Tag Archives: supply chain

Streamlining Your Supply Chain With AI

How can AI help supply chain professionals streamline their processes and improve visibility?

By Chakarin Wattanamongkol / Shutterstock

Did you ever manage to find out what happened when one of your shipping containers went missing? Are you able to recover your products in time?

Many global companies are struggling with this in an ever-changing, digitised world where there is an increasing demand for transparency and visibility. Consumer satisfaction is being tested by speed of delivery, and as a result, accuracy in your supply chain is essential. Supply chain professionals must find ways to deconstruct the barriers in their organisation’s communications, improving visibility, for example, between a supplier in the North and customers in the West.

AI (artificial or augmented intelligence) technology can keep a constant overwatch on your supply chain looking for signs of trouble and alerting you early granting extra time to solve the really damaging issues, such as an impending weather event likely to close a vital port.

In supply chain management, people often work in silos: detached, isolated, and often far removed from the decisions being made in the C-suite or within other functions of the business. This leads to an unnecessarily complex chain of communication that is difficult to untangle when something goes wrong. Imagine if, in the future, all the elements making up your supply chain could be connected into a fully transparent process where internal barriers are broken down.

When you improve visibility across your network you can gain wider insights into your customer demand and be better prepared if things fail to go to plan. For example, if the demand for your product is outselling your current supply you need to communicate with the supplier to increase the stock in order to maintain your profit margins. Instead of an arduous trawl through past invoices, imagine a service that simplifies this, increasing your customer satisfaction by offering accurate and guaranteed product and shipping information.

In addition, by using AI-enabled orchestration your analysis of total costs and value is more precise and time effective, allowing you more time to concentrate your energy on satisfying customer engagement. This ensures the greatest level of accuracy giving you an overview of your products’ end-to-end supply chain journey.  Supply chain professionals will be able to look beyond their network itself and review potential impacts from other areas, such as weather, news, and transport conditions. As your process evolves and becomes more efficient real-time product guarantees, such as same-day delivery, become the norm instead of an anomaly.

As your supply chain becomes more transparent, it furthers the opportunity to increase business results as the time previously spent on administrative tasks can be refocused.

A real-world example that could benefit from this style of operation is the supply chain in the run up to a major sporting event, such as the Rugby World Cup later this year. Supplier A of miniature replica rugby balls needs to ensure these products are well stocked in their customers’ stores two months prior to the start of the tournament. Unfortunately, due to the extreme weather conditions currently hitting America, Supplier A’s usual plastic provider cannot deliver on this order. By making the supply chain more transparent and with the help of AI, this blocker is flagged early in the system before any time delay arises and Supplier A opts for a European plastic provider instead. The issue is managed successfully and in good time. As a result, the quick response enables Supplier A to meet their quota with their retailers, guaranteeing delivery in time before the start of the event, at a lower cost than if they’d spotted the issue later. Supplier A and their retail customers will not be pipped-to-the-post by competitors.

Now let’s consider the situation when Supplier A’s sellers have spotted that the market for their miniature replica rugby balls is projected to be a lot smaller than at first thought. In many organisations, the supply chain team might go to extreme efforts to get the product’s problem sorted, while the sales department is shifting away from selling the product: an exemplar of common miscommunication resulting in delays and increased costs. Up-to-the-minute communication and feedback from the supply chain right the way through to the consumer provides the correct knowledge to facilitate informed decisions. This enables flagship products to be given first priority, as opposed to products that can get away with a delay of a few weeks.

The efficiency illustrated in the example above highlights how supply chain isolation no longer needs to have a detrimental effect on business results because the internal organisational silos have been broken down. Instead, a more transparent system acts as the catalyst for even greater customer satisfaction. Not only does this positively influence Supplier A and their retailers but, most importantly, the fans’ experience of the Rugby World Cup will be that little bit brighter.

In summary, by increasing visibility across communication channels it furthers delivery accuracy, time efficiency, and business results. All of which can contribute to providing your customer with the very best service you can offer.

IBM Watson are sponsoring Procurious’ London CPO roundtable on 13th February. To request an invitation contact Olga Luscombe. 

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.



Pizza, Medicines and Death Rays: The Future of Drone Delivery

We’re still a long way away from drone deliveries and drone-run supply chains being the norm – so what’s the current state of drone delivery worldwide?

There’s no question that the world has gone drone mad. If you didn’t receive one for Christmas (bad luck), you’ll probably know someone that did. But, despite all the hype, we’re still a long way away from drone deliveries and drone-run supply chains being the norm.  

So what’s the current state of drone delivery worldwide?

The idea of drone deliveries for useful things is a lot more fun to think about than drones being used for dropping bombs or killing people with death rays – so let’s focus on that for the time being.

Drones are already capable of being deployed for many types of delivery services such as pizzas in urban environments and desperately-needed medicines flown by drones to remote, inaccessible villages. 

In many instances, drone technology has advanced so quickly that it runs afoul of the local laws. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States says that, without special permission, a drone needs to be flown in the line-of-sight of the operator and that a drone cannot be flown from a moving vehicle. 

Perhaps pizza-delivery observation towers could become a new industry in America?

In this article I outline some of the societal benefits of drone delivery, the risks associated, the prevalence of drone delivery today and what the future holds.

Societal benefits of drone delivery

Some of the societal benefits of drone deliveries include economic considerations, improvements in emergency response systems, overcoming delivery problems to remote areas and pollution reduction. 

  • Economics

The most difficult part of any delivery challenge is “the last mile” (metaphorically speaking). This is the portion of the supply chain pathway from the warehouse to the customer’s/buyer’s home or office. Drone delivery is faster and saves money on fuel costs, fleet maintenance of commercial vehicles and labour costs for human drivers. 

  • Emergency Response and Healthcare

In some medical emergency situations, a few minutes could make the difference between whether someone lives or dies. Delivery drones can bring first aid supplies, needed medicines, blood for transfusions, and medical equipment. For example, those suffering from a heart attack might get help from an emergency drone, which maintains communication with paramedics and can deliver a portable defibrillator.

The paramedics are able to observe through a remote video what is happening and instruct those giving aid to the heart-attack victim on how to use it.

  • Pollution Reduction

If drone batteries are recharged via renewable energy systems, such as solar power, the air flight is pollution free. The only downside to drone use is noise pollution. Whilst it might not be very noticeable when a single drone is flying, imagine a future where there are overly-active, drone-flying corridors.

To address this problem an inventor, Edgar Herrera, has developed a blade-less drone, which flies in complete silence. The drone is not yet in production but the design is spectacular; solar-powered, silent-flying, drone delivery is nothing short of revolutionary.

Drones and Privacy

Privacy is a big concern for many people when it comes to commercial drone use and the main reason that legislation came into being all over the world. In many places, using drones for surveillance is a crime. Authorities are increasingly concerned about delivery drones being used for terrorist acts or criminal purposes. In Europe, a study published by RIMMA noted that drones had been flown over nuclear power plants and used to smuggle items into prisons and carry drugs across the U.S./Mexican border

These are just a few of the reasons that legislation has been put in place all over the world – to protect critical infrastructure from unauthorised drone surveillance or attack.

Commercial drone flyers that operate a drone delivery service need to be careful not to break these laws or lose control of their drones because the penalties are harsh.

Consumers have other concerns regarding drone delivery services besides safety, privacy, and security. eMarketer reports than 72 per cent of consumers worry about problems with packages, such as theft or damage. Drones equipped with video surveillance technology can reduce these criminal risks but these cameras raise further questions about privacy and security.

This is an area of opportunity for supply chain managers and entrepreneurs to focus on providing solutions. 

Drone delivery around the world

USA

In the USAThe FAA has been slow to allow commercial drones for delivery services. Drone flying is still restricted to line-of-sight, which makes drone delivery less efficient and not possible in all areas. 

  • In 2015, the USPS starting testing postal delivery using Horsefly drones and since October 2017, REMSA, an ambulance and emergency services company partnered with Flirtey to deliver portable defibrillators for 911 emergency calls in northern Nevada. 
  • Fortune reports that Uber is testing food delivery by drones. Google, FedEx, Intel, and Qualcomm are working with the Department of Transportation on commercial testing of drone delivery services. 
  • Forbes reports that big efforts are being made by Amazon, Target, Walmart, and many others to incorporate a viable, commercial drone-delivery service in their long-term strategic and logistics plans. 

UK and EU

  • The UK is moving faster than the US to approve the widespread deployment of commercial drones, which should hit the market in 2019 or 2020. Amazon has made significant advancements in the UK. 
  • The European Union is in the process of creating laws to regulate commercial drone-flying corridors of airspace called U-Space to allow a wide deployment of drone delivery services. 
  • Since March 2017, in Switzerland, Matternet has been working with the government mail system, Swiss Post, to deliver emergency medical supplies.
  • In December 2014, the French postal service, La Poste began testing drone delivery systems. 

The future of drone delivery

If the regulators cooperate, commercial drone delivery will become a widespread reality to be enjoyed by consumers and those in need of urgent medical supplies and emergency services worldwide. 

It is most-likely that large-scale, commercial drone-delivery deployments will occur in Europe, the UK, and Australia during 2019 with Amazon and Google leading the way. In China, JD.com is moving ahead with widespread deployment very quickly and Alibaba is advancing as well using drone delivery to support offshore islands. 

McKinsey reports that the drone delivery industry in the USA alone, grew from $40 million in 2012 to $1 billion in 2017. Madison estimates the global market depends on what happens with the regulations. Ultimately, the global market for commercial drones may reach over $127 billion annually. 

This article, written by Mark Sheehan, was originally published on My Drone Authority.

When The Going Gets Tough… Keep Running!

On the fifth and final day of Career Boot Camp we chat to not one but two Ultra-marathon runners!

Aniwhite/ Shutterstock

Australian ultra-marathon runner Samantha Gash is a true inspiration. She’s run 3253km in 76 days across India, completed a 1968km expedition run along South Africa’s Freedom Trail and undertaken no less than four 250km desert ultramarathons.

But she can still recall the fear she felt when she ran her very first marathon.

“When you train for a marathon you only train to 32km. When I got to that point in the race I absolutely freaked out and wanted to quit because I was terrified. I realised I needed to keep pushing myself into those situations that scared me because running marathons and ultra marathons,  although impressive on some level,  are no where near like the real life challenges you’re going to face.”

Sprinting outside of your comfort zone

For Samantha, who was a “physically dormant” individual during her childhood and adolescence, took up running as a personal challenge “I really believe that we get such personal and professional development and an understanding of who we are when we choose to go into that unknown so I connected to the thing that scared me the most. Running for me became a way of me becoming mentally stronger and then I got the bug!”

Tom Evans , UK ultra-marathon runner, stumbled into the sport after challenging himself to complete the Marathon des Sables (a six day, 251km run across the Sahara Desert) in a faster time than his two friends.  He seems as surprised as anyone that he managed to complete the race in 3rd place, the highest ever ranking for a European entry.

Since then, he says, “lots of amazing opportunities [have arisen] to race all around the world, from Costa Rica to the French Alps. The performance side of things for me is important but what I really thrive on is that mental and physical challenge, you don’t know what’s going to happen. There are so many external factors that can change along the race or during a training session especially in these more arduous environments. For me it’s really humbling and I’ve fallen in love with the sport over the last year.”

Running – it’s (mostly) all in the mind…

Both athletes place huge importance in mental preparation ahead of a big race, “It’s definitely not seen as that important” says Tom. “But it plays a huge part. I try to focus on the process not the outcome.  Some days [of a race] it will not go great and sometimes it will – but if you focus on getting the small things done it will all add up. I’m big on setting goals and have high, but very realistic goals, that i am able to achieve.”

“It also helps to have a strong purpose so you know that when things get hard that you have an underlying purpose and know why you’re doing what you’re doing. ”

Samantha also credits mental perseverance as a key contributor to her running success “The mental component of ultra running really dictates how your physical body tends to flow and respond.

“If you can find ways of being calm when your body is stressed, when conditions are hard you just don’t sweat the small stuff anymore – mental is underrated by many people.”

That’s not to say physical preparation isn’t important too, ultra marathons are pretty far, and that’s an understatement, and often take place in unfamiliar conditions that require a lot of forward preparation.

Samantha has run races in the most extreme conditions, temperatures and altitudes and endeavours to simulate those conditions in her training schedule.  “When I can’t simulate the challenging component of a race I’ll replace it with something else equally challenging or something that pushes me.”

“In 2016 I ran from the West to the East of India,  which was going to be at a high altitude and in really intense heat. I couldn’t be constantly running in the heat throughout Melbourne’s winter so I put a treadmill in a hot yoga studio. I hate treadmill running, which is why I’m a trail runner but I went into a yoga studio late at night when classes were over, cranked the temperature up to 36-40 degrees and then ran on it for hours.  It wasn’t just physical training it was mental training.”

Tom cites similar challenges in his training regime “I’ve just finished [a race] running in the mountains. In the UK there are no mountains so sometimes you have to think outside the box in your physical training.

“Physically there’s only a certain amount of things you can control – the way i describe it is controlling the controllables. Any stone I can overturn and carry out detailed planning for is worth doing – I’ll train really specifically for each race.”

When the going gets tough…

Enduring the seemingly unendurable is part and parcel of ultra-marthon running  life. “You know it’s going to happen” explain Samantha, “and knowing that you’re going to go into a rough place can equip you for dealing with it.

“There is always a very clunky period when you move beyond training, you move beyond adrenaline and the excitement of early phases of something and it becomes really challenging as your mind and body is learning to adjust.” When Samantha ran across India it was tricky to adjust to the extreme heat. “We were running on a road where there was a lot of traffic and a lot of pollution so we were very burdened. And my body started to break down [to the point that] I was struggling to even walk.”

“When you can’t do what you think you could have done it’s natural to freak out and get a bit disillusioned.”

But in that moment it’s important to take control and embrace the unexpected circumstance you’ve been faced with – “that’s the exciting part!”

“Sometimes you have to walk or listen to music or change your pacer – you have to explore and experiment.  We are quite quick to be harsh on ourselves when things don’t go to plan – we need to move away from what we consider to be failure and redefine it as an opportunity.”

Tom agrees with Samantha stating that “things will go wrong but how you deal with these things will make the difference between a good and bad performance.”

Tom maintains his composure and determination by looking both forwards and backwards in time.

“What is the goal I set and how much do I want what I set out to do? I try to think about the outcome – knowing that if I really want this it’s going to be possible and my mind will conquer my body.”

“I also think backwards, thinking about all the process, everything I’ve put into training, all those workouts, the sacrifices I’ve made to get to where  I am.”

That attitude can “pull you out of any hardship to get you to the finish and achieve your goals.”

Samantha Gash and Tom Evans are speaking on Day Five of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen to his podcast now.

Transactional Supply Chain Activities: Your Days Are Numbered

The days of transactional activities in supply chain management are numbered and look set to exit our organisations very rapidly…

Chris Crozier, Chief Digital Officer – Orica International has seen first-hand how the perception of supply chain management has changed over the years.

As little as thirty years ago he can remember there being “very little recognition [of the profession] and the nuances around the skillsets required. In fact, most people talked about the smartest people in the room being in marketing and I saw that there was plenty of opportunity around skillset affirmation around supply chain.”

On Day Three of Career Boot Camp we speak to Chris about the evolution of the supply chain management profession, the importance of embracing new technology and implementing digital transformation.

Supply chain management across company borders

As someone whose, very impressive, career has criss-crossed several industries, Chris is a keen advocate for supply chain professionals working across functions.

“Supply chain is such a beautiful function where you do get that end to end view of an organisation,” he explains.  “We need to make sure that we leverage that and the relationships we have with other functions [including] any career opportunities  – not just for ourselves but for our teams.”

He warns against leaders becoming too defensive of their supply chain talent; “I think that’s a real blind spot in some of the supply chain functions as they stand today. So share the talent and surround yourself with highly capable people but be prepared to move them in and out of supply chain.”

In seizing any opportunities to move talent in and out of teams supply chain pros are facilitating the creation of “a really virtuous cycle of understanding” and ensuring that there are “supply chain evangelists in other functions.”

Indeed, working in both tech and supply chain has proved to be the perfect balance for Chris, “one of the things you get from working in supply chain is a broad analysis and encompassing oversight of the organisation and I think that’s what technology also requires. So there was a lovely fit between the technology understanding that was necessary in a CIO role and that broad business perspective you get from [working in] supply chain.

“Having that very broad business understanding meant I could provide that bridge between business requirements and a technology outcome.” 

The impact of technology on supply chain  

As is the case with every single function in every single organisation, supply chain professionals will be significantly disrupted as a result of incoming technologies.

And Chris, a self-proclaimed advocate and evangelist for the technologies coming through his door believes it is imperative for supply chain professionals to have a decent understanding of the latest technology in order to be successful in the long term.

Professionals need to know “how to apply it, where to apply it, how to leverage it most effectively and, most importantly, what’s coming in in the future that can help you to be even better in your role and therefore have a more productive organisation and ultimately underpin the broader company that you work for.”

Chris believes that the days of transactional activities in supply chain are numbered and will exit the organisation very rapidly, which is, of course, bad news for the supply chain professionals who are doing these transactional activities! “We will move to the world of the seamless end-to-end supply chain, which we were talking about in 1998-1999! We were all talking at that stage about real-time supply and demand activity.”

And Chris believes we’re fast approaching that point today with “the compute power that we have available, the network capacity we have available and the technology we have available.”

“People will talk about blockchain and other technologies and, yes, that’s all part and parcel of the way forward. But ultimately supply chain professionals now need to continue to go up the value curve.

“A lot of the things we do around competitor intelligence, around negotiation strategy and so on will be superceded by the technologies coming through the door.”

“Those things are just going to become endemic as tools for professionals in supply chain so we need to be on top of that, prepared for that and able to leverage that because it’s going to hit us very soon.”

Chris Crozier is speaking on Day Three of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen to his podcast now.

Supply Chain Management – Much More Than Just The Wire Between Switch And Light…

Sometimes supply chain is viewed as an abstract part of the business – we’re the wire between switch and the light. But that wire is not always fully understood…

Career Boot Camp 2018 kicks off this week! And this year’s series, Your Supply Chain Career: Accelerated, has been designed to help you sprint outside of your comfort zone and get into the best career shape of your life!

On Day 1, we catch up with Rick Blasgen President and CEO of CSCMP who has a lot of hope for the future of the supply chain profession.

“I think our professions have come such a long way already and have such a long way to go. Procurement and supply chain management will be an embedded feature of every competive global company around the world because they see so much of what goes on.

“[At CSCMP] we see it really growing into the fabric of successful companies. There is so much opportunity before us as our global economies kick in and we use technology and productivity processes to improve our ability to serve customers in markets that are yet to be conquered.”

The value in professional certifications

The debate rages on over the true value in professional supply chain certifications. But Rick is pretty sure they’re here to stay!

“This profession changes so rapidly –  think about risk management or about deliveries by drones or autonomous vehicles. These types of systems or technologies were not even part of our lexicon ten years ago and so certifications allow us to keep fresh, allow us to continue to demonstrate that we have a mastery of the supply chain and procurement professions by being on the forefront of what’s coming down the line that we might be able to use in our professions.

“One of the things important to CSCMP is to advance the logistics, supply chain and procurement professions and the careers of those working in them. The only way we do that is by being thought leaders and thinking about using the new technologies and tools that have never before existed. Our certifications will educate you on these things and then test that you have the understanding and can utilise the complexity within them.

“So I think [professional certifications] are a normal course of continuing to educate yourself and continuing to be knowledgeable about such a dynamic and ever-changing field.”

Upskilling your supply chain team

How does Rick feel about experienced hires versus the value in up-skilling talented professionals from diverse backgrounds?

“There is no reason that someone with a lot of experience in a different field can’t be very successful working in supply chain. If you have the ability to analyse data or if you’re an engineer – those types of talents and skills play a very important role within the supply chain world.

“Sometimes supply chain is viewed as an abstract part [of the business] – we’re the wire between switch and the light. You flick the  switch and the light goes on you don’t call your power company and thank them because you expect the light to go on.

“Well that wire is sometimes not truly understood – supply chain and procurement professions struggle a little bit with awareness.

“But there’s so much opportunity and different types of jobs that folks can come into. If you have a set of skills like great interpersonal skills or great managerial and leadership skills you’re going to do just fine in a supply chain position as long as you can analyse data and think logically about this flow of inventory and information.

“We’ve seen folks come from the medical industry, consumer products, consumer electronics or even different types of functions such as English or History majors who have come and done a wonderful job.

“Is it great to get supply chain education? Sure it is!  Universities these days are doing a great job of explaining modern day supply chain theory. But you can certainly be successful as you fly into this profession with a set of skills that really make a difference.”

Rick’s parting words to any aspiring supply chain professionals?

“Young folks have a great opportunity – I have never seen a hiring market like it is now. If youre looking for a job on another continent I can’t think of another field where you can go ahead move to another part of the world If you so desire and have a very fruitful experience. If you have a global experience or a global mindset  you’ll do very well in supply chain because it is such a global field.”

Rick Blasgen is speaking on Day 1 of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen now! 

Your Supply Chain Career: Accelerated

What do supply chain leaders predict for the future of the profession and how do you ensure you’re prepared seize the opportunities and get the most out of your career?

What is the biggest mistake supply chain professionals make?

What are the five key skills you need to make it to the top?

How should supply chain leaders embark on a major transformation?

Will the profession evolve in the coming years in preparation for an AI-enabled world?

We’ll answer all of these questions and more when Career Boot Camp 2018 kicks off at the beginning of October.

This year’s series, Your Supply Chain Career: Accelerated, has been designed to help you sprint outside of your comfort zone and get into the best career shape of your life!

Featuring tips and tricks from some of the best in the business we’ll be discussing how to make it as a Head of Supply Chain, the true value of professional certifications, how to persevere in the face of adversity and what the future holds for the profession.

Sign up here ahead of our launch on October 1st.

FAQs

What is the Procurious Career Boot Camp ?

Procurious’ Career Boot Camp, sponsored by IBM, is a global professional development event for supply chain professionals. The series, features five, fifteen-minute podcasts that have been designed to help you get into the best career shape of your life.

How do I listen to the Career Boot Camp podcasts?

Simply sign up here and you’ll be re-directed to the Supply Chain Pros group where you can access all five podcasts. You will also join a mailing list, which will alert you each time a new podcast is released.

How will I know when each podcast is published?

The series will run for one week, starting on October 1st, with a daily podcast released on Procurious each day. We’ll drop you an email to let you know as each podcast becomes available.

Is the podcast series available to anyone?

Absolutely! Anyone & everyone can access the podcasts and it won’t cost you a penny to do so. Simply sign up here!

When does Career Boot Camp take place?

Starting on the 1st October, Career Boot Camp will run for five days. The podcasts will be accompanied by daily blogs from our Supply Chain Career Coaches plus group discussions and articles on Procurious. When the series is complete, all five podcasts will be available for registrants via the Procurious eLearning hub, FREE of charge.

Why should I do Career Boot Camp every day?

Dedicating 15 minutes a day to developing and progressing your supply chain career can make the difference between standing still, or sprinting quickly into more impactful roles. At Procurious, we firmly believe that daily procurement learning is essential for career advancement. And Career Boot Camp will help you get into the habit!

Speakers

Rick Blasgen, CEO & President – CSCMP

Rick D. Blasgen has been the president and chief executive officer of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) in Lombard, Illinois, USA since 2005.

Rick Blasgen has responsibility for the overall business operations and strategic plan of the organisation. His efforts support CSCMP’s mission of leading the supply chain management profession through the development and dissemination of supply chain education and research

Ron Castro , Vice President – IBM Supply Chain

IBM Supply Chain Vice President leading a remarkable team through the digital and cognitive journey to an end to end AI-enabled supply chain. Driving adoption of cutting-edge technology and applications inside and outside of the manufacturing walls.

Chris Crozier, Chief Digital Officer – Orica

Chris Crozier is the Chief Digital Officer for Orica International, the world’s largest manufacturer and supplier of explosives for mining and civil construction. In this capacity, Chris’ digital teams supports the global footprint of the organisation across Business, Customer and Manufacturing systems, including governance of Orica’s digital ecosystems, architecture, data and cyber posture. Prior to this, he has held executive roles within Orica as Global Vice President Supply Chain, and BHP Billiton.

Tom Evans, UK Ultramarathon Runner

Tom Evans is a 26 year old professional Trail Runner and Red Bull athlete. In 2017 he discovered ultra running and finished 3rd in the famous Marathon des Sables, which was his first ultra marathon. Since then, he has become a full time athlete. He finished 3rd in the Trail running world championships while representing Team GB. He has recently won the CCC – one of the most prestigious 100km mountain races”

Samantha Gash, Australian Ultramarathon Runner

Samantha Gash, as a World Vision Ambassador, ran 3253 km in 76 days across India, raising over $150,000 to fund education programs. Her other achievements include a 1968km expedition run along South Africa’s Freedom Trail and four 250km desert ultramarathons as part of the Racing the Planet – Four Deserts Grand Slam.

Laura Faulkner, Director Supply Chain Management – Nationwide Building Society 

After graduating from Strathclyde University with a BSc in Technology & Business, Laura joined Polaroid as a Graduate Buyer. Laura then spent time with GSK and Ernst & Young before taking a role with RBS that led to her being appointed CPO in 2014.

Laura is now CPO and Director of Supply Chain Management (SCM) at Nationwide Building Society where she has brought together Procurement, Property Services, Third Party Risk, Vendor Management, Accounts Payable and Offshore Operations.

SCM’skey focus is to maximise the value of 3rd Party Relationships across the Society, leading the Supply Chain Strategy to drive efficient, resilient and innovative solutions for the benefit of all Nationwide Members.

Career Boot Camp, Your Supply Chain Career: Accelerated kicks off on October 1st 2018. Sign up here (it’s FREE!)

How To Upgrade Your Procurement Mindset

In a world where cost-savings are no longer king in procurement, how can the function demonstrate its business value and earn a seat at the table? Jaime Mora talks upgrading your procurement mindset!

In recent years, our organisations have gotten a better understanding of the valuable contribution Procurement can deliver to the business.

And yet, there remains a feeling that the function has not yet reached its full potential. Procurement is certainly a relevant and appreciated corporate function. But we’re not yet sitting in the C-Suite…

As procurement professionals, we unanimously agree that the function should be elevated within the business, but convincing those at the top is easier said that done.  Whilst all organisations consider implementing cost-savings to be a crucial part of business success, it’s no longer regarded as a strategic process or a competitive advantage. Leaders are becoming increasingly aware that savings alone will not distinguish them against  their competitors. As such, procurement can be dismissed within the business as a less important function.

The bottom-up approach

If traditional procurement contributions are not at the top of an organisation’s agenda, how can procurement earn its place in the C-Suite?

It’s difficult to find a “one size fits all” recipe but we could start by upgrading our procurement mindset. I propose that we rebrand  ourselves as: “External Competitive Advantage Strategists.”

But what on earth does that mean?

As it stands, we’re  pressured into taking a bottom-up approach to our work. We know we have to bring savings to the table, we achieve this, and only then do we start thinking about the other nice things we can do with our time; innovation, sustainability, supplier development etc. And we deliver on those things too.

It makes sense that the more value-adding contributions we make, the more arguments we have to justify a spot, and a voice, at the highest levels of the organisation.

But in reality,  we end up doing bits and pieces here and there, following trends and simply trusting our gut.

Taking this approach is one of the reasons that procurement objectives and output may deviate from actual business goals.

Taking a top-to-bottom approach

If we truly want to step up our contributions, we should be taking a top-to-bottom approach. Our organisations operate in highly competitive environments, where sustainable advantages are required in order for us to outperform our competitors.

Procurement is uniquely positioned in the business given our access to so much information from our supply networks and an awareness of the opportunities here. We’re in the perfect position to source more than just products and services – we can actually source competitive advantage.

Procurement is capable of seeing things strategically. We can analyse where our organisation stands in a competitive environment and we are capable of both meeting our business targets and identifying where and how our organisation could compete better.  To take a holistic approach, this should be complemented with strategic analyses of our suppliers.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece,  cost-savings will always be appreciated. But procurement’s work should never be limited to that. The new approach to procurement is about sourcing the external competitive advantages on offer to give our organisation unique advantages in a competitive environment.

Imagine the following scenario: one of my organisation’s strategies is to develop its people. From my knowledge of the supply market I know a particular supplier that is uniquely skilled in people management and development and this makes them the most competitive supplier. We have the power to bring this supplier to the table; to initiate the discussion to build a partnership and leverage the supplier’s competitive advantage, or even a vertical integration.  Boom! Now Procurement is sitting at the M&A table.

As saving becomes a commodity and not a priority, it is time to reinvent procurement. Leave the Procurement Manager title behind and become a External Competitive Advantage Strategist!

How To Prepare For Post-Brexit Procurement In The Dark

Procurement pros know the worst and best case Brexit scenario… But how do we prepare when faced with such a lack of concrete insight? 

The Brexit process has been a triumph in politics over practicality.

We may know roughly what the government wants to achieve politically, but the practical solutions for achieving those goals and the real-world impacts these solutions may entail are still unclear.

Despite this lack of concrete insight, it is often falling upon procurement departments to scope and prepare remedies for the uncertain future.

International Supply Chains

UK supply chains are inherently international, with much of what we export made up of things we import, so any changes to the regulatory environment has the potential to cause disruption as supply chains adjust.

It is not yet clear just how much Britain’s regulatory environment will continue to be aligned with the EU post-Brexit, as the two main possibilities – something like Norway with continued single market membership, or something like a Canada-style free trade agreement – offer distinct paths.

In one we commit to maintaining alignment with the EU, but in the other we choose to break free from the EU framework in order to open ourselves up to trade deals with the likes of America, where the regulatory environment is significantly different.

The two options do not exist on a spectrum, rather being distinct sets of tools that we can use to forge our future trading relationships.

The Invisible Border

The government’s commitment to maintaining an invisible border between Ireland and Northern Ireland however, has somewhat tied the government’s hands in this regard, as it essentially makes full alignment the default option.

The government still seems intent on diverging eventually, but having put forward no reasonable suggestions as to how these two objectives can be reconciled, businesses are finding themselves having to plan for the hardest kind of Brexit. Modelling the impacts of WTO rules is possible, and whilst doing so is only indicative of the worst-case scenario, it is a useful exercise in highlighting the key risk areas where contingency planning should be concentrated.

What can international businesses do?

For international businesses, the first port of call is to establish a fresh emphasis on supply chain relationships and risk management.

Many businesses will need to evaluate the possibility of finding new suppliers in order to build a level of flexibility in their supply chains that can help mitigate any disruption. Both UK and EU businesses will be looking into the possibility of switching to domestic suppliers and attempting to beat down prices if the costs of international trade increase.

If Britain does indeed exit both the single market and the customs union, as per the government’s stated intentions, it is very likely that procurement departments will need to face up to changes in contract terms, tariffs, and new non-tariff barriers such as rules of origin alongside potential changes in the identity of suppliers themselves.

This means addressing the chance of increased time and hassle getting goods across borders, as well as potential changes in local regulations if new suppliers are located outside of the EU.

When will these changes happen?

Uncertainty around when these changes may ultimately come into play, and how much of an advanced warning businesses will be given is another major issue.

At the moment it is looking likely that changes will be minimal until at least 2020, but beyond this we can expect to once again enter the realm of politics trumping actual progress.

The reality is that in the absence of reliable information, many firms may continue to take a wait-and-see approach in the hope that disruption is minimal, and currently we don’t know enough about the future to reveal the most appropriate course of action. If one thing is clear, it is that Brexit has put the role of procurement within British businesses under the limelight.

Nick Ford will be speaking at Big Ideas Summit in London next month. To find out more information and register to attend in person or as a digital delegate visit our dedicated site. 

Sorry Kids: Easter Chocolate To Be Cancelled After 2050

The world is running out of chocolate… And if procurement pros can’t find a way to save the day, no one can! 

Most of us like to indulge in a little (or a lot of!) chocolate over Easter.

In Britain alone, the projected Easter spend for 2018 is $892.6 million.

And in the US, 2018 Easter spending is expected to total a whopping $18.2 billion.

But, depending on how attached you are to your Creme Eggs, Lindt Gold Bunnies or your Waitrose chocolate avocados , you might need to stockpiling now; in preparation for a very uncertain future!

Why climate change is claiming our chocolate?

More than 50 per cent of the world’s cocoa comes from West African countries, primarily Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, whose climates have traditionally best-accommodated the cacao tree.

But,  in recent years, drying conditions, long draughts and rising temperatures, are making it harder to grow cocoa beans.

Warmer, dryer climates “will suck moisture from the soil and make it impossible to produce a good crop in many regions around the world.”

In short, climate change could destroy the chocolate industry within 30- 50 years.

What can procurement professionals do?

All is not lost! Procurement teams around the world are already investing in alternative, and more sustainable options, for their cocoa sourcing.

  • Developing a sturdier cacao plant

Last year, Mars unveiled their Sustainable in Generation Plan stating:

“We’ll invest $1 billion over the next few years to tackle urgent threats facing our business and the society we operate in – threats like climate change, poverty in our value chain and a scarcity of resources.”

Part of that investment will go towards “recruiting University of California researchers to develop a sturdier cacao plant that won’t wilt in drier climates.”

  • Changing farming approach

The majority of farms in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are run by poorer families who cannot afford fertilisers and pesticides. If modern farming techniques were made available to the farmers in Western Africa; cocoa production might be easier.

The Rainforest Alliance is working with smallholder cocoa farmers to manage climate change and protect their livelihoods and way of life.

  • Relocating suppliers

Farmers in Western Africa have the option to move their crops to higher ground; but there is limited space and many upland areas are protected for wildlife.

Organisations could look to source their cocoa beans from a different region entirely.

Dr Barry  Kitchen, executive chairman of Daintree Estates, told the New Daily that “Cairns generally had ‘ideal’ conditions for cocoa trees, which need consistent rain, warm temperatures, and shade with dappled light.”

“You’ve got to be continually innovative and continually looking at ways that you’re preparing yourself for the future.” he said.

But, given the much higher labour costs in Australia, it’s unlikely that the industry could ever migrate to Australia.

  • Changing the nature of chocolate

Research by The Conversation suggests wild mango butter, made from the fruit’s stone, has a very similar chemical, physical and thermal profile to cocoa butter.

If procurement teams decide to invest in the science behind it,  it mightn’t be too long before we’re eating mango butter Easter eggs.

Personally, Procurious thinks it’s an egg-cellent idea!

In other procurement news this week…

Starbucks Testing Blockchain

  • Starbucks is piloting the use of data technology, including blockchain, to make its coffee supply chains more transparent
  • The firm hopes the technology will provide real time information about the beans within the supply chain and help financially empower rural farmers
  • Kevin Johnson, chief executive officer at Starbucks, said: “Over the next two years, we will look to demonstrate how technology and innovative data platforms can give coffee farmers even more financial empowerment

Read more on Supply Management 

Amazon’s Latest Drone Patent

  • Amazon’s latest patent is a delivery drone that understands when you shout at it
  • The drone is designed to recognise human gestures, and then respond accordingly. Gestures the drone would recognise include, for example, waving arms, pointing, the flashing of lights, and speech
  • An illustration demonstrating the drone’s functionality shows a man wildly waving his arms and with a speech bubble next to his mouth

Read more on The Verge 

Taking The Heat Out Of The Resolution Room

If you can’t take the heat get out of the resolution room! Or invite Watson! 

VladisChern/Shutterstock.com

We’ve all been there. Something’s gone terribly wrong with a major customer delivery. Emails are flying around and there are rumours from HQ that “heads are going to roll”.  Everyone concerned has been summoned to “THE meeting” in order to resolve the supply chain issue.

We know what happens next; fists slamming, red faces, an embarrassing lack of data and a lot of verbal ping, pong. Eventually, a resolution is found.

But what happens when Watson is in the resolution room? Could this take the heat out of your supply chain disputes?

 What is a Resolution Room?

A Resolution Room provides the organisation the ability to collaborate quickly to resolve supply disruptions. Users can discuss and resolve issues with other colleagues, business partners, or their suppliers. What distinguishes Resolution Rooms from all other collaboration platforms is Watson.

What does it mean to have Watson in the resolution room?

The big benefit of Watson being in the resolution room is that it recommends experts, provides insight from all data and actionable advice based on learned best practices.  Over time, it leverages Watson’s capability to develop a body of knowledge by learning how issues were best addressed in the past.  This enables greater speed and accuracy in responding to future events.

“Watson provides the opportunity to deliver business value and insights from all of these data insights – structured and unstructured, data from weather patterns, news, D&B and supplier IQ,” explains Joanne Wright, Chief Supply Chain Officer, IBM.

“It does this with speed and accuracy. No more are we saying ‘OK…let’s get the data and meet again tomorrow’ because Watson takes my team’s input and incorporates that into the next iteration as we go.”

Watson In The Resolution Room: A Case Study

IBM Watson is always a room participant, so you can draw on Watson’s expertise using natural language to ask a question, for example: @Watson what is the status of order ABC123?

Imagine the following scenario; A Late Shipment alert in the Ops Center reveals that orders of your most popular drone are in jeopardy because the shortage of the entire supply of a critical part, a lithium battery, has been delayed. You create a Resolution Room to manage the incident collectively.

Watson is in the room.

Whilst your team discusses how best to manage the problem you have the ease of asking Watson questions such as:

  • Which customer has the most sales dollars that will be late?
  • What are the financial impacts of any late orders?
  • Have we experienced this problem before? Who are the experts who have worked on these similar issues in the past?
  • Are there any alternate suppliers for part number 46001?
  • Why is there a shortage of lithium batteries?

Watson can provide answers to questions such as these based on the data available in the data model and in other Resolution Rooms. Learning over time, it becomes smarter and able to provide better insights about your supply chain.

Click here to try a Resolution Room demo. 

Got a big idea you want to push through a big company or simply want to learn more about Watson and the Resolution Room?

Sign up for next week’s procurement webinar, How IBM Built the Cognitive Supply Chain of the Future. hosted by Tania Seary and featuring IBM’s Chief Supply Chain Officer Joanne Wright.