Category Archives: Trending

Work-life balance & job satisfaction more important than salary to procurement workers

Work-life balance and job satisfaction trump salary as the most important aspects of working life – according to recruitment specialist REED.

Vasin Lee/Shutterstock.com

Breakdown across the ages reveals changing priorities when it comes to work and play.

With research revealing that workers in procurement roles rate work-life balance and job satisfaction as more important than salary, recruitment specialist REED is urging employers to give consideration to their recruitment and retention strategies.

The poll of over 1,600 workers by YouGov, in association with the launch of the REED 2015 Salary Guides, questioned workers on their attitudes to work, career aspirations and regrets.

What really matters at work

Within the findings, REED identified key trends which indicate how UK workers’ priorities change over the course of their career – which could have a significant effect on the talent management strategies of many UK firms.

With 36 per cent of workers in procurement claiming that good job satisfaction is the single most important aspect of working life, followed by the need for good work-life balance (28 per cent), it’s no longer just about the salary package.

Results revealed – what matters most across the ages

18-24                     Salary and benefits (38%)

25-34                     Job satisfaction (31%)

35-45                     Work-life balance (31%)

45-54                     Salary and benefits (25%)

55+                         Job satisfaction and work-life balance (joint top – 32%)

Career carousel

The poll revealed that one in eight workers (13 per cent) in procurement are unsatisfied in their role, with one in five (20 per cent) planning to look for a new job over the next 12 months.

While slightly more than one in ten workers (13 per cent) have stayed loyal to the same employer, twice as many (23 per cent) have moved workplaces more than seven times. When asked why they changed employer, procurement and supply chain workers reported better prospects or promotion (43 per cent), better salary (41 per cent) and boredom with their current role (28 per cent) as the top three motivators.

Gert Nzimiro, executive divisional director at Reed Procurement & Supply Chain, said: “In a candidate-led market such as this, employers need to think hard about how they attract and retain procurement staff. What this research shows is that although salary is very important, now we’re out of the recession it’s no longer just about pay – employers need to consider many other factors, such as flexible working and how they can offer the greatest job satisfaction. 

“Our research shows that in the last 12 months, 29 per cent of procurement and supply chain workers received some form of pay rise, and almost a quarter (24 per cent) received a bonus. However, with 22 per cent having received no benefits, the fact that 20 per cent are planning to look for a new role over the next 12 months, is hardly surprising. Employers need to start taking action and think wider than just the salary package.”

The Reed Procurement & Supply Chain 2015 Salary & Market Insight report can be obtained at www.reedglobal.com/salaryguide

Sustainable and Social Procurement – Are We Doing Enough?

Even though sustainable and social procurement are currently high-profile topics, it’s been hard to get people excited about them. This is down in part to a lack of consensus on what they are and what people should be doing on a day-to-day basis.

The question is how can we, as procurement professionals, change this?

What are Sustainable and Social Procurement?

A good place to start is a brief definition of both. It’s tricky as there isn’t really a consensus, but these are the most common ones.

Sustainable Procurement – The process for meeting the needs of the current generation for goods, services, utilities and works while considering the overall impact on the environment and wider society.

Social Procurement – A strategic approach to the delivery of organisational objectives while delivering social benefit.

The Current Situation

Increasing numbers of organisations have implemented codes of conduct, ethics and sustainability policies and spend targets for social enterprises. Initiatives such carbon neutral operations and ethical sourcing provide good examples of organisations considering the impact of their operations on the environment and wider society.

And consumers have begun to expect this. Around 88 per cent of consumers would choose to buy a product with a social or environmental benefit in a like-for-like comparison, while 90 per cent of Americans say they are more likely to trust and remain loyal to brands backing social causes.

However, recent high-profile examples, such Rana Plaza in Bangladesh and the UK horse-meat scandal, highlight the importance of companies ensuring that these standards are upheld throughout the supply chain.

So what is holding organisations back?

A lack of understanding is one of the key reasons for organisational inaction. Other common reasons inaction include:

  • Increased cost
  • Resistance to change
  • Lack of management support
  • Increased time to undertake sourcing activities
  • Inability to find ‘social enterprises’ or lack of response from them

And the reality is?

The reality is that all these reasons are surmountable. This is where Procurement must step up and take the lead.

As Procurement touches all parts of the organisation, it can help to ensure that the key decision makers are involved from the outset, helping with both executive buy-in and resistance to change.

Working with external stakeholders can provide both innovation and new ideas, ultimately lowering the Total Cost of Ownership for ‘green’ products. Once the processes are seen as part and parcel of sourcing activities, the time cost is lowered too.

Finally, companies can engage with organisations such as Social Enterprise UK and Social Traders (Australia), who can assist procurement departments in getting involved with social enterprises.

The Future

Experts have identified trends in sustainable supply chains for the coming year, including:

  • Better resource management – focus on codes of conduct, chains of custody and supply chain reporting and evaluation
  • Innovative bio-based materials – less use of primary resources and increased use and development of renewable materials
  • Eco-efficient operations – organisations finding a better balance between economics and the environment

Social media will play a key role too. 64 per cent of millennials use social media to address companies about social and environmental issues, and 36 per cent of consumers say they mainly share content to promote the causes they care about.

What can I do?

  • As a consumer, try to buy brands linked to sustainable or social activities
  • When comparing two like-for-like products, choose the ‘green’ option if you can
  • Integrate sustainability and social procurement into your procurement processes
  • Make a case for your company working with social enterprises and having spend targets for them
  • Ensure all the suppliers in your supply chain are signed up to your code of conduct
  • Leverage social media to highlight your success and set a benchmark for other procurement teams to achieve.

Reading and Reference

Loyalty and Trust for Social Causes: http://instamun.org/90-of-americans-more-likely-to-trust-brands-that-back-social-causes/

Social or Environmental Benefit: http://www.conecomm.com/stuff/contentmgr/files/0/e3d2eec1e15e858867a5c2b1a22c4cfb/files/2013_cone_comm_social_impact_study.pdf

Social media habits: http://www.conecomm.com/csr-and-millennials

DHL talk key packaging trends of 2015

Ahead of the UK’s biggest packaging event later this month Paul Young – Head of Packaging Services at DHL Supply Chain, shared his thoughts on future packaging trends with Procurious. 

Taking place at Birmingham’s NEC on 25-26 February 2015, Packaging Innovations 2015 will bring together the very best in the packaging and print industry from right across the globe.

Now in its tenth year, the expo will be home to  over 350 exhibitors specialising in all aspects of packaging from materials and design, to machinery, new technologies and equipment.

Here’s what Paul had to say:

 What innovations are enabling new capabilities for packaging?

From the use of new substrates to digital technology, a number of innovations are enabling new capabilities for packaging. Edible and dissolvable packaging are becoming more prominent as companies focus on their environmental agendas, whilst QR codes have created packaging capable of communicating with the consumer in a more interactive way.

It’s important that packaging solutions should fit the product and company values. Creating edible cups, for example, will emphasise a brand’s environmental credentials and reduce waste, whilst packaging that incorporates a digital element can engage consumers with the wider brand on multiple platforms.

What are the key packaging trends of 2015?

A study commissioned by Tetra Pack found that 89 per cent of consumers prefer to buy products in recyclable packages. This is therefore a key trend for 2015. As consumers are increasingly aware of environmental concerns, they wish to make efforts to cut down on their personal environmental impact.

Digital print is another trend to watch. Currently, labelling has been the area most impacted by digital print, however as the quality of products has significantly improved we expect to see more packaging created in this way over the year.

Is sustainable packaging high on the agenda for many customers? 

Sustainable packaging has a number of benefits for customers. It allows customers to demonstrate their environmental credentials and improve brand perception as well as reducing unnecessary, non-recyclable wastage.

Computer manufacturer Dell, have been using bamboo to ship 70 per cent of their laptops and packaging multiple products in the same box where appropriate. This strategy aims to save Dell US$18 million between 2008 and 2018 as well as generating substantial environmental benefit.

Are there any new ways in which packaging waste is being reduced in the manufacturing process?

Minimising the packaging size for any given product reduces packaging waste during the manufacturing process. Recently, Chainalytics, a supply chain consultation and analytics organisation, reduced the size of packaging for a prepared food product by one eighth of an inch and in doing so eliminated 146 tonnes of paper and cardboard annually.

Creating custom sized boxes for less-than-full-case orders is another way in which packaging waste can be reduced with smaller boxes able to compactly hold products, thus eliminating excess wastage.

Which new technologies are increasing packaging efficiency?

Technology, such as ‘on-demand’ packaging equipment, creates custom sized packaging and significantly improves packaging efficiency.

Office giant Staples has been using this cutting edge technology to create 6,000 to 8,000 custom sized boxes each day so that 30 per cent of the orders the company ships are now custom sized. As well as enhancing the consumer’s experience of the package, this has enabled Staples to accommodate more orders in each delivery, transporting products with increased efficiency.

What mistakes are companies [still] making when it comes to choosing their packaging strategy?

Companies are much more aware of the importance of packaging however some mistakes are nonetheless made. For example, online retailers often do not consider the impact of the packaging they choose for specific products. This can lead to potentially harmful situations for the consumer, for example, liquids packaged in basic cardboard boxes, highlighting the need for effective, product specific packaging.

Many companies still need to be aware of what packaging strategy is most advantageous to their business. Whilst sustainable packaging is of importance to many consumers, re-usable packaging may instead reduce waste further and reap financial better benefits.

Born in the USA: the little phone that could

Will a streamlined supply chain give a small manufacturer just enough of an edge to take on the big boys? 

BLU Products Vivo Air

A new combatant is suiting-up and joining the fierce smartphone battleground…

Wave hello to BLU Products, its newest Android smartphone – the Vivo Air, measures in at an impossibly thin 5.1mm thick and 3.5 ounces in weight.

Making it the thinnest and lightest phone available right now in the US. At just £199, it might just be one of the most affordable little firecrackers out there  – and we’re talking unlocked/off-contract too.

It takes guts to move into a crowded marketplace… BLU Products joins the ranks of Motorola, HTC, ZTE, LG, OnePlus, and Yota (to name but a few) – underdogs they may be, but that doesn’t mean going toe-to-toe will be any easier.

From small acorns…

The Vivo Air comes from an impressive stable – take a cursory glance at BLU Products’ smartphone portfolio (including the likes of the BLU Life One, Dash, Studio, and Life series) and you’ll see the burgeoning manufacturer is cranking out handsets at a spritely pace. BLU Products specialises in targeting developing markets with its range of affordable, high-speed, unlocked Android devices – a USP that is proving something of a success for the new kid on the block.

BLU Products came to life in 2009 and has since gone on to shift 10 million handsets in over 40 different countries. Despite its relatively small size, it’s one of the fastest growing manufacturers of mobile products in the world.

Its Brazilian entrepreneur – Sammy Ohev-Zion, spent 17 years previous in various roles, building essential experience that would later serve BLU Products well.

Take the manufacturers we cited above – the Motorola’s and Samsung’s of the world – Ohev-Zion realised that it doesn’t matter who you are, the price of manufacturing a handset remains a constant. Thanks to multi-million dollar marketing costs, exclusivity deals with mobile networks, and any artificially-inflated extras the manufacturer chooses, the retail price is usually double (or triple) the cost price.

In 2009 the dream came to pass, and with the formation of BLU Products, Ohev-Zion is taking aim at the big boys – he wants to beat them at their own game.

In an interview with The Verge, Ohev-Zion commented: “Previously for a startup company to be able to manufacture — if you weren’t one of these billion-dollar companies you didn’t have the access or the technologies to make your own mobile devices.” The supply chain of suppliers, designers, manufacturers, and retailers required was just not sustainable… Therefore dislodging this status quo was high on BLU’s agenda, and it had some much-needed help when the world slowly emerged from the throes of economic recession. There was suddenly an abundance of readily available components and manufacturers willing to take on production duties.

A healthy supply chain (smartphone or otherwise) also requires adequate means to pay its distributors and BLU Products found itself in an enviable position thanks to Ohev-Zion’s standing with Amazon and Best Buy (among others).

Innovate not imitate

On the face of it, BLU Products mantra is simple – high speed, high performance smartphones needn’t command a similarly high price tag. Consumers shouldn’t have to compromise on quality, design or experience.

In The Verge piece, the BLU founder cites one of America’s biggest manufacturers of affordable flat screen TVs – Vizio, as a direct comparison. Vizio pack just the same impressive technology into their screens, but do away with the costly overheads and the eye-watering RRP.

From its humble base in Florida, it seems BLU Products’ masterplan is paying off handsomely.

The battle for sustainable palm oil

In another life, I was an extra on Home and Away (an Aussie soap opera) something I was put onto by a university friend. Despite receiving critical acclaim (from my mother) for my role as the ‘front desk operator’ at the Summer Bay Gym, I decided to leave the bright lights of showbiz and pursue a career in procurement.

My university friend however, stuck with ‘the business’ and recently starred in the following online commercial for the not-for-profit group Sum of Us.

The commercial, which has now gone viral with nearly 2 million YouTube views, discusses the sustainability of the supply chain for PepsiCo’s popular Doritos corn chips. It starts with two starry eyed lovers sharing their passion for Doritos and ends with a stern message to consumers that PepsiCo’s use of unsustainable palm oil is not acceptable.

Palm oil – The Sustainable supply chain’s figurehead

Palm oil has been at the centre of the sustainable supply chain debate for years now. The production and use of this product in consumer goods has gained notoriety for its lack of supply chain transparency and alarming environmental and social impacts, some of which are listed below:

Environmental impacts of palm oil farming

  • Large-scale forest conversion
  • Loss of critical habitat for endangered species
  • Soil erosion
  • Air pollution
  • Soil & water pollution
  • Climate change

Social impacts of palm oil farming

  • Land grabs
  • Loss of livelihoods
  • Social conflict
  • Forced migration

(Source WWF)

In it’s defence, PepsiCo has refuted the claims made in the Sum of Us advertisement and restated the company’s commitment to ensure all palm oil used in its production is sustainably sourced. The company claims it is making moves with suppliers that will ensure all palm oil providers are compliant with PepsiCo’s Forestry Stewardship Policy by 2016. The organisation has made a further commitment to achieving zero deforestation in company owned and operated activities throughout its supply chain by 2020, a timeline that as drawn some criticism from environmental group.

Sustainability and Brand

The Sum of Us campaign once again exemplifies the inextricable links between supply chain performance (particularly purporting to sustainability and the environment) and overall brand image.

Perhaps the strongest indication of this link can understood through the quote below. In response to questions as to why the campaign focused solely on the Doritos product (and not PepsiCo or the palm oil industry in general) Sum of Us stated:

“We find that focusing on brands that have resonance with members increases the chance of the campaign getting exposure and being effective. Consumers may not know or understand how PepsiCo operates, or a palm oil trader or supplier, but chances are they’re very familiar with Doritos.”

An Ongoing Battle

The battle for sustainable palm oil looks set to continue with Greenpeace claiming the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO is a certification standard established in 2004 to minimise the environmental damage done by companies using palm oil, and it is falling well short of its stated goals. In a report, published in February 2014, Greenpeace launched the following – a criticism of RSPO members:

“On the ground, we’ve seen lots of RSPO members still doing forest clearing in the area, which is an indication of weak enforcement and a weak standard. RSPO, from my perspective, has been used for green washing by companies who want to expand their plantations into the forest.” (PepsiCo is a signatory to the RSPO agreement).

Simon Lord – group director for sustainability at New Britain Palm Oil, believes large organisations need to take greater responsibility for their role in the side effects of palm oil production:

“People have hidden behind the easy options and have pushed the problem down the supply chain, and conveniently forgotten that they are a player in the supply chain and have a duty to source responsibly.”

Are the standards for sustainable palm oil production a step in the right direction? Or are they merely a shield for large organisations to hide behind? Leave your thoughts on the palm oil industry below.

Packing for the future: big trends, digital print, sustainability

Stuart Kellock, Owner of Label Apeel shares his thoughts on digital print, the next big trends and whether being sustainable is still crucial for business.

What is next for digital print?

In labels and packaging the next step has got to be educating the end user, the marketeers and the brand owners about what is available to them.

Pumping the market with presses does nothing for the innovation being applied. For me, it will be those who can apply themselves to new and innovative applications that will be the winners. Those who are merely using digital presses to produce labels that could be done using conventional, will find that the unseen costs quickly catch up with them, and that the competition very quickly becomes a bit hot to justify the expenditure. We have already seen this model play out in the commercial sheet fed world with disastrous outcomes for some of the less innovative businesses.

Has personalised packaging had its day?

No, personalised packaging is here to stay. With any amount of luck we can all stop treating it as the be all and end all of what digital has to offer. Yes, coke and Absolute Vodka have done some smashing stuff with personalisation, but is it really innovative? I remember 12 years ago turning up to an event and being presented with a bottle of personalized beer. Personalisation is not innovative; the scale of the personalisation that these companies demonstrated was innovative. Digital has so much more to offer and it is only once we can get past personalization, will we start to develop and understand what that is.

Three big packaging trends and techniques for 2015?

I think that 2015 will see a return to fantastic photography being used in packaging. The last few years we have seen bold colour stamping the mark of brands, I think we could see a return of photographic imagery. The challenge for printers will be to get the consistent reproduction quality that is going to be demanded of the designers.

Digital moving in to wide web packaging is going to be something that will be great to watch for those of us not involved and a challenge for those in the market. A continuation of the drive for tactile finishes and added decoration will be how brands make themselves stand out from the crowds.

Is social media having an effect on the print industry?

Social media is having less effect directly on printers than it is having on our customers. This is particularly true of printers like us, who work with small batch exclusive brands. Prior to digital, these brands could not afford the labelling and packaging of the big boys. Now their packaging looks amazing, fresh and desirable. This in conjunction with far reaching social media as a sales tool means that smaller niche brands are having an impact on the market place.

It is no coincidence that we see large brewers launching their own craft breweries or the distillers doing short run exclusive lines. The little guys are having an impact and eroding the big boys market, they are being forced to respond. Social media is allowing this to happen.

Sustainability – is it still a crucial battleground or are brands less worried about their green credentials?

Brands were ever so worried about their green credentials while it was the printer and other suppliers picking up the tab. Then, came the financial downturn of 2008 and the focus was taken elsewhere.

We have seen a return to a concern for sustainability over the past two years and I think now that concern is far more effective. It comes from a real and pragmatic position, rather than a dictatorial (because the marketing bod says we have got to.) Printers now recognise that by reducing waste and by buying sustainably they are able to improve their own business while delivering the real change the planet needs.

We no longer have half-hearted conversations about recycled paper. Our conversations now are about reducing packaging, reducing waste, eliminating landfill and reducing energy consumption from a position that creates a win for all the stakeholders.

Quantitative Easing: What does it mean for the European economy?

Everything you ever wanted to know about Quantitative Easing but were too afraid to ask…

The European Central Bank (ECB) announced this week it will inject 1.1 trillion (1,100,000,000,000) Euros into the floundering Eurozone economy.

ECB President Mario Draghi suggested the move was made to “address heightened risks of too prolonged a period of low inflation”.

This process, known as Quantitative Easing (QE), is designed to stimulate the Eurozone economy and steer the continent away from another recession – a challenging task in the face of heightened deflation.

It’s a term we’ve heard a lot of in recent years, but what exactly is Quantitative Easing? Fortunately our friends at the BBC have put some time into describing this complex finance play in laymen’s terms.

Now you know what it is, what outcomes should we expect from QE?

James Sproule, chief economist at the Institute of Directors (IoD) provided us with the following comments:

“Ultimately, QE on its own risks setting the Eurozone on the road to Japanese-style stagnation and deflation. QE is not, should not and cannot be seen as a substitute for the kind of structural reforms to labour and product markets that the EU so desperately needs.”

He goes on to say: “The problem across much of the Eurozone is a lack of entrepreneurialism, as rigid and anti-competitive systems hold back enterprise and growth. Much greater liberalisation of product markets is necessary and we must appreciate and accept that the disruption this causes will lead to a degree of creative destruction.”

Sproule also believes that QE will have no discernable effect on unemployment levels across Europe – despite the general good health of the economy. High European unemployment remains a structural issue, and businesses are unwilling to hire because of a desire to avoid the significant liabilities of employment that still characterises Eurozone labour markets.

So how exactly does QE differ to the financial practices adopted outside of the Eurozone?

Sproule explains: “European businesses are far more dependent on bank debt than their American counterparts. In order for Eurozone QE to work, European banks have to use the new cash to lend, which in turn means they must be confident that their existing balance sheet is solvent and that the new loans they make are equally prudent.”

In closing, Sproule makes a recommendation for the European Union going forward:

“Member states need to work quickly to liberalise social and employment law, complete the single market in services and embrace digital innovation. The risk now is that QE blunts the desperate need for wider economic reforms.”

Supply and demand is alive and well in the British toy industry

With sales at a four-year high, is it all fun and games for the British toy industry? 

Toy Fair is the only dedicated toy, game and hobby trade exhibition in the UK. Through Jan 20-22 London’s Olympia opens its doors to the UK and European toy trade, as more than 260 companies debut their wares to retailers, buyers, and the media.

The British toy market has increased by 4.4 per cent in 2014, its best result since 2010 (+8 per cent), to reach £3 billion at retail, an increase of £130 million.

According to the global information provider, The NPD Group, 2014 was boosted by a comeback of collectable brands where unit sales rose by over 12 per cent to 416 million toys, as sales under £5 increased by 9 per cent. This comes after a flat performance was recorded for 2013.

“This is a tremendous result for the British toy industry during a year of challenging trading conditions. The industry continually evolves to remain relevant to the demands from children and their families and this innovation combined with many consumers’ desire to prioritise their children’s playtime has undoubtedly had a positive effect on the year,” commented Roland Earl, Director General of the BTHA.

For the first time ever, toy sales during Black Friday week increased by as much as 10 per cent as consumers snapped up big ticket items and electronic toys. This resulted in Black Friday sales exceeding those of the week prior to Christmas, traditionally the largest selling week in the toy market. Overall, the Christmas season was strong with an overall increase of 3 per cent year-on-year for December.

Dog eat dog

It’s not just the supplier trying to keep their costs down, and losses at a minimum.

Despite the health of the British toy market, there are pitched battles being fought in the retail space, as Brian Simpson – Buyer and General Manager of the family-run SMF ToyTown observes:

“Our industry is set on slaughtering each other, with most of the majors trying to be the cheapest on every line and leaving the rest of us to try and shift the stocks we bought at cost price or below.”

Simpson continues: “Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of good stuff happening in 2015… but we really need another craze that captures kids minds. I know that sales of other items reduced because of the Loom craze, but I don’t see things being balanced with the natural uplift of other items to cover off the demand from Looms, it will be an interesting Q1 for us to see what trends there are… I’m finding my attention is increasingly drawn towards trying to see which products I feel will be price-slashed at Christmas, and therefore my approach is far more defensive.”

Peering into the crystal ball – Jonty Chippendale from The Toy Shop in Cumbria comments: “[2015 needs] better margins, lower carriage paid enabling me to order frequently, and lower volumes to thereby range better.” 

Coiledspring Games - a UK success story with Robot Turtles

Coiledspring Games: a UK success story

Coiledspring Games are completely UK-based (Twickenham to be precise), but the moderate-sized distributors are growing rapidly. Coiledspring has now amassed a portfolio of a few hundred games, and to-date it has shifted over three million Rory’s Story Cubes. Last year Coiledspring Games had three of the Guardian’s top 5 new games for 2014…

Coiledspring told us that they’ve started to turn their attention to manufacturing their own games and products. Why? For profitability of course.

There are two ways of achieving this: either buy a game that’s already available in another terror and rebrand it, or in the case of Dodekka (otherwise known as Numberwang) take preexisting elements to carve a new theme.

Dodekka was a cross-collaborative effort. Coiledspring initially (and remotely) worked with an artist in the States, a UK-based designer helped with the rules, before Coiledspring started talking to manufacturers about box sizes, texture of the card, as well as card quality.

This has proved a good process to run through – so much so, that Coiledspring plan on bringing their first full-sized board game to market later in 2015.

WowWee demoed the MiPosaur at Toy Fair 2015

Is WowWee’s football playing dinosaur the saviour of toys?

From Coiledspring’s humble beginnings to a Hong Kong-based behemoth that designs, develops, markets and distributes its own brand of breakthrough consumer technology.

In 2014 WowWee’s MiP proved to be one of the world’s most popular consumer robots – shifted 750k units, capping-off a truly successful year.

For 2015 WowWee toyed with different forms, maybe a dog, maybe another different robotic form. They settled on MiPosaur – a highly intelligent, gesture controlled, robotic creature that can sense its own surroundings and environment.

WowWee’s product is all made overseas [in China], the stock is then imported, and stored domestically ready for distribution.

We spoke to a WowWee representative at the show: “We [WowWee] were the pioneers of robotics, it’s definitely a more-cluttered space these days. Spin Master is obviously a big competitor with tech stuff. But still think we deliver top quality product in the space, and it’s nice, it’s nice to have competition. It expands the category as well; it’s a very growing category in a lot of retailers. With regards to cutting corners: for someone to knock us off – the amount of technology in here [MiPosaur] is huge – I’d tip my hat to them.” 

“WowWee’s goals for 2015 will continue on its path of providing great innovation with proprietary technology and methodology that will deliver fantastic experiences at affordable prices within the field of robotics and youth electronics,” said WowWee Canada President Richard Yanofsky.

2015 will also see the launch of REV (Robotic Enhanced Vehicles).

Extreme Fliers will launch Micro Drone 3.0

The Drones are (still) coming

As regular readers will know this isn’t the first time the humble Drone has entered our airspace… Companies are increasingly looking towards Drone technology to provide logistics solutions – see Amazon, DHL, and more.

Of course kids need Drones too, so we were thrilled to see the Olympia’s skies awash with buzzing machines – some big, some small, and some even smaller.

But with Drones being in vogue, are there any worries that the market will soon be saturated?

We spoke to Extreme Fliers (the folks behind the Micro Drone) – a palm-sized Drone whose development dates back to 2010. They told us that when it comes to sourcing the highly specialized parts a lot of their competitors will elect to buy 1000 units (from China) to help drive costs down. Micro Drone differs because it’s taken a great deal of research and investment to get to this point – added to that; the company uses Makerbot 3D printers to build its toys. The investment spans a five-year period – and the end result is clearly not something that just happened overnight.

The third iteration of the popular flyer will incorporate HD camera-toting skills, a micro gimbal (for a smooth and stable flight), and support for the Google Cardboard VR Headset. All of that has been achieved at one of the most-affordable price points on the market – the Micro Drone 3 is expected to retail below £100 (competing models come in anywhere between £200-300+).

What are the biggest global challenges in 2015?

WEF summit to look for answers to major global challenges.

Water crises, interstate conflict and climate change number among the top risks that the world will face over the next twelve months. This is according to the Global Risks 2015 report that the World Economic Forum has readied ahead of its summit on 20 Jan.

Emerging technologies were also cited in the forward-looking document, an area that’s come under considerable scrutiny of late owing to the numerous cyber attacks (hacks) made against major organisations.

The report was put together (in part) by Marsh & McLennan Companies – a representative commented: “As a company you are not protected [against cyber attacks] unless your supply chain is protected.” 

We’ve compiled a collection of tweets around the highlighted issues (as well as some educated guesses) that are all expected to come out of the 2015 discussions.


The Oil Crisis for Dummies

I’m sure like me, most of you have watched with interest the price of oil plummet from well over $100 a barrel to below $50 a barrel in the space of just a few months. I’m quite sure that, like me, most of you have been in the dark as to why this is the case.  So I thought I’d do some research into the matter and try to uncover what is driving this price collapse, and what it means for you as an individual as well as a procurement professional.

While fluctuations in the price of oil are not particularly rare, ones as significant and unpredicted as this certainly are.  We’re talking about the largest fall in the price of oil ever, and one that, even as it was beginning, was discarded by most analysts as a small correction ahead of yet another uptick. Even when the price of oil was in the 80’s in October, analysts at Barclays noted, “It seems extremely unlikely that oil prices will remain below $100 for very long.”

So why has everybody been so wrong about predicting the price of oil, and why has it continued to fall while most analysts have continued to remain bullish on the price of Brent (the global oil benchmark)? If there’s one short answer to this – it’s OPEC – but more on that later. Instead we’ll begin by looking at two strong causes behind the slump.

Cause Number 1: US Oil Production

With rapid advances in drilling technology (particularly in extracting from shale), oil production in the US has increased by more than 50 percent in the last 2 years.  For anyone who’s done Year 7 economics, you’ll know that when supply increases and demand remains steady, prices come down.

US Crude Oil & Natural Gas Production 1970-2015
US Crude Oil & Natural Gas Production 1970-2015

Cause Number 2: A lack of intervention from OPEC.

Traditionally, when there’s a slump in the price of Brent, OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries – fundamentally an oil cartel) bands together to cut supply and therefore prop up the price of oil.  In this case, for whatever reason, they decided not to step in.

The technological advances that I mentioned earlier don’t come without a cost, so by deciding to let things play out, OPEC basically condemned a lot of new shale explorers to bankruptcy, as their production cost per barrel sits at anywhere between $50-$70.  With the Brent Crude Oil rate sitting below this, it has become no longer financially viable for these ventures to continue exploring and drilling new wells . 

Production Cost Per Barrel of Major Oil Producers in 2020
Production Cost Per Barrel of Major Oil Producers in 2020

Why hasn’t OPEC stepped in?

Well basically they’re driving all of this new shale competition out of the market.  This reduces total global oil production temporarily, and when they’ve effectively bankrupted all the new kids on the block, OPEC can start manipulating the price back up to historical levels.

How long until they decide to intervene?  Suhail al-Mazrouei, The UAE’s Energy Minister, said a few weeks ago that OPEC would wait “at least three months before considering an emergency meeting”.  Good news – you can expect some very cheap petrol at the pump for at least the next few months. (You might even get some cheap flights in too, although the aviation industry strongly hedges their AVGAS purchases, so it might just be a pipedream)

So what does this mean for you?

I’m going to come at this very simplistically and from the point of view of someone in a developed country. It’s a good thing.  Consumer spending accounts for approximately 60 percent of GDP in most western countries, and cheap oil means two things.  First of all, you’ll have more disposable income as a result of a decreased cost of transportation – and secondly you can buy more with this disposable income, as the cost of goods is likely to fall. On the other hand, if you live in a country that is heavily reliant on oil production, like Russia or Venezuela, it’s not good news.

As a Procurement & Supply Chain professional, I won’t go out on a limb and give you an unequivocal answer as to the impact this will have on your job – I’m certainly not qualified enough to answer this – but I think some of the articles mentioned in this Procurious post might give you a good idea.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the situation, and if you have any comments or thoughts on the matter (or if you think I’ve got it completely wrong) please comment below!