Tag Archives: supply chain

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. 

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? 

Feng Yu/Shutterstock.com

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…

hacohob/Shutterstock.com

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