Tag Archives: supply chain challenges

How to Create a Buzz Around Contract Management

It can be hard to create a buzz around contract management. Get it wrong and it can sting badly. Get it right and the results can be honey-sweet!

Photo by Karsten Würth (@karsten.wuerth) on Unsplash

Procurement can sometimes be a real flash in the pan. The commercial squad can descend on any project that looks big enough, ugly enough or sexy enough. Money and risk can be like bees to honey – the higher it is, the sweeter the taste. It’s a sure fire way to get procurement’s attention!

Procurement professionals can be highly skilled at project planning, sourcing and providing commercial advice leading to strong contract frameworks. But when the show is over often everyone moves on to the next big shiny thing. 

While there is merit in ensuring that a solid sourcing exercise is executed, often the cream on top comes from executing exemplary contract management.

Contract Management? Yawn!

Contract management doesn’t have to be boring! If businesses get serious about contract management then serious results can be realised. There is nothing worse than a set and forget contract. It is almost guaranteed that some gold is being missed somewhere.

Contract management is quite simple at the heart of it (although admittedly it could definitely do with a re-brand).

How to Get Started

1. Ride on the buzz of signing. Capitalise on the newness of the contract by setting up the relationship meetings correctly at the beginning.

If you are a procurement person who will not be managing the contract then set up the meeting with the key relationship managers on both sides of the fence. You’ll be surprised how much value you can keep extracting, even if the contract is only freshly anointed! 

2. Take time to get the roles and responsibilities right and make sure each party understands their role.

3. Measure results and performance in a meaningful way. At the beginning of the project think about good ways to measure success. Make sure to ask your internal customers and supply market for ideas. 

4. Execute. Set the meetings, carry them out, do the surveys, do the reviews, gather the data, analyse the data, report on the data. 

How to do it right

Being organisationally ready is key. While individuals can carry out actions and get results, true value is experienced when the culture of the organisation (or the procurement team) is geared towards supplier relationship and contract management (SR&CM).

The best examples can be seen where dedicated SR&CM resources reside in a procurement team, rather than expecting individual team members to carry out these tasks within a role that encompasses many other specialisms.

Contract Management Challenges

Being aware of the challenges of embarking on a culture of change can help to set reasonable expectations of what is achievable and how long it may take. Knowing some of the sticking points from those that have gone before can be helpful in scoping out the scale and length of journey that is ahead.

The common challenges can be:

  • Resource. Obtaining sign off to get dedicated resource and gaining buy-in on the idea. Finding the right skill sets can be difficult. Sometimes new roles and directions can change the culture of the team.
  • Internal customers complaining about suppliers but either: not telling anyone; not telling the supplier; not telling procurement; and / or all of the above, plus not being willing to measure performance once mechanisms are put in place.
  • Bias – not wanting to use a supplier “just because”. To manage true poor performance (as opposed to perceived), then procurement need something tangible to build the picture and also, to give the supplier a genuine chance to improve.

What is the pay off at the end of the rainbow?

If procurement functions commit to embedding contract management into their team environment there can be many rewards.

  • Increased capability within the Procurement team – opportunity for other specialisms within procurement to learn from SRM&CM experts
  • Increased capability in the business as the contract managers and people dealing with the suppliers in the day to day increase their commercial acumen in regards to having tough conversations (or good ones!) with suppliers
  • Closing the gap between the supplier and the buyer. Understanding each side of the fence and the challenges experienced from both sides.
  • Ability to tackle poor performance in contracts effectively and efficiently as evidence is gathered, reported on and monitored. We’re not talking big brother looking to punish the supply market, there are often improvements required on both sides.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

The Biggest Myth about Supply Chain Visibility

supply chain visibility
Photo by pascal allegre on Unsplash

Traditionally, when organisations have discussed supply chain visibility, the focus has very much been on the downstream. Why? Because common thinking is that the customer is king. And, as downstream visibility focuses on the customer, it is the first, and sometimes only, priority.

This has in turn given credence to the biggest myth about supply chain visibility, which is that downstream visibility is more important than upstream visibility. It’s high time this myth was busted, because this belief has a very narrow focus, and is not truly reflective of modern supply chain thinking. The truth is that upstream visibility is just as important as downstream visibility. Why? Because a lack of upstream visibility is just as likely to impact your customer.

Supply Chain Visibility – Upstream vs. Downstream

Before we get any further, let’s make sure to clarify some basic definitions.

Downstream visibility is a clear understanding of exactly how your products are moving down to your customer. Basically, it covers all the processes and actions that are involved in getting your finished product from your warehouse into the hands of the end user.

Upstream visibility, on the other hand, is a clear understanding of exactly how all the parts required to make your product are moving down through to your organisation. From a supply chain perspective, this covers all the processes and actions involved in getting what you need to create the finished product.

You might also occasionally hear the term “midstream visibility” to refer to what’s happening in production. From a supply chain perspective, these processes are often amalgamated into the category of downstream visibility.

Together, upstream visibility and downstream visibility combine to create end-to-end supply chain visibility.

Too Much Downstream Focus?

Let’s say, for example, that your company manufactures cameras. You need to make sure that you have full visibility of what’s happening when a camera is moving from your warehouse to your customer. Right from final testing right through to delivery to the store.

There are several processes that are available to organisations in order to track and improve downstream visibility. Depending on the complexity of the product in question, this can range from optimization of transportation and warehouse logistics and unifying ERP systems, to creating digital twins of their production, and more.

If your organisation is already looking at these kinds of projects, well done. But if downstream visibility is your only focus, you’re only doing half the job.

Without upstream visibility, you run the risk of not getting the parts you need to build your product. How are you going to get your cameras into the hands of your customers if you can’t build them in the first place? This is why upstream visibility is just as crucial as downstream visibility.

Upstream – Just around the Riverbend

So how do you get upstream visibility? A supply chain risk management programme is a crucial first step. If you’re not monitoring your suppliers (not to mention your supply paths, your own sites and your second and third tier suppliers too) for events that are going to impact them, then you have virtually no upstream visibility.

Here’s where you should start:

• In procurement: Your procurement department owns the relationship with suppliers. The department needs to have access to data allowing for all the necessary insight into any type of risk affecting your supply chain, both upstream and downstream.

• In your supplier sub-tiers: According to the Business Continuity Institute, most supply chain disruptions occur below tier one, where visibility can be even harder. You need visibility into not just your tier-one suppliers, but of all your sub-tiers. This is where good tier-one supplier relationships are key.

• With your major logistics hubs: What major logistics hubs are your supplies and your products going through? Do any of these areas represent bottlenecks? And are you aware of events there that might impact your supply paths? If not, you’re not going to be able to effectively mitigate threats.

• Your own warehouses and distribution centres: You need to monitor your own sites as much as you need to monitor your suppliers. Creating good communication lines and relationships with internal stakeholders is going to help here. The people on the ground will know best if issues are on the horizon, and then you can collectively work to implement actions and processes to prevent, or at least mitigate, them.

The supply chain visibility conversation is an important one to have in any organisation that has a supply chain. But if you’re focused on just downstream visibility, you’re missing half of the equation. And this could ultimately be the difference between success and failure.

Myth = Busted!

Find out more about upstream and downstream visibility, as well as Supply Chain Risk Management software, with Big Ideas Summit sponsor, riskmethods, here.

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

Making Supply Chain Your Organisation’s Competitive Advantage

In order to succeed, a business must be able to deliver more value to customers than its competitors. How do you make supply chain your organisation’s competitive advantage?

By ShutterStockStudio/ Shutterstock

In order to succeed, a business must be able to deliver more value to customers than its competitors. It is becoming more difficult to find, develop and sustain these opportunities in the rapidly evolving business landscape.  The free movement of people across borders, developments in technology and real-time communications add complexity to global supply chain management. World trade is highly competitive, constantly changing and volatile.

As a result, supply chains today need to become more strategic. They are multi-layered, integrated manufacturing and distribution systems that, to work efficiently, need to be optimised on a continuous basis.

Technology

Automation of manufacturing using robotics and self-driving equipment in factories is now commonplace.  Software solutions and telematics improve information sharing, processing, and analysis of data which is converted into usable information to inform policy and operational decisions. However, it’s important to ensure that technology investments are based upon business needs – and not just the newest tech available.

Areas of competitive advantage

Many global businesses now compete on the basis of their supply chain capabilities rather than only on their product lines.  Leaders with efficient supply chains such as Wal-Mart, Proctor and Gamble, Tata Motors, and Unilever focus on rationalizing each activity in their supply chains. They constantly monitor costs, demand patterns, lead limes and administrative processes to achieve competitive advantage while applying relevant technologies.  

Cost of goods sold (COGS)

Reducing the cost of goods sold can be achieved through a more focused approach to procurement including price negotiation and strategic sourcing.  Inventory, distribution and freight costs are specific target areas where the potential to save can be found.  Walmart runs a retail compliance program that defines when, how and where their supplier must deliver. This helps the company reduce its costs by adjusting its storage and distribution needs in line with customer demand. This means lower prices for the customer.    

Freight costs can be managed down by outsourcing delivery logistics where there are potential economies of scale.  Telematics is used extensively by third-party-logistics providers (3PLs) to provide visibility into the movement of goods, both in the warehouse and in transit, and ensure their safety.   

Shorter lead times

There are many delays experienced in supply chains.  Some of these are because of slow processing of orders due to cash flow challenges, batching of orders, organizing shipping and freight and slow communication processes.

One of the main methods by which a business can drive increased value is by decreasing these lead times. Both business- and consumer-facing companies are experiencing increased demand for faster shipments. Speedy deliveries can have a significant impact on sales. Amazon Prime customers will often pay more for guaranteed next day delivery.

Flexible demand management

Technology now provides us with forecasts of future customer demand using artificial intelligence tools. Predictive analytics are extremely useful in determining the optimum seasonal stockholdings and allows us to prepare suppliers for increases in demand. 

A flexible supply chain can quickly adjust to fluctuations in supply and demand keeping inventory down when interest is buying is low but being agile enough to respond to spikes in demand.

Documentation and administration

Streamlined and slick documentation and administrative processes in the supply chain are a great competitive advantage.  Reducing re-work and duplication, increasing visibility and smoothing communication channels are real advantages.  Supply contracts and service level agreements are often neglected areas that create hold-ups and expensive errors.  Some progressive organizations are using blockchain technology for maximum visibility and security.      

Insource or outsource?

The decision of whether to outsource manufacturing and/or services depends on in-house capabilities. Ideally, areas where competency or capacity are lacking are prime candidates for outsourcing.   Some larger organizations have the capital and resources to manufacture their own products, others will typically outsource their manufacturing to white-label providers.   Building internal warehousing, logistics and distribution facilities is a major undertaking and capital intensive. Successful outsourcing contracts in this category have robust service level agreements and detailed contingency plans. 

Supplier relationship management (SRM)

SRM is a huge topic and ranges from simple tasks such as paying suppliers on time to developing long-term collaborative partnerships with suppliers for mutual benefit and to promote innovation.  Leading companies in SRM such as Nestle, Toyota and Coca-Cola treat key suppliers like collaborators to get them integrated and prepared to take extra steps to ensure quality and speed.

Sustainability

A sustainable supply chain makes long term business sense.  Consumer awareness of environmental and social issues is growing around the world. IKEA is one of many companies that work with suppliers on a variety of challenges, from energy efficiency to sourcing materials responsibly.  Ignoring this trend may create reputational damage that takes years to restore.  

Conclusion

Effectively making use of rapidly advancing technology could be the key to leveraging your supply chain to get ahead of the competition. Difficulties in supply chain management occur due to evolving complexities and interdependencies. Companies that work on achieving continuous improvement through consistently and persistently working on strengthening linkages will drive competitive advantage.  

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.


2017 Rewind – Do You Have The Right Skills To Deliver On Tomorrow’s Procurement Strategy

As part of our 2017 Procurious rewind, we’re taking a look at the top blogs of the year. This piece looks at why are our procurement teams are falling so short when it comes to delivering on strategy? 

mangsaabguru/Shutterstock.com

Shockingly, 60 per cent of CPOs believe their teams do not have the skills to deliver their procurement strategy, according to Deloitte’s “Global Chief Procurement Officer Survey 2017.”

Why are procurement teams falling so short?

Originally, procurement was heavily based on process management, negotiation and basic spend analysis. But the procurement function is evolving, and professionals have to adapt to a new environment . There are new and growing expectations that require alternate skills for a more advanced job profile.

Procurement professionals are expected to be much more analytical, with the ability to perform data mining. They also must learn to manipulate and understand financial data and indicators, such as P&L and balance sheets. That’s not to mention that they should be proficient with the latest technologies.

Yet, one of the most important skills to develop is customer centricity. In today’s customer-centric world, this becomes crucial.

In my opinion, understanding internal customers,  being able to communicate in their language, knowing what they want or helping them to understand what they need, is the most difficult skill to learn and develop because it often goes against the conventional and traditional training that many procurement professionals have received.

It’s time to stop hiding behind the processes and get to know the internal customers! Given the back-office environment we are coming from, there is still a lot to do to change the mind-set and the behaviour of those involved. Procurement professionals need to develop their consultative skills and become less process focused, since excessive process significantly impedes speed and agility.

Keeping It Fresh

Another challenge for procurement involves attracting and retaining fresh talent in our industry. This situation needs to be addressed now to prevent a significant skills gap within the next couple of years. While we still have to continue to build traditional procurement skills. We also need to recognise that these skills must evolve as analytic and cognitive solutions provide more refined data and insight. The challenge is less about finding someone who is an expert negotiator and more about recruiting someone who understands data and logic.

At IBM, we are currently hiring maths and statistics majors because they can understand trends and probabilities. Although many procurement skills can be taught,  it’s hard to train someone to find trends in complex data.

Taking IBM’s example, our strategy to recruit and retain talent is reflected in how we communicate our procurement roles. “Our Procurement strategy is about collaborating with customers to ensure they have best in-class solutions, with access to the most advanced technology available on mobile devices. We partner with our suppliers to be as innovative and creative as possible.”

Presented like this, a job in procurement sounds pretty exciting!

The party ain’t over yet!

And the party isn’t over once we’ve found the right skills and talent, we also need to keep that skilled staff within the procurement function! If we help employees build on their competencies as well as add new ones, and if they can see that their contribution to the company’s mission clearly makes a difference, it will help us to keep those employees in procurement.

Ultimately, modernising the procurement profession and making procurement a “cool” place to work will help retain a talented, skilled and motivated workforce.

Debt as a Source of Risk in the Supply Chain

What debt conditions, putting pressure on our global economy , should procurement pros make themselves familiar with? And how can we mitigate supplier risk? 

This blog was written by William B. Danner

Two leading authorities on corporate financial health, Dr. Edward Altman, Professor of Finance, Emeritus, at New York University’s Stern School of Business and creator of the Altman Score, and CreditRiskMonitor Founder and CEO Jerry Flum, recently presented a webinar to hundreds of supply chain and credit professionals about today’s mammoth corporate debt problem.

As the primary point of contact between their company and suppliers – not to mention a first line of defense against third party risk – procurement and supply chain professionals should be concerned with the degree to which public companies are leveraged today.

Dr. Altman and Jerry Flum identified three unprecedented debt-related conditions, putting pressure on the global economy today that procurement should be aware of from a risk mitigation perspective:

1. Compare debt to GDP

One of the best ways to put debt levels into perspective is to compare debt to GDP. In the U.S., total debt is currently at a historically huge 3.5 times GDP. Of this total, corporate debt is large and growing. Overall debt levels are so large we must be concerned about the investors who own this debt, not just the borrowers. A 10% decline in value would destroy wealth equivalent to 35% of GDP, with a major effect on spending. Junk debt (high-yield bonds and leveraged loans) has soared to $2.5 – 3.0 trillion world-wide.

2. Benign credit cycle

Now in the 8th year of what is usually a 4-7 “benign credit cycle”, many executive teams have let their guard down, forgetting the lessons of the past. As Dr. Altman explained in the webinar, a ‘benign credit cycle’ has four characteristics:

  • Low default rates
  • High recovery rates when bonds default
  • Low interest rates, yields, and spreads
  • High liquidity

In other words, credit is cheap and easily available to publicly traded companies, which leads many companies to take on more debt. A great deal of debt has been issued to pay dividends and buy back stock, making corporations riskier.

3. Corporate valuations

Corporate valuations are inflated, with market values far higher than historical norms. Private equity firms are paying as much as 10 to 11 times cash flow for acquisitions. High stock prices make corporations less risky, but stock prices can fall.

Whether companies give in to the mania or make a disciplined choice to break free from the pack, procurement and supply chain professionals can take action to mitigate supplier risk and prepare their companies to handle the downturn when the next recession inevitably comes.

Suggested Steps for Supply Chain Professionals to Mitigate Supplier Risk :

1. Build in a monitoring process

Don’t stop with an initial vendor screening. Companies’ financial health can change and even a periodic review simply isn’t good enough. Avoid surprises and react quickly to change.

2. Get to know the vendors you do business with well

Ask questions such as:

  • “Who is the corporation we are paying? Is it under a different name?”
  • “Are they actually manufacturing the product or is someone else?”
  • “Where are their operations?”

Be cautious, especially if you are not getting clear answers.

3. Don’t over-do it

Not all your vendors will present a problem if they enter financial risk. Ask yourself:

  • “Is the commodity/product easy to replace? Is this a one-time contract?”
  • “Or, could this vendor create a major issue with our ability to ship on time, the quality of our product, or with our customer satisfaction?”

Only if you find that it’s a “yes” to the second question do you need extensive review.

4. Incorporate financial analysis in your key vendor review process

Be sure to include multiple periods of financial statements in your review to see trends. If you are finding it difficult to get financial information, be wary. 

5. Compare your vendors with the financial condition of their peers

You may find more secure sources of supply.

6. When appropriate, take a hard look at the financial stability of your vendor’s suppliers

They are part of your supply chain and could be a significant exposure.

7. Have an open and honest communications process

You’ll want to explore with your vendor the performance factors that directly impact you such as shipping reliability, product quality, etc. but also financial stability. Knowledge is power and knowing all the facts gives you the time to identify and prepare alternative source(s) of supply.

8. Look at more radical options if a vendor looks too weak

  • Make vs. buy decision
  • Engineer a stronger vendor into the supply chain
  • Buy the troubled vendor, or
  • Help arrange for a preferred vendor to purchase the troubled vendor.

The fact of the matter is that today’s debt situation is historically unprecedented. We can’t be certain of the timing of a change in the financial markets, or what will serve as the trigger, but a shift is coming – so now is the time to prepare and put your processes and procedures in place.

The full webinar can be viewed here.


William B. Danner has been president of CreditRiskMonitor since May 2007. Bill has more than 35 years of financial and information services experience. 

Prior to CreditRiskMonitor he worked in brand strategy and business development consulting for financial services clients at his own firm, Danner Marketing. Previously he was at Citigate Albert Frank, a marketing communications company in New York City, where he worked on a variety of leading financial services accounts including Reuters Instinet and the CFA Institute. From 1997 to 2001, Bill was Vice President of Market Development at MetLife’s employee-benefits business. Before joining MetLife, he was at Dun & Bradstreet, most recently as VP Strategic Planning. He spent the first decade of his career at GE Information Services and GE Capital.

Bill earned a BA in economics from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

The Supply Vulnerability That Could Kill The Electric Car

Nearly all the pieces are in place for the long-overdue surge in electric car production. But before the automotive industry can finally transform itself, there’s one supply challenge that remains to be solved 

Prices for rare earth elements are rising. China holds one third of the world’s reserves, and – alarmingly – 97% of global production. Meanwhile, the demand for electric cars and other green technology has led to dramatic surges in prices. A recent report from the Nikkei Asian Review found that spot prices for neodymium (used in magnets found in electric motors) hit $95 per kg in mid-September, a 90% spike from the 2016 and an 80% jump from the beginning of 2017. Similarly, terbium is 36% up from November last year, sitting at around $600 per kg.

Reasons for the price surge include:

  • Rising demand from the U.S., Europe and Japan, particularly by manufacturers of green cars.
  • A Chinese crackdown to enforce environmental regulations at substandard rare-earth smelting works, leading to suspension of operations.
  • Traders stockpiling rare earths in anticipation of higher prices.

Concern is also rising that rare earths are now a major bargaining chip for China ahead of any potential trade war or deterioration of its relationship with the United States.

In the hybrid and electric car space, rare earth metals are typically incorporated into the magnets used in DC motors. Car-makers such as Chevrolet, Nissan and Toyota are actively working to reduce their reliance on the metals, yet will face a steep challenge as the global fleet of electric cars is estimated to grow from around 2 million today to over 14 million by 2025.

Tesla – as usual – appears to be steps ahead of the problem with their use of an AC induction motor, which doesn’t require magnets and therefore has no rare earth elements. Other parts of Tesla’s vehicle, such as the high-end sound system and specialised glass, reportedly do contain rare earth elements.

Electric car batteries are not the only items at risk. Rare earth elements are used in industrial robots, hard disk drives, cordless tools, magnetic hold-downs, jewellery clasps, wind turbines, smart phones and even smart bombs.

The good news is that although China controls 97% of production, two thirds of the world’s estimated reserves lie elsewhere. The US itself is thought to have around 13 million tonnes (the most promising area being the Mojave Desert), while Russia has around 19 million. Other large deposits can be found in Australia, India, Brazil and Malaysia, while Greenland and some parts of Africa also have untapped sources.

Japanese firm Hitachi has responded to the supply challenge by launching a recycling effort to recover rare earths from hard drives and other materials.


In other news this week:

Tech giants hit by CCleaner malware

  • An estimated 2.27 million users of CCleaner, a free software tool for optimising system performance on PCs, have been affected by malware which “piggybacked” on the software.
  • Investigators believe the attack was designed to target PC users working for specific tech firms, including Samsung, HTC, Sony, Singtel, Vodafone, Cisco, Intel, Google and Microsoft.
  • It is unclear whether the malicious code, described as “relatively complex” and “aggressive”, was designed for commercial or state-level espionage.

Read more at Tech Crunch.

Gartner releases European Supply Chain Top 15

Gartner has identified 15 supply chain leaders that have demonstrated strong growth, along with high scores in corporate social responsibility and opinion score performance. Trends across the 15 leaders include digital experimentation, speed to adaptability and a focus on sustainability.

  1. Unilever
  2. Inditex
  3. H&M
  4. Nestlé
  5. Nokia
  6. BASF
  7. Schneider Electric
  8. L’Oréal
  9. BMW
  10. Diageo
  11. Reckitt Benckiser
  12. GlaxoSmithKline
  13. Adidas
  14. Roche
  15. Siemens

Faster, Cheaper, Better – The Future of Logistics

As technology drives change in logistics, companies must meet increasing consumer demand. But what does it mean for traditional labour roles?

Logistics has never felt more fluid and subject to change. In this article, we’re going to look at the key factors driving all this change and then consider how technology will develop in the next 10-20 years. Then, in our second piece, we’ll consider how new business models will evolve before trying to draw some conclusions.

Faster, Cheaper, Better

Commercial interests have always demanded logistics move stock quickly, cheaply and in large quantities. Historically, transport improvements – from horses through to planes – answered this demand. But in the future, it will be the digital world that provides these answers.

The 21st Century customer is an unforgiving beast. However, while new shopping patterns are placing extra demand on logistics providers, they are also generating fresh opportunity. As end customers become more focused on flexible, fast and cheap solutions, logistics companies that optimise their digital usage are well-set to take advantage of weak competition at every stage of the supply chain, including retailers.

Technological advances, forecasting and new business models all offer glimpses of how these demands can be answered. There is even the possibility that much of the future supply chain will be autonomous and self-organised.

One thing for sure is that it will faster, cheaper and better – the customer won’t accept anything less.

Interconnected World, Interconnected Supply Chain

3D Printing

3D printing makes it possible to print exact working replicas of parts and products using metals, plastic, composite materials, and even human tissue. This can be done quickly, on demand and to a customer’s specification. This makes it a central technology in the development towards “batch size one” production.

It also means it will no longer be necessary to store large amounts of stock. Though it is possible there may be a counter-balancing increase in raw material storage.

In markets in which 3D printing is relevant (for example, spare parts), this has the potential to heavily disrupt logistics. And the best 3PLs will provide 3D printing services at the point of delivery to dovetail with other services.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT is the developing ability for digital devices to communicate directly with each other across the internet. It’s estimated that by 2020, more than 50 billion objects will be “web-enabled”. And, if you consider that they will be able to “talk” to one another, the potential becomes clear.

Immediacy of communication can lead to many direct benefits. Creation of automated orders for domestic resources, lorry sensors informing maintenance schedules – all focused on improved speed, efficiency and cost.

From a customer perspective, the ability to track items through their RFID chips and via GPS will mean 100 per cent visibility across the whole delivery cycle. From a logistics perspective, one can also envisage other variables – such as location, temperature, pressure, humidity, etc. – being monitored throughout the supply chain for improved transportation efficiency.

However, the biggest single opportunity arguably comes from the unrivalled quantities of consumer data that will arise, feeding into forecasting and automated processing. For those who can embrace and take advantage of it, this goldmine of information is a very exciting prospect.

Automated Systems

Whilst the idea of automation can seem like something from science fiction, there’s no denying the groundswell of development this area has seen in the last 2-3 years.

Labour costs are always a critical element in any operating model. In logistics, the trade-off between quality of service and cost is central to success. Automation could re-write this equation by providing a faster and better service for less money.

Relatively simple loading and unloading systems are already available. But these will become more sophisticated as advances in optics and data processing mean forklifts can navigate autonomously in dynamic environments, and with less error than human drivers.

In addition, autonomous delivery is on the horizon. DHL and Amazon both plan to launch drones for last-mile deliveries. And the appetite for them is strong amongst manufacturers, retailers and customers.

Autonomous lorries are also a real possibility using the same optical and AI developments that underpin driverless forklifts.

Not only would driverless vehicles be cheaper – both in labour and fuel costs – they will also be safer and more predictable making them ideal tools for efficient supply chain management. Add to this the fact the whole transport industry is suffering from dramatic driver shortages, and it’s not a surprise this technology is very appealing to most industry segments.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR), overlays relevant information (such as sound, vision or tactile data) onto a user’s normal sensory input, generally via body suits/gloves, goggles or headphones.

Wearable devices are already available that offer a glimpse into the potential future of this technology. Smart phones, smart watches, and VR goggles all give indications of how additional relevant data can be communicated.

For example, stock control data (SKUs, pallet contents, BBEs, etc.) could be accessed without leaving the warehouse floor, displaying data for on-the-spot planning and organisation. And when incorporated into transport, it could offer intelligent last mile assistance (navigation, traffic information, etc.)

Essentially, AR enables greater collaboration between systems and workers. As such, all logistics companies need to consider how AR can ensure all the elements work well together.

Whither the Worker?

With more automation, traditional labour roles will diminish. As such, redefining the place of the human worker within a more technologically advanced environment, will be vital.

In some areas, we will see happy confluence, such as a diminishing driver workforce being superseded by automated delivery solutions. But elsewhere there will be less need for human skills, and an increased need for other skill sets that, historically, have not been required.

For example, automated pick and pack solutions make warehouse operatives less relevant. However, at the same time air and sea transport are both chronically understaffed, with no expectation that the industry demands will drop.

The onus will be on logistics companies to identify future HR needs and pay close attention to their recruitment. In addition to recruitment, the whole sector will need to become more proactive in training, encouraging transferable and future-proofed skills to ensure an engaged and productive work force.

Central will be the development of technically proficient workers. Low-skilled roles will diminish markedly and ICT-related knowledge will be vital.

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.

Samsung Eats Horsemeat on the Titanic with Captain Kirk

Highlighting potential procurement lessons from the latest supply chain crisis for Samsung – the Galaxy Note 7.

cliplab.pro/Shutterstock.com

This article was written by Daniel Ball, Director at Wax Digital.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 spent just two and a half months on the market before it was recalled amidst a crisis badly affecting its share price, not to mention its brand image.

The device was quickly taken off the market after some models of the phone exploded and went on fire. It was found that overheating lithium ion batteries were to blame.

Some analysts have been quick to consider how a respectable brand like Samsung, which surely has a sound manufacturing process and supply chain, has come to retailing a product that turns out to be dangerous.

Many have put the blip down to Samsung’s competition with rival Apple. The battery of the Galaxy Note 7 is bigger and has a higher energy density than Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus. This suggests that Samsung has tightly crammed in more components.

Has Samsung’s desire to trump Apple seen it rush a product to the market without properly addressing the true capability of its battery technology?

It’s also been argued that the mobile sector’s demands are pushing battery technology to and in some cases beyond, its limits. It’s not the first time this technology has literally flared up (remember the hoverboards last Christmas?).

Race to Beat the Competition

The situation raises a key question that applies to any competitive marketplace.

At what point does the race to release new products and beat the competition, or simply deliver a competitively priced product to tight margins, become more important than ensuring your supply chain is not taking risks? Where is the line drawn in adding components into the product that could ultimately harm the very people you are trying to win over (your customers)?

It’s what I call ‘the Titanic effect’. In a bid to make the infamous boat lighter and faster in the race to cross the Atlantic, all sorts of risks were taken. And it was the customer who paid the ultimate price.

While not all risks involved are supply chain related you have to ask the question “what was procurement’s role in all of this?”

Are customer and business demands properly mapped onto supply chain capabilities? Are supplier checks rigorous enough to ensure they can do the job we need them to do safely and securely?

Or is procurement like poor Mr Scott in Star Trek, constantly at the mercy of his boss, Captain Kirk, wanting him to flog the warp engines again even though he keeps telling him “they cannae take much more”. 

At the bottom line, visibility of who is in your supply chain and how they are operating has reared its head once again. It raises the point that procurement needs to play an increased role in the decisions of the business to ensure the rules of demand and supply are effectively balanced.

Leadership & Chicken – Reflections on SAPICS 2016

Visibility, leadership and SRM in chicken sourcing – highlights from the 38th SAPICS Conference in South Africa.

Earlier this month, I attend the 38th Annual SAPICS Conference, held in Sun City, South Africa. With the theme this year of “A Concert of Coordination”, the conference focused on bringing supply chain professionals together to network, and to discuss topics and access resources relevant to the supply chain profession.

A number of high-profile individuals and organisations graced the speaker list for 2016, far too many to see in 3 days, let alone cover off in a post-conference article! However, I have picked out three major themes and points that I took away from the conference.

1. Gaps in Supply Chain Visibility

Lora Cecere, the renowned Supply Chain Shaman, was in South Africa this month to share her US survey results and some views on the wide range of topics at the SAPICS Conference.

Of particular interest to the procurement community was her take on the challenges in two of the main identified areas of pain: supply chain visibility, and problems in talent management; the latter being that all-time favourite topic of speakers that has no clear solution.

When comparing the importance of visibility of information on first tier material suppliers vs. their actual performance, respondents acknowledged that there was a big gap between importance (83 per cent) and performance (38 per cent). Almost all respondents (96 per cent) identified that there was also a similar gap in visibility into transportation and logistics networks.

Supply Chain Insight

In some cultures, a shaman is believed to be able to use magic to cure sick people, to control future events, and more. Since Lora Cecere is seen as a shaman, we could look to Supply Chain Insights for help when trying to work out why visibility into first tier material suppliers is such a challenge.

What is also interesting from the research, is that respondents did not identify much of a gap between the importance of visibility and actual performance in second and third tier suppliers. Could that really be the case in other markets?

2. Leadership – a hundred years ago

An interesting parallel was drawn by a speaker, Kate Stubbs of Barloworld Logistics, about styles of leadership 100 years and today.

She was reporting back on the annual study, supplychainchangeforesight 2016which was undertaken in conjunction with Frost and Sullivan. She considered the leadership style of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the 1920’s polar explorer, with the traits and approach required of current supply chain leadership.  Shackleton was:

  • a leader that could create order from chaos.
  • one who had to adapt and change to suit his rapidly changing circumstances.
  • optimistic and had a people-centred approach to success.
  • able to reconsider his path and redirect his goals when he hit serious snags.

Shackleton

Sound familiar?  We often have to change direction mid-stream track due to circumstances, often because of events beyond our control.  Constantly redefining our plan has become the norm.

How much has changed in 100 years?  Men (and women) wanted for hazardous unknown journey, that part’s definitely true. People hope for honour and recognition in the event of success, but it’s not always delivered.

3. Chicken and chips, anyone? Nando’s supply chain

Perinaise

A category manager in the casual dining restaurant business (a more polite term than fast food), has a very different life to the rest of us.  Sourcing electrical parts or software licences is not half as exciting as negotiating for containers of African bird’s eye chillies from Southern Africa, or for the manufacture of bottles of Perinaise.

Nando’s supply chain, although directed from its HQ in Johannesburg, has staff in many of the 30 countries it trades in. Linda Reddy, Supply Chain Director, says that one of their main areas of focus is supplier relationship management, with a major emphasis on continuous improvement. That’s quite important when you have to get fresh-not-frozen chickens from factory to table in less than 8 days.

Next time you are in Nando’s, take time to view the art while you are considering how your hot sauce got to meet your half-chicken. 

References to Powerpoint Presentations at SAPICS:

Lora Cecere: 15 Years Forward: 15 Years Back :  Supply Chain 2030

Kate Stubbs : “supplychainforesight 2016”. Barloworld Logistics.

The EU Referendum – Supply Chain Trade at Stake?

No matter where you are in the world, you’ll have heard about Thursday’s referendum in the UK about its EU membership. Have both sides overlooked a critical point in the debate?

This article was written for Procurious by Chris Cliffe.

Procurious is a global platform, but wherever you are, you’ll have heard about this week’s referendum in the UK.  Will the UK #RemainIn or #brexit the EU this week?

Far from being specific to the EU, I think it’s a global issue. And one I find myself thinking about sitting on a train…

Referendum & the Supply Chain

No one can agree on the exact figure (£350m-£380m per day), but the UK is a ‘net contributor’ to the EU. In fact, the UK is one of the biggest net contributors along with France and Germany. But what about taking this issue in (very) simple supply chain terms?

Customers pay suppliers for products. Suppliers make profit from product sales. Therefore we can view customers as ‘net contributors’ to suppliers, much like the UK to the EU. What would happen if a supplier were to lose one of its biggest customers?

The loss of that customer’s revenue needs to be mitigated.  Replacing that customer with new business of equivalent size will be difficult, or at least take a long time. Whilst costs may have gone down through no longer servicing that customer, cost reduction is not proportionate to the lost business, leaving an increased cost to be recovered from remaining customers.

What are the options? The supplier can: take the hit; make efficiency savings; increase prices for other customers; or pass on the cost to the supply chain.

So, if the EU loses a large net contribution, other member states will either see a reduction in EU funding, as there is less money to share out, or they will have to renegotiate their contributions to the EU to make up for the shortfall.

Contributions are proportionate, so all member states will either see their contribution increase, or their share of the funding reduced. France and Germany would likely be most affected.

Shifting Issues

The UK might view this as the EU’s problem. However, all that will have happened is the ‘problem’ has just changed.

Assuming France and Germany – two of the UK’s largest trading partners – did pay more into the EU to cover the loss of the UK’s contribution, how will they take the hit? More austerity? Or will they pass on the cost to their customers – particularly if the customer caused their cost increase!

The UK will want to continue to trade with the EU member states.  That will be possible, and the member states will want to trade.  However, having left and caused those very same member states to see higher costs as a result, I’m struggling to see why we aren’t more concerned about potential ‘tariffs’ which may be applied.

The risk is that the EU will want to recover the ‘cost’ it suffers from a Brexit. Furthermore, the EU will debate and agree their stance on this. And guess what – the UK won’t be at that table.

Supplier Perspective

From a supplier perspective, losing a large customer simply to find that customer still wants your product, but just didn’t want to pay for it is frustrating enough. But what example would you set to your other customers if you actually agreed?

Of course, suppliers will be happy to supply those products, and even though the commercials of the deal might change, you’ll inevitably be charged the same (or more as the deal is no longer standard and will have introduced complexity, risk and cost). Other customers will be watching you.

But the UK isn’t just a customer, it’s a supplier too. Exiting the EU may mean higher costs for the UK’s customers, meaning they have less money to spend. They may want to trade, but could buy less, or need lower prices to compensate.

Let’s consider Framework Agreements. Frameworks are really useful commercial vehicles (a separate debate!) to access products and services without complex, lengthy advertised procedures.

Typically, a set of suppliers are appointed to a Framework for a fixed period. Suppliers who are not appointed to the framework cannot trade through it, and consequently find it more of a challenge to trade with the public sector, who want to use the ‘easy’ route.

Think of the EU as a framework, and the member states as the suppliers appointed. The UK could be about to give up its hard fought position on the framework. In doing so, the UK will be making itself more difficult to trade with, and it will be natural for current EU customers to look at other, less complex, sourcing options.

So, if the referendum goes for #Brexit, does the UK become just a country geographically in Europe, but in the ‘no longer free to trade’ area? Is the UK’s slice of the EU trade pie more at risk than either campaign have realised?

Well, I conclude that…my train has arrived on-time! Don’t forget to  vote if you’re eligible!

Want something to take your mind off the referendum? Here are the week’s procurement and supply chain headlines…

Starbucks Names New Supply Chain Chief

  • Hans Melotte, former Johnson & Johnson CPO, and current Chairman of the ISM Board of Directors, has been appointed by Starbucks as its new Executive Vice President of Global Supply Chain.  
  • Starbucks has approximately 16,000 suppliers and operates in over 70 countries and has recently announced plans to open a 20,000 square-foot roastery in New York.
  • Mr Melotte will oversee supplier relationships, distribution, transportation and store delivery, and is expected to transform stores’ distribution channels in line with company expansion.
  • Mr. Melotte also featured in Procurious’ recent article on the use of the term ‘strategic’ in the profession.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

World Day Against Child Labour

  • The ILO’s World Day Against Child Labour took place on Sunday 12th June, with this years’ focus on child labour in supply chains.
  • An estimated 168 million children are found in supply chains across the world, in every sector and region.
  • “The time for excuses is over”, said ILO Director General Guy Ryder. “With redoubled from governments, employers, workers organisations and enterprises, child labour in supply chains can be stopped.”
  • The ILO has developed a new app designed to help business managers and auditors to create checklists that will help ensure a child labour-free operation.

Read more at the International Labour Organisation

M&S Unveils New Supply Chain Mapping Technology

  • M&S released its first online supplier map alongside its inaugural human rights report last week, showing 1,231 factories in 53 countries.
  • The interactive map has the capability to zoom in on individual facilities to see the address, number of workers on site, and gender of those workers.
  • The data for the map comes from supplier-reported information and third-party audits.
  • The mapping technology is expected to greatly improve supply chain visibility, and can be tailored to include more data.

Read more at Green Biz