Category Archives: Supply Chain

World’s Deadliest Supply Routes: Antarctica

Are you responsible for sending your people into danger? In a new Procurious blog series, The World’s Deadliest Supply Chains, we investigate the most high-risk supply chains out there…

By Thelma Amaro Vidales / Shutterstock 

The sight of 1900 rolls of toilet paper would not usually excite your typical urban dweller, but when the consignment supplies a remote Antarctica camp of 350 people for the whole winter it’s a case of unfettered joy and – of course – relief.

The most essential of household essentials was among the 3000 tonnes of provisions and equipment delivered by the chartered US vessel MV Ocean Giant to New Zealand’s Scott Base in January.

The supply drop – which can take up to nine days to unload – included 200 kilograms of coffee beans, 100 cans of peaches, a Toyota Landcruiser, two rowing machines and a triple-glazed window.

According to Antarctica New Zealand logistics manager Paul Woodgate, organisers need to think of everything the isolated community might need, including spare parts for water plants and heaters.

“We need supplies to keep the base clean, everyone fed and warm, and the water flowing,” he told Maori Television.

While routine, MV Ocean Giant’s delivery trip reflects the enormous task of supplying myriad human needs to the frozen wilderness.

While Antarctica might be known as the Lonely Continent, human activity abounds with no fewer than 36 permanent scientific and research bases operating there. In the summer months, many smaller facilities spring up too, all needing to be supplied by the mother camp.

Dangers lurks underneath every crevasse and ice flow, in an environment in which temperatures can fall to minus 90 degrees and winds can howl at more than 300 kilometres an hour.

As with Mt Everest, dozens of people have died on Antarctica’s icy expanses over the years – not just derring-do explorers but workers charged with ensuring the bases are supplied with thousands of items that city folk take for granted.

In 1976, 11 Argentinean airmen were killed when their plane crashed on a reconnaissance mission over Drakes Passage. In a tragic postscript, a helicopter dispatched to recover the bodies also crashed.

In 1971, a Hercules C-130 made a forced landing on a re-supply run to McMurdo Station (the US base on Ross Island that hosts Antarctica’s largest community).

No-one was injured. But the overseers of the US Antarctica program did their sums and realised that salvaging the aircraft would cost $US10m, compared with the $US38m replacement cost.

Seventeen years after it went down, the Hercules was fitted with skis, flown out and pressed into service once again. A testament, indeed, to the durability of the so-called ‘workhorse of the skies’.

As with the Argentinean incident a decade previously, the mission did not have a happy ending: in December 1987 two US sailors died when a different Hercules crashed, while conveying spare parts to the refurbished plane.

These days, the supply chain is made safer with technological advances such as GPS positioning, powerful ice breakers, carbon-fibre skis, freeze-proof laptops, satellite phones and sealed, all-weather runways.

But ‘safer’ is by no means ‘safe’, with many mishaps happening in more recent years.

In January 2016, helicopter pilot David Wood stepped from his aircraft and straight in a crevasse on the Western Ice Shelf, while on a routine mission to re-supply a fuel cache. He was rescued after four lonely hours, but subsequently died from hypothermia.

His death resulted in criminal charges being laid against Australia’s environment departments and a helicopter contractor.

To mitigate the ever-present dangers of Antarctica, governments are constantly stretching the envelope to make the complex logistics requirements that much safer.

In a breakthrough flight, a Royal Australian Air Force Flight C-17A in September 2017 supplied Davis Station from Hobart and then returned to the Tasmanian capital without landing at the base. The 10,000km round trip was made possible by a difficult mid-air refuelling exercise.

The plane air dropped nine tonnes of supplies – including fresh produce – to the base, which is inaccessible by sea from April to October.

Within the next decade, Antarctica’s logistics needs will only expand as more nations establish a presence there, if only to ‘fly the flag’ or with a view to claiming dibs on potential large oil and gas reserves in the future.

Most notably, China has established three bases and three airfields, reportedly spending more on its Antarctic program than any other country.

Six countries have territorial claims to Antarctica: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the UK.

But the Antarctic Treaty actually covers 53 countries, 29 having “consultative status”, which allows them to carry out research.

With 20 airports dotted around Antarctica, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are playing an increasingly prominent role – especially during winter months when sea access isn’t possible and roads on the continent are out of action.

“With more time and advancing technology, carrying goods to remote locations in Antarctica will only get easier,” says the Dubai-based Gulf Worldwide Logistics.

“The logistics industry is preparing for advancement in this continent over the next few years.” But again, ‘easier’ does not imply ‘safer’ and logistics operators perennially need to be alert to the dangers. Like the Emperor penguins, Antarctica is not the type of wild environment that can ever truly be tamed.

If you’d like to read additional related content or get involved with thought provoking discussions check out the Supply Chain Pros group – a one stop shop for all your supply chain need


A Supply Chain That Never Forgets

How do you retain knowledge and talent and how do you ensure your supply chain team doesn’t forget key information?  Imagine having a supply chain that never forgets…

By Kletr/ Shutterstock

At last month’s CPO roundtable in London we discussed the importance of improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, how to nail your next big career move and how AI is enabling supply chain professionals to add greater value to their organisations.

At this point, supply chain and procurement professionals might be getting a bit impatient with AI. We’ve all heard how this technology is poised to revolutionise the supply chain, but day to day you’re not working in R&D; you’re responsible for P&L. You need the insight across the business and with your suppliers – but don’t have a technical degree.  The obvious question you might be asking yourself is – what’s in it for me and the bottom-line performance of my business?

Roger Needham, IBM Supply Chain Consultant, led an insightful discussion on why AI does matter to supply chain and procurement professionals.

IBM’s $2.47 billion supply chain consists of a 12,000-strong supplier base across 100 countries with 150,000 contracts managed. It’s no mean feat managing the risks associated with such a large-scale operation. So when it comes to AI, Roger argues, it’s not a theoretical concept. “AI has been deployed in IBM’s supply chain over four years and it is delivering real bottom line benefit.”

“What led to AI being directly implemented within our supply chain centered around the trade lane and visible logistics elements and how these impacted the supply chain. You can set up a factory perfectly but if you can’t get the materials you need to it then it’s a completely wasted effort.”

“After a Japanese tsunami disrupted our supply lanes in 2011, we asked ourselves how to get better predictive insights of real world supply chain disruptors. IBM Watson Supply Chain is the result.” AI can help manage unforeseen disruptions by alerting key decision makers and working towards solutions.

In Roger’s experience AI can supply chain teams to learn on a daily basis and to do more with less. From concept to final delivery the platform is developing but as a minimum we have to be able to do more with the same. With AI We don’t need to hire three more people, we can do more with the five we already have. And we are learning every day how to deploy this AI into our supply chain.”

Roger outlined the four pillars of Watson Supply Chain.

  1. Identify and alert – Control towers are able to alert supply chain professionals when something goes wrong
  2. Analyse and understand – Watson is able to analyse the impact of a disruption on the business. How many orders will be affected by a tsunami in Japan and what is the value of those orders? A supply chain that can feedback that critical business data is important.
  3. Interact, Collaborate, Resolve – If there’s a challenge that needs solving, Watson can bring all the relevant people into a virtual room and resolve it quickly, also advising who should be in that room.
  4. Learn and Share – How do you retain knowledge and talent and how do you ensure your supply chain team doesn’t forget things?  If your team encounter a problem that has happened before – you won’t know to resolve it if those involved the first time around have now left the business. You’re effectively starting from scratch. Watson, on the other hand, is like an elephant – it never forgets.

“Human and machine always get a better answer than human alone or machine alone” Ginni Rometty, THINK 2018

“Watson gives the information, and the ultimate decision rests with a human being,” explains Roger. “But an issue is solved with two individuals and three email exchanges with Watson advising versus three weeks to resolve with fifteen people and dozens of emails.”

Putting the D in D and I

In today’s workforce, diversity has become a buzzword, with organisations increasingly communicating its importance through their advertising and core business values.

But what does diversity mean, why is it important, how do you achieve it and, once you have it, what do you do with it?

Joelle Payom, Global Strategic Sourcing & Vendor Management Lead explained that there is an enormous pressure for organisations to hire people that are different. But alongside that moral pressure to ‘do the right thing’ is a very strong business case.

“A UK report revealed that the British economy could be boosted by as much as £24 billion if black and minority talent was fully utilised. When you have a diversified workforce you have a broader [talent pool] who are able to bring different ways of working, different ways of dealing with issues and can provide greater innovation.”

As Joelle points out, there is no point in building a diverse workforce if it is not nurtured into being an inclusive one. “To reap the benefits of a diverse workforce it’s vital to have an inclusive environment where everyone is treated equally, feels welcome to participate and can achieve their potential”

Diversity = The What 

A mix of diverse types of people

Inclusion = The How

The strategies and behaviours that welcome, embrace and create value from diversity

“What I want people to take away is that diversity and inclusion (D & I) is not only for women or for people of different ethnicities or sexual orientation. It is for everybody. D & I, which is much more important than diversity, means that we need to provide each human being with equal treatment in the corporate world. By having an inclusive corporate environment for people we can make a change and improve the way society works.”

Being a business leader

Lucy Harding, Partner and Global Head of Practice, Procurement and Supply Chain at Odgers Berndtson led a discussion on what it takes to get to the top and the qualities that will set you apart from the pack when aiming for the C-Suite.

She advises that ambitious procurement and supply chain professionals put the business first and the function second.

“The biggest reason CFOs go to market [for a CPO or Head of Supply Chain] is because they need a business leader, not a function leader.”

They will assume you can do the mechanics of a procurement or supply chain role and will spend far less time testing these specifics, particularly given that most CFOs aren’t in a position to test technical procurement and supply chain competence. “You should know your stuff and they’ll assume that.”

What a hiring CFO really wants to know is how you’ll apply what you know to their business and how you’ll build a talented team below you. Everyone else on the shortlist will equally qualified, from a procurement and supply chain perspective, so it’s about differentiating yourself.

Lucy highlighted a further four crucial capabilities for a prospective CPO or Head of Supply Chain

  • Breath of experience – function and broader business
  • Leadership
  • Learning agility
  • Embrace technology and innovation

IBM Watson Supply Chain sponsored Procurious’ London CPO roundtable on 13th February. 

To request an invitation contact Olga Luscombe. If you’d like to read additional related content or get involved with thought provoking discussions check out the Supply Chain Pros group – a one stop shop for all your supply chain needs

Taking Control Of Your Supply Chain With Blockchain

Organisations are increasingly striving to develop a supply chain that adheres to their brand’s sustainability and ethical standards. Here’s how blockchain can enable this…

By Demkat / Shutterstock

As our global supply chains become more and more complex, ensuring that contractual commitments around sustainability and ethical practices are met at each stage of the supply chain has become extremely challenging.

Along with this increased complexity, the economic and reputational cost of a lapse in compliance is increasing as well. Organisations want to be part of the solution, not generating bad headlines and being seen as part of the problem.

As such, organisations are increasingly striving to develop a supply chain that adheres to their brand’s sustainability and ethical standards. Starbucks, to name one example, has set a 2020 goal of ensuring all tea and cocoa is ethically sourced. Johnson & Johnson has publicly stated its commitment to determining the use, country of origin and source of 3TG minerals (Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum and Gold) used in its global product portfolio. Such commitments require extreme and committed due diligence in supply chain management.

One way that forward-looking businesses are achieving such diligence is with enterprise contract management. For the first time in the history of commerce, contracts are being completely digitised. This enables procurement organisations to identify, assess and automatically mitigate risk through advanced capabilities like automated supplier checks and region-based regulatory compliance. And emerging technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) are poised to dramatically increase the benefits of an enterprise contract management platform.

Today, we at Icertis are working with customers on solutions that will allow them to utilise smart contracts that use a consortium blockchain to create an immutable ledger of transactions. Under such a system, a customer and its suppliers will place their contracts on the blockchain, thus ensuring that the required terms are present in all the related contracts. Once on the blockchain, AI will verify that all necessary contractual obligations are present in the documents. This will ensure the tracking of commitments across a consortium of suppliers, enabling a new level of commercial collaboration, visibility and accountability.  And to ensure sensitive information is not exposed, visibility of contracts in the chain will be restricted based on privileges that allow only contracting parties to see their contract, preserving the sanctity of the supply chain.

This technology turns contracts into living business assets to achieve once-divergent goals.

Manufacturers can ensure their suppliers comply to standards and contractual commitments around privacy, sustainability and labour laws. Suppliers, meanwhile, can prove that they comply, while not exposing the details of their subcontracts within the supply chain.

And it’s not just about tea, cocoa or conflict minerals. This technology can also enforce compliance requirements like data privacy (including GDPR), information security, ITAR (International Trade in Arms Regulation) and other regulations.

We are entering a new era of commerce, when contracts stop being static documents forgotten about after execution and actively start reducing risk and creating value for enterprises throughout their lifecycle. Smart contracts powered by AI and blockchain can protect and optimize businesses in ways never before possible, including in their supply chain.

Icertis is sponsoring Big Ideas Summit London on March 14th. Sign up now as a digital delegate to follow the day’s action wherever you are in the world.