Tag Archives: supply chain news

Are Supply Chains Already Feeling the Trump Effect?

President-elect Trump doesn’t take office until January 20th 2017, but his impact is already being felt in global supply chains.

Trump trade deals

Yes, it’s been a little over two weeks since Donald Trump won the US Presidential election. And it’s still nearly two months until he officially takes office. Yet, it’s hard to get away from media reports on what will happen during Trump’s first 100 days in office.

NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), and import tariffs have all been in the news. And if global supply chains weren’t already watching with interest, they certainly should be now.

NAFTA – Overhaul on Cards

During the election campaign, Donald Trump made much of the movement of US manufacturing jobs to Mexico. One solution was to end US involvement in NAFTA, pushing companies to move jobs back to US heartlands.

The North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1994, effectively eliminating tariffs between the USA, Canada and Mexico. The agreement has allowed for seamless movement of goods across borders. It also means that the US currently has more trade with Canada and Mexico, than Europe and China.

An estimated $1.4 billion worth of goods cross the US-Mexico border every day. However, it’s not all been positive, with many organisations moving production to Mexico, where costs are lower.

However, in the past week, the stance from the Trump camp appears to be one of overhaul, rather than withdrawal. The President-elect wants to ensure a “better deal” for America, as well as reduce America’s $76 billion trade deficit.

This could include tariffs of up to 35 per cent on Mexican imports, and penalising companies moving production there. Other changes could include issue to do with currency manipulation, as well as labelling of meat products, and lumber production.

However, experts have warned that any or all of these measures could hurt the USA too. Increased meat prices in US supermarkets, higher house prices, and Mexican tariffs on US goods could all be on the cards. And that’s without the guarantee that jobs would come back to the US.

Relocating Supply Chains

One company subject to plenty of Donald Trump’s ire during the election was Apple. The President-elect singled out Apple several times as an example of a company that should re-shore its production.

To emphasise his point, Trump has threatened to put a 45 per cent import tariff on all Chinese-made goods. At present, Apple devices are assembled in China, with key components sourced from specialised suppliers throughout Asia. In spite of this, however, re-shoring is not that simple for Apple.

Experts have warned that moving production would be challenging, citing a lack of skilled workers and a steep hike in costs. There is also the matter of the highly complex supply chain Apple has established in Asia.

Analysis carried out by the MIT Technology Review stated that higher labour costs, and logistics costs of transporting components to the US, would add between $30 and $40 to the cost of producing each iPhone.

However, the Nikkei Asian Review has reported  that Apple is actually looking at moving some elements of production. It would not be unprecedented either. In 2012, key Apple supplier Foxconn set up an iMac assembly line in Texas. And in 2013, Apple supported Flextronics, another contractor, in building a Mac Pro production line in Texas too.

The media this week reported a call between Donald Trump and Apple CEO, Tim Cook, leading many to suspect that discussions are already taking place. However this ultimately plays out, global supply chain movement and disruption could happen. And if Apple were to move first, it seems like that others would follow suit.

‘Made in China’ Great Again?

One country not looking favourably on President Trump’s policies and tariffs is China. It has been reported that China is unhappy with potential import tariffs, as well as being labelled as a currency manipulator by the future President.

Reports from state media have stated that any tariffs would be met with tariffs of China’s own. There was also a thinly veiled threat against raising tariffs above agreed WTO levels, and starting a trade war.

However, at the same time, China could be a major beneficiary of Trump’s plans to pull the US out of the TPP on his first day in office.

The aim of the TPP was to create a common market, similar to the EU, between its members – the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru. As these countries make up 40 per cent of the world’s economy, it was seen as a great opportunity for many.

However, critics argue that it favours big business, and Donald Trump looks set to abandon it in favour of freshly negotiated trade deals. The belief is that, without the USA, the TPP would be dead in the water. But that would open up markets to greater deals and trade with China.

Australia was one country that signalled it would be interested in a China-led trade deal. Deals such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could see China increase its power in Asia, leaving America in the cold.

What do you make of the policies announced by President-elect Trump in the past week? Could the US suffer by going down a protectionist route? Tell us your thoughts below.

So you’ve got more time to bargain hunt this Cyber Monday, we’ve tracked down the top news headlines this week…

Samsung and Panasonic Investigate Labour Abuses

  • A Guardian investigation has revealed exploitation of migrant workers in Malaysian factories producing goods for leading electronic brands Samsung and Panasonic.
  • The group of Nepalese migrant workers claim they have been deceived about pay, as well as having to pay large sums of money to secure the jobs.
  • Working conditions are reported to include 14 hours on their feet without adequate rest and with restricted toilet breaks.
  • Samsung and Panasonic have opened investigations into the conduct of their suppliers following the claims.

Read more at The Guardian

BMW Logistics Using Autonomous Robots

  • The first fleet of autonomous transport robots to be used in everyday operation has been launched by BMW.
  • The first fleet of ten robots has been put into operation at the car maker’s Wackersdorf plant.
  • The robots will transport components around the facility, and are capable of carrying loads up to 500kg.
  • The move comes as the company aims to remove as much CO2 emission from its manufacturing processes.

Read more at Supply Chain 24/7

Shell May Face UK Trial Over Nigeria Spills

  • A High Court is to make a decision on whether two Nigerian communities can bring cases against Shell.
  • The communities claim that pollution from repeated spills has caused lasting damage to their environment.
  • Lawyers representing the communities argue that Shell controls and directs its Nigerian subsidiary, and is therefore responsible.
  • However, Shell have also lodged applications to challenge the jurisdiction of the English courts in the matter.

Read more on Supply Management

Canada Energy Decisions to Impact Freight Carriers

  • Canada has announced a plan to phase out all coal power by the year 2030.
  • Four affected coal power plants will will have the option of switching to lower-emitting resources or using carbon-capture and storage technology.
  • The move will have a knock-on effect on the country’s freight carriers, particularly the railroads.
  • Volumes of coal carried by railroads have fallen by 12 per cent this year, and are likely to get smaller still in the next decade.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

The Power of the Hackathon: Putting Theory into Practice

The concept of a hackathon is nothing new. But more and more organisations are realising the benefits found in these events.

mcg hackathon

Many people associate the concept of a hackathon with the emergence of the digital age. However, it may come as a surprise to you, but the term ‘hackathon‘ was first coined in 1999. They started out as highly collaborative events, aimed at pooling computing resources for testing ahead of Beta launches.

However, in recent years, the hackathon has been hijacked by organisations who have recognised the benefits of these events. Now, everything from technological innovation to Blockchain have been the subject of a hackathon.

And there are more coming that you might be able to get involved with too!

This Hackathon is Spotless

This week, integrated facilities service provider, Spotless Group, are hosting a hackathon in conjunction with global start-up accelerator network Startupbootcamp. The two-day event, held at the iconic MCG in Melbourne, Australia, will focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) and DataTech.

Spotless recently highlighted innovation as a key priority for its business. The organisation is hoping that the event will help provide solutions to real problems, enhancing its overall customer service.

Julian Fogarty, Spotless’ General Manager of Brand, Innovation, and Technology, said, “By investing in external strategic programs, partnerships and events, Spotless is demonstrating to customers and shareholders its commitment to pioneering industry-leading services.”

The partnership with Startupbootcamp will ultimately help with a key issue found with hackathons – turning innovation into reality. The organisation connects corporates with start-ups and entrepreneurs, and helps put the ideas generated at a hackathon into practice.

The winners at the event will receive up to $10,000 and six months in Startupbootcamp’s start-up workplace. These teams will also receive advice from mentors and fellow hackers as they work on their ideas.

Digital Cities

It’s not just organisations that are organising hackathons to drive innovative ideas. The city of Sacramento, California, recently hosted a Startup Weekend to generate new business ideas for the city.

Teams were created on the first day, then ideas were generated over the course of the weekend, with business pitches on the Sunday evening. From there, the three winning ideas went to pitch to investors at a venture capitalist event in the city, with the hope of securing funding to go forward.

Another place looking to hackathons to generate innovation is Delta State, Nigeria. The event is aiming to generate new solutions in line with the UN’s ‘Sustainable Development Goals’, with a particular focus on critical needs and solutions for African countries.

The hackathon is being supported by Google, who is not only hosting, but providing some of their own developers to help kick-start the process. It’s expected that around 3,000 people will attend the event in December, either as participants or in the audience.

Hackathons and the Blockchain

One term that has been coined recently is ‘The Hackonomy’. The concept is derived from the Blockchain, and has much in common with bitcoin. To drive a more official side of hackathons, and to provide reward for innovation, a crypto-currency, HackerGold, has been developed.

The currency will allow “frictionless” access to a marketplace of developer talent pools and code libraries for start-up companies. By opening up this market, it should also enable previously unconnected ‘hackers’ to connect and work together.

Blockchain Lab, a blockchain technology pioneer, is set to be the first organisation to accept HackerGold. It will use the currency to pay for services, such as auditing on smart contracts, and code development.

There’s plenty more to come from this space in the shape of a 5 week hackathon, ether.camp, currently being held in London. It’s the first hackathon to be held entirely using Blockchain, and looks set to create a new generation of start-ups using this digital technology. We’ll be interested to see the outcomes when the event finishes on December 22nd.

Have you used a hackathon in your organisation? Or have you been involved with one? Was it a success? Let us know below.

While we try to get our heads around a whole new set of terminology, we’ve sourced your top headlines for this week…

Apple’s Rumoured Expansion into Digital Glasses

  • Apple is rumoured to be considering an expansion into the production of smart glasses.
  • Apple Inc. is reported to have spoken with potential suppliers about the wearable technology, and ordered small quantities of near-eye displays from one supplier for testing.
  • CEO Tim Cook is a known enthusiastic for augmented reality (AR), particularly after the success of Pokémon Go earlier this year.
  • The Apple glasses would be the company’s first product targeted at the AR market.

Read more on Bloomberg

Solar-power Shingles Cheaper Than Roof Tiles

  • Tesla and SpaceX Founder Elon Musk has unveiled a new product – a roof consisting entirely of solar-power generating shingles.
  • The tiles are comparable to high-performing solar panels in terms of power generation.
  • The roof costs less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof, on top of the predicted electricity savings.
  • The anticipated cost savings are due to lower shipping costs, as the tempered-glass tiles are only a fifth of the weight of traditional roofing materials and are less susceptible to breakage in transit. 

Read more on Bloomberg

Procurement Fraud Worsens in Australian Public Sector

  • A recent investigation has found that public sector fraud in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) cost the government up to $10 million between July 2012 and June 2015.
  • Procurement and contract management fraud caused the heaviest losses, with each case costing an average of $225,000 and, in one case, $1.7 million.
  • Scams involved invoices for work never done, inflating invoices, or invoicing for non-existent work done by non-existent companies.
  • Incidents also included falsified timesheets and records created for goods and services that had never been delivered.

Read more on Government News

VW to Cut 30,000 Jobs from VW Brand

  • Car-maker Volkswagen has announced it will cut approximately 30,000 jobs at its VW brand over the next five years.
  • 23,000 of the jobs set to be cut will be in Germany, the company’s biggest unit.
  • VW said the decision was aimed at improving profitability in addition to funding a shift towards producing electric and self-driving vehicles.
  • However, it added that it will create around 9,000 new jobs by increasing investments in electric car technology.

Read more at International Business Times

Could President Trump Make Procurement Great Again?

Not that we’re saying that procurement isn’t already pretty great. But could a new man at the top mean major changes for the profession?

trump great

If you missed the result of the US Election last week, then you must have been on Mars. Or living under a rock/hiding behind your sofa. In an unexpected turn of events, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America.

And irrespective of your thoughts on both the campaigns, and the ultimate result, it’s clear that there are changes coming. We have no idea what Trump’s first 100 days in office will look like, so much of what we’re seeing is still very much educated guesswork.

But should many of the agendas and policies from the campaign come to fruition, then procurement and supply chains, both domestically in the US, and globally, will be affected.

Automotive Indecision

A great deal of campaign rhetoric from the Trump camp came in the shape of American industry, and American jobs. The President-elect frequently stated he would look to remove the US from the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should he win the election.

If this were to happen, it could potentially boost the US’ ailing car industry. In the past year, 8 new manufacturing plants have been created in Mexico, having been moved from the US for lower wages. Included in this number is Ford, who moved all small car production from Michigan to Mexico in September.

If Trump were to end US involvement in NAFTA, these car manufacturers would be just a few of the organisations with a big decision on their hands. Should they manufacture abroad and risk rising import costs? Or return operations to the US heartlands, and pay considerably higher wages?

However, though it’s easy for America to withdraw from NAFTA, it’s unclear what tariffs would be placed on imported goods. Beyond this, it’s likely to result in higher prices for American consumers (and buyers too), without any guarantee that jobs would return to the US either.

From a global supply chain point of view, it wouldn’t create much change. Mexico will remain an attractive proposition for non-US companies, such as Audi, BMW, and Toyota, none of whom are subject to NAFTA. So concerns the Mexican economy will collapse are unlikely to be realised.

Great Big Business Benefits

However, some big businesses and industries would stand to gain significantly from a Trump presidency. In the days following the election, shares in Oil and Gas companies shot up, following Trump’s pledge to make the US energy independent.

This would mean great exploration of the US mainland, and potentially relaxation of environmental policies put in place by President Obama. This would in turn impact procurement, who would have to bear in mind any changes in longer-term contracts.

Another group to benefit could be the Defence sector. There is likely to be great investment in defence in America, which may in turn move other countries to do likewise. Increased spending could free up previously-stalled projects, and kick off new projects benefitting both procurement and suppliers.

Finally, it’s fully anticipated that infrastructure procurement will be increased. With more money being promised to federal budgets, but greater efficiencies required, procurement will play a pivotal role in ensuring that funds are used wisely.

Investment Nerves

In the hours following the announcement of Trump’s victory, global markets dropped significantly. However, the drop, unlike Brexit, was a temporary one, with nearly every major market reporting an increase by close of trading.

Long-term, however, no-one is exactly sure what will happen. As one media source put it, “Investors are in wait and see mode”. This is likely to continue until the middle of 2017 at least, when formal policies will become much clearer.

strong anti-globalisation message resonated through the Trump campaign, and there are concerns that major investments will be hedged until such times that investors are clearer on what the outcomes might be.

Countries like India have traditionally relied on US investment. Any major policy changes could in turn impact significantly on the linked global supply chain. Whichever way it happens, organisations at least have a while to prepare, with President Trump due to take office on the 20th of January 2017.

What do you make of the procurement implications of the election? How major do you think the changes will be? Let us know in the comments below (procurement/business only, no political views please!).

It’s not been easy with news cycles dominated by other events, but we’ve found some great headlines this week.

GM to Cut Production Shifts in US

  • General Motors are to cut production shifts and lay off 2,000 workers at car assembly plants in Ohio and Michigan.
  • The move comes amid falling demand for passenger cars, and shifting consumer trends.
  • GM is the latest in a series of auto makers taking steps to deal with softer retail sales.
  • Earlier this year, GM announced plans to invest up to $691 million to build new plants and expand current ones in Mexico.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

Burberry Cuts Product Lines

  • UK luxury retailer, Burberry, is to cut the range of products it offers by between 15 and 20 per cent.
  • The company reported a 40 per cent drop in first-half profits, blaming rising costs for the fall.
  • Pretax profit for the first six months of 2016 was £72 million, compared with £119.5 million in 2015.
  • The company has recently written down a number of assets, as well as incurring major costs for restructuring plans.

Read more at Market Watch

Rio Tinto Suspends Executive Over Alleged Payments

  • Rio Tinto has suspended a senior member of staff following an inquiry into a $10.5m payment made to a consultant on a mining project in West Africa.
  • The company launched an investigation in August 2016 after email correspondence from 2011 was found.
  • The emails showed “contractual payments” made to a consultant providing “advisory services” on the Simandou scheme in Guinea.
  • Rio Tinto has also announced that its selling its stake in the Simandou scheme to another project stakeholder.

Read more at Supply Management

Review Called After Contract Dispute Payout

  • Calls for an urgent review have been made after new details emerged about a £1.25m compensation payment following a contract dispute.
  • Legal proceedings were brought by Triumph Furniture after it challenged a contract awarded to a rival.
  • It has now emerged the Welsh Government was alleged by the bidder to have breached EU rules.
  • The Welsh Government said it was taking the issue “extremely seriously”.

Read more on The BBC

Why The Future of Logistics is Dynamic – And Huge!

The market value of the logistics industry is on the rise. But in order to maximise this value, organisations need more dynamic strategies.

dynamic warehousing

Logistics has not been immune to the global changes and shake-ups during 2016. However, in spite of this volatility, the importance, and size, of the Logistics industry has continued to grow. In the era of on-demand everything, organisations need to ensure logistics strategies are able to keep up with customer requirements.

As with any other market or industry, the changes being seen bring risk and reward in equal measure. New technology, new entrants into the market, and demand can boost the agile, and bring down the inflexible. As we have seen in the shipping industry, there’s no guarantees to be had from size and longevity if you can’t meet demand.

And with the global Logistics and Transportation Industry expected to reach a market value of $15.5 trillion in the next decade, the rewards for staying on track are obvious.

Growing Global Value

The estimated increasing value was highlighted in a new study from Transparency Market Research, released last week. The current market value of the industry is estimated at $8.1 trillion, with an estimated 54.6 billion tonnes of goods handled in 2015.

From their research TMR expect this value to nearly double in the next 8 years, to $15.5 trillion, with global logistics companies handling over 90 billion tonnes of goods.

What is key to note is that the industry is not dominated by one or more major player. This makes for an attractive proposition for new players to get a slice of the pie. Currently, the big four companies – Deutsche Post DHL, Ceva Logistics, UPS, and FedEx – control less than 15 per cent of the market.

New entrants tend to enter the market with newer technologies, use of data analytics, or, for companies like Deliveroo, solve the problem of, and meet customer demand for, the so-called “last mile” logistics.

Some retailers are even choosing to move their logistics back in house thanks to new strategies available to them (more on that shortly!). There is also increasing collaboration, with larger organisations working more closely with smaller, newer companies, whose service complements their own.

Apart from being a great way of sharing best practice, it also serves as a lesson to other industries, procurement included.

Disruption on the Way

One thought that seems to be pertinent for the logistics industry is, “If you’re not disrupting, then you are being disrupted”. Companies need to be adapting to changing markets, or they face obsolescence.

PwC recently published “Shifting Patterns: The Future of the Logistics Industry“, outlining just this issue. They see four main areas for disruption in logistics: customer expectations; technology; new entrants; redefining collaboration.

The whitepaper covers what a possible future in the Logistics industry will look like. They share interesting trends across each possible future. However, one key takeaway is the Logistics could be in line for an Uber-type disruption in the near future.

Could Dynamic Strategies Be the Key?

It’s getting to that time of year again. In a little over 3 weeks it’s Thanksgiving, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday following hot on its heels. And although you might not want to think about it, Christmas is peeping over the horizon.

All of this isn’t news for the supply chain and logistics organisations (or at least, we would hope not). However, with increasing, yet still uncertain, demand at this time of year, many are looking to different strategies for their warehousing.

Dynamic, on-demand warehousing is proving to be a viable alternative for many organisations, particularly those retailers looking to change their logistics strategies.

Dynamic solutions can be particularly helping for e-commerce, as it allows companies to quickly adapt to changing demand and costs. With the growth of e-commerce, consumer wants are changing. At the top of that list is fast delivery, something that traditional warehousing solutions can hinder.

At times of peak demand, like the holiday season, organisations can increase their capacity and their coverage across a region, without a major capital outlay.

The dynamic warehousing strategy also pays dividends for warehouse owners. They can offer capacity to a number of companies at once, and are less likely to end up with spare, or unused space, which costs them money.

2016 hasn’t been the best year for Logistics and Supply Chain, but with more flexible and dynamic strategies in place, the coming 12 months, and beyond, could see a significantly more rosy picture.

Have you used dynamic warehousing for your business? How does it work from a procurement point of view? Share your story below.

e-Commerce has reminded us about our Christmas shopping. While we do that, you can look at the latest headlines in the procurement world…

Impact of Hanjin Bankruptcy Not as Severe as Feared

  • ISM has released a ‘Report on Business Special Question’, asking its panel of U.S. supply management professionals if they have been impacted by the Hanjin bankruptcy.
  • Results reveal that while Hanjin’s situation has caused some impact in the U.S., disruption was not as wide-spread as expected.
  • 51.9 per cent reported “no impacts”, 29.7 per cent reported “small, but not material” impacts.
  • 13.4 per cent have said they have experienced a “material, but management impact”, while only 0.8 per cent reported a “large material impact”. 4.2 per cent said they were unsure if they have been impacted or not.

Read more at ISM

Paris Climate Agreement Comes into Force

  • The Paris Agreement came into force on Friday 4th November, formally replacing the Kyoto Protocol.
  • The agreement aims to hold the global average temperature increase to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • According to Sydney barrister Noel Hutley it is “conceivable that directors who fail to consider climate change risks now could be found liable for breaching their duty of care and diligence in the future.”
  • As of the 3rd of November 2016, 97 of the 193 parties who signed in Paris have ratified the agreement.

Read more at the Australian Financial Review

Philippines Government Looking for Alternative Firearms Supplier

  • The Philippines Government is looking for alternative suppliers of firearms after the U.S. blocked the sale of 26,000 weapons.
  • The U.S. State Department halted the sale due to concerns about human rights violations carried out as part of Duterte’s “war on drugs”, which has seen more than 2,300 people killed by police and vigilantes.
  • Ironically, Philippine Government procurement laws disqualify local gun makers from selling weapons at this scale domestically.
  • However, both Russia and China have offered to sell arms to the Philippines in the US’ stead.

Read more at ABC

IBM Trials Blockchain for Dispute Resolution

  • IBM has announced that it will be using blockchain technology to help resolve supply chain disputes.
  • A number of companies in finance are looking at permissioned ledgers connecting companies that know and (within limits) trust each other.
  • The blockchain could allow companies to transact, resolve disputes and settle more efficiently than current practices.
  • During IBM’s testing of the concept, it reduced resolution time, and markedly improved customer satisfaction.

Read more at Forbes

Have Commodity Prices Finally Bottomed Out?

Rising commodity prices have the experts talking about a bull market. But what do buyers need to keep an eye on in the coming 12 months?

commodity prices

You can find and download the ‘MetalMiner’s Annual Metals Outlook Report – 2017‘ here.

MetalMiner has called it – commodity prices in the U.S. have finally bottomed after five years of a bear market. So far, we’re witnessing an uptrend, but the publication’s founder and executive editor Lisa Reisman says industrial metal buyers should continue to take a cautious approach.

“Although markets remain bullish,” she says, “rising interest rates would likely lift the U.S. dollar and depress commodity prices. In addition, Chinese demand remains tepid and a slow-down in China would also lead to lower commodity prices.”

Big 3 Commodity Price Influencers

MetalMiner’s Annual Metals Outlook Report is essential reading for metal buyers. The report speaks authoritatively about the state of the commodities market, the industrial metals market and key price drivers before diving into a detailed analysis of aluminium, copper, nickel, lead, zinc, tin, HRC, CRC HDG and plate price movements.

The big three price-influencing factors that commodity buyers must continue to keep an eye on are, as you would expect:

  1. Metals production;
  2. Demand from China; and
  3. The U.S. Dollar.

According to MetalMiner’s analysis, after commodity prices fell sharply in 2014 and 2015, producers responded by shutting down lines and curtailing capacity. These actions have helped markets maintain better supply/demand balance this year.

December 2015 saw China unleash a renewed government stimulus in the form of credit expansion and infrastructure building, which has – for now – improved demand, particularly for industrial metals.

Finally, a weakening U.S. dollar this year has had a bullish effect on commodities. Between them, these three factors have lifted metal prices across the board, with some rising more aggressively than others.

Trends in Metals

According to Reisman, the price movement in zinc and nickel took many analysts by surprise in 2016.

“We have often said that metals move in trends. In other words, if the entire industrial metal sector languished in bear mode, it might prove difficult for, say, one metal to make substantial price gains. In 2016, tin along with steel led the price rally back in March and April, respectively.

“And though we knew steel prices had support from the import blocks due to anti-dumping trade cases, we were surprised at how quickly some of the other base metals supported the bullish trend – particularly zinc, followed by nickel.”

Bull or Bear – Have a Plan

To cut to the heart of the matter, Procurious asked Reisman which metals she would recommend buying organisations keep a close watch on as we move into 2017.

“From a rising price perspective, the more bullish metals – tin, nickel, lead and zinc – deserve a close watch. In addition, many buying organisations purchase steel on longer-term forward buys.

“We would wait patiently before committing large volumes, to see when steel prices find a bottom (steel prices have been sliding since early August) and then make purchasing decisions once we see where prices will go.”

There are plenty other sage pieces of advice to be found in the report. One such nugget is that while forecasting the future of commodity prices is an impossible task for purchasing organisations, it’s not as important as knowing what to do when prices move.

Have a plan in place to hedge or buy forward in a bull market, while ensuring you stay as informed as possible.

MetalMiner is North America’s largest metals information site, providing global perspectives on the issues, trends and trade policies that impact organisations that source and trade metals. MetalMiner provides clients with custom advisory related to industrial metal prices, forecasts and benchmarks.

Download the ‘Annual Metals Outlook Report for 2017′ here.

Stop Ignoring Twitter As A Supply Chain Tool

Using social media as a supply chain tool? Don’t dismiss Twitter – it can add real value for your organisation.

twitter supply chain

Many procurement teams and companies have realised the crucial role that social media plays in their marketing efforts. However, while Facebook and LinkedIn are often used effectively, Twitter is frequently relegated to an afterthought – and it shouldn’t be.

From brand awareness to customer engagement and trend monitoring, Twitter provides many opportunities for supply chain organisations to stand out from the crowd.

In addition, the microblogging platform can be an asset that extends beyond your marketing efforts and shapes your overall business strategy.

Below are just a few ways Twitter can be a game changer for your company:

Use Hashtags To Showcase Thought Leadership And Discover New Supply Chain Trends

Twitter’s hashtags are a great way to get a pulse on the supply chain industry. In fact, there are 228 tweets per hour that include the hashtag #supplychain. Some of the other most popular supply chain hashtags include #Procurement, #SCM, and #Logistics.

Use these hashtags in your posts to showcase thought leadership and uncover potential business development opportunities. You can also follow these hashtags – and others – to uncover new trends, technologies and best practices that you can use to implement in your organisation.

Tools like Hashtagify make it easy to find hashtags relevant to your company and industry.

Recruit The Right Talent

Recruiting and retaining top supply chain talent is becoming more competitive, so companies need to find new ways to recruit the best in the industry.

Showcasing your company’s corporate culture through Twitter can entice the right supply chain talent to apply for job openings at your organisation.  

Not only can Twitter help find the right talent, it can also help your organisation research and vet candidates. Your organisation will understand the candidate’s perspective on the supply chain industry, as well as get a better sense of whether or not the candidate would be a good fit in your organisation.

Discover Potential Demands And Risks in Real Time

Twitter acts like a real-time news ticker, which can help supply chain professionals prepare for unexpected demands and risk. Twitter is able to add rich, real-time insight to operational data that can help your organisation make timely and better-informed decisions.

According to IBM, Twitter is a valuable indicator of demand for certain sectors of manufacturing. For example, if a major influencer discusses one of your products on Twitter, the awareness of your brand may skyrocket, causing a large demand for your company’s product without any warning.

By monitoring your products and services on Twitter, you’ll be able to learn about the demand as soon as you can. Social listening on Twitter can also help your organisation prepare for low-probability, high-impact risks such as natural disasters that could disrupt your supply chain.

Showcasing your knowledge, connecting with top talent and keeping your finger on the pulse of the supply chain are powerful ways to gain a competitive advantage over the competition, and Twitter makes it simple. Be sure to integrate it into your social media strategy.

Ed Edwards is Audience Outreach Manager at THOMASNET.com. He leverages his extensive experiences in engineering, manufacturing and procurement, to educate procurement and engineering professionals on how to streamline and improve their work.

Ed provides customised training to organisations’ engineering and sourcing teams and helps buyers with their challenges and finds them new opportunities.

Rising Oil Price Shows Green Shoots of Commodity Recovery

As oil prices hit their highest level for 15 months, there is hope that this signals a recovery for other commodity prices too.

green shoots recovery

On Wednesday last week, global oil prices reached their highest levels for 15 months. The US Energy Information Administration reported that domestic crude oil supplies had dropped by 5.2 million barrels in the week ending October the 14th.

The oil price was further spurred on by an announcement from Saudi Arabia regarding future oil production. The announcement confirmed that non-OPEC producers have shown willingness to join efforts to limit global crude output.

The reduction of the ‘glut’ in oil supplies helped to buoy global markets, and sparked discussion on the recovery of other commodities. So is a reduction in supply going to lead to a global commodity recovery? Or is it too premature to say?

Green Shoots of Recovery

Talk of the recovery was lead by the Chief Executive of the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton. In the company’s first quarter production report, Andrew Mackenzie, stated that, “Fundamentals suggest both oil and gas markets will improve over the next 12 to 18 months.”

This viewed echoed earlier positive quotes from another resource giant, Rio Tinto, regarding the oil and gas markets. Increasing demand from China is anticipated to drive commodity prices up from the last quarter this year, and through 2017.

Also benefitting from production decreases from China itself are commodities such as iron ore, whose price has risen 35 per cent this year. Metallurgical coal prices have tripled in the same period for the same reason. Prices of zinc too are at their highest level since the middle of the year, as production is decreased.

The recovery comes after five consecutive years of falling prices, mainly due to falling demand from China. At one point during last week the commodity market stood on the edge of being a “bull” market for the first time since 2011.

The strength of positivity behind the commodity market also lead to better performance for US markets. This is welcome news for many companies after a particularly volatile year.

Rises Expected to Continue

The recovery doesn’t appear to be a short-term thing either. The price of a barrel of oil is expected to rise to around $55 during 2016. Beyond that, it’s estimated that the price will continue to rise, reaching $70 during 2017.

Rising prices are good news for other industries which have struggled in 2016. Maritime shipping has seen an overall loss of around $5 billion this year, with Hanjin being a high-profile example of the industry’s woes.

However, if rising prices are combined with increasing volumes, the shipping and transportation industries could see a recovery too. As more shippers move forward with scrapping large numbers of ships, it’s hoped that an increase in demand could help drive more profits next year.

However, there is also the feeling that the only way that the maritime industry will fully get back on its feet is through M&A. There have been large moves in this area this year, but not enough to combat the prolonged over-capacity seen in the industry.

Consumer Goods Could Suffer

However, the rising prices aren’t good news for everyone. As we saw in last week’s news, as commodities and raw material prices rise, so does the cost of manufacturing goods. Unilever’s proposed price rises that were rejected by retailers came partly as a result of this.

Palm oil, crude oil, and aluminium are all contributing to rising costs for consumer goods. Allied with fluctuating consumer demand, even at a time of year where sales would be expected to be high, it means difficult times ahead for manufacturers.

And although the likes of Unilever, P&G, and Reckitt Benckiser have seen increased revenues recently, this has been attributed more to increasing prices, rather than an improvement in demand.

As ever, what is good news for one group, inevitably turns out to be worse news for others.

Do you think oil prices are a sign of economic recovery? Or could prices going too high actually lead to decreasing spend as goods become more expensive? Let us know below.

While we tracked the rising price of our seasonal shopping, we were on the lookout for the week’s big headlines…

Another South Korean Shipper Facing Bankruptcy

  • STX Offshore & Shipbuilding Co., South Korea’s fourth largest shipbuilder, has applied for bankruptcy protection in the USA.
  • The move is designed to stop creditors seizing US-based assets while the company searches for a buyer.
  • One creditor is New York-listed Teekay Tankers Ltd., who won a $32 million arbitration award last year for non-delivery of four oil tankers.
  • Although STX has received billions of dollars to keep it afloat, the issues in the industry have hindered any recovery.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

How does the NHS Spend its Money?

  • Ever wondered how the NHS spends its money? Think there’s a lot of waste?
  • The BBC has launched a series of articles aimed at answering the public’s questions about the NHS.
  • Though spending is being cut across the service, it remains the most cost-effective health system in the world.
  • However, this counter-balanced by outcomes being at lower levels to other countries who actively spend more on healthcare.

Read more and Get Involved on the BBC

Facebook launches “Workplace”

  • Facebook has launched a business collaboration tool, said to be ad-free and not connected to users’ regular Facebook accounts.
  • Businesses can sign up as an organisation for a small fee per user that drops as more users sign on.
  • The tool offers group chat, video calls, live video and a news feed, with relevance algorithms just like regular Facebook.
  • Though many collaboration platforms already exist, Facebook is hoping to build on the familiarity of their public platform for user experience.

Read more at Facebook

Strike Puts Jim Beam Distilleries Under Pressure

  • Over 200 workers at Jim Beam distilleries in Clermont and Boston are striking over staffing shortages and long hours
  • The shortages come as the distilleries struggle to keep up with growing bourbon demand.
  • Bourbon is a $3 billion industry in Kentucky, providing an estimated 15,400 jobs and providing 95 per cent of the world’s bourbon supply.
  • Negotiations are expected to resume this week between striking workers and Beam Suntory, owner of the Jim Beam brand.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune

Love It or Hate It – The Importance of Supply Chain Stability

A disagreement relating to rising supply chain costs has highlighted the importance of supply chain stability.

marmite supply chain stability

Early on Thursday morning, the top news headlines weren’t about conflict or celebrity scandal, but the future of a famous British staple. Maligned and loved in equal measure, Marmite was the topic on everyone’s lips.

The sudden interest in the salty, yeast-based spread came about due to a very public spat between Tesco and Unilever over rising product costs.

According to reports, Unilever had requested that Tesco, and other UK retailers, raise the price of their products in store by 10 per cent. However, when Tesco refused to pass on this cost to customers, Unilever stopped supplying certain goods to the retailer.

Tesco responded to this by halting online sales of Unilever products. This sparked concerns of a prolonged shortage of goods on supermarket shelves.

However, by Thursday evening, the situation was resolved and the stand-off ended. It’s expected that Unilever goods will return to the Tesco website in the next few days.

It’s understood that Unilever gave some ground in negotiations, leading to an agreement between the companies. Asda has also publicly commented that it successfully negotiated with Unilever on the price increase.

Rising Supply Chain Costs

Unilever’s reason for the requested price increase was the continuing fall in the value of the pound. This has in turn led to higher import costs for goods into the UK.

While many of its products, including Marmite, are manufactured in the UK, Unilever imports products and raw materials from its base in the Netherlands.

Since the Brexit vote in June, the pound has fallen in value by over 17 per cent. As the pound dropped to its lowest level since June 23rd on Tuesday, it was reported that some airport Bureau du Change had been offering exchange rates of less than one Euro per pound.

Graeme Pitkethly, Unilever’s Chief Financial Officer, was quoted on Thursday morning as saying the price increases were part of “normal business“. But, while the price increases may be a normal part of business, experts have warned that this may just be the beginning.

As the UK’s exit from the EU comes closer, it’s expected that consumers will see rising prices for many products. As the UK imports more than 60 per cent of what it consumes, the FMCG industry will be one of the hardest hit.

Items such as bread, milk, bananas and wine are expected to increase as manufacturers and retailers stop being able to carry the increasing import costs. A rise of between 8 and 10 per cent is expected on clothing, while petrol will rise an estimated 4 or 5 pence per litre in the UK before the end of the month.

Importance of Stability

At a time when margins are being squeezed, the importance of supply chain stability is huge.

A survey published by the UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF) showed that 63 per cent of manufacturers are suffering from decreased profit margins. As well as this, 76 per cent a seeing higher ingredient costs too.

With 96 per cent of the UK’s food and drink businesses small or medium-sized, larger organisations need to be aware of the impacts of margins throughout their supply chains.

Some organisations will try to put increasing costs back on to manufacturers, without taking into account the long-term impacts. Any further supply chain disruption on top of what is happening already could potentially drive prices higher again.

While prices rises for consumers are probably inevitable, increasing supply chain efficiencies and demand forecasting can help to limit the damage.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retailers Consortium, said: “Retailers are firmly on the side of consumers in negotiating with suppliers and improving efficiencies in the supply chain to control the inflationary pressure that is building through the devaluation of the pound.

“However, years of falling shop prices and higher costs have left limited scope for retailers to continue absorbing this pressure. Everyone in the supply chain will need to play their part in maintaining low prices for consumers.”

By building a greater understanding of the costs through the supply chain, retailers and manufacturers can try to overcome a lack of stability collaboratively.

Do you work in procurement in retail or FMCG? What are your experiences of the recent price rises? Let us know below.

Away from the worries of empty shelves, we’ve stocked up on the week’s big procurement and supply chain headlines.

GM in Court Over Price Bargains

  • A court in Massachusetts will heard a case last Friday, brought against GM by a now bankrupt supplier.
  • Clark-Cutler-McDermott, alleges GM knowingly led the company into a bad faith deal, and encouraged them to take on more debt.
  • GM have requested the case be dismissed, arguing CCM is trying to pass the blame for poor management.
  • The case will help to shed more light on the highly-criticised bargaining practices allegedly happening in GM’s supply chain.

Read more at Supply Chain Dive

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 US Recall Begins

  • Samsung have begun the process of recalling a further 1.9 million Galaxy Note 7 devices, bringing the total to nearly 3 million since the beginning of September.
  • A fault in the Note 7’s battery has led to it overheating, with users experiencing smoking, sparking, or on-fire devices.
  • The recall is expected to cost Samsung an estimated $2.3 billion.
  • The company has seen $21 billion wiped off its market value since Tuesday last week.

Read more at The Guardian

MPs Call for End to Antibiotic “Overuse”

  • A group of MPs has called for the curtailing of the “systematic overuse” of antibiotics in supermarket meat supply chains.
  • Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith tabled a motion calling on UK supermarkets to adopt policies prohibiting routine mass-medication of livestock because of the emergence of antibiotic resistant bugs.
  • The motion has so far received the support of 21 MPs from across the parties.
  • Goldsmith tabled the EDM after a report found resistant E. coli in supermarket pig and poultry meat.

Read more at Supply Management

Amazon Fined by FAA Again

  • The FAA has proposed a fine of $78,000 for Amazon for breaching regulations on shipping of hazardous materials.
  • It’s the online giant’s fourth fine in as many months, with more likely to come from the UK.
  • The latest fine relates to the shipment of an ethanol-based hair tonic, without the correct documentation for flammable goods.
  • The issues highlight the hurdles Amazon faces in scaling up its own logistics and transport operations.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

3 Reasons Why Supply Chain Professionals Are Excited About Industry 4.0

The Industry 4.0 revolution is firmly under way. And it’s something for supply chain professionals to be excited about.

industry 4.0

Over 200 years ago, the first industrial revolution was ushered in by the roar of the steam engine. Now, thanks to advances in automation and computerisation, a new revolution is underway – Industry 4.0.

Also known as the fourth manufacturing revolution, Industry 4.0 marks the convergence of physical and digital manufacturing capabilities to create “smart factories.”

These factories empower supply chain professionals and manufacturers to digitally plan and project the entire production lifecycle. This can help to increase efficiency, minimise risks and, ultimately, drive revenues.

In fact, 35 per cent of companies adopting Industry 4.0 technologies expect to generate revenue gains of more than 20 per cent over the next five years

Picking Up Steam

The revolution is already well underway in countries with large manufacturing footprints, such as the United States, Germany and Japan.

However, now it’s starting to pick up steam around the globe. That’s because more companies want to take advantage of the tremendous business opportunity presented by Industry 4.0 adoption.

So what specific Industry 4.0 technologies have the supply chain so excited? Here are the top three:

Predictive Maintenance

Big data is playing a big role in the revolution. Predictive maintenance is one example of how it is being used.

Within smart factories, sensors are installed on every machine. These sensors produce data that can be used to accurately monitor key performance parameters. This knowledge is used to assess the probability of machine failure while allowing stakeholders to prepare accordingly.

The manufacturing personnel in the factory, as well as the supply chain professionals who are relying on them, receive continuous, up-to-date status alerts.

Armed with this information, MRO employees can make more precise repair calculations in order to prevent non-scheduled outages. At the same time, procurement and supply chain professionals can identify potential risks well in advance, allowing them to be more responsive and agile.

Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is not a new phenomena. For decades, the process was used to prototype new products before they were put in production on factory floors.

Today, however, thanks to the improved capabilities and reduced costs associated with 3D printing, additive manufacturing is being conducted on the factory floor itself.

As a result, manufacturers in smart factories need little to no lead time to fulfil spare part requirements, and design improvements and upgrades can be made on the fly. Supplies that were previously too heavy or too cost prohibitive to ship can be created on-site, reducing costs and logistic headaches for supply chain professionals.

This expansion of additive manufacturing has reduced required inventory levels and provided procurement teams with greater flexibility than ever before.

RFID Tags

Intelligent radio frequency identification (RFID) tag technology helps supply chain professionals track the status and location of each piece of inventory throughout the entire supply chain.

This technology provides procurement teams with the peace of mind that no piece of inventory will go unaccounted for. It also improves efficiency by making it easier to find specific items, no matter where they are located within a warehouse.

Lastly, RFID can prevent products from being counterfeited by verifying the authenticity of goods and products as they move through the supply chain. This helps to combat a growing concern in the industry.

Just as it has in the United States, Germany and Japan, Industry 4.0 will revolutionise the supply chain around the globe. As it does, procurement professionals will be able to understand their operations better than ever before and be empowered to make more strategic, agile decisions.

Ed Edwards is Audience Outreach Manager at THOMASNET.com. He leverages his extensive experiences in engineering, manufacturing and procurement, to educate procurement and engineering professionals on how to streamline and improve their work.

Ed provides customised training to organisations’ engineering and sourcing teams and helps buyers with their challenges and finds them new opportunities.

Global Trade Growth Slowdown a Wake-up Call for Nations

Global trade growth has slipped to its slowest rate since the 2009 financial crisis, sparking concerns for jobs and economic growth.

global trade

The World Trade Organisation has released figures showing that global growth has fallen to 1.7 per cent in 2016. This is well below the forecast 2.8 per cent growth in GDP outlined by the WTO at the beginning of the year.

It’s expected global GDP growth will remain around 2.2 per cent for 2016, which would represent the lowest figure since the financial crisis in 2009.

The slowdown in growth has been driven by a sharp decline in merchandise trade volumes. These fell in Quarter 1, and then didn’t rebound as expected to the middle of the year.

On top of this, the WTO has also revised its 2017 forecasts downwards, from 3.6 per cent, to between 1.8 and 3.1 per cent.

Decelerating Global Trade & Growth

Falling global trade and growth is also in part due to slow growth and performance in major world economies, such as China and Brazil.

North American growth, the strongest in the world in 2014-15, has also slowed. A reduction on imports into the USA has been partly to blame for this.

The volatility in the global economy, as well as a backdrop of increasing uncertainty, has been a major consideration for many countries in their trade.

Disagreements over global trade partnerships, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, have not helped the situation. Both US Presidential candidates oppose the agreement, and have stated they will end US involvement in it after November’s election.

The WTO have also warned that uncertainty around the UK’s ongoing relationship with the EU following June’s Brexit vote may lead to even slower growth in coming years.

Protectionism Hurting Growth

After an extensive period of global trade growth through globalisation, many countries are now looking to pull both manufacturing and supply chains back within their borders.

A separate report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) highlighted the role of protectionism in the slowdown. While tariffs on trade are regulated by the WTO, other measures, such as reducing quotas and increasing subsidies for in-country manufacturing, can be used to reduce exports.

This then has a knock-on effect on global trade volumes, and can inhibit development of global supply chains.

Roberto Azevedo, the WTO’s director-general, said, “The dramatic slowing of trade growth is serious and should serve as a wake-up call. It is particularly concerning in the context of growing anti-globalisation sentiment. We need to make sure that this does not translate into misguided policies that could make the situation much worse.”

Job and Economic Growth Risk

The global slowdown in trade has also raised concerns about job creation, and general health of the world economy. Both economic growth and job creation have long been linked to open trade.

Efforts to re-shore manufacturing and supply chains have an impact on global employment. Though it must be said that many organisation are seeing economic benefits from bringing manufacturing back in-house. These benefits are passed on to the both the local and national economies in turn.

However, for many developing countries and smaller companies, the slowdown in trade will hit harder. Roberto Azevedo called on countries to “heed the lessons of history“, and re-commit to open trading to boost economic growth.

Though some positive signs have been seen in the past month or so, the uncertainty remains. The US Presidential Election could fundamentally change the way one of the world’s largest economies interacts with the rest of the world.

And with other major economies not showing signs of quick recovery, it remains to be seen when or if the global slowdown will be arrested.

What are you seeing in relation to global trade in procurement? Is your supply chain suffering from the slowdown? Let us know below.

We’ve taken time out from getting you fit with Career Boot Camp to check out the top headlines this week. 

Activists Block Palm Oil Operations

  • Greenpeace activists are blockading operations of IOI, one of the world’s biggest producers and traders of palm oil.
  • A group of ten people, including two Indonesian farmers affected by forest fires related to palm oil operations, are blocking access to IOI’s refinery in Rotterdam.
  • The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is also preventing palm oil from being unloaded from incoming tankers.
  • Greenpeace is demanding that IOI commits to a sustainable palm oil supply chain before they lift the blockade.

Read more at Maritime Executive

US Craft Beer Brewers Outpace Supply Chain

  • US hops farmers are struggling to fulfil orders for a rapidly growing number of craft breweries,
  • The industry has doubled in size over the past five years, as consumers look to smaller companies for their beer.
  • Farmland devoted to varieties of hops has increased by 65 per cent in the same period. However, the number of small customers makes it difficult for farmers to keep up with demand.
  • As a result, production has slowed for the first time after several years of rapid growth.  

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

Inquiry Launched Into UK Defence Procurement

  • An inquiry into the UK’s military acquisition and procurement policy has been launched by the House of Commons Defence Committee.
  • The review was prompted by a report published last year by think-tank Civitas that argued for an overhaul of the MOD’s acquisition process.
  • The committee’s inquiry will look into whether emerging acquisition systems are offering value for money.
  • It will also look at the implication of Brexit will have on the UK’s defence industry.

Read more at Supply Management

Silicon Valley Alive to Truck Potential

  • Silicon Valley tech organisations are looking more closely at why trucks have jumped ahead of cars in driverless technology.
  • Software companies are also looking at the technologies that could be used in passenger cars in future.
  • Uber demonstrated its interest in lorries when it announced the acquisition of Otto, a start-up focused on self-driving technology for trucks.
  • It has been argued that such technology is used on commercial vehicles first, as there is potential for faster ROI.

Read more on The Financial Times