Tag Archives: Christmas

How The Robots (Nearly) Stole Christmas

“Every Who down in Whoville liked working, a lot … until one day The Boss met a clever robot.” Continuing the tradition of a festive poem in the run-up to Christmas, check out this modern retelling of The Grinch from Procurious’ Content Director, Hugo Britt. 

Every Who down in Whoville liked working, a lot…
until one day The Boss met a clever robot.
It was sleek and terrific, with shining chrome knees,
and could do the work of fifteen FTEs.

The Boss called upon her executive team
and said with a grin that was grinchy and mean
“We’ll buy ten of these robots – that’s one hundred and fifty
Whos off the payroll – won’t that be thrifty?”

The head of HR gave a horrified gasp
“But the timing!” he said. “It’s a bit much to ask
your Whos to take a redundancy now!
It’s Christmas next week and there’ll be a huge row!”

The Boss’s brow wrinkled; her face set in a leer,
“Alright” said she, “Here’s another idea …
We’ll bring in the bots – my decision is set,
but we won’t dump the Whos for a little while yet.
They can work side-by-side for two weeks or more,
and come New Years Day, they’re right out the door.”

The very next day when the Whos came to work
They marched through the door and then stopped with a jerk
For sitting there, gleaming, daunting and massive
At the end of ten desks was a robot, impassive.

And then when the Whos all cried out “What’s the deal?”
They were shocked when the robots replied with this spiel:
“We’re your new metal workmates – we’re starting today!
We’re cognitive, clever, and can dance the ballet.
We’ll work round the clock and charge not a cent …
The ROI on us is 10,000 per cent!”

The Whos stomped as one to the Head of HR.
Seen dimly through the haze of his half-smoked cigar.
“What’s with the robots? ‘Workmates’ indeed –
You’re going to replace us! They work twice our speed!”

The head of HR, while stroking his beard
assured them it wasn’t so bad as they feared.
“They’re just here to assist. Fear not for your jobs.
Robots are the future! Stop being such snobs!
You’re quite safe (for now) so help them onboard
and we’ll have another discussion … moving forward.”

* * * * * * *

Two weeks passed quite quickly; the new year dawned bright
the Boss checked her calendar and smiled in delight.
“Today I’ll cut costs in a manner abundant –
I’ll tell one hundred and fifty Whos they’re redundant.”

She leapt to the lift and pressed second floor –
preparing to show all non-robots the door.
But when she arrived she received a surprise
At the hustle and bustle before her two eyes.

The head of the Whos leapt straight to his feet
and said “Thanks for the robots! They’re totally neat!
We worried that they would steal all our careers
but now it turns out these were unfounded fears.”

“We no longer need to do tactical chores –
mind-numbing spreadsheets and other such bores –
These robots are handling all of those tasks …
Now we have time to be strategic at last!”

The Head of HR stepped forward, then. “It’s true!
The robots are great, but your humans are too.
They’re thinking new thoughts; they’re stepping outside
the box we created with the tactical side.”

“Innovation is up! Relationships too!
Soft skills are unlocking new value for you.
These Whos are terrific – we never foresaw
that with time on their hands they can do so much more.”

The Boss raised her voice to address the whole throng
and shouted aloud “It turns out I was wrong!
I’d thought that these bots would make you inessential;
instead they’ve unlocked your hidden potential.”

“So just let me wish you a most festive season,
secure in your jobs, and having new reason
to be joyful about this happy yuletide:
humans and robots, at work side-by-side.”

Christmas Supply Chains and Fist Fights in the Toy Aisles

Do you remember the Tickle-Me-Elmo War of 1996? What about the Cabbage Patch Kid Riots of 1983? No amount of long-term forecasting can prepare manufacturers and retailers for the moment a product becomes the “must-have” toy of the season.

Robert Waller, a clerk at a Canadian Wal-Mart, told a harrowing tale about toy-mania in an interview with People after the Christmas rush of 1996. He was unpacking the latest shipment of Tickle Me Elmo (a vibrating, giggling plush toy based on a character from Sesame Street), when he became uncomfortably aware of a crowd of about 300 people watching him carefully. He opened a box, pulled out an Elmo – and the crowd stampeded.

““I was pulled under, trampled—the crotch was yanked out of my brand-new jeans,” Waller told People. “I remember being kicked with a white Adidas before I became unconscious.” Waller also suffered a pulled hamstring, injuries to his back, jaw and knee, a broken rib and concussion.

Tyco, the toy company behind the craze, saw its sales surge to an astonishing $350 million that year as every one of the million Elmo toys was snapped up.  Meanwhile, scalpers were buying the US$29.99 toy by the dozen and asking up to $10,000 on eBay by the end of the year.

The “hot-toy” phenomenon tends to happen  every year, with fist-fights breaking out in toy aisles over prizes such as Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, Teletubbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, Elsa from Frozen (who had been stripped from shelves by November of 2014) and – most recently – Hatchimals. Retailers respond by refusing to accept pre-orders and limiting purchases to one per customer.

Avoiding a Christmas disaster

Unless you’re a parent who missed out on getting the must-have toy of the season, none of the examples above are really “disasters” for the manufacturers and retailers involved. If a toy sells out in November, there’s certainly a missed opportunity if you are unable to get another shipment onto shelves before Christmas, but it’s still a success story.

The real disasters, these days, are taking place in online ordering and fulfilment. Customers are extremely unforgiving when it comes to a Christmas order not being delivered, as was demonstrated when Toys “R” Us first tried to take advantage of the online shopping craze in 1999. The company promised customers that any orders made on or before December 10 would arrive by Christmas, but as an unexpected number of orders rolled in, warehouses managers realised it would be impossible to keep this promise. Toys “R” Us sent an email to customers two days before Christmas, which led to the media making the toy retailer the focus for stories about shipping delays and tarnishing the brand for years. After this disaster, Toys “R” Us (which recently filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S.) handed over its logistics management to Amazon.

A similar story played out in Australia in 2015 where some customers who pre-ordered their Christmas hams online with Australia’s two largest supermarkets were told at the last minute their orders were not going to be fulfilled. While a missed delivery at any other time in the year may be forgiven, emotive customer backlash at Christmas time is particularly fierce.

In other news this week:

J. Shipman Gold Medal – ISM Calls For Nominations (U.S.)

  • The J. Shipman Gold Medal Award recognises leaders in the profession who have worked diligently to promote the advancement of procurement and supply management. Now in its 87th year, the award is the highest honour conferred by ISM.
  • Nominees are considered role models, mentors and community leaders who have helped others excel in their careers. They have had innovative ideas, and their persistent efforts have helped improve the profession.
  • View a list of previous J. Shipman Gold Medal Award winners here.

Download a nomination form . Nominations must be submitted by February 1st 2018.

TGINF- Thank God Its Not (Black) Friday

We should probably  all be grateful that Black Friday is over and done with for another year. But what have we learnt from the biggest shopping day of 2017? 

There’s nothing quite like the cold panic of a missed opportunity. Particularly if said opportunity comes in the form of a heavily discounted HD television, bargain flights to Majorca in  mid-January (who wouldn’t?!) or a half price sofa-bed (ideal if you can carry it out of the store mid-customer stampede).

Media hype surrounding “Black Friday”, which slowly seems to be evolving into “Black Week” and surely soon to be “Black Month”, increases year on year.  Retailers face intense and  increasing pressure to slash prices and offer the biggest and best best deals to entice Christmas shoppers and out-perform their competitors. As such, the fuss and excitement leading up to the biggest shopping day of the calendar year is palpable. The world’s consumers anticipate great things.

But does the propaganda live up to the reality? And what are the downsides of events like this for our supply chains, our procurement organisations and SMEs?

Black Friday 2017: The stats examined

Spend: It’s hard to argue against the importance of Black Friday to the economy. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2015 report,  up to 30 percent of a retailer’s annual sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas. Last year 101.7 million Americans braved the crowds, an increase of 37 per cent from the previous year and spent $655.8 billion over the four day weekend. This year, that figure is expected to have increased to a whopping $682.0 billion, and that’s just the U.S.!

Savings: The debate rages on over the true value, to the consumer, of Black Friday. Are you really nabbing a bargain? Aside from the obvious fact that many consumers wind up purchasing un-needed items, statistics show that many items, as much as six out of ten, are actually cheaper at other times throughout the year.

An Underwhelming start to UK’s Black Friday: Some members of the British public were seemingly raging on Twitter on Friday morning over the perceived anticlimax of Black Friday.

Others meanwhile, poked fun at the distinct lack of chaos in stores across the UK, noting the ever-present, ever-respected British culture of courteous queuing!

 

Debt: According to a 2016 survey by TD Bank, 25 per cent of Americans will take three months to pay of the debt racked up on  Black Friday and the remainder of the holiday season

South Africa: South Africa has been hailed this year as the nation most devoted to Black Friday.  Last year “South Africans made 226 per cent more purchases [than at any other time of year] on [Picodi]‚ more than twice as large a percentage increase as that of any other country.” And the frenzy doesn’t seem to have lessened this year with media reporting the mayhem inside shopping centres.

The demand of black Friday on our supply chains

As the BBC pointed out, whether they like it or loathe it, “most retailers on – and offline – will find it difficult not to join in” with Black Friday. If they don’t partake they’ll lose significant custom, which places enormous pressure on smaller, or struggling, organisations with tighter margins and less turnover.

However YouGov research commissioned by Amazon found that nearly 1 in 4 UK SME retailers intended to participate in Black Friday 2017 and 82 per cent of those participating are expecting to sell more stock on Black Friday than on an average day. The key to success for these SMEs is getting the pricing and forecasting right.

The anticipated frenzy also makes it difficult for organisations to accurately forecast volume of stock. According to data collected by Love the Sales, there was an unprecedented 43 per cent increase in the volume of items on sale in October this year compared to last year. Buy too little from suppliers, and  they’ll run out of stock, buy too much and face having to do further discounting in the new year to shift products.

In these circumstances, buyers must ensure their supply chains are strong enough to cope with the increased demand for products and, most importantly, that their suppliers meet their compliance requirements.

According to courier insurer Staveley Head, more than 82,000 lorries will be on the road to deliver on Black Friday, with Royal Mail bringing in an additional 6,800 vans just for the peak period.

Edie.net urged organisations to run traceability checks to identify any exploitative labour practices within their supply chain and recommended  using the Internet of Things to track supply chain processes and spot any unusual patterns of behaviour.

In other procurement news this week…

Apple’s Illegal Labour

  • Apple’s main supplier in Asia has been employing students illegally working overtime to assemble the iPhone X, as it struggles to catch up with demand after production delays
  • 3,000 students from Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School were sent in September to work at the local facility run by Taiwan-based Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn
  • They were told that a three-month stint at the factory was required “work experience” that they had to complete in order to graduate

Read more at Financial Times

50 per cent of procurement pros are unhappy with salaries

  • The latest procurement salary guide by recruiters Hays found 56 per cent of procurement employees reported a high level of salary dissatisfaction, and almost a quarter of those surveyed stated they intended to leave their current job because it lacks future opportunities
  • The average procurement and supply chain professional’s salary has increased 2.1 per cent over the past year, above the overall UK average of 1.8 per cent, Hays found. This rises to 3.6 per cent for procurement managers and senior buyers and to 4 per cent in the public sector
  • Hays salary guide is based on job listings, offers and candidate registration, as well as a survey of almost 17,500 employers and employees, including more than 700 working in procurement

Read more at Supply Management