Tag Archives: supply chain risk

How Walmart, Hanesbrands and Mattel Reduced Supply Chain Risk

It’s the million dollar question. How can corporates minimise supply chain risk, without significant disruption to their core business?

Supply Chain Risk

Global retail giants, headquartered in the US, have had to address their supply chain risk in a bid to forge ahead in the new world of corporate social responsibility. It hasn’t been an easy exercise, that’s for sure.

Retail giant Walmart, apparel brand Hanesbrands, and toy manufacturer Mattel, are among the countless others to bring about major changes within downstream manufacturing to ensure corporate risk is above board. Each turned to brand protection firm ICIX to implement a new way forward.

Management Wake-Up Call

Company founder Matt Smith explains that supply chain risk was starting to enter the corporate vocabulary in 1999.

“Companies were starting to get jittery about their corporate responsibility. Emails and back then, faxes, were being sent from management looking to address this issue, as they started to wake up to the fact that there were major risks within the supply chain that they had to actually take responsibility for. Before this time, it hadn’t really dawned on management that supply chain risk had anything to do with them,” Smith says.

Suddenly, the race was on to find a way to outsource the task of conducting factory audits and ask the hard questions. Fast forward more than a decade, and the events of 9/11 shone an even brighter spotlight on these issues and what it means for corporate entities.

Smith was at the coalface, watching the opportunity emerge. He set about creating a solution, and today ICIX remains the leading operator in this space. ICIX was born in 2004, initially to respond to the challenges faced by the food industry in securing the food supply chain, and addressing increased safety requirements of the Bioterrorism Act of 2002.

During this time, Smith worked with some of the world’s largest retailers to help them address issues of supply chain transparency and inefficient information sharing. ICIX worked to connect all trading partners into a single network to centralise collaboration, making it one of the earliest cloud-based SaaS companies.

Risk a “Complex Beast”

The company grew early food customers into other retail segments, including general merchandise and apparel and footwear. It also extended its solutions to include not just safety, but also quality, compliance and corporate social responsibility.

Today, ICIX helps companies understand where its products are coming from, streamline collaboration with trading partners, drive compliance and safety, and as a result, secure and maintain customer trust.

Smith says that those working on the risk side of a business are often frowned upon by those working on the business side, which makes it a complex beast to juggle. Frequently, the CIO within a business isn’t necessarily on the same page as someone in the CEO chair.

“I could see a really big opportunity opening up in the US, with several major retailers over here scrambling to find a solution.

“And today, businesses are spending more on managing risk than ever before. Those in procurement are battling for budget and attention, until something bad happens like people get sick or someone dies because of their product. That’s when the purse strings always open up. That’s what it often takes for people to want to solve the supply chain risk related issues.

“We realised that tackling this as a network was going to bring about far greater efficiencies, however retail is a complex industry in which to do this, which complicated the process,” Smith continues.

Role of Technology

For example, barcodes don’t match purchase orders or product numbers, and without that universal product identifier, it can be a complex process. Technology has played a huge part in bringing scale to the organisation, with cloud technology supporting a new way to assess and identify potential risk.

“Supply chain risk management is a huge area, and we were looking for ways to take that network architecture and make it accessible to everyone.”

ICIX does this by taking various feeds of information and assessing it. This could include shipping feeds, purchase feeds, ethical and responsible sourcing data and much more, and then cross-referencing all of these to determine supply chain risk.

The sheer size of retail giant Walmart put it under the consumer spotlight and forced it to look at improving supply chain transparency. Company management was eager to speak to Smith to bring about better efficiencies.

The catalyst for the changes at Walmart were the issues with Mattel matchbox cars in 2007, when consumers got wind of the fact that the children’s toys contained lead paint. New government regulations introduced as a result, required companies to act and take responsibility.

“Firstly, we see whether the vendor is meeting all their safety and testing requirements, then we can fast forward a few steps. And if they’re missing a test report, we can request that information on their behalf and rectify the situation and re-test,” Smith says.

Such solutions provide assurances that companies are ‘doing the right thing’ – that they are providing, safe, quality products that are ethically sourced and compliant. With ever increasing customer demands for transparency, information and responsibility, such programs are critical not only for companies to protect their brands and enhance their customer trust, but to survive.

Contract Lifecycle Management: Stop Being Foxed by Your Suppliers

Daniel Ball, Director at Wax Digital, explains how organisations can minimise supply chain risk through effective contract lifecycle management.

Outfoxed Contract Lifecycle Management

Today’s businesses are increasingly reliant on global, multi-tiered supply chains. While they can contain the essential ingredients for competitive advantage, cost efficiency and innovation, supply chain complexity also contributes to greater supply chain risk.

Consequently, contract lifecycle management (CLM) has become progressively crucial to organisations as they attempt to keep track of suppliers and their sub-contractors. Analyst group Gartner claims that no organisation is immune to the complexities of today’s contracts, or the pace at which businesses operate in the global economy.

Regardless of the sector you operate in, for anyone with a growing and increasingly complex supply chain, CLM has become a critical business process.

Mitigating Supplier Risk

You don’t need to search very hard to find examples of organisations whose complex supply chains have caused them significant issues, affecting both their reputation and bottom-line. Tesco’s infamous horse meat scandal is a classic example of how uncontracted and unvetted suppliers can become part of your supply chain and cause unforeseen damage.

The store was left at the mercy of the public and the media for months after the scandal broke causing huge reputational damage and financial loss to the organisation. Unfortunately for Tesco, the complexities of its supply chain meant that visibility was restricted, and it was unaware that one of its suppliers was sub-contracting work to an unknown and unvetted supplier.

Supplier risk can raise its head in many forms. The importance of ensuring all your suppliers have the necessary certifications required to work with your organisation shouldn’t be understated.

It’s irrelevant whether they are supplying food, people, commodities, electronics, or complex mechanical parts. Take the construction sector as an example. A building company’s supply chain manager will diligently vet all contractors required onsite to ensure they have the necessary health and safety certificates and public liability insurance details in place, as part of the supplier on boarding process.

But when pressed could they honestly claim to know when each of these certifications is due to expire, and that when that contractor is next onsite, his certifications are all still in date? If the answer to these questions is no, then an organisation could find itself in a very vulnerable position if an accident occurs, and the contractor’s health and safety certifications have expired.

Contract Lifecycle Management & Legal Compliance

What’s more, new sentencing guidelines have been introduced to create a more consistent and proportionate approach to sentencing for those individuals or businesses convicted of health and safety, food hygiene offences or corporate manslaughter. These new guidelines mean that all organisations should be looking to assess risk, both internally and across their entire supply chain, to ensure standards are maintained at all times.

Legal compliance with legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley or ISO standards can also be monitored as part of CLM. The healthcare, financial services and manufacturing sectors are all subject to compliance demands. Stiff penalties can be applied if an organisation is found to be non-compliant.

Contract Management Databases

Contract management databases play an essential role in ensuring organisations know exactly when their suppliers’ contracts are up for renewal. No-one wants a contract which is no longer valid for your current business needs to roll over for yet another year. As important as that is, arguably the main benefit contract management offers is complete visibility of supplier performance and compliance.

Moving all contracts to a secure, electronic contract management database enables an organisation to practice effective contract lifecycle management and keep a firm eye on its entire supply base – both direct and indirect.

A contract management database that hosts all of an organisation’s contracts, and details on the criteria (certifications, regulatory requirements and SLAs) that its suppliers are contractually obliged to meet, enables organisations to quickly identify specific types of supplier able to compliantly fulfil a project.

It also allows organisation to identify their business-critical suppliers, and ensure their necessary certifications are in place and that any KPIs agreed at the start of the contract are being met. Some systems can even offer visibility into tier two suppliers. This is extremely beneficial if your supply chain is becoming increasingly complex, and can help identify who your critical suppliers are sub-contracting to.

Visibility at Your Fingertips

The benefits delivered by CLM are undeniable as it becomes increasingly important that organisations ensure that their compliance procedures are in place. Contracts filed away, stuffed in drawers or indexed on a spreadsheet can’t issue an alert if they’re about to expire. Nor does it make life very easy if you’re looking to identify which of your suppliers has the right credentials in place to fulfil a certain role.

Storing all suppliers’ contracts in a secure, manageable database, that is quick and easy to access, ensures that you have supply chain visibility at all times. Should the time arrive when you need evidence to defend your organisation, or pinpoint the cracks in your supply chain, you’ll certainly be glad to have this level of visibility at your fingertips.