With the world economy in such a state, layoffs, redundancies and furloughs are commonplace – but even so, you can appear indispensable to your organisation.
There’s no denying that this year has been a year that will be remembered, and definitely not for the right reasons. Many of us know of, or personally know, someone who has lost their job, which is unsurprisingly given that more people have lost their jobs this year than during the Great Depression. Fortunately, many of us in procurement and supply chain have been protected thus far, but we do not know for how long. So is there anything we can do to ensure we keep our career on track and avoid being laid off?
When you work for large corporations as many of us do, it can be easy to feel powerless against a potential redundancy. But rest assured, there are a few significant things you can do to keep your career (and your job). Here’s what you can do to keep afloat when everyone else seems to be on the sinking ship:
1. Be visible
In a perfect world, you would be judged on your work and your work alone. But career success requires so much more than that: to learn and grow, you’re also expected to volunteer for extra projects and committees, network, pursue development opportunities, and so much more.
Doing so makes you more ‘visible’ to more people, but it also makes your effort far more visible. And ultimately, if more people value you and your input, it’s more likely that if the time comes to lay people off, your job will be seen as essential.
Of course, visibility has taken on a whole new meaning this year. You may not be able to show up in person anymore, but if you’re looking to keep your career on track, volunteer for that committee you might have skipped in the past. Be as engaged as possible, even when meetings bore you. And make time to connect with colleagues, even if it’s just for a quick social video chat.
Work is not a popularity contest, but the more connections you have, the more likely you will be to stay.
2. Be optimistic
Being optimistic in this environment is challenging at best, impossible at most. And why should you bother? It’s doom and gloom for most of the world for the foreseeable future, with no real end date.
Could optimism actually help your career, though? Science says yes.
When a company is considering layoffs, they will consider how much work each individual or department needs to do. If you’re optimistic and great to work with, you’ll likely get the lion’s share, and will be less likely to be able to be replaced.
3. Support your leader
When times get tough, it’s tempting to make an enemy out of your boss. After all, they often have a say on whether or not you’ll keep your job, and sometimes are in the terrible position of having to deliver you the bad news – while keeping their own job, which can feel crushingly unfair.
Yet if you’re looking to keep your career on track during a recession, going dark on your boss is not advised.
Managers, just like everyone else, suffer through recessions and not many (if any) enjoy laying people off. Recognising this, and showing empathy for them, can help create an important emotional bond. In turn, this bond will help them see you as mature and resilient, and hopefully, all things being equal, an asset to the company, and one that is not easily replaced.
Keeping your career on track in this economy is certainly a challenge, and sometimes you simply go into survival mode. But remember, you’re not powerless. There are things you can do every day to show how invaluable you are to your company, so next year – hopefully – you can not just survive, but thrive.
Look at your latest supplier contract. Does it specifically mention Zoom catch-ups? If not, why not? Sally Guyer from World Commerce & Contracting talks with Procurious about getting the most from suppliers and technology.
Have a look at your latest supplier contract. Does it specifically mention communication like regular Zoom catch-ups or phone calls? If not, you’re missing a trick.
Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently spoke with Sally Guyer, Global CEO of World Commerce & Contracting on getting the most out of supplier relationships and predictions about the future of procurement.
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It’s been a wild year, but disruption isn’t unique to 2020.
“I think it’s really interesting because there have been numerous supply chain upheavals inflicted by disaster in the last decade,” Sally says.
“You’ve got things like the volcanic eruption in Iceland, Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Thailand floods, numerous hurricanes, not to mention the global financial crisis which also needs to sit on that list; yet we don’t seem to have learned very much,” Sally explains.
“Most companies still found themselves totally unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic.”
After this crisis is over, companies will fall into two categories: those that don’t do anything and hope that a disruption like this never happens again, and those that map their supply networks.
You should know how your suppliers (and your suppliers’ suppliers) fit together, which is why mapping out your network is so useful.
Companies who already made the effort to document their network acted quickly when the pandemic spread. Other companies were floundering and reactive.
“We know from our research that many organisations typically don’t see beyond the first tier of suppliers, or possibly tier two,” Sally says.
“If we ever doubted the importance of visibility, the pandemic has provided a dramatic example of why it’s absolutely essential to have insight into sources of supply.”
Sally is seeing leading organisations require suppliers to participate in supply chain mapping efforts as part of their contract.
And it serves an important part of rebuilding.
“[We’re] moving away from the linear and much more to a recognition that supply networks’ supply ecosystems are a huge number of organisations all interacting with one another where there needs to be fluidity amongst them all.
“And that’s essential to accelerate and support recovery.”
Companies are also investing more heavily in technology to help them gain end-to-end visibility.
And even though cashmere is considered natural and sustainable, soaring consumer demand is fueling overgrazing and damaging the land.
So Toronto-based Convergence.tech and the UN teamed up to create an app for Mongolian farmers, backed by blockchain technology.
Now the UN is able to interact with over 70 different herders and eight cooperatives through a simple app.
Farmers use the Android app to register and tag their cashmere. Then their location is pinned on a map to allow for end-to-end tracking. The UN works with the farmers and other producers along the supply chain to improve sustainability.
“Farmers are willing to have their goods marked in return for training on better practises, and then open markets pay fair prices for truly sustainable and high-quality cashmere,” Sally explains.
“Everybody benefits. Everybody wins.”
Better contracts, better relationships
Another way technology is transforming the supplier/client relationship is through communication.
Sally advises all clients to include communication obligations in supplier contracts.
“It comes down to simple things like if we want to do video conferencing does your organisation support Zoom or not, because if I do and you don’t then [that’s an issue],” Sally says.
It’s not rocket science. All good relationships hinge on good communication, says Sally.
“Fundamentally, partnerships are founded on robust and clear communication, and you know I always talk about professional relationships in the same context as I talk about personal relationships,” Sally says.
“If you don’t have clear communication with your friends, with your partner, with whomever is around you, then you are not going to have a very successful relationship.”
While you can’t provide for every eventuality in your contracts, you need a robust framework to support the relationship which means communication needs to be at the top of the agenda.
Predicting the future
The year is 2030. What are the hot topics in procurement? Here are Sally’s predictions:
“We’re still a long way from creating our sustainable planet and it has to be something that we all continue to champion,” Sally says.
“We need to be promoting best practises to reach the next level where we’re actually starting to give back. Not just to seek neutrality but actually give back.”
2) Social inclusion
“I can’t imagine that social inclusion wouldn’t be important in 2030,” Sally says. “Perhaps a scorecard of corporate performance on social inclusion and social value.”
“Numbers suggest we’re only using 30% of the data that we are producing,” Sally says.
“And if organisations are genuinely on a journey of continuous improvement then they need to be using data and the likes of artificial intelligence natural language processing if they’re going to continue to advance.”
“We need to organise for integration,” Sally adds. “We need to break down the internal barriers that exist.
“We all operate in silos. We’ve got organisations who have a buy side and sell side and they have no idea what’s going on on either side of the organisation. So those companies are starting to look at how they create an integrated trading relationships function.”
Supply chains are under intense scrutiny right now. That increases pressure on supply chain leaders, but also creates new opportunities to do things better for everyone: companies, customers, and the planet. Top influencer Rob O’Byrne gives his take on where we’re at and what’s coming next.
Here’s his take on where we are, how we got here, and what’s next.
“Now, everyone knows how toilet tissue gets from factory to store.”
Not long ago, many of us struggled to explain supply chain management to our friends and family.
Now? The pandemic hit and suddenly everyone’s a supply chain expert, says Rob.
“Now, everyone knows how toilet tissue gets from the factory to the store, and it’s really put supply chain in the spotlight,” Rob says.
With that extra awareness comes an expectation that supply chains should work more efficiently — and that will change the way we all operate.
“We lost touch with local markets.”
Before we can make impactful changes, we need to understand how we got here.
Rob says the two biggest trends that shaped the pre-Covid era are centralisation and rationalisation.
Increasingly, large global players were centralising their supply chains through regional or global hubs.
Why? To improve management, visibility, and consistency — all of which are important for optimizing supply chain operations. But centralisation comes at a cost.
“The challenge is [these companies] are a lot more remote from their markets and sometimes you actually need to have a finger on the pulse,” Rob says.
“[You have] headquarters in one part of the world trying to dictate what happens in a supply chain in another part of the world. Sometimes they lose touch a little bit.”
Rationalisation led to similar challenges.
For all of the cost savings and visibility benefits, rationalising led to less contact with markets.
“[Companies] are tending to rely a lot more now on AI-based communication systems to talk with customers,” Rob explains.
Great for the bottom line, but frustrating for customers who often want to speak to an actual human instead of a bot.
“We can be in danger of alienating our market.”
“Companies still don’t understand the ‘cost to serve’ in their supply chain”
One of the greatest challenges right now in supply chain management is managing costs, says Rob.
And it’s more than “total cost of ownership.” It’s about knowing the end-to-end costs.
“So many companies still don’t understand the cost to serve across all the different channels in their supply chain. And that’s become even more critical during the pandemic because our distribution channels have changed,” Rob says.
“In the current climate, it’s really challenging because there’s so much expediting going on. We’re having to use different transport modes than perhaps we would normally.”
Visibility is also a struggle.
“That really came to the fore during the pandemic because everything was moving so much more rapidly,” says Rob.
“Supply and demand peaks and troughs have been so much more severe. The visibility of that real demand was so important, so there’s a much greater need for improved demand planning and inventory management.”
“Forecasts are always wrong”
To illustrate that need, Rob points to the huge demand for one specific medication during the pandemic.
Patients who used the drug to treat symptoms of a specific disease, were stocking up, while other people were buying it because they thought it might fight the virus. Hospitals also stocked up because people who needed the drugs would need more if they caught the virus. Demand skyrocketed.
One example is creating demand forecasts based on weather, not previous sales.
Companies can actually predict food requirements at a shopping mall food court by analysing parking spaces and the weather.
They harness data on parking space occupancy, (from those red and green lights) combine it with the weather forecast, and predict how many people will turn up at the shopping centre.
“That’s real forecasting,” says Rob. “It’s not looking at what we sold last month or the month before.”
“Less lean and more fat.”
Along with smarter forecasting, what does the future hold?
Rob says a rapid retreat from lean management might be on the cards for many businesses.
“Lean was all the fashion for the last 10 years or so,” Rob recalls. “And at the time it was probably the right thing to do for the right businesses and the right products.”
But that’s all changed now.
“I just wonder for a lot of supply chains whether it was a step too far when we’ve seen the fragility of our supply chains over the last six months or so,” Rob says.
Where you have the traditional supply chain like an automotive factory, lean and ‘just in time’ works really well, but where you’ve got volatile markets we’re starting to see the cracks appear.”
“I think we’re going to see a little bit more fat, certainly in terms of inventory, just to buffer for uncertainties.” Because it will be a long time before market demand becomes anywhere near normal, and it may never look like pre Covid demand again, as alternative distribution channels become more popular.
Rob also says we can expect the decline of ‘traditional’ third-party logistics.
“There are a lot of companies around that ‘uberised logistics’ – whether it be transport or storage, and I think we’re going to see third party logistics particularly moving much more towards the gig economy. There’s no reason why not.”
“There are people delivering to my home at the moment who are doing it a few hours a day, and that’s where third-party logistics is going.”
“Let’s not waste packaging.”
Rob also predicts swelling interest in circular supply chains.
“We’ve got to wake up and start making our supply chains much more sustainable in every element of the supply chain,” Rob says.
“We’ve paid lip service to it and there are companies around the world that we hold up and say, ‘Look what they’re doing; they’re amazing.’
“But I think generally as an industry we’re just not really very good at it. People think it’s about reverse logistics but it’s not. It’s about removing waste in our products too.”
“Let’s not waste transport; let’s not waste packaging.”
“Supply chains aren’t competing against each other.”
Finally, Rob says supply chains have the opportunity to work together.
“We’ve been very slow in collaboration,” Rob says.
“I think in supply chain, a lot of companies have been fearful of sharing warehousing sharing transport – that physical end of the supply chain – because their competitors are going to see what they are doing.”
“We’ve had that mantra for years that supply chains compete, not companies. I don’t know that they do anymore.
“I think it’s more about brands and it’s about service. I really don’t see a reason why we can’t see a lot more collaboration in our supply chains.”
Procurement has seen some revolutionary changes over the last two and a half decades. From manual processes to powerful P2P Suites, there is no denying that procurement is becoming more innovative and tech savvy. But as a whole procurement tends to lag behind other professions – it’s time to lead the way for innovation, but where do we go from here?
Technology is driving industry forward at an exponential rate, globally. It’s hard to think of an industry that hasn’t adopted a new technology, at least to some extent, in the last several years. Technological breakthroughs are changing the world over, both from a consumer perspective, but also from a business one. From smart phone companies using fingerprint scanning and facial recognition to car companies implementing park-assist, adaptive cruise control, and in some cases, even self-driving capabilities. This is truly a world driven by innovation, and most industries and business sectors are investing heavily to that end. But what is procurement doing to keep up?
Where We’ve Been
To answer that, first it is important to see how far the profession has come. Although it has taken longer than other markets – the progress has been remarkable.
· Manual Processes – Like most, this is what dominated the industry for a large period of time. Everything was done manually, from drawing up contracts, to sourcing and purchasing materials. This was quite a time-consuming process at a time when procurement lacked the complexity of today.
· Emails & Spreadsheets – As technology began to become more mainstream the manual communications started to give way to emails, no longer requiring procurement professionals to travel onsite as often. The use of spreadsheets began to build the framework of an organizational system with excel becoming the main database of choice for many in procurement.
· ERPs – Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a software that handles business process management it allows an organization to use a series of integrated applications to control and automate many functions related to technology, services and human resources. This is one of the most widely adopted pieces of technology used in procurement today.
· S2P Systems – This is the current cutting-edge procurement technology. A good S2P suite can bring cost savings, efficiencies and data visibility to your business. Our source-to-pay (S2P) platform, JAGGAER ONE, is a comprehensive suite that automates, optimizes and provides insights across the source-to-pay spectrum. Integrating seamlessly with your ERP, JAGGAER ONE can provide data transparency and visibility, while giving access to a powerful suite of end-to-end supply chain and sourcing solutions.
Procurement is at a Cross-Roads
Procurement has long been a cost-focused profession, largely relying on siloed processes and teams, taking a reactive and tactical approach. And, at one time, that was all that procurement needed to do. But it is now time for procurement to move into a new role – one that takes charge of the business and leads the way, becoming an integral part of the overall business strategy.
I believe that procurement professionals around the world stand on the threshold of a new age. The old paradigm of cost reduction, being reactive and only focusing on purchasing is drawing to a close. In this dynamic, complex and disruptive era, procurement leaders and experts the world over are searching for a secure, successful future.
With technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) becoming more mainstream, the applications for procurement are virtually limitless. Technology like JAGGAER’s Smart Assistant, which is powered by AI, is one such possibility. This conversational platform designed for procurement is a powerful tool, which will eliminate much of the tedious and manual processes that still plague the procurement profession today. AI will be a driving factor in the development of the procurement profession.
Where We’re Going
The result of all these technological advances in several years’ time will be autonomous procurement. As I’ve written in a previous blog “autonomous procurement is a platform with embedded intelligence, but a system that also continues to build on those capabilities to automate the full source to pay process without human interaction. However, this will happen only in instances where human input isn’t necessary or desired, such as repetitive or time-consuming tasks”.
It is incredibly important to remember that autonomous procurement is not meant to eliminate human input or the role of procurement professionals. The end goal here is to augment people, freeing up time to focus on value adding tasks and strategic thinking. Human insight is crucial in business – but this is all about using technology to eliminate mistakes, monotony and cut out repetitive patterns. The future platform will assist you at every step of the source-to-pay process and over time it will manage more & more complex activities autonomously, so we can focus on doing strategic analysis to unlock new opportunities.
The procurement leaders of the future will need to combine strategic thinking, along with an analytical mindset. Leaders are crucial in today’s times, especially with the rise of AI, algorithms and automation. In order to stay ahead of the curve procurement professionals will have to evolve – becoming more data-driven and strategic, because that is something that will always require a human touch.
Far from being a solution looking for a problem, Blockchain is revolutionising jewellery, tea and coffee, beverage, food and automotive businesses.
While there is still some question as to whether blockchain technology can live up to the hype it has generated, it is making inroads into the supply chain environment.
The diamond and gold, tea and coffee, beverage, food, and automotive industries all have participants with blockchain applications under test, operating as pilots, or implemented as digital solutions to improve supply chain operations.
In most cases, these companies are using blockchain as an aid to supply chain visibility and product tracing, but some have applied it as a tool to streamline transactions and speed up the flow of information, goods, and materials.
In addition to private enterprise, blockchain’s interest among commercial organisations, authorities, and governmental bodies is also intensifying, increasing the technology’s credibility as a useful supply chain tool, although not the cure-all or panacea that early hyperbole may seem to have suggested.
The days of blockchain technology being considered exclusively synonymous with BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies have long been behind us.
Indeed, in the last couple of years, it has been hyped by many as the next big thing in revolutionary digital developments. Meanwhile, other, less-convinced observers have suggested that blockchain is a solution looking for a problem.
So how well is blockchain living up to commercial and organisational expectations?
Let’s look at some of its real-world uses in 2020 across the public and private sectors to see which prominent players have embraced blockchain, to what end, and what kind of inroads it’s making into the supply chain environment.
Blockchain in the Jewellery Supply Chain
Technology oriented participants in the jewellery industry, or more specifically, those in the diamond and gold businesses, began to adopt blockchain-based traceability solutions a couple of years ago. Today, at least two or three platforms are well established, and being exploited by several companies.
As diamonds, and to a lesser extent, perhaps gold, are resources with origins that can sometimes be controversial, companies like De Beers have seized upon blockchain to provide evidence that their gems come from sources that don’t involve insurgency funding or forced labour.
De Beers’ Tracr can provide provenance data for diamonds and track them from the mine to the retail outlet. The system has been enjoying success throughout its early phases.
As a result, plans are now in place to spin it off into an industry-wide association accessible to any organisation needing to track diamonds through the supply chain. At least two jewellery retailers are already taking part in a pilot of the platform.
A platform similar to Tracr is in use with American conglomerate Berkshire-Hathaway. This multinational enterprise counts jewellery retail chains and precious-metals companies among its vast portfolio of holdings.
TrustChain Jewelry is a blockchain initiative focused on the gold and gemstones used in rings. Its objective is to give confidence to the 70% of consumers concerned about the ethical background behind their jewellery purchases.
Some smaller enterprises in the jewellery industry, too, are either taking advantage of blockchain technology already or planning to do so as a way to improve supply chain transparency.
The sector appears to be one that does not need to look for a problem that blockchain can solve. It already has one in the form of conflict gems, and reputable industry participants believe blockchain can help them disassociate themselves from the controversy by proving ethical sourcing and refining.
T is for Transparency, and Tea
Lest you perceive that blockchain solutions are exclusively for high-value products such as diamonds and jewels, one industry that produces a far-less-costly, but highly treasured commodity, is also using the technology to improve supply-chain transparency.
Not too many of us are prepared to go for more than a few hours without the restorative effects of a cup of tea or coffee. But are we sure we’re drinking the real McCoy and not something with somewhat less beneficial effects being passed off as the most delicate Darjeeling?
It appears that the tea industry, in particular, has a problem with counterfeiting. Unscrupulous merchants pass off inferior tea as that made from much higher-quality leaves originating in the world’s celebrated growing regions — and the more significant and well-known the brand, the more vulnerable it is to counterfeiting.
Even more nefarious practices exist in the tea trade, such as cutting real tea with other organic, or sometimes inorganic products to increase yield from a plantation’s crop.
It is against that backdrop that tea producers and even India’s government are hoping that blockchain will help deny counterfeiters access to consumer markets—and boost profits for producers and merchants that deal only with the best quality tea.
It’s Teatime for Blockchain
Unilever owns tea plantations in Africa and is using blockchain to improve sustainability and combat counterfeiting. It’s not that tracking and tracing tea through the supply chain is a new departure for the company: Unilever has been doing that for some time. However, blockchain technology is improving the speed and efficiency of the activity.
The blockchain solution, called Trado, is the result of a partnership between Unilever, Sainsbury’s, and the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL).
Initially convened as an experiment, the participants, including farmers who received a financial incentive to feed data into the system, have deemed it a success, claiming that it has increased visibility in the tea supply chain and brought down the costs of financing sustainability incentives.
In a similar experiment, the Indian government’s Coffee Board of India is using blockchain to monitor coffee supply, and has already received some 30,000 registrations from farmers wishing to participate. The Tea Board of India is now planning to introduce a similar system as an end-to-end traceability solution.
Examples of Blockchain in Food Supply Chains
The examples we’ve looked at so far illustrate the uses of blockchain to promote sustainability in the supply chain and assure consumers that they are buying ethically sourced products. However, this fledgling technology also has the potential to save shoppers from harm to their health or safety, and perhaps even save lives.
Walmart’s Blockchain Projects
Blockchain’s potential has been recognised and seized upon by consumer-goods giant Walmart, which has already undertaken several projects and proofs of concept in supply chain traceability. They include:
Tracing the origins of mangoes sold in Walmart’s US outlets
Tracking supplies of pork for sale in the company’s stores in China
A drone communication solution based on a blockchain platform
A new project in partnership with KPMG, IBM, and Merck to create a blockchain solution for tracing products in pharmaceutical supply chains
Among the objectives of these projects, is to enable fast responses on the rare occasions that quality issues arise in consumer-packaged-goods, requiring batches to be identified quickly and quarantined.
Walmart leaders believe blockchain technology can prevent, or at least minimise, the impacts of food contamination issues such as the e-coli contaminated lettuce and melamine-adulterated milk crises that rocked the US and China, respectively, several years ago.
With all movements of produce recorded immutably in a distributed ledger, tracing quality-compromised food or commodities back to the source can be achieved in hours, rather than the days, or even weeks, otherwise required for such an exercise.
Big Names are Backing Blockchain
Other opportunities presented by the use of Walmart’s blockchain solutions include the ability for consumers to scan products in-store and receive instant information about them, including their sources and the logistics processes involved in their journeys from origin to retail outlet.
Walmart has stamped its name in the blockchain early-movers hall of fame, not only with the projects already mentioned, but also as part of a partnership with several other food companies including Nestle, Dole, and Unilever, and technology behemoth IBM. The result of the collaboration is the Food Trust Blockchain, a distributed ledger solution capable of recording data associated with more than a million individual products.
Other Food Industry Blockchain Initiatives
Further examples of blockchain’s use in the food supply chain, with solutions either already operational or at the proof of concept stage, include the following:
An initiative by standards body GS1, in collaboration with IBM Food Trust, SAP, ripe.io, and FoodLogiQ, to solve interoperability challenges in food-industry blockchains.
The entry of Kvarøy Arctic, a large salmon producer, into Food Trust, as a way to facilitate the capture of provenance data for arctic salmon and the feed upon which they are raised.
The Norwegian Sea Food Association’s implementation of a blockchain for its members, enabling records about catches to be maintained relating to catch time and location, storage temperature, customs clearance, and details of fish feed used
Blockchain for Beer and Beverage
Brewing companies, both large and small, are tapping into the potential of blockchain, with benefits ranging from the visibility of ingredients and processes for interested consumers, to the empowerment of subsistence farmers in third-world and developing countries.
Farmers Can Bank on Blockchain Benefits
Anheuser-Busch Inbev is the largest brewer globally. With the help of blockchain software, this giant of a company is helping subsistence farmers in Africa become more commercially capable, and connecting them directly to its supply chain without the need for expensive intermediaries.
Working with a blockchain startup called BanQu, AB Inbev is using a distributed ledger solution to build a relationship of trust with some 2,000 farmers in Zambia that supply raw materials for its beers.
The blockchain serves two primary purposes. The first is the one most commonly acknowledged as a supply chain benefit—transparency.
The second has a direct impact on the welfare of these impoverished farmers. The immutable records generated by the blockchain allows them to prove creditworthiness, open bank accounts, and develop their farms into commercially viable businesses.
Blockchain Passes the Alpha Acid Test
Other projects in the beer industry highlight the value and suitability of blockchain for SME’s supply chains. For instance, in the United States, a regional brewer in the San Francisco Bay area, Alpha Acid, has teamed up with tech giant Oracle to develop a blockchain-technology platform that’s accelerating and automating supply chain transactions.
The venture has provided Alpha Acid with an end-to-end dashboard view of its supply chain. It allows digital sign-offs for each stage in the beer-production process, from hop harvesting, through malting, brewing, and maturation.
This level of visibility is invaluable in brewing supply chains. The consistency of beer products depends on always following a precise formula, using ingredients that are inherently volatile in their chemistry, such as yeast, hops, and malt.
Alpha Acid’s blockchain solution receives sensor data from the brewery’s fermentation vessels and the company’s yeast, hop, and malt suppliers.
With all this information on record, any issues with a finished batch of beer can quickly be traced, enabling it to be isolated for problem resolution. Before the availability of blockchain, a much broader product recall would have been necessary, as it would not have been possible to quickly identify the affected batch.
Blockchain in the Automotive Supply Chain
Vehicle manufacturers have long been among the most avid adopters of digital supply chain technology, so penetration of blockchain into the sector should come as no surprise. Ford, BMW, Renault, General Motors, and, most recently, Tesla, all have solutions either in their sights or already in use.
Ford and BMW Among the Early Movers
For Ford, the blockchain is a potential answer to assuring the ethical procurement of cobalt — a mineral increasingly used for the batteries in electric-powered cars. Like several of the companies already mentioned in this article, Ford has teamed up with IBM to develop a blockchain for end-to-endsupply-chain transparency.
Currently running as a pilot, the platform traces the provenance of cobalt and records all supply-chain events—from the bagging of the mineral at the mine, through refining and shipping, to delivery at car manufacturing facilities.
BMW, meanwhile, has piloted its PartChain platform, initially using it to track the supply chain movements of vehicle headlights, including all raw materials and components, and intends to broaden the scope to include suppliers of several other car parts.
Tesla is Trying it Too
As for Tesla, a blockchain partnership with port and shipping companies is all about improving supply chain speed and effectiveness. The progressive carmaker, known for its focus on clean fuels and electric power, has tested a blockchain application for imports to its factory in Shanghai, China.
Working alongside COSCO Shipping and Shanghai International Port Group, Tesla successfully used the technology to streamline the inbound supply chain to its production plant, achieving the following benefits, according to a report by Business Blockchain HQ:
Accelerated cargo pickup processes
Shortened release times for cargo offloaded at Shanghai port
Faster delivery times to the factory
Improved efficiency in the supply chain
All these gains arose because the blockchain solution enables faster transactions, helping materials move through the supply chain faster than would be possible using conventional handoffs.
Blockchain Gaining Real Traction in the Supply Chain
From high-value products such as jewellery and motor vehicles, through to everyday commodities like tea and packaged consumer foodstuffs, enterprises are finding thatshared ledger systemscan solve some of the issues they face, at least those relating to visibility and information flows.
Blockchain is proving itself a versatile solution, as applicable in the small-business environment as it is among the corporate giants. The examples we’ve looked at in this article are just a few of many projects, pilots, trials, and tests that companies across the world are undergoing.
Blockchain might not be a silver bullet to end all supply chain ills, but, like many other emerging digital technologies, it appears to be a welcome tool toaid supply chain management in most, if not all, industrial sectors.
We’ll be sure to keep an eye on its progress here at Logistics Bureau, and will continue to update and inform you about the growth and development of blockchain in the supply chain.
Step away from the emoji button. Read on to learn how to build genuine influence in your personal brand. Learn to move beyond the micro engagements of liking and sharing. Be bold and brave – expand your connections and network by following our pro tips.
Mirror mirror on the wall
While browsing idly through social media recently I concluded that many of my peers have confused visibility with influence. Procurement is a small industry especially if you’re in a niche field or a small country. What makes this contracted market even smaller is that we stare into our own reflection.
Seek to expand not reinforce the bubble
Commenting, liking, gaining followers and profiling only those within your bubble only serves to reinforce the echo chamber that you reside in. Expansion and growth should be the aim of the game and that’s the trick that many are missing!
Number of likes and connections is not influence
All the chat about the importance of “raising your profile” has seen many people reach for the emoji button. They equate visibility and these micro engagements with achieving influence. I’ve even heard some peers brag about it “mate did you see my pic? Got 12 likes, brilliant ay? I’m raising my profile and building influence.” Um no, but I’m glad people liked your photo.
Sure, visibility will get your name out there and you’ll make connections but just like the platforms we use in our personal life, professional networking sites can create a trap for the uninitiated. They offer so much more than just how many followers you have!
Think about how you engage online, do you make the most of all opportunities?
Chance to connect with and observe thought leaders
Expand your learning beyond your sector and follow other industry trends
Grow your knowledge of different areas within your technical field
Expand your support base by utlising online connections
Taking part in free webinars
Check out these tips to ensure you are getting the most out of your Procurious experience!
Fear stops meaningful engagement and expansion
Platforms where personal profiles are created on a “work self” image can fuel the fire if people view their professional / work self as separate to their “real life” self. On professional networking sites people can struggle to make genuine comments, challenge / ask questions or engage meaingfully for fear of looking dumb or speaking out of turn.
It’s such a lost opportunity! Don’t be afraid to be yourself, engage and connect with people.
What is influence and why care?
Influence is earned and grows over time. The difference between visibility and influence is that with a focus on your sphere of influence and who you engage with, you are building longevity and sustainability into your personal brand and therefore your career. You are thinking beyond your immediate role or even career.
There are many studies out there that have shown that people will change their careers significantly two or three times over the course of their lives, as described in this NY Times article.
How to get started
Hold up, I hear you… how on earth and am I meant to do that?
Start the same way everyone else does but don’t limit your professional networking to just likes, commenting and growing your connections. Keep your eye on the bigger prize.
Step one: getting started
Join an accredited membership organisation like CIPS or IACCM. There are usually many ways to get involved and connect with lots of people through these avenues. This provides a supportive environment to get involved in chairing committees and speaking / hosting events.
Awards. Keep an eye out for industry awards, nominate your team or yourself! I’ve seen some surprise winners – the only thing that set them apart from others was that they simply backed themselves and applied.
Network. Don’t simply add just people on social media, if you do send an invitation add a note and make sure it’s relevant to something they just posted or wrote about. Think of people in your industry, can you reach out to any of them for a coffee chat? And then ask, who else do you think might be of value for me to connect with?
Content. Remember the dictionary definition of influence: “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.” what content are you producing or contributing to that is building impact?
Step two: grow
Use your network of genuine connections to try and find ways to get involved in different projects and start expanding your reach.
Offer to mentor someone
Offer to host an event at your organisation
Ask for speaking opportunities
Write your own blog on an existing platform or your own profile
Connect with people through the content you’re consuming e.g procurious webinars and groups!
Ask to shadow a senior for a day to learn what they do
Talk to your suppliers and learn the other side of the fence
Learn from other sectors and follow other thought leaders for inspiration
Find someone you admire and see if you can unpick what makes them tick. You can check out Kelly Barner’s journey for some inspo
Think about yourself as a brand, what do you want to be known for?
Take the plunge! Expand your connections beyond micro engagements and you will add sustainability and longevity to your personal brand.
Remember: be yourself, be humble and be authentic.
And as volatility went up, people focused on the basics – paying off debts and stashing cash to weather the storm.
Suppliers and consumers were equally frustrated by empty shelves, never knowing when the next shipment was coming in.
The truth is, we had this disruption coming. The pandemic exposed three fatal flaws that were otherwise laying dormant in supply chains.
It’s no secret many supply issues during the pandemic stemmed from an over-reliance on Chinese suppliers. When major industrial cities in China went into lockdown, production ground to a halt.
Companies developed a reliance on Asia by wanting the lowest cost at all costs. It didn’t matter where material came from, as long as it was at the right price.
Who wouldn’t love a just-in-time supply strategy? It works wonderfully well, as long as you stay within a certain degree of volatility.
It’s cost effective, and ensures you aren’t left with mounds of unsold product taking up space.
But then a pandemic hits and volatility skyrockets. The result? A huge unmet demand for basic staples like flour and toilet paper.
Reliance on suppliers to manage inventory
Someone has to keep an eye on all that stock. Since retailers don’t want to, they pass that responsibility to suppliers.
The issue is those suppliers are also relying on suppliers, and if you don’t know who they are, you don’t know the extent of your supply chain weaknesses and risks. That’s why so many companies were caught off guard.
So where do we go next?
We’re already seeing a monumental shift in the way companies approach supply chain management.
The first trend is multi-sourcing, to make sure a chain is not dependent on a single point of failure.
The second, is planning for a higher degree of volatility. Because the world will continue to experience volatile events, like natural disasters, with greater intensity and frequency moving forward.
And the third, is becoming risk balanced. Rather than the absolute lowest cost, companies are looking for a better balance between delivering value and managing supply risk.
What successful procurement will look like
All of these fatal flaws – and the new strategies emerging as a result – all point to one crucial need: end-to-end supply chain visibility.
It might sound like a dream, but it’s actually possible.
The most resilient companies are using control towers to keep eyes on the entire supply chain, and gain advanced warning to avoid disruption.
And I don’t mean the spreadsheets that people call ‘control towers.’ I mean genuine systems that pull in essential data from across departments and across suppliers. Without that total oversight, you’ll never have the visibility you need to make informed decisions.
For example, IBM’s global supply chain uses IBM Sterling Control Towers so that we’re alerted to potential issues far earlier than our companies.
That gives us time to react, and avoid much of the disruption.
Control towers can help you understand the next steps to take, so you’re much more resilient to shocks.
Investing in control towers is the right way to start improving supply chain visibility. But you also need the right tech infrastructure to match.
For example, I’ve noticed retailers making great strides in becoming omnichannel. Without that seamless experience in store and online, companies risk becoming irrelevant in the next decade.
The fact is, there are tools out there to help your company survive and thrive during this crisis. It’s truly an amazing time to be a supply chain leader, and with the right partner you can offer the answers your company sorely needs right now.
Invest in the right technology and gain end-to-end visibility across your supply chain. You’ll spot opportunities, and you’ll be prepared the next time an ‘unprecedented’ event hits.
IBM’s Takshay Aggrawal recently sat down with Procurious Founder Tania Seary to discuss end-to-end visibility, and how supply chain management will never be the same. Listen to their full discussion now.
Prior to the pandemic, a “just in time” inventory management strategy worked wonderfully well for most supply chains, but “just in time is only able to respond to certain fluctuations,” Takshay said.
When the pandemic drove large-scale disruption, the strategy unravelled. Retailers, for example, were left with empty shelves, late deliveries, and no warning about shipping delays.
And it wasn’t just retail. Industries across the board lacked critical products because companies didn’t have visibility into their tier 2 to tier 10 suppliers – where 40% of supply chain disruptions occur.
Suddenly, companies were scrambling to change supply strategies.
“The companies who have started on transformation journeys before COVID have fared much better,” Takshay said.
In fact, IBM’s visibility of its own internal supply chain meant it could predict the supply chain impact from the pandemic much sooner than most.
Path to resilience
So how do you get that same level of visibility and resiliency across your supply chain?
It starts by asking the right question.
“[People should be asking] ‘what kind of supply chain do I need to have?’” Takshay said.
That’s why the smart companies are re-balancing their risk appetite.
A real control tower
A resilient supply chain is a transparent supply chain. And the only way to get that crucial visibility is having a smart control tower.
The concept of a control tower isn’t new. It’s a place to pool data from across your supply chain, and use it to make informed decisions.
The right tower helps you see problems a long way off, so you can minimise disruption and maximise profitability.
But Takshay noted a worrying trend in procurement where any sort of dashboard is called a “control tower”.
That’s a problem, since most inventory control towers are seriously limited. And you can’t make excellent decisions without knowing the full picture.
The result? You can make decisions with confidence, knowing you have all the external information you need.
Problem 3) Most tower controls can’t get into the nitty-gritty detail.
A crucial flaw in most control towers is they lack granular detail. That’s a pretty big issue when your job hinges on knowing the right details.
So instead of depending on people to enter the right data in the right place at just the right time, there’s a smarter way.
IBM’s control tower gives you the microscopic detail you need to make confident decisions.
Problem 4) Most tower controls are inflexible.
A major drawback for most inventory control towers is the rigid structure.
There’s only one way to input data, and don’t even dream of changing the architecture. But the pandemic showed us how fast everything can change and how flexible and agile your supply chain needs to be to respond effectively.
You need a control tower that can keep up with the reality of supply chains today. That’s why the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Control Tower is ideal. It adapts to fit your business needs – no matter how quickly they change.
Problem 5) Most control towers predict the future based on past events.
If you don’t have real-time visibility across your supply chain, you are making decisions based on past events, Takshay said.
At the very least, a control tower should give you current information. But IBM takes it a step further with predictive capabilities.
The control tower looks for patterns in your data – flagging possible issues before they happen. That way, you can quickly adapt and avoid disruption.
Don’t wait for perfection
Control towers go a long way toward visibility and resiliency, but they aren’t a silver bullet, Takshay said.
So instead of waiting for perfection, start bringing your systems together now.
“The more visibility and the more integration, the more resilience,” Takshay said. “You’re able to bounce back much faster.”
If you want greater supply chain resiliency, you need greater visibility.
And you’ll get that level of visibility if you choose a control tower that actually gives you control.
Where supply chains are already complex, increased visibility throughout the supply chain and closer monitoring of risk are becoming more common…
In 1992, Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama, the American political scientist and author, published the much-praised The End of History and the Last Man, which suggested that the spread of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism meant that the final and ideal form of human government was now clear and established. He foresaw “the end of history as such.”
It’s clear that 25 years on,
life has not quite worked out like that.
The world continues to be as
unpredictable as ever, with the rise of unexpected leaders such as President
Trump, the emergence of China as a global superpower, Brexit, wars in the
Middle East, and many other developments. All we can say about the future is
there is still plenty of history left to be written, and anyone who tells you
they know what is
going to happen is a genius, crazy, or simply a liar.
Look for opportunities
But of course, times of
change bring huge opportunities, too. The digital revolution has turned
industries upside down, with disruptive market entrants seizing market share.
Some incumbents adapt well and others don’t. Emerging markets hold great
potential, too, which many western firms have been slow to pick up on. For
instance, by 2050, Nigeria will be the third-most-populated country in the
world, with more citizens than the United States.
It is also amazing how
rapidly the politico-economic situation appears to change today; a few weeks
ago, the press was reporting that the United States and Europe were about to
enter a trade war. One meeting later, all seems well again, and the “U.S. and
EU reach deal to calm trade war fears,” as The Guardian reported.
Where does this apparently
ever-increasing pace of change leave the procurement professional and the
organisations in which they work?
I’ve previously compared
Brexit to the over-hyped “millennium bug” (Y2K) and related challenges stating
that unlike Y2K, where there was a defined risk and problem to solve, Brexit
poses significantly more uncertainty and therefore perhaps a wider range of
risks to review.
That uncertainty is central
to the challenge for organisations. We know there will be issues to be faced;
tax, customs, and trade complexities, for example. But it is impossible to
know yet exactly how Brexit will affect the business environment at the
national, sector, or individual company level. So although it might seem
tempting, this is not the time for procurement executives (or indeed anyone in
business) to pull the blankets over our heads and ignore the situation – the
“wake me up when it’s all over” approach, we might call it. The UK was, after
all, an independent nation for many, many years before it joined the EU.
We know life will go on
after March 31, 2019!
Indeed, fortune favors the
prepared. Scenario planning, looking at the “what if” questions, is essential
for organisations that can see their business being potentially impacted by
Brexit. And whatever happens, procurement or supply chain leaders, with their
focus on the external world, have a particularly important role to play.
Where supply chains are
already complex, increased visibility throughout the supply chain and closer
monitoring of risk are becoming more common with the help of leading edge
technology including blockchain and “cobots”. Increased deployment of blockchain solutions,
for example, enhances frictionless, secure transactions and smart contracts,
minimising paperwork and effort to manage compliance with increased
regulations. While it’s early days for blockchain adoption outside of financial
services, almost all major manufacturing organisations have ongoing work in
But let’s finish with two
key takeaways for procurement leaders based very much on currently available
technology. Both relate to areas where digitalisation should continue or
even be accelerated to position the organisation well for Brexit and a period
sure your procurement “fundamentals” are in good shape.Digital technology provides the
means to do this more effectively than ever: robust vendor master data;
visibility on spend and suppliers; and accurate, relevant, timely data about
spend and spending plans, suppliers, and contracts. Understanding the supply
situation in its widest sense is essential if the organisation wants to be well
positioned to handle future change, shocks, and opportunities.
Second, consider the
specific need for supply chain risk management to be robust,
effective, and dynamic. That covers not just political risks,
of course, but also financial risk, reputational risk, “man-made” risk (e.g.,
labor disputes at supplier plants), or natural disasters. It also needs to
consider multi-tier supply chain risk, not just immediate suppliers. Technology
is a key enabler here, as well, but organisations need to consider skills and
mindset too when it comes to effective risk
To sum up, while no one
would pretend that there won’t be issues, problems, and costs associated with
Brexit, for the UK and indeed other countries, there will be opportunities,
Ariba are sponsoring Big Ideas Summit London on March
up now as a digital delegate to follow the day’s action wherever
you are in the world.
84 per cent of Chief Supply Chain Officers say that a lack of visibility is their biggest challenge. How can AI help?
Supply chains are the lifeblood of any business, impacting everything from the quality, delivery and costs of products and services, to customer service and satisfaction. Last, but not least, they have an impact on the company profitability.
Mastering the supply chain is a central element of the customer experience and the competitiveness of any company. However, until recently, supply chain management has been considered a support function.
Today, we are beginning to see that the
trend is reversed, as supply chain management becomes more and more a strategic
function. Artificial intelligence (AI) is being adopted by leading businesses,
with application in the supply chain.
Supply chain organisations struggle to
make sense of a sea of data, including multiple ERP & Supply Chain Systems,
multiple data sources, both structured and unstructured, extensive supplier and
partner networks and relationships.
How can AI
augment supply chain organisations?
A smarter supply chain is critical to the success of the
business. The ability to reconcile structured and unstructured data to generate
insights is a hallmark of AI, machine learning and intelligence.
translate this, shall we?
Gaining end to end supply chain visibility across systems and data sources
Retrieving data up to 90 per cent faster
Proactively predicting and mitigating disruptions
Cutting disruptions by up to 50 per cent
Arming professionals with information needed to take action
Reducing mitigation time from days to minutes
Aggregating knowledge on SC disruptions and build playbooks
What is Watson
Supply Chain Insights and what can it do for your supply chain?
Watson Supply Chain Insights isan AI-powered visibility and collaboration platform for supply chain professionals, which helps to deliver insights, predict and mitigate disruptions and retain organisational learnings. This innovative and global value proposition helps supply chain leaders drive greater visibility and mitigate disruptions.
Continuing the work initiated by IBM’s supply
chain teams, in our labs, we educate and teach Watson all the complexity and
nuances of the supply chain world for different industries, so that it becomes
operational and efficient as quickly as possible to help companies identify
disruptions, predict impacts and consequences, and bring together the
appropriate team for the resolution.
infused into an Operations Center Cockpit
Watson Supply Chain Insights has theability to collect and exploit structured and unstructured data relevant to the supply chain; whether the data is inside the company, such as ERPs, logistics systems, stocks, or outside the ecosystem.
What about external data? Smarter supply chains leverage social
networks, road traffic, weather forecasts or regulations.
with Watson in the Resolution Rooms
Resolution Rooms allow supply chain
professionals to deal with the uncertainties that inevitably occur in all Supply
Chains. Concretely, when a hazard is observed or predicted, the solution
generates a virtual work environment that brings together the experts of the
extended enterprise. These experts define the solutions together whether it’s alternative
sourcing, reorganisation of the production line or a replacement carrier. All
these resolutions are documented, which on the one hand constitutes a real
digital “playbook” and contributes to learning. and knowledge of
Watson. Thus, progressively, Watson is able to recognise the various hazards,
to bring together the relevant experts, and even to directly propose
suggestions for resolution by supporting them.
In 2018, this success prompted us to market this solution created by IBM for its own needs. The solution has been packaged under the name of Watson Supply Chain Insights, and is already deploying to customers in France and across Europe.The adoption of AI in the Supply Chain is a journey and Watson Supply Chain Insights is here to accelerate this adoption.
For more on the IBM supply chain story, take a peek here.