Category Archives: Procurement News

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.

Work-life, work-death and the right to disconnect

It’s a tale of two cities when it comes to work-life balance. Tokyo continues to struggle with a dangerous culture of self-sacrifice through “overwork”, while in Paris, lawmakers have recently enshrined French workers’ “right to disconnect”.

It’s 10.00pm. The kids are asleep, you’ve tidied the kitchen and you’re considering whether to fire up Netflix or turn in for a relatively early night. Your phone gives a soft “ding” and you reach for it, wondering which of your colleagues is emailing you at this hour.

Put. The Phone. Down.

2017 may be the year that we see the turning point in the fight against the “always-on” work culture, which has rapidly eroded the border between work and private lives. Unpaid overtime has surged as businesses increasingly judge employees by their availability, while employees themselves fall into the trap of “just checking one more email” in the evenings. Hyper-connectivity has led to increased levels of stress, sleeplessness, relationship problems, and, in places where the culture has reached an extreme level – death.

Karoshi

Yes, death. If you’re concerned about where the always-on work culture might be heading, there’s no need to imagine a dystopian future where employees work until they drop dead from exhaustion. The situation already exists in Japan, where the notoriously gruelling work culture has given rise to a phenomenon called karoshi, or “work-death”. As much as 21% of the workforce puts in more than 49 hours a week, while compensation claims from families whose loved ones have literally worked themselves to death peaked at over 2300 cases last year.

You won’t find 12-hour work-days on any contract of employment or job description, yet the culture of unpaid overtime (or “service” overtime) is so firmly entrenched in Japan that it may as well be a part of scheduled working hours. Overtime is unforced, yet workers feel it’s compulsory due to managerial and peer pressure. The results are devastating, and it’s not just elderly members of the workforce who are dying. Alarmingly, employees in their 20s suffering from heart attacks, strokes, and suicide triggered by karoshi.

Overwork culture exists in every profession, from manual labour to office work. Joey Tocnang, a 27-year old trainee from the Philippines employed as a steel-cutter in a Japanese factory, was working between 78 and 122 hours of overtime a month before he died of heart failure at his firm’s dormitory in 2014. Matsuri Takahashi, a 24-year-old employee of the advertising giant Dentsu, was driven to commit suicide in 2015 due to stress brought on by long working hours. She regularly worked over 100 hours of overtime per month in the firm’s internet advertising division, and had even posted calls for help such as ‘I want to die” on social media.

According to a government whitepaper, 22.7% of Japanese companies polled between December 2015 and January 2016 said some of their employees logged more than 80 hours of overtime each month – the official threshold at which the prospect of death from work becomes serious. Karoshi has its roots in Japan’s massive rebuilding efforts after the devastation of WWII, and gained traction in the economic booms of the 1970s and 80s.

There is hope of change, though. Posters are going up on the walls of workplaces all over Japan as part of the government’s efforts to reign in the culture of self-sacrifice. A new generation of professionals called “Freeters” are breaking the cycle by demanding to be paid casual rates (by the hour only) rather than salaries. But the real solution may lie in France. 

The right to disconnect

From January this year, French companies with over 50 workers are required to guarantee the right of their employees to ignore their smartphones after hours. The laws were passed after increasing pressure from France’s trade unions compelled the Labour Ministry to defend the country’s highly protected workplace laws and 35-hour working week.

The law applies to the company, not the individual, which means that compulsive email-checkers can work all hours if they’d like to, but cannot be pressured by their organisations into doing so. Businesses now need to enter into negotiations with their employees to define their rights around switching off, and must publish a charter that explicitly sets out the demands on employees out-of-hours.

Some French companies, including French insurer Axa, have taken proactive measures to limit out-of-hours communication and reduce burnout among works, including cutting email messaging in the evening and weekends, and even destroying emails that are sent to employees while they are on holiday.

The comparison between Paris and Tokyo is not strictly equal, as you cannot fairly compare someone checking emails in their pyjamas with a steel-worker putting in dangerous amounts of overtime in a factory, but it is useful to highlight extreme examples, such as Japan, to help combat the creeping culture of unpaid overtime.

Smartphones are, of course, a double-edged sword in that they can potentially offer enormous work-life balance benefits. A working parent, for example, could leave the office two hours early to pick their kids up, making up the time later that evening. But flexibility arrangements usually still come within the paid work-day and do not pressure employees to “gift” unpaid overtime to their businesses.

What can I do?

  • Recognise that “just checking one more email” on your smartphone is working overtime.
  • Talk to your manager about the right to disconnect, and make sure you bring up any instances when you feel you’re being pressured to work unpaid overtime.
  • Speak up whenever you see “overwork culture” advocated in your workplace or on social media.

In other news this week in procurement:

Procter & Gamble calls for an improved media supply chain

  • P&G, a global advertiser with a marketing and advertising spend of $2.8 billion per annum, has called for a “transparent, clean and productive media supply chain” at a digital advertising leadership conference in Florida this weekend.
  • Chief Marketing Officer Marc Pritchard called media supply chains “murky at best, and fraudulent at worst”, advocating viewability standards including improved compliance and measurement.
  • Common frauds include “bot views”, where advertisers report millions of digital hits that are actually views by bots, rather than humans.

Read more on CNBC.

British Standards Institution releases Slavery Index

  • BSI has published its annual Human Trafficking and Supply Chain Slavery Index, revealing an increased risk of modern-day slavery entering European countries.
  • Russia, Slovakia, India and Pakistan are identified in the Index as “severe risk source countries” that may export modern-day slaves to the UK.
  • Italy is also identified as a high risk nation – partly due to the conflict in Syria, while Greece and Turkey are additionally categorised as high risk countries.

Read more on the BSI website.

Keen on the Internet of Things? Beware of IoT Botnet Zombie Attacks!

Everyone’s talking about the Internet of Things and all of the exciting things it can do for us! But just how much have we considered the possible security risks? 

What’s All the IoT Fuss About?

CPOs are becoming ever keener on enhancing hyper-connectivity within their organisations using the Internet of Things. This is unsurprising given the potential opportunities for procurement teams; warehouses that can tell you what parts you’re running out of and reorder them for you, more efficient processes and the chance to revolutionise how they manage supply chains.

Of course, it’s not just businesses that will benefit from IoT. Early adopters are already using IoT in their homes with smart fridges, smart toasters and smart collars for their pets. Experts predict that by 2020, more than half of new organisations will run on IoT.

Given all of these benefits, you might well ask what’s not to love? Well, judging by recent events, it might be prudent for us all to exercise a little more caution as far as IoT is concerned. As it stands, the process is wide open to cyberattacks.

Botnet Zombie Attacks

Individual devices pose almost no threat to any computer or data centre but what happens if millions of them were taken over at once? IoT devices are likely to have weaker security (research suggests that default usernames and passwords for devices are rarely changed), which makes them an easy target. Hackers will pre-program their malware with the most commonly used default passwords in order to hack multiple devices.

Back in October, an IoT botnet, Mirai, attacked a number of the internet’s websites including Spotify, Netflix and PayPal. The botnet works by consistently searching for accessible IoT devices protected by default passwords. Once these have been identified, the malware turns them into remotely controlled bots and is able to use them for large-scale network attacks – think robot zombie army!

This week, computer security journalist Brian Krebs posted an article on his blog, Krebs on Security, revealing the identity of Mirai author to be Paras Jha, owner of a DDoS mitigation service company ProTraf Solutions and a student of Rutgers University. Whilst Mirai has only been used mischievously so far, to shut down certain sites, the actions have brought to question what damage could be inflicted by real cybercriminals.

The Worst Case Scenario

Whilst the Mirai October attacks were relatively harmless and only resulted in some websites crashing, some tech commentators are regarding it as a test-run. It’s concerning that the next botnet attack could be aimed at data theft or physical asset disruption.

As Krebs stated in his blog “These weapons can be wielded by anyone – with any motivation – who’s willing to expend a modicum of time and effort to learn the basic principles of its operation.” Someone with a grievance against a particular website could easily have it taken offline or simply employ a hacker to do it for them.

It’s especially concerning to imagine the consequences of IoT devices being hacked within critical or high security areas such as hospitals, banking, government, transport etc. Time will tell if we are able to secure IoT before we are subject to further, and perhaps more significant, botnet attacks.

What Can Be Done?

How can individuals and organisations improve their IoT security and prevent cyber attacks? We’ve put together a quick checklist to help you strengthen your security.

  • Use strong login passwords for all your devices and strong Wi-Fi passwords. A strong password contains upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Make sure all the software you use is fully updates – this can fix security flaws.
  • Don’t open mysterious email links or attachments – if you weren’t expecting it, don’t open it!
  • Never reveal card information.
  • Don’t trust anyone who calls you to discuss your computer or devices – hang up the phone.

What do you think about the IoT security risks? Should CPOs halt their investments and wait for the cybersecurity to catch up with the technology? Let us know in the comments below.

Here’s what else has been going on in the world of procurement this week…

Trump Kills TPP

  • President Trump upended America’s bipartisan trade policy on Monday as he formally abandoned the ambitious, 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • In doing so, he demonstrated that he would not follow old rules, effectively discarding longstanding Republican orthodoxy that expanding global trade was good for the world and America.
  • Although the Trans-Pacific Partnership had not been approved by Congress, Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw carries broad geopolitical implications in a fast-growing region.
  • Trump said American workers would be protected against competition from low-wage countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, also parties to the deal.

Read More on New York Times

Wal-Mart Cuts 1,000 HQ Jobs

  • Wal-Mart Stores began a round of some 1,000 layoffs at its corporate headquarters, with most cuts targeting the retailer’s supply chain operations.
  • The shakeups, which have been expected, suggest that Wal-Mart is willing to undo much of the work in its existing e-commerce operations in favour of Jet’s signature pricing and fulfilment algorithms, which reward shoppers in real time with savings on items purchased and shipped together.
  • The dent in its supply chain ranks could undermine one of Wal-Mart’s core strengths: its highly efficient brick-and-mortar-based distribution system.

Read More on Retail Dive

Samsung’s Exploding Galaxy Note7 Blamed on Battery Suppliers

  • Approximately 2.5 million phones have been recalled by Samsung due to explosive defects of the Galaxy Note since September 2016.
  • Recalls happen all the time, but while the Samsung case rose to infamy due to its flammable and potentially injurious nature, the revelation that Samsung’s primary and backup suppliers independently produced a faulty phone component is equally remarkable.
  • What was a supply chain problem was resolved by an operations solution in this particular case. However, batteries will be subject to more strict quality controls to avoid future issues.
  • Previous analyses also have suggested Samsung’s rush to production — both before and after the first recall — may have also impacted the finished good’s quality.

Read More on Supply Chain Dive

Procurement Salaries On The UP In 2017

  • Procurement professionals can expect to see pay rises averaging 10% in 2017, according to a salary survey
  • However, contractors will get the biggest rises – 15% – while permanent staff can expect to get 4%
  • Sam Walters, associate director at Robert Walters, said: “Across all levels of seniority we have seen demand grow for high quality procurement professionals over the past year, with those with IT procurement experience being particularly highly sought after

Read more at Supply Management

Why Agile Business Models Help in a Changing Ecosystem

Whether global giant or SME, the supply chain ecosystem provides opportunities for all organisations. Particularly those agile enough to adapt to the changing environment.

ecosystem

In our previous article, we looked at how the future of logistics may look from a technological perspective. Today, we’ll look at the potential changes in business models that will define the industry.

Many believe success relies simply on investing in new tech. However, the reality is that these changes are only the tip of the iceberg. The fluidity of working the online revolution has created means that blindly applying pre-Internet age business models is a recipe for stagnation and, ultimately, failure.

Big Data

By using Big Data, logistics providers can identify where to improve, what to invest in and how to grow. This allows them to improve processes and maximise customer service, through faster, cheaper and error-free supply chains.

With the massive potential for useful data offered by IoT, algorithms can predict customer demand and opportunities with increasing accuracy. Used in conjunction with traditional business modelling, they can enable faster and more effective strategic business decisions.

Using information from past transportation activities, can help develop better scheduling, load sequences and ETA predictions, all enhancing customer experience. Further to this, one can use customer segmentation to provide tailored customer service levels, maximising customer retention.

However, there is increasingly an acceptance that Big Data is no good on its own. The key challenge is in ensuring data is fit for purpose by merging all the information in a meaningful and statistically relevant way.

With Big Data, this has always been the biggest danger. And with the proliferation of data sources promised by IoT and further digital integration, it will only become more challenging.

Furthermore, not everyone in the industry will be able to compete with the global giants. Particularly not in terms of data analysis and process efficiency.

There will always be room for smaller operations. Their success will rely on being able to identify specific needs at an individual level, and respond quickly to them. These players will, increasingly, look to collaborative models to enhance their business propositions.

Collaboration

The existence of middle-men is not a new phenomenon. However, it is fair to say that the internet has provided a platform for an unprecedented growth in businesses that own no assets at all.

As an illustration of this, logistics services that add value through the aggregation of information are proliferating. There have always been brokers or consultants, but the ability to harness Big Data means that companies such as Freightex, Flexe and Zupplychain can accelerate competition by becoming market makers.

These market makers are evident in many verticals. AirB&B, Uber and MoneySupermarket are all aggregators of services that add value for customers by using their platform to leverage value from providers.

It’s this capacity for one stop solutions, facilitated by the immediacy of online communication and comparison, that is at the heart of collaborative models.

As the demands for speed and cost-efficiency grow, transparent and flexible logistics services ensure supply adapts to meet demand through increased variety and competition. Centralised marketplaces allow comparison of services and prices, allowing customers to build a bespoke supply chain. Moreover, they arm customers with the ability to switch elements of their supply chain without compromising the whole.

Streamlining Processes

In addition to driving up competition, this collaborative approach highlights how shared digital systems can lead to streamlining of processes.

With, for example, a website that matches available lorries to shipper needs, based on prices and location coverage, one would expect integration on delivery information. And with the future offering the same level of detail and control across each step in the supply chain, real-time information will be visible from initial supplier right through to customer delivery.

The potential for savings all along the logistics chain is frankly massive. From empty miles and storage capacity underuse/excess, to re-arranged courier delivery scheduling, huge opportunities exist.

This model allows niche companies to continue to compete against full-solution supply chain providers. In addition, with greater transparency, each player can manage their own credibility without being undermined by partners who may under-deliver. Just as end-customers can expect to move more easily, niche providers will be able to change partners with greater flexibility.

The challenges of the collaborative models are bound up in compliance and in consistency of approach across different providers. Trust – whether it’s implicit through brand management or gained explicitly through insurance – is a vital component for these models.

And as with all new technologies, industry standards will need to evolve and become entrenched. While this is already occurring, there may be inter-operability challenges.

Adapting to the Ecosystem

To succeed, logistics companies will need to react quickly (or, indeed, proactively) to ensure service levels and pricing match increasing customer expectations.

The reality is that the drive for greater efficiency cannot be achieved without companies embracing change. Alongside this will be adopting tools required to get there – be they technology, workplace management, planning, systems or mindset.

The bigger companies in the industry will look to achieve greater traction through the diverse data harvesting potential of IoT and the forecasting it can fuel through big data analysis. However, SMEs will always have the advantage of greater agility in the marketplace.

It may well be that the potential of the sharing economy, empowered by the immediacy of online tools, can give a disproportionate strength to smaller providers who act collaboratively to access a wide market whilst maintaining the flexibility inherent in their size.

Furthermore, quick thinking, and quick-acting, organisations can succeed through fresh workplace management (such as in recruitment and training), as well as accurate identification of what technological advances (such as 3D printing, augmented reality tools or automated last mile delivery) will work for them.

Lions will always be at the top of the food chain. But the ecosystem is constantly evolving to ensure every animal, if agile or crafty enough, has its niche.

Zupplychain employs algorithmic matching of customer’s search requirements to warehouse availability to show warehouse pricing, along with an automated and structured process to progress enquiries and a cloud based system to manage customer stock in provider’s warehouses.

Technology Is The Answer. But What’s The Question?

Companies everywhere are super-keen to invest in technology and an eye-watering $3.49 trillion will be made available in 2017 for this purpose – but how can CPOs and IT buyers ensure they make the right decisions? 

If you ask any CPO what their main priorities are for the next five years, you’re almost guaranteed to receive an answer involving technology. Spend for software and IT services is rising at a dramatic rate, and is expected to increase by an incredible 29% in 2017 to $3.49 trillion in the U.S. alone.

The urgency for harnessing cutting-edge technology is understood, and the good news is that business are making the money available. But how do you make sure you’re investing in the right tools?

Here’s the secret: you need to make sure you’re asking the right questions

Supply management professionals will gather in Washington, D.C. on March 22-24 for ISM Tech 2017, where they will gain access to the knowledge required to make intelligent technology investment decisions for the unique needs of their organisations. IT procurement experts will reveal new possibilities and cost-saving efficiencies in areas including advanced analytics, manufacturing 4.0, the role of robotics, going digital and utilising augmented reality.

Keynote speakers include Rick Smith, CEO of Fast Radius, who will be presenting on “Our 3D-printed future”, while Silicon Valley Entrepreneur and bestselling author Martin Ford will deliver a keynote titled “How data is driving the transportation revolution”. Other big names include Abtin Hamidi, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of Cargo Chief; Amanda Prochaska, Vice President Procurement Program Management Office, MGM Resorts International; and Tom Martin, Director of Learning Solutions at ISM.

What questions will Tech 2017 help you to answer?

  • How can robotics streamline my business processes?
  • What’s the best way to use the Internet of Things (IoT) in the supply chain?
  • How can my organisation use technology innovations to capture digital customers?
  • How can I leverage analytics to align planning with demand?
  • How should I mitigate technology-related risks?
  • What capabilities will my team require to keep up with technological advancements?

As with every ISM Event, Tech 2017 is all about the networking. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet scores of innovative suppliers and exchange ideas with representatives from top providers in the field, strategizing with experts on their technology needs to identify new ways to tackle existing challenges and future growth opportunities.

This is one event where just about any conversation taking place in the Exhibition Hall is likely to make fascinating eavesdropping. Instead of the usual procurement “chatter” around traditional practices such as sourcing, contracts and requisition-to-pay, attendees will discuss cutting-edge concepts like cognitive analytics, 3D printing, digital reporting, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

As you network, keep in mind that IT procurement experts have been tipped to be the CPOs of the future. According to Procurious founder Tania Seary, the profession is now looking to this highly-skilled group for leadership, and IT experts are on the fast-track to leadership due to five key advantages:

  1. IT experts already control an important chunk of their organisations’ strategic spend.
  2. Soon everything we buy will include an element of technology.
  3. IT procurement experts know how to drive change.
  4. They are innovation scouts.
  5. They understand cyber security.

Don’t miss out – ISM Tech 2017 will take place at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, Washnigton D.C. from March 22-24, 2017.