a roadmap before embarking on your analysis

An important consideration when working with data is that the quality of your output is wholly dependent on the quality of the planning at the start – specifically the aims of any analytical outputs.

Having a clear roadmap for the aims of your analysis in the first instance is important in providing direction for the project, allowing you to ask the right questions and draw on the appropriate datasets. There’s a lot of information out there and it’s easy to find yourself in a sinking quagmire of sources that bear little relevance to your intended analysis.

Whilst scoping the aims of a data analysis project may seem daunting, there are three simple steps that you can follow to ensure you give yourself the best hope of arriving at a meaningful outcome:

  1. Decide on a purpose – what, in a general sense, is it that you’re trying to achieve with any analysis?
  2. Pitch to the right audience – Who is going to consume the information? It may be at many levels of seniority (from Analysts to Executives), and each will require and expect different things.
  3. Define the questions to be answered (and then the supplementary questions that arise from that) – these are not just the pure data questions but rather the business question – i.e. the reasons for conducting the analysis in the first place.

Leverage your data in innovative ways

With the above three areas documented and the information acquired, the next step is the exciting bit – making it work for you to answer your questions.

Again, there are three considerations to bear in mind for making the most your data:

  • Create quality visualisations – Choose your visualisations carefully and with the audience and questions to be answered in mind. Data visualisation, as with all visual communication, requires thought and discipline to present it in the most meaningful way (don’t just include a bubble or other fancy charts because it looks nice – it needs more justification than that).
  • Make sure the data has context – Bring in those external metrics that help you make sense of it all. Having worked with data for my entire career it’s fair to say I’ve seen good data, bad data and everything in between. When it’s bad (and anything short of ‘good’) you’re going to struggle to get any ‘truth’ from your analysis – remember, “garbage in, garbage out”. However, one of the trends that I’ve noticed more and more is that even with the good stuff people are quick to justify it – reaching for a readily accessible context; and that’s normally the context of their business or organisation. This is context, and context can take many forms. It could be measuring your procurement against a commodity index or allowing for the impact of currency fluctuations, or indeed measuring against many others.
  • Blend your procurement data for greater insight – Data is an incredibly valuable resource for any procurement team and its wider organisation. By pooling your internal data for spend, sourcing, contracts and projects (to name a few) and combining that with external metrics and benchmarks, you suddenly open up another level of insight into your data. Better yet, that insight can then be used to inform strategy across the organisation, increasing efficiency, improving savings and identifying opportunities for further innovation that yields yet more value for your organisation.

“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape.

In the digital era, every procurement team has access to an invaluable source of strategic insight in the form of its data. By using technology to prod and probe that data, Procurement has the means to draw informed action plans that deliver innovation and value to the function and, more importantly the wider organisation. However, knowing the research questions to ask of your data and applying the right context to it is essential to realising this potential.

If you are interested in learning more about the kind of questions you need to be asking when looking to gain greater insight from your data, then please register for our free webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, on the 28th March. In it, distinguished US professor, Dr Robert Handfield will be taking a more in-depth look at pooling datasets to perform innovative procurement data analysis.

NEC to build world-first information platform for Global Pandemic Supply Chain

When a disease outbreak hits, even the slightest inefficiency in supply chains can lead to a catastrophic loss of human life. A joint initiative of The United Nations World Food Programme and NEC Corporation will greatly improve the supply chain response to the next pandemic. 

The 2013-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak began in countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, with smaller outbreaks occurring in Nigeria, Mali and Senegal. Imported cases led to infections being reported in the UK, Spain, Sardinia and U.S. before the outbreak was declared in June 2016. By this point, the World Health Organisation reported a total of 28,616 cases and 11,310 deaths.

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the need for a streamlined and coordinated supply chain response was highlighted through the many challenges encountered during the West Africa Ebola outbreak. They included:

  • Severe warehousing and distributing capacity constraints
  • Limited visibility of the overall supply and demand of critical items
  • Access constraints caused by border closures
  • A lack of public-private sector coordination resulting in duplicate efforts and an inefficient response

Protective clothing (pictured above) is an example of a critical item that must get through to healthcare workers in outbreak areas. A full set of protective clothing includes a suit, goggles, a mask, sock, boots and an apron. Healthcare workers change garments frequently, discarding gear that has barely been used to minimise exposure to the virus. By October of 2014, Ebola suit makers including DuPont and Kimberly-Clark had tripled production to try to cope with demand as health workers used an average of seven suits per bed, per day. The World Health Organisation estimated that three million protective suits were needed over the course of the outbreak. Tragically, healthcare workers represented nearly 10 percent of cases and fatalities due to ebola.

New supply chain platform will save lives when the next pandemic comes

Supply chain logistics are a critical part of any emergency intervention. Inadequate logistics can lead to critical delays, cost lives and waste precious resources. NEC’s announcement of a new information platform, which will be part of the Global Pandemic Supply Chain Network, is expected to improve response times, find cost efficiencies and aid in continuous improvement.

The technology has been described as a “logistics visualization system that will enable end-to-end tracking of pandemic response items” – such as protective clothing – within a country facing an outbreak, helping to ensure quick and appropriate delivery of supplies to people in need. Other key functions of the system include reporting, analysis of supply chain inefficiencies, data integration with existing logistics systems and in-country warehouse management.

“It is widely recognised that the global health architecture could be reinforced with an improved supply chain platform to enable better preparation and faster response time for pandemics”, said a spokesperson for the Japanese Government, which committed US$1 million to the development of the new technology.

 Public/private collaboration driving results

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this announcement is the demonstration of how effective public and private collaboration can be in solving enormous challenges such as a global pandemic response. Aside from the key collaboration between the WFP and NEC Corporation, a framework for future pandemic response has been developed through an “unprecedented” level of cooperation between public organisations including the UN, WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank; and private sector companies including Johnson & Johnson, UPS Foundation, Becton, Dickinson & Co., and NEC.

 In other procurement news this week…

 White House trade advisor reaffirms administration’s trade goals

  • The U.S. is seeking more reciprocal trade arrangements with key countries to boost growth, reduce the trade deficit and reclaim American production capacity, according to Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council.
  • Speaking in Washington last week, Navarro singled out nations that have contributed to the current deficit problem, including Ireland, Vietnam, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Switzerland.
  • According to Navarro, the U.S. plan to reduce the trade deficit “is not based on higher tariffs, but rather getting our partners to lower theirs.”

Watch Navarro’s speech here.

Canadian federal procurement processes flagged for an overhaul

  • Addressing an event hosted by the Information Technology Association of Canada last week, Canada’s Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote stressed the need for an overhaul of federal procurement processes to improve accessibility for SMEs.
  • At present, unreasonably complex processes and requirements are resulting in 8000-page responses to RFPs, which small businesses simply do not have the resources to undertake.
  • Ms Foote said that government procurement processes “have the ability to shift markets … (and) launch businesses.”

Read more at Ottawa Business Journal

 

Drones To Deliver Medicine, Not Missiles, To People In Disaster Areas

Autonomous flying drones will soon be drafted into disaster relief efforts to greatly improve the effectiveness of the world’s most challenging supply chains.

Establishing a supply chain in an area hit by disaster holds its own completely unique set of challenges. The speed at which the supply chain needs to be established, the unplanned nature of the event, critical safety concerns and the lack of stability in the area can all exacerbate the challenge.

Perhaps the greatest worry, though, is simply getting access to the people in need. That’s where technology can make a world of difference.

Solving the access problem

Flood events, earthquakes and other disasters can lead to an incredible amount of rubble and debris which needs to be shifted by bulldozer before aid workers can reach the people in need. It can take days before an effective path is cleared to enable trucks to begin bringing up the tonnes of supplies required to feed, house and treat those affected by disaster.

Problems with access by land are compounded when air and sea transport facilities are also damaged. We saw this in 2010, after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake (followed by over 50 aftershocks) devastated Haiti.

The disaster led to anywhere between 100,000 to 160,000 deaths and the collapse of 250,000 residential buildings. Other countries and international organisations dispatched humanitarian aid in the form of rescue teams, medical teams and engineers, but chaos at the airport caused by a damaged air traffic control tower led to some of these crucially important flights being turned away.

Helicopters would seem to be the obvious solution when planes cannot land and bulldozers haven’t yet done their work, but that’s where aid agencies come up against funding issues – even the largest of the international organisations simply can’t afford the fleet of helicopters that would be required to deliver effective immediate disaster relief on any scale.

How flying drones can save the day

Imagine an international aid agency ship mooring off the coast of a disaster-affected area, such as Peru or Japan, and acting as an aircraft carrier to deliver immediate relief to people in need. Instead of having jets or helicopters taking off from its flight deck, however, it is packed with small, autonomous robot drones.

The first drones to go out would be for the purpose of mapping and observation – they’d stay up at altitude and monitor the area, assess damage, and help direct the delivery efforts with real-time information. Soon, the sky between the ship and the disaster area would be thick with a swarm of buzzing drones; carrying food, water, clothing and medicine to victims and then flying back to the ship, resupplying, and taking off again.

A helicopter, of course, could carry human passengers and vastly more weight, but for the scale required to be effective, a fleet of autonomous drones is significantly less expensive than a fleet of helicopters. Drones are currently severely limited in the amount of weight they can carry, but capacity is expected to improve. At present they’re ideal for light-weight, high value items such as medicines or blood. They could also be used to fetch medical samples and bring them back to base for analysis. Other applications may include:

  • Deliveries into conflict zones where a helicopter may be shot down
  • Coordination of search and rescue activities from above
  • The provision of internet to disaster zones.

Problems to be solved

There are some challenges to be overcome before drones can go into action when the next disaster inevitably hits. For example, if drones are to work in conjunction with helicopters and other aircraft, air traffic safety must be a priority to avoid mid-air collisions.

There are also some extremely negative perceptions of drones in war-torn areas, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. There, drones are either regarded as spy-craft, or as dangerous, weaponised systems capable of delivering a missile to any point on the ground. A humanitarian aid drone would therefore be met with suspicion and fear by people in need.

Similarly, a report from the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action found that humanitarian aid workers are concerned that drones are “too distant from people and inhumane”. This raises an important point about the role of aid workers, who are not only there to assist people and deliver much-needed supplies, but provide human comfort; something that a faceless drone cannot do.

Drones will soon be a common sight in disaster zones, if only in an observational or mapping role at first. While drones are unlikely to completely replace helicopters and trucks, they can play an essential role in supporting and complementing other means of delivery, particularly when access by land has not yet been established. Supply chain managers working in humanitarian aid can look forward to incorporating drones into their means of delivering assistance and, ultimately, saving lives.

In other news this week 

A milestone week for Procurious

  • Procurious delivered its signature event, the Big Ideas Summit, in London on Thursday last week, with speaker highlights including Oxford University’s Linda Yueh, CAPS Research Managing Director Deb Stanton, Barclay’s Chairman John McFarlane and Futurist Mark Stevenson.
  • On the eve of the event, Procurious also announced that its community has grown to 20,000 supply management professionals worldwide.
  • Procurious has also launched its new Corporate Site, with the first major client being the UK-based Society of Procurement Officers (SOPO).

Read more via Yahoo Finance

UC Berkeley recycles 3D printers’ plastic waste

  • In response to a surge in plastic waste generated by over 100 3D printers on campus at UC Berkeley, PhD students have launched a 3D Printer Filament Reclamation Project.
  • The campus-wide system takes used 3D printer plastic, grinds it up, melts it down and produces a spool of recycled plastic that can be used again in the campus’s 3D printers.
  • The recycling system is expected to be replicated in businesses using 3D printers on an industrial scale to minimise, or even eliminate, waste products from the printing process.

Watch UC Berkeley’s video here

Toyota and General Motors hold top number of renewable energy patents in the US

  • Research company CB Insights has analysed over 50,000 US renewable energy patent grants between 2009 and 2017 to identify the number of patents, the top patent holders, and trends in renewable energy patents.
  • Over 26,000 U.S. patents related to renewable energy have been granted in the 8-year period to date, with the number peaking in 2014 at 4268. The top four areas are solar, wind, fuel cell and bio-energy.
  • LG has emerged as the top patent holder in solar, GE for wind, GM and Toyota for fuel cell patents, and Xyleco and Shell for bio-energy.

Read the full report here.

[Image credit: Pixar]

7 Warehouse Management Tips to Improve Inventory Control

In every business, there is one silent player that can absolutely make or break your operation — the warehouse. 

Warehouses  form the nucleus of numerous businesses and it is imperative that they are managed efficiently. However, its size and structure can become overwhelming if not managed properly. You can manage it efficiently by implementing a warehouse management system, with which you can control the movement and storage of the materials within the warehouse. Additionally, you can incorporate tasks like transportation management, accounting systems, light manufacturing, etc.

Managing inventory effectively and maximizing warehouse productivity rank on top of the priority list of almost all the warehouse managers. If you are one of them, these 7 warehouse management tips will help you in improving inventory control and achieving effective warehouse management.

  1. Plan An Efficient Layout

The warehouse layout must be carefully planned out in order to maximize storage space. You must arrange the space in a manner that allows you to move smoothly and with ease while carrying goods around the warehouse. You must keep enough space to maneuver the forklifts and weight carrying machines around without any hindrances. Mark the bins and place them in a planned manner to avoid confusion and stocking of goods at inappropriate places. The right layout will also help in minimizing safety hazards.

  1. Stock Inventory As Per Need

You must arrange your inventory based on how and when you use/need it. You shouldn’t hoard inventory unnecessarily throughout the year unless there is a regular demand. Keep the stock levels at 1.5 times the average for avoiding blocking of working capital. With optimised inventory holding, you can effectively reduce the cost of storage. You can study historical trends as a part of your warehouse management process to forecast the inventory need.

  1. Apply Cross Docking to Maximize Space

The objective of cross docking is to reduce the shelf storage time of stocks in the warehouse. It helps in transporting warehouse delivered goods quickly to the outbound carriers that can take the stocks to distribution centres. You have to ensure that the warehouse layout supports cross docking.

  1. Implement Strict Standards for Safety

Don’t make your warehouse an unsafe place for your employees. If your staff isn’t trained properly, you will have numerous accidents and high injury rates. Ensure that only the well-trained and experienced employees operate heavy duty equipment such as forklifts. Mark the safety protocols in the warehouse, such as indicating a safe distance from danger zones.

  1. Incorporate Efficient Weighing Systems

Make efficient weight scales, such as truck scales, an integral part of your warehouse as it helps in optimising all the weighing processes. You can improve the accuracy of the billing and shipping tremendously, thus increasing the revenue. The overall workflow productivity is also enhanced.

  1. Use Technology to Enhance Inventory Management

Technology is a good friend to have in the warehouse. New robotics technology has become the most sought after technology in many companies. You can partner up with warehouse management systems and create customized software and smart robots that can help in managing the movement, storage and sorting of warehouse inventory. Automated vehicles come a close second. By incorporating self-driving technology in the warehouses, you can reassign human labor to more critical jobs and enhance safety and efficiency.

3D printing technology allows on-demand production of various components for manufacturing at the location itself. It can effectively eliminate the need for any transportation, thus reducing the cost and lead times significantly. Innovation of newer, lighter and stronger materials like nanotubes and graphene is also exciting news for warehouse and logistics management. You need less energy to transport lighter materials and equipment. To make it even better, self-repairing finishes and self-assembling materials are already in developmental testing!

  1. Improve Demand Planning

Demand planning is a crucial part of forecasting inventory purchases, stock requirements and customer buying trends. This helps in optimizing inventory levels and meeting the demands of the customers at the same time. When the demand planning is effective, you can track the sales trend history, product activity during specific seasons of the year, trends of various manufacturers and different rules of warehouse storage and business.

Don’t let the complexities of a warehouse wear you down. With careful and efficient planning, you can achieve your goals and manage every single warehouse with high efficiency.

Kevin Hill heads up the marketing efforts and provides technical expertise to the sales and service teams at Quality Scales Unlimited in Byron, California.