Tag Archives: supply chain

Taking The Heat Out Of The Resolution Room

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

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. 

Christmas Supply Chains and Fist Fights in the Toy Aisles

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

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

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

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

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

Avoiding a Christmas disaster

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

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

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

In other news this week:

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

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

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

TGINF- Thank God Its Not (Black) Friday

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

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

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

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

Black Friday 2017: The stats examined

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The demand of black Friday on our supply chains

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other procurement news this week…

Apple’s Illegal Labour

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

Read more at Financial Times

50 per cent of procurement pros are unhappy with salaries

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

Read more at Supply Management

A New Role Emerges: Supply Chain Scrutinisers

Any increase in transparency is good news for the supply management profession. That’s why the rise of the 3rd-party Supply Chain Analyst is a development that the profession should welcome, rather than fear.How many articles have you read about Apple’s supply chain? Dozens, no doubt. Tesla’s is similarly scrutinised, along with McDonald’s, Walmart’s and a handful of other household names.

The reason for the growing popularity of this news is twofold.

Firstly, increased transparency in reporting means that researchers have a lot more to work with. For example, a recent Forbes article from Jonathan Webb reports that recent legal changes in Taiwanese corporate law means analysts can now take advantage of mandated monthly earning reports.

Secondly, corporate supply chains are finally being recognised as a key factor that contribute to commercial advantage – such as risk levels and speed-to-market – or commercial disadvantage. As such, top analyst firms such as Bloomberg now employ supply chain research experts whose insights can affect a companies’ share price just as dramatically as a surprising result in a quarterly earnings report.

What does the role look like?

Here’s an example of a supply chain analyst role currently being advertised with Bloomberg:

https://careers.bloomberg.com/job/detail/62154 

The role calls for someone who is capable of “researching and analysing business relationships on over 23,000 companies globally, “providing a roadmap for clients to view supplier and customer relationship networks, helping them identify and manage supply chain risk and generate investment ideas”.

The researcher is expected to interact with analysts, fundamental and quantitative portfolio managers and news agencies. In other words, the data uncovered by a supply chain analyst is much-anticipated and eagerly consumed. Gartner’s annual Supply Chain Top 25 Rankings, for example, make a splash not just within the supply management profession but within investment circles too:

Cleaning up the supply chain

Valuation and investment insights aside, another major role of supply chain analysts is to uncover malpractice such as human rights abuses, corruption, and environmental breaches. The biography of the aforementioned Forbes contributor, Jonathan Webb, says it all:

“I’m focused here on the murky world of supply chain corruption, looking at commercial bribery, supplier compliance and other nefarious goings on in the supply chain.”

And this is where the really interesting part of the supply chain analyst’s role begins. Once the domain of investigative journalists, supply chain malpractice is now being uncovered by experts who travel to hotspots to reveal and report on issues ranging from conflict minerals in the Congo, sweatshops in Bangladesh, and toxic waste in China.

Again, the big-brand household names are those that come under the most scrutiny for supply chain sustainability and human rights abuses, with subsectors such as clothing manufacturers and chocolate makers receiving the highest level of focus. Reporters and political enemies of Ivanka Trump, for example, continue to probe her clothing brand’s supply chain as a likely area of weakness. In response, the company has apparently made public information harder to find than ever.

What does this mean for the next generation of procurement pros?

The emergence of the supply chain research analyst opens up a new career path for procurement and supply management professionals. If you’re currently working as a data analyst for a single organisation’s supply chain, in the future you may consider scaling up your role to pull trends and insights from the supply chains of tens of thousands of organisations.

In other procurement news this week…

Procurement Fraud Is Costing NHS

  • The NHS Counter Fraud Agency (NHSCFA), launched 1st November, has estimated all types of fraud cost the health service a total of £1.25bn, with procurement fraud the second largest contributor after patient fraud
  • One of its aims is to identify problem areas in preventing – and increasing reporting of – invoicing and procurement fraud
  • This is the first time the health service has released an official estimate of the cost of fraud to the NHS. The total figure is roughly 1 per cent of the NHS budget

Read more at Supply Management

Stephen Hawking’s warning on AI

  • Stephen Hawking is concerned that artificial intelligence could replace humans. The world-renowned physicist fears that somebody will create AI that will keep improving itself until it’s eventually superior to people
  • “If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that improves and replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that outperforms humans”

Read more on The Independent 

Weetabix sets out new supply chain vision

  • Milan Pankhania, who was appointed head of supply chain for operations at Weetabix, has just completed three months in the role and he has been identifying areas where the company could make efficiencies or cut waste
  • “My role is to help drive efficiencies across the supply chain process, while striving for excellent customer service,” he said.
  • “The focus for my strategy will absolutely include cost control and proactive risk management. It isn’t about cutting costs though, it’s about doing the right things to manage risk”

Read more at Supply Management

China’s TIP Demotion: Productive ot Provocative?

2017’s Trafficking in Persons report highlights China as one of the worst global offenders of human trafficking. How does this impact your supply chain decisions? 

The U.S.  government revealed details of its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report last week. The report is the government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking.  Rex W. Tillerson, Secretary of State said this year’s report “highlights the successes achieved and the remaining challenges before us on this important global issue.”

The U.S department of state assigns each country to one of three tiers (Tier 1 being the best and Tier 3, the worst) based on their government’s efforts to acknowledge, combat and prosecute instances of human trafficking. Countries must consistently demonstrate improvement in these areas to maintain the highest ranking and avoid demotion.

Myanmar, for example, was one of the countries to be upgraded to Tier 2, following its efforts to reduce child recruitment for the military.

But the most controversial decision this year was China’s demotion to Tier 3, where it will join the likes of Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.

“China was downgraded to Tier 3 status in this year’s report in part because it has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking, including forced laborers from North Korea that are located in China,” Tillerson said as he presented the report.

The demotion marks the first time that  the Trump administration has publicly criticised Beijing’s human rights record, and it prompted an unsurpringly frosty response from the Chinese, “The government’s determination in fighting human trafficking is unwavering and outcomes are there for all to see,” spokesman Lu Kang said. “China firmly opposes the US’ irresponsible remarks on other countries’ fight against human trafficking, based on its domestic laws.”

How Will This Impact China And Global Supply Chains?

There are a number of things to consider if your global supply chain extends to China or other countries ranked in Tier 3.

  • The U.S may consider imposing sanctions that limit access to US and international aid. Congressman Chris Smith said  “Hopefully, the new tier ranking coupled with robust diplomacy—including the imposition of sanctions authorised under Tier 3—will lead to systemic reforms that will save women and children’s lives and ensure that Chinese exports are not made with slave labor.”  Whilst such sanctions have often been waived in the past, it would come as no surprise if Trump decided to break with tradition. Indeed, given his vocal criticism of Chinese trade, he will be under some pressure to impose consequences.  It has been reported this week that Trump is considering trade actions against Beijing including tariffs on steel imports.
  • Suppliers operating in newly placed tier 3 countries will, appropriately, be under increased preasure to audit their supply chains. If you’re sourcing in China, it’s entirely plausible that you’re complicit in trafficking or forced labour.  With supply chains facing extra scruntiny, it would be prudent for organisations sourcing in China to have accurate information at their fingertips. Make sure you know who you are sourcing from, what’s going on behind the scenes of your product and make detailed lists of every farm, vessel or facility to which you are connected.
  • China’s demotion might prompt organisations to stop sourcing in China altogether. Will  “Made in China” labels deter consumers who want to avoid supporting slave labour and traffcking? Changing suppliers, particularly when it’s to a new country,  is time-consuming and expensive. This will be the greatest concern for procurement and supply chain pros.

You can download the TIP Report in full here

What do you think about China’s demotion in this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report? Productive or provocative? Should President Trump impose sanctions on China? Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

In other procurement news this week….

Will Supermarkets Go Uber On Us?

  • Britain’s major supermarkets are testing ‘peak time’ pricing allowing grocers to raise or cut items based on demand
  • Tesco, Morrisons and Mark & Spencer are running trials of electronic labels which allow them to change prices at the click of a button
  • Retail experts say this could spell the end of fixed prices for consumer goods and services within five years, to be replaced by an Uber-style pricing revolution
  • Morrisons said its trial was in the “early stages” and it had not yet decided whether to roll it out across the country

Read more on International Business Times.

Apple Is Moving Its Supply Chain Towards Green Energy

  • Two years ago, Apple embarked on an ambitious plan to help its biggest suppliers switch to clean power sources. As of early June, the tech giant has managed to get eight partners on board
  • According to the tech giant’s latest update on its progress toward environmental goals, integrated circuit packaging maker Ibiden will be the first partner in Japan to power its Apple-related operations completely with renewable energy
  • Apple’s $1.5 billion green bond issued in February 2016 is still the largest issued by any U.S. technology company

Read more on Green Biz.

AI that can read minds 

  • CMU scientists have been working on is a system that can apparently read complex thoughts based on brain scans, possibly even interpreting complete sentences
  • Using a smart algorithm, the team could discern what was being thought about at any given time — and even the order of a particular sentence
  • After training the algorithm on 239 of the 240 sentences and their corresponding brain scans, the researchers were able to predict the final sentence based only on the brain data

Read more on Digital Trends 

 

A Whole (Foods) New World For Amazon

Whole Foods: it’s fresh, it’s organic and it comes with a hefty charge. So where on earth does Amazon fit in? Procurious investigates…

Last week, to the public’s surprise and the retail world’s horror, Amazon announced that it was buying organic supermarket chain, Whole Foods. For the meagre (in Amazon terms) sum of U.S.$13.7bn the retailer will take ownership of the United States’ first certified organic grocer.

It’s a bold and unexpected move given that Amazon is well known for its cheap price points, which have traditionally  undermined brick and mortar stores. Whole Foods, by contrast, is a reasonably exclusive and fairly expensive, organic retailer.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO said “Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

The annoncement has sparked much discussion and speculation ; What are Amazon’s intentions? How will other supermarkets be impacted? Will Amazon reinvent Whole Food’s supply chain?

John Mackey, Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO believes “This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers.”

What does this deal mean for other retailers?

Whole Foods is most prevalent in the U.S. with 431 supermarkets. Unsurpsingly, rival retailers were dealt a hefty blow following the announcement.. Walmart’s shares fell 4.7 per cent, Target’s fell 5.1 per cent Costco’s fell 7.2 per cent and Kroger’s  by 9.2 per cent.

The impact was even felt in the UK, despite there being only nine stores as Tesco and Sainsbury’s by some 4-5% on Friday.

Raanan Cohenn, CEO of last-mile delivery software provider Bringg asserts that “Amazon has become a leading player in the grocery industry overnight. It’s crunch time for the industry.”

“In one word, it means pressure” he continues. “Profit margins are traditionally razor-thin for grocery chains and Amazon will have a greater ability to squeeze margins throughout the supply chain even further.

Latest news implies that Walmart could enter into a bidding war; it’s certainly true that the biggest competitors will do their utmost to make this deal as tricky as possible for Amazon. Given that Whole Foods stock is trading significanlty more per share than Amazon’s $42 offer, a counter bid is entirely conceivable.

The Supply Chain challenge for Amazon

“The challenge for online grocers is that freshness and variety are hard to combine — if they sell one type of tomato, their stock will turn over fast and be very fresh. If they offer 20 types, the choice is wider but the tomatoes will sit in warehouses longer. The supply chain for groceries is trickier and costlier than for non-perishables”says , writing for the Financial Times.

It might be the cost-effective reigning champ of online efficiency but fresh, organic produce is a whole new ball game, and not one that Amazon has been good at winning in the past.

Jason Busch and Pierre Mitchell, Spend Matters, speculated that “Acquiring Whole Foods is perhaps proof that Amazon is willing to buy its way into managing adjacent supply chains in which it has struggled or not focused on yet. It also could provide a fascinating localized test-bed for Amazon Go bridging the consumer and B2B divide.”

If, bidding war allowing, the offer is accepted, Amazon is in a favourable postion to redfine the retail market. They’ll be able to sell fresh groceries online and give customers the option to collect  their deliveries from Whole Foods stores, which would  become instant fulfillment centres. Perhaps Amazon’s ultimate aim will be making same day delivery for groceries the norm.

And, as ZDNet pointed out, “Whole Foods’ roughly 30 million (typically affluent) customers are also likely to be Amazon Prime customers already, which further strengthens the connective tissue between the two brands.”

What do you think about Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods? How will retail supply chains be affected? Let us know in the comments below. 

IBM Announces Blockchain Truck-Tracking

  • A partnership has been announced between IBM and AOS, a Colombian provider of logistics solutions, which finds the two firms developing a new blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) solution for the logistics business
  • IBM Blockchain and IBM Watson will be able to track the provenance and status of trucks and their goods using RFID tags that contain the vehicles’ data
  • The solution integrates with IBM’s Watson IoT system to check in on factors like weather and temperature, which can impact the journey and the estimated delivery time

Read more on Coin Desk 

AI to spot Slavery Site From Satellite Images

  • Online volunteers are helping to track slavery from space. A new crowdsourcing project aims to identify South Asian brick kilns – frequently the site of forced labour – in satellite images
  • Nearly 70 per cent of the estimated 5 million brick kiln workers in South Asia are thought to be working there under force, often to pay off debts
  • So far, over 9000 potential slavery sites have been identified by volunteers taking part in the project. The volunteers are presented with a series of satellite images taken from Google Earth and they have to click on the parts of images that contain brick kilns

Read more on New Scientist

Norway Bans Palm Oil Procurement

  • The Norwegian Parliament has voted to introduce a ban on the procurement of palm oil and palm oil products for use as biofuels
  • Rainforest Coalition Norway, which had been lobbying for the ban, welcomed the move. It said: “Palm oil-based biofuel is a bad choice for the climate and drives rainforest destruction”
  • The organisation believes this is the first time a country has banned all use of palm oil biofuel by public bodies

Read more on Supply Management

The Value of Social Media Voices in Supply Chain

Social media: It’s vast, it’s unstructured, and it’s overwhelming. But the value for supply chain is there to be extracted!

According to Business Insider, social media sharing outpaces some of the most data intensive B2B activities: Facebook processes 500 times more data each day than the New York Stock Exchange and Twitter exceeds NYSE’s daily data storage by 12 times.

Social media gives voice to anyone looking for a platform: consumers and corporates, individuals and organisations. By enabling the democratisation of instant worldwide communications, services such as Twitter and Facebook have created an overwhelming volume of unstructured data in a short period of time.

While the development of social media voices is dynamic and continues to evolve without pause, businesses have yet to tap into its true power. What happens to these spontaneously created bits of data? Who is listening? Is there actionable value in the voices?

Social media voices are the sum total of all the unstructured data shared around the world.

Social media data may be unstructured, but the voices within it have a perceptible tone. By establishing a baseline and monitoring changes up or down, it is possible to detect shifts in tone and frequency and leverage them as a kind of early warning system. By tracking all of the mentions of compliance and sustainability over a period of time, unstructured data forms a workable trend. With this carefully built intelligence legacy in hand, changes are easier to identify and respond to in near real time.

The challenge of extracting value in social media

The challenge associated with trying to extract value from social media voices is enormous – but so is the associated opportunity. Traditional methods of monitoring company news and developments may work for a limited number of key strategic suppliers, but the scale associated with tracking the entire supply base is prohibitive, let alone looking beyond the first tier. In the absence of a new, technologically enabled approach, it would be impossible to proactively manage risk from a fully-informed position.

Monitoring social media voices makes it possible to remotely audit the majority of a company’s suppliers in a scalable and automated way, requiring limited human resources while still providing constant ’uptime’. For companies competing on a global stage, there is perhaps no greater use case for social media voices than managing the compliance and sustainability of their supply chain.

Compliance incidents among first tier suppliers (and elsewhere in the supply chain) can lead to significant reputational damage and a loss of revenue or company value. IntegrityNext’s Social Media Compliance Intelligence Engine provides the capabilities required to examine thousands of suppliers in real time. The IntegrityNext platform uncovers a wealth of publicly available data on suppliers to better inform the business by crawling approximately 500 million messages per day, revealing key insights by tracking relevant voices and the topics trending among your suppliers.

The power of social media voices is not just for increasing the visibility of decision makers, it enables leaders to draw actionable insights using real-time analytics to manage the compliance and sustainability of the entire supply chain.

The IntegrityNext platform covers all major aspects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability requirements, allowing companies to instantly monitor thousands of suppliers and their entire supply chain 24/7 with minimal administration. IntegrityNext brings together pre-built supplier compliance assessments, blacklist and sanction checks, and real-time social media insights in a user-experience driven platform that covers international standards and extends multiple tiers into the supply chain. For more information, click here.  

This article was originally published on LinkedIn

What To Do When Slavery Is Revealed In Your Supply-Chain

It’s the stuff of every CPO’s worst nightmare; finding evidence of slavery within their organisation’s supply-chain. Sadly, it’s probably more common than you think…

It’s relatively easy to turn a blind eye to modern slavery, particularly when it’s not happening on your own doorstep.

It’s also easy to assume that modern slavery isn’t a prevalent issue in today’s society.

But the stats don’t lie. The Global Slavery Index 2016, produced by the Walk Free Foundation, revealed that over 45 million people are estimated to be affected by modern slavery, more than in any other period in history.

58 per cent of those living in slavery are based in five countries:

  • India
  • China
  • Pakistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Uzbekistan

India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh all provide low-skilled labour for industries such as food, production, textiles and technology. Uzbekistan is a major cotton exporter.

The Global Slavery Index, which resulted in 42,000 interviews spoken in 53 languages across 25 countries, helps governments, organisations and communities to stay focussed on eradicating modern slavery wherever and whenever it occurs.

Perhaps, given the overwhelming statistics, it’s a case of when, not if, modern slavery will be discovered within your supply chain.

So what do you do when it is?

Red Flags: What will you find?

Firstly, it’s important to understand and look for the red flags, which might be extremely subtle. The likelihood of modern slavery is increased in conflict zones and unregulated sectors, particularly if the jobs are low-income and do not require education or specific skills. Migrant workers, women and children are among the most vulnerable.

Circumstances when passports or identification documents have been removed, excessive recruitment fees are subjected upon migrant workers or subcontractors further outsource work without prior consent are all indicators of exploitation.

Encountering one of these situations may not in and of itself amount to modern slavery but your organisation mustn’t assess anything  in isolation. It’s important to look for the series of signals in order to  decipher whether they paint a clear picture of modern slavery.

Developing a Corrective Action Plan For Modern Slavery

Fiona David, Executive Director of Global Research for the Walk Free Foundation, has some words of guidance and reassurance “My first tip would be ‘don’t panic’.  We know that modern slavery exists in supply chains, so if you find it, you are looking in the right places. The issues that are identified will drive the response”.

Companies responding to modern slavery should develop a corrective action plan based on two fundamental priorities:

  1. The first is short term priority; immediately protecting the victims involved in order to end the abuse
  2. The second is the long term priority.  Companies must find solutions to eradicate the underlying problem which allowed modern slavery to exist in the first place. This may require fundamental shifts in business models or the nature of supplier relationships

These two priorities should underpin every company policy, which should be focused on finding solutions rather than punishments. Critically, those within the organisation and supply-chain must feel safe and confident to speak up, and not fear punishment or recrimination.

Advice from the Walk Free Foundation

  • Be open about what you’ve found: “Companies such as Marks and Spencer, Nike and Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group have all been open about risks identified and violations.”
  • Collaboration is key: Fiona is keen to remind organisations that “no one company can address [modern slavery] in isolation.” Organisations must collaborate with suppliers, competitors in the sector, governments, NGOs, and civil society.
  • Does your organisation have a part to play? Perhaps the culture within your organisation has fuelled the occurrences of modern slavery within your supply chain. Maybe you’re applying unrealistic pressures and time frames? This could be inadvertently encouraging suppliers to use unreliable operators resulting in excessive working hours or under unacceptable work practices.
  • Grievance Mechanisms:These are a formal way for workers to lodge complaints and resolve working condition problems. As well as improving employee satisfaction and productivity, these are crucial in safe guarding workers’ rights. Safe helplines or whistle-blowing procedures must, Fiona explains,  “be freely accessible in appropriate languages, regions and throughout your supply chain, without fear of recrimination.”

What not to do

It might have crossed your mind that an easy solution to tackling, or simply avoiding, modern slavery in your supply-chain would be to pull out entirely from high-risk countries.

Removing Bangladesh, for example, from your supply-chain could be a quick solution to a complicated problem, right?

Wrong!

Communities in countries with high proportions of modern slavery are in desperate need of the economic opportunities your organisation provides. Taking your business elsewhere would only worsen the situation.

Fiona explains the importance of global supply chains because they “create employment and other opportunities for economic and social development, and pathways to help those break the cycles of poverty.” Similarly “immediately terminating supplier relationships is often not the right answer because it can drive the issue further underground.”

The correct, and most socially aware, response is to continue sourcing from these high-risk countries whilst ensuring you have credible audits and systems in place to address any potential problems.

Fiona also makes the important point that “Modern slavery occurs in every country whether developed or under-developed” and so it cannot be avoided simply by vetoing certain countries.  “A recent case found Hungarian workers being exploited in conditions described as ‘modern slave labour’ in a factory in Yorkshire, England.  This factory produced beds, which were supplied to British high street retailers such as John Lewis and NEXT. ”

Procurement needs to share the work load

“Procurement teams are on the frontline,” Fiona asserts. “They manage supplier relationships, they understand the business, the risks and the regions in which they operate. The indicators of modern slavery, being a grievous crime, is actually quite easy to identify, when you know what you are looking for.”

But advocacy groups and investigative reporters mustn’t be the sole figures doing the digging to reveal incidents of modern slavery.

“CSR and Procurement teams should work together across the sectors on these issues, as addressing modern slavery is a “pre-competitive” issue.  Companies can’t compete on sub-standard ethical and criminal practices.”

Searching for modern slavery within your organisation and acknowledging its presence might be one of the tougher pills to swallow but any CPO with a conscience would prefer to reveal and address it head-on. Surely that’s better than burying heads in the sand?

And, as Fiona reminds us “Not only is it the right thing to do morally, but it is also legally required. With laws in the UK, EU and US and debates in Australia about whether to adopt equivalent laws, increasingly it is no longer a voluntary issue, businesses must look at these issues and report on them.”

Fiona David, Executive Director of Global Research,  Walk Free Foundation, will be delivering a keynote speech at PIVOT: The Faculty’s 10th Annual Asia Pacific CPO Forum.

Transparency: Is Your Supply-Chain Crystal Clear?

Organisations are under increasing pressure to improve on supply-chain transparency but meeting these demands is easier said than done…

Improving supply chain transparency is a high priority for companies, especially in industries such as foodservice where consumers and regulators are pushing for more publicly available information on how products are made and delivered. Increasing product complexity—growing demand for organic and gluten-free foods, for example—as well as food safety and security concerns, continues to drive the demand for more transparency.

How Can Organisations Meet These Demands?

Responding to these demands is no easy task. The fragmented nature of the supply chain can make it difficult to achieve the kind of consensus that is needed to create efficient, end-to-end monitoring systems. However, as the industry responds to the need for more transparency, there is a huge opportunity to take a leadership position. Key to developing the level of transparency that is now expected is changing the behavior of stakeholders and harnessing the power of data visualization technology to present abundant data in easily understood and actionable formats. With these changes in place the industry can open the way to innovations that could take supply chain performance to a new level. Moreover, the journey provides some valuable lessons for other industries that are striving to meet market demand for increased supply chain transparency.

Companies in the foodservice industry sell food that is prepared and served in venues outside the home (the most familiar outlet is restaurants). A complex supply chain that stretches from agricultural growers across the globe to end consumers supports each restaurant. The supply chain also includes manufacturers, freight carriers, forward warehouses, distribution centers (DCs) and third-party logistics providers (3PLs). Many of these players tend to operate in silos that can impede the end-to-end flow of information.

What Challenges Does Data Present?

Data latency represents one of the most difficult hurdles. For example, some trading partners share daily inventory and sales information in single, large batches; by the time the data is uploaded into supply chain visibility tools, it may be too old in “food time.”

The veracity of data is another challenge. There are many reasons why inaccuracies creep into supply chain data streams. An overarching problem is a lack of widely adopted, consistent standards for exchanging data. There are also various operational issues to contend with. An example is the reuse of product numbers and warehouse identifiers without alerting trading partners to such changes.

Untimely or inaccurate data is always an issue, but particularly in today’s highly variable consumer environment. Demand for food products can be unusually volatile because shifting consumer preferences influences it. Some peaks in demand—for example, when a restaurant dish suddenly becomes popular because a celebrity tweets about it—are almost impossible to anticipate.

Industry Fragmentation

The industry fragmentation described above compounds such problems. In a fragmented environment, trading partners tend to optimize locally. For example, a DC might build safety stock of a critical product for a favored restaurant chain that is not visible to other players. Unseen inventories scattered across a supply chain cause significant inefficiencies.

Add the dramatic increase in the volume of data to the mix, and it becomes clear that operational models have opportunities to improve before the industry can deliver the levels of supply chain transparency that are expected in today’s world. These changes are within reach—and many are being implemented.

Changing behaviours to tackle supply chain transparency

One of the first steps to overcoming these problems is to change the behaviors that cause data errors and latency.

For example, Armada, a Pittsburgh-based fourth-party logistics provider (4PL) to the foodservice and retail industries, is working with DCs and other entities to make sure that the inventory and shipment data they provide is as near to real-time as possible. Huge improvements are possible by simply rethinking the way data is managed and shared, and by breaking down operational silos.

Changing stakeholder behavior lays the foundation for the new technology that drives greater supply chain transparency. At Armada, this emerging technological base has two key elements.

First, an integrated platform allows the company to receive data in multiple formats such as EDI. Second, Armada is working to fundamentally change the way this data is stored and accessed for clients and their network stakeholders. For example, the practice of generating reports from data stored on applications is no longer sufficient. Data warehousing and extraction as well as business intelligence capabilities are being built to support the high-volume information management systems that are now needed.

This is not cutting edge—but harnessing these capabilities to develop tailored visual displays of complex data represents new territory for foodservice supply chain practitioners.

Why traditional methods won’t do

Traditional methods of displaying and analyzing operational data through columns and rows aren’t enough if the goal is to redefine supply chain transparency. In addition, practitioners need faster, more effective ways to consume and use the large volumes of data now available. And it is likely that the flood of data will increase over the next few years.

Importantly, much of this data needs to be configured for mobile technology platforms that are growing in importance. An example of an innovative display format is an “items at risk” dashboard that shows when items in specific DCs are reaching stock-out levels based on lead times.

These are exciting innovations, and the industry is only at the beginning of this journey. For instance, there is huge potential for developing more advanced analytics. The ultimate analytical goal is to develop systems that automatically identify potential problems and trigger remedial action.

Consider, for example, a case where the “items at risk” screen shows that an item is nearing an out-of-stock situation. The system automatically initiates a transfer order from a DC that it identified as a source of additional stock. The DC is notified, and the order approved without having to engage unwieldy manual procedures. Moreover, the system issues alerts and updates to designated managers via their mobile devices.

This article was originally published on Supply Chain MIT  via the ThomasNet Blog

Rising Stars: I Fell Into Procurement (With Style!)

Did the ISM and ThomasNet 30 Under 30 Rising Stars always have a burning desire to embark on a procurement career or were they late converts? Procurious investigates….

Last month, THOMASNET and ISM announced the 2016-2017 winners of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, presenting the profession with an inspirational batch of role models who are sure to attract more Millennials to the supply management profession.

Procurious has been lucky enough to sit down with many of the winners to find out what the award means to them, what it takes to be one of the  30 Under 30 Rising Stars and the key skills needed for a procurement and supply chain career.

But how did these rising stars first embark on their careers? Were they passionate about procurement from the offset or did a chance encounter or inspiring internship inspire them to “fall into” procurement later down the line?

Andrew Bagni, Procurement Manager at General Dynamics Mission Systems recalls that “ten years ago supply chain wasn’t as hot a topic as it is today. Specific supply chain degrees weren’t offered at my college at the time but this is now an option for students.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that 66 per cent of this year’s 30 Under 30 Stars didn’t plan a career in procurement.

The Slow Burners

Bagni applied for an internship with General Dynamics “in the hope of gaining some of the business experience l was lacking at 18 years old! I  worked the internship for the summer, which went really well and carried on throughout college whilst I was studying business management. It’s not been a lengthy career so far but the whole of my career has been spent working in supply-chain despite having fallen into it completely by chance.”

Nick Imison, Subcontract Administrator at Northrop Grumman Systems Corp, had a similar experience to Bagni: “I fell into it sideways. I was a finance major. I went to job trade fairs, interviews, and just wasn’t passionate about finance. One day I stumbled on a supply-specific career fair, which was put on by the University of San Diego who push undergrads and postgrads to the supply chain field. They were very convincing and introduced me to the many sides of the business, giving me a holistic view. That piqued my interest and, from there, I enrolled in a few supply-chain courses.

Corey Gustafson, Senior Buyer at Deluxe Corporation initially attended school in Wisconsin to train in engineering, ” I went on a programme  that focused on the printing industry including graphics and communication management and eventually  started taking a procurement and supply-chain management course. The instructor happened to be the program director for the supply-chain programme and it was the best course I’ve ever taken. I was interested in the way the function  impacts the business and wanted to continue with to focus on that.

The Die-Hard Procurement Pros

Not all of the 30 Under 30 winners came to procurement by accident, however.  Barbara Noseda, Global Sourcing Associate at Johnson & Johnson, has a particularly notable passion for, you guessed it,  shipping containers! “I know it might sound random” she says, “but I swear it’s the truth! I did my bachelors degree agree around shipping and logistics in Hong Kong and  then went into supply chain.  Even  today, every time I can get on a project about shipping containers I jump on it.”

Matthew Montana, Category Lead at Pacific Gas and Electric Company, was also interested in supply-chain at the offset, “supply-chain really caught my attention. I liked the analytical aspect and qualitative aspect. There’s a good balance between creative thinking and working with numbers. It’s the balance of quantitative and qualitative that really drew me to supply chain.

And Matthew has another reason to be passionate about procurement. His father also works for Pacific Gas and Electric. “He’s been in supply chain for several years now. Growing up and seeing him work there and seeing how good the company has been to him and his good career influenced me. It’s a good company and a good industry. I had inside info and insight from him so he was one of my mentors early on.”

Amanda DeCook, Sourcing Associate A.T. Kearney, knew exactly where her career was headed, “I knew which University I was going to and I knew I wanted to pursue a Business Major. Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business has the best supply chain program in the USA, and I loved the tangible,  practical skills involved in the course.”

Indeed, several of the 30 Under 30 stars credit their colleges for propelling their careers. Jeff Novak believes his “college had a lot to do with [his career choices]. I went to Penn State Uni,  which is one of the top supply-chain schools in the states, if not the world. It seems that however your procurement or supply-chain journey starts out, you could have a vibrant and successful career ahead of you- take it from the 30 Under 30’s!

The 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars will meet for the first time as a group at ISM2017, where ISM and THOMASNET.com will roll out the red carpet to celebrate the winners’ achievements and broadcast their success stories to other young people considering a career in supply management.