Tag Archives: supply chain management

Transparency In Supply Chains And Blockchain: What Is The Most Common Trap?

Becoming aware of blockchain’s weak spots is an important first step towards taking full advantage of what the technology really has to offer.


By Billion Photos / Shutterstock

Is Blockchain coming of age in 2019?

Judging by the first half of 2019, it seems that the blockchain hype is finally deflating and there is an overall consensus that it will not save the world (at least not this year…). The growing trend towards pragmatism, which is now beginning to temper people’s expectations, is the best thing that could happen to blockchain. . .  A more down-to-earth approach is welcome because, like any technology, blockchain is not perfect, nor the solution to all problems. It is important to be realistic about its potential and limitations.

In particular, blockchain has limitations that threaten to jeopardise many recent high-profile initiatives to increase traceability and visibility in the supply chain. Despite seeming like the ideal technology to address growing concerns about these aspects, most (if not all) blockchain implementations have an Achilles’ heel: the initial digitisation of data to bridge between the physical and the digital world.

Becoming aware of these weak spots is an important first step towards taking full advantage of what blockchain really has to offer. Blockchain’s real value proposition

There are many potential and valuable use cases for blockchain, especially in Procurement and Supply Chain Mgmt.  

“If you talk to supply chain experts, their three primary areas of pain are visibility, process optimisation, and demand management. Blockchain provides a system of trusted records that addresses all three.” Brigid McDermott, vice president, Blockchain Business Development & Ecosystem, at IBM (source Blockchain and Supply Chain Finance: the missing link!, Finextra)

The most valuable characteristic of blockchain is that it serves as a backbone for “convergence”:

  • For better insights and actionable intelligence: Blockchain is the missing link in Big Data initiatives and the convergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and blockchain represents a breakthrough.
  • From an integration perspective: Blockchain-based supply chains allow three different supply chains (physical/informational/financial) to converge into a single digital one.

Blockchain has the potential to converge the two main ecosystems involved in trade finance — the financial ecosystem, which includes banks and suppliers, and the supply chain ecosystem. At the same time, the technology can provide a unified platform for multiple stakeholders, potentially avoiding difficulties that slow down operations” Béatrice Collot, Head of Global Trade and Receivable Finance at HSBC quoted in Blockchain’s Main Strengths Are Transparency and Instantaneity on Cointelegraph

While these features will certainly contribute to improved supply chain transparency, there is still a critical challenge that needs to be addressed: the digitisation of data at the beginning of the process. This crucial step constitutes a fundamental weakness of many current digital supply chains.

Blockchain’s Achilles’ Heel: Mind the Gap!

Traceability and transparency along the supply chain, from raw materials to final products, is a growing concern for organisations. New regulations from governments & institutions, customer expectations, and company’s self-interest in issues like sustainability, incident management, and efficiency, have created the need for an infrastructure to track, trace, and store data in the supply chain.

At first glance, blockchain may seems like the ideal solution. It creates a permanent record of all transactions at all levels of the supply chain, guaranteeing full traceability and establishing trust. So, many companies started to provide blockchain-based means of collecting information in their supply chain with the goal of making it accessible to customers as irrefutable proof about the origin of products and components.

A typical story goes like this: “Thanks to our application, you can take a picture of the QR-code on your product and view the entire supply chain of all components/elements that contributed to the final product you have in your hands.”  

This sounds great in theory, but there is an important caveat:

 “At the interface between the offline world and its digital representation, the usefulness of the technology still critically depends on trusted intermediaries to effectively bridge the “last mile” between a digital record and a physical individual, business, device, or event. […] And if humans […] manipulate the data when it is entered, in a system where records are believed ex-post as having integrity, this can have serious negative consequences.” What Blockchain Can’t Do, Harvard Business Review

The use of blockchain technology gives people a false sense of security because it relies on cryptography and various mechanisms to ensure that information stored on it can be trusted (identity, immutable record, etc.). But, as illustrated above, the digitization step when the information is recorded (a block added) is not protected by this same “guarantee.”. So, it is not because blockchain technology supports and enables a better transparency that it should be blindly trusted by customers or by procurement or supply chain pros.

The solution?

It is undeniable that blockchain is a form of digital trust. Much of the hype surrounding it has been driven by a broader trend in society: the erosion of trust in people and institutions. Blockchain is playing a major role in shifting that trust to technology and software. This explains, in part, why compliance and transparency are the use cases that are priorities for procurement and supply chain pros.

However, it is important to remember that blockchain’s reputation as “trustworthy” can be misleading, especially in the case of supply chain transparency. Manual operations are still part of the initial process of digitizing the data. Therefore, trusting data stored in the blockchain also means trusting that initial step that relies on human activities.

For this reason, building trust in business partners will continue to be a vital part of the procurement function’s role in the future. Introducing digital initiatives will not entirely remove the human element of the job, and Procurement practitioners will need to continue working on establishing trust and nurturing it with suppliers and stakeholders.

Also, from a technology perspective, there are already initiatives to close the gap between physical and digital as much as possible. Interestingly, they focus on physical objects (crypto-hardware) and not just on software. These objects are the child of RFID, connected devices, and blockchain, with the intent to create a convergence between the Internet of Things and the Internet of Value (blockchain) to create the Value Internet of Things (VIoT).

In addition to the human and technological answers that will both contribute to creating a truly integrated supply chain (physical + informational + financial), a third component will remain essential: critical thinking.

Trust and verify!

But wait, the blockchain action doesn’t stop here! Join us on October 15 with blockchain experts Shari Diaz, Innovation Strategy and Operations Program Director, IBM Watson Supply Chain and Professor Olinga Ta’eed, Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance in this webinar brought to you by IBM and Procurious. Click here to register for Blockchain: Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer.

World’s Deadliest Supply Routes: Ice Road Trucking

Are you responsible for sending your people into danger? In a new Procurious blog series, The World’s Deadliest Supply Chains, we investigate the most high-risk supply chains out there…


By James Gabbert / Shutterstock

The intrepid truckers on the temporary ice roads spanning hundreds of kilometres of frozen lakes in Canada and Alaska keep their hands on the door handle for good reason: should the ice crack, they have a split second to leap from the vehicle before it falls into the icy, watery abyss.

For a decade, viewers of the History Channel were given a first-hand view of what motivates these drivers and the perils they face, which include not just a frigid sinkhole but avalanches, whiteouts and hypothermia, even earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Set in Canada’s Northern Territories and Alaska, Ice Road Truckers lasted 11 series between 2007 and 2017.

The truckers’ mission was to supply remote gold and diamond mines and entire small towns with goods in the winter months, when road access is only possible because the lakes have frozen over.

Items included anything from fresh food to mining equipment that would be tricky to transport even on well-laid bitumen.

Featuring nicknames such as “Chains”, “Bear Swensen”, “Polar Bear” and “Hammer Down”, the rough-hewn drivers were often depicted in mishaps such as when they ran off the road or got bogged.

In one episode, viewer favourite Lisa Kelly – one of three female drivers – leaps from her truck amid ominous cracking sounds and a disconcerting build-up of water under her rig’s 18 wheels.

As is the norm for ‘reality’ programs, the series was criticised for overdramatising and promoting reckless behaviour among the truckers – one of them, for example, exclaims “yee-haw!” after driving too fast over a rough patch of road.

The opening sequence showing a truck sinking through the ice was staged at a Hollywood studio in sunny California, using sugar and shaved ice. However, the set-up was based on a real accident at Mackenzie Crossing in Alberta, with the driver apparently not recognising a warning sign that the road was suitable for light loads only.

Some viewers were less than impressed with the skills of the Ice Road Truckers cast. “Who the heck tries to pull out another truck using a chain that has slack in it and then drops the gas [accelerates] and takes off?” asked one heavy-haul driver.

Ventures West Transportation president Glenn Bauer reckons the televised truckers come across as a “bunch of cowboys” (the Alberta-based company hauls fuel to some of the Canadian diamond mines featured early in the series).

He says the only incident he knows about involved road-building equipment falling though the ice. “In reality, it’s very, very controlled,” he told truckingnews.com.

Despite the series’ bent towards entertainment, there’s little doubt that navigating a 70 tonne load over hundreds of kilometres of icy wilderness is inherently dangerous and there have been some fatalities over the years.

Fatalities are rare, though. As a guide, the 27 truckers in the Ice Road Truckers series all lived to tell their war stories, save for Montanan Darrell Ward who died in 2002 aged 52 – in a light plane accident. He was, ironically, on his way to film the pilot for a documentary-style show involving the recovery of plane wrecks.)

One reason for the low fatality rate is that, as with inherently risky aviation, operators are required to follow strict safety protocols.

For instance, trucks travel in convoy (although not too close together) with the most experienced drivers leading, and trucks are limited to speeds as low as 10 kmh. In parts where slush is forming, drivers are advised not to stop altogether lest they get stuck.

The ice roads are not random trails, but can be engineering wonders. One example is the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road, which spans 595 kilometres from north of Yellowknife into the neighbouring territory of Nanavut.

The width of an eight-lane highway, the road takes 140 workers to build each year and can support 70 tonne, eight-axle articulated trucks.

The famed Dalton Highway in Alaska – spanning 414 miles from Fairbanks to the oilfields of Prudhoe Bay – was the subject of an innovative repair job that itself presented a huge logistics feat.

The massive task involved underlaying 80 kilometres of a vulnerable section of the highway with 1.2 million metres of polystyrene foam strips, to keep the permafrost frosty and to raise the road above flood level.

Apart from a crazy streak, the only formal prerequisites to become an ice-road trucker are completing high school and possessing a heavy commercial truck licence. The truck companies provide the training – not that there is any real substitute for experience.

With no pit stops along the way, the truckers need to be proficient drivers as well as proficient mechanics.

The lure of the lucre is a key motivation, although pay levels vary markedly. Typical remuneration for a season varies between $US20,000 and $US80,000, but harder working truckers can earn up to $US250,000.

The pay levels depend on the distances driven, the type of cargo and the hazard levels.

Despite high competition for relatively few jobs, driver turnover reportedly is very high, with many not returning after their first trip after realising how dangerous the game can be.

A paradox of the ice-trucking game is that while the frigid conditions make for treacherous conditions, warmer-than-expected weather is even worse because the highways are more prone to crack and develop slushy parts.

In the next few years, climate change, rather than ice blizzards and crevasses, may defeat the hardened people of the ice roads.

If you’d like to read additional related content or get involved with thought provoking discussions check out the Supply Chain Pros group – a one stop shop for all your supply chain need

Is AI The New Electricity?

For supply chain professionals, the drive to use AI is there. But how do organisations get to the point when AI-enabled supply chain management is the norm?

By kung_tom/ Shutterstock


“Electricity changed how the world operated. It upended transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, health care. AI is poised to have a similar impact. Artificial Intelligence already powers many of our interactions today. When you ask Siri for directions, peruse Netflix’s recommendations, or get a fraud alert from your bank, these interactions are led by computer systems using large amounts of data to predict your needs.”

Andrew Ng – Stanford University – March 2018

According to the results of our latest survey, Procurement 2030, supply chain pros are well aware of how impactful AI could be for their profession. Indeed, 92 per cent of professionals believe the profession will transform by 2030 as a direct result of new technological innovations. And 51 per cent predict that, with the help of AI, supply chain professionals will become an agile group of strategic advisors.

The intention to utilise technology is there. But how do organisations get to the point when AI-enabled supply chain management is the norm?

Getting started, and knowing where to start, is tough going – as with anything new and unknown. We know that many supply chain pros are concerned that implementing AI into their supply chains is a complex step. In fact, our survey takers ranked it as the technology they feared most difficult to adopt. But are their fears unfounded?

We want procurement pros to be pushing the limits on Industry 4.0, and the first to adopt new technologies.

And so, in our latest webinar – How AI Saved My Day Job: Confessions from a Supply Chain Pro we’ll be demonstrating that AI is the real deal by giving you the insider information, the low-down, on what it is delivering right now for supply chain teams.

Webinar speakers

We’ll be speaking with supply chain professionals who are already implementing AI in their organisations and have discovered that AI does provide a demonstrable bottom-line impact across all supply chains structures. Speakers include:

  • Rob Allan – Program Director, Supply Chain Insights Offering Management – IBM
  • Tania Seary Founder – Procurious
  • Connie Rekau – EDI Manager – The Master Lock Company
  • Nickolas Bonivento – EDI Manager – Anheuser-Busch InBev

When is the How AI Saved My Day Job webinar?

The webinar takes place on 15th May 10am ET / 3pm BST. Sign up or log in via the form above and we’ll be in touch ahead of the event to provide details on how to join the webinar live.

How do I listen to the How AI Saved My Day Job webinar?

Simply sign up here and you’ll be re-directed to the Supply Chain Pros group where you can access heaps of related content. You will also join the webinar mailing list, so we can provide you with details on how to access the webinar before it goes live.

Help! I can’t make it to the live-stream of the How AI Saved My Day Job webinar?

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!

Do I have to be a member of Procurious to access the How AI Saved My Day Job webinar?

Yes. To access the webinar you’ll need to sign up to Procurious. You’ll be joining a community of 30,000 like-minded procurement and supply chain peers and gain access to all Procurious’ free resources. You’ll be joining a community of 30,000 like-minded procurement and supply chain peers and gain access to all Procurious’ free resources.

Could AI revolutionise your supply chain and save your day job – allowing you to make better decisions, more efficiently and in a more repeatable way over time? Let’s find out!

Supply Chain Pros: Could AI Save Your Day Job?

Supply chain leaders know AI is a game-changer, a technology that will allow them to optimise their supply chain for competitive advantage. But just how much will it impact your profession?

Shutterstock

Today, business leaders are looking to their supply chains to create differentiation and they recognise that data is a key driver. Having said that, only a small fraction of supply chain data is effectively used, and most companies are virtually blind to data that is unstructured – for instance, from social, weather and IoT sources. With limited visibility it’s difficult to optimize supply chain operations, leaving the business exposed to unnecessary disruptions, delays and risks, as well as increased costs. In fact, 87 per cent of Chief Supply Chain Officers say it is extremely difficult to predict and manage disruptions.

Supply chain leaders know AI is a game-changer, a technology that will allow them to optimise their supply chain for competitive advantage. They understand and have relied on descriptive analytics – using massive volumes of data within the enterprise to understand better what has happened in the past and what is happening today. They’re now ready to explore how to use AI to see beyond the four walls of their business; understand how potential disruptions in the environment could impact the supply chain; and act quickly to seize opportunities or mitigate risk.

A new era of AI in the supply chain

Already, AI capabilities in IBM Watson Supply Chain Solutions are moving from descriptive analytics to predictive insights. We’re helping clients look ahead of supply chain events and see likely delays, demand spikes, supply changes and stockouts with new capabilities, such as anomaly detection in supply chain processes and leveraging conversational analytics for response management. Going even further, we are showing clients the power of prescriptive analytics, where Watson evaluates several dynamic parameters associated with a supply chain scenario and in near real time suggests the best actions and can even automatically create supply chain playbooks.

But this is not the end of the journey. We are also creating a plan where Watson adapts on its own, learning what matters to you and developing the capability to show you where to focus your attention to mitigate disruptions and take advantage of opportunities.

Here are some new capabilities available today (and some that are still to come!) :

  • Expanding data sources for Watson – IBM Supply Chain Insights allows us to add new data sources specific to each client’s challenges in as little as five weeks, accelerating the content that Watson draws from to gain intelligence, from basic ontology and supply chain terminology to weather and now many more external data sources. 
  • Anomaly detection – This new capability in IBM Business Transaction Intelligence for Supply Chain Business Network tracks supply chain transactions, spots anomalies and provides early warning signals so you can discover potential problems and take corrective action sooner. 
  • Optimising order and response management – IBM Order Management software uses AI to select the best location to fulfill an order, adjust availability promises and safety stock levels, and empower customer service reps to make more informed decisions and answer questions with greater accuracy and speed.
  • What’s next for AI – In the future, Watson Supply Chain capabilities will include predicting supply chain cycle times, to new frontiers where Watson adapts to your supply chain and users and learns about trends, issues, actions and behaviors to make recommendations. 

Could AI save your day job?

On 30th April I’ll be taking part in a new Procurious webinar: “How AI Saved My Day Job – Confessions from a Supply Chain Pro.” We’ll be exploring the real-life applications of AI in workplaces today and the problems it can solve for supply chain professionals.

How AI Saved My Day Job – Confessions from a Supply Chain Pro will go-live on 30th April 2019. Sign up here (it’s free) to join the Supply Chain Pros group on Procurious and gain access to this webinar.

World’s Deadliest Supply Routes: Antarctica

Are you responsible for sending your people into danger? In a new Procurious blog series, The World’s Deadliest Supply Chains, we investigate the most high-risk supply chains out there…

By Thelma Amaro Vidales / Shutterstock 

The sight of 1900 rolls of toilet paper would not usually excite your typical urban dweller, but when the consignment supplies a remote Antarctica camp of 350 people for the whole winter it’s a case of unfettered joy and – of course – relief.

The most essential of household essentials was among the 3000 tonnes of provisions and equipment delivered by the chartered US vessel MV Ocean Giant to New Zealand’s Scott Base in January.

The supply drop – which can take up to nine days to unload – included 200 kilograms of coffee beans, 100 cans of peaches, a Toyota Landcruiser, two rowing machines and a triple-glazed window.

According to Antarctica New Zealand logistics manager Paul Woodgate, organisers need to think of everything the isolated community might need, including spare parts for water plants and heaters.

“We need supplies to keep the base clean, everyone fed and warm, and the water flowing,” he told Maori Television.

While routine, MV Ocean Giant’s delivery trip reflects the enormous task of supplying myriad human needs to the frozen wilderness.

While Antarctica might be known as the Lonely Continent, human activity abounds with no fewer than 36 permanent scientific and research bases operating there. In the summer months, many smaller facilities spring up too, all needing to be supplied by the mother camp.

Dangers lurks underneath every crevasse and ice flow, in an environment in which temperatures can fall to minus 90 degrees and winds can howl at more than 300 kilometres an hour.

As with Mt Everest, dozens of people have died on Antarctica’s icy expanses over the years – not just derring-do explorers but workers charged with ensuring the bases are supplied with thousands of items that city folk take for granted.

In 1976, 11 Argentinean airmen were killed when their plane crashed on a reconnaissance mission over Drakes Passage. In a tragic postscript, a helicopter dispatched to recover the bodies also crashed.

In 1971, a Hercules C-130 made a forced landing on a re-supply run to McMurdo Station (the US base on Ross Island that hosts Antarctica’s largest community).

No-one was injured. But the overseers of the US Antarctica program did their sums and realised that salvaging the aircraft would cost $US10m, compared with the $US38m replacement cost.

Seventeen years after it went down, the Hercules was fitted with skis, flown out and pressed into service once again. A testament, indeed, to the durability of the so-called ‘workhorse of the skies’.

As with the Argentinean incident a decade previously, the mission did not have a happy ending: in December 1987 two US sailors died when a different Hercules crashed, while conveying spare parts to the refurbished plane.

These days, the supply chain is made safer with technological advances such as GPS positioning, powerful ice breakers, carbon-fibre skis, freeze-proof laptops, satellite phones and sealed, all-weather runways.

But ‘safer’ is by no means ‘safe’, with many mishaps happening in more recent years.

In January 2016, helicopter pilot David Wood stepped from his aircraft and straight in a crevasse on the Western Ice Shelf, while on a routine mission to re-supply a fuel cache. He was rescued after four lonely hours, but subsequently died from hypothermia.

His death resulted in criminal charges being laid against Australia’s environment departments and a helicopter contractor.

To mitigate the ever-present dangers of Antarctica, governments are constantly stretching the envelope to make the complex logistics requirements that much safer.

In a breakthrough flight, a Royal Australian Air Force Flight C-17A in September 2017 supplied Davis Station from Hobart and then returned to the Tasmanian capital without landing at the base. The 10,000km round trip was made possible by a difficult mid-air refuelling exercise.

The plane air dropped nine tonnes of supplies – including fresh produce – to the base, which is inaccessible by sea from April to October.

Within the next decade, Antarctica’s logistics needs will only expand as more nations establish a presence there, if only to ‘fly the flag’ or with a view to claiming dibs on potential large oil and gas reserves in the future.

Most notably, China has established three bases and three airfields, reportedly spending more on its Antarctic program than any other country.

Six countries have territorial claims to Antarctica: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the UK.

But the Antarctic Treaty actually covers 53 countries, 29 having “consultative status”, which allows them to carry out research.

With 20 airports dotted around Antarctica, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are playing an increasingly prominent role – especially during winter months when sea access isn’t possible and roads on the continent are out of action.

“With more time and advancing technology, carrying goods to remote locations in Antarctica will only get easier,” says the Dubai-based Gulf Worldwide Logistics.

“The logistics industry is preparing for advancement in this continent over the next few years.” But again, ‘easier’ does not imply ‘safer’ and logistics operators perennially need to be alert to the dangers. Like the Emperor penguins, Antarctica is not the type of wild environment that can ever truly be tamed.

If you’d like to read additional related content or get involved with thought provoking discussions check out the Supply Chain Pros group – a one stop shop for all your supply chain need


A Supply Chain That Never Forgets

How do you retain knowledge and talent and how do you ensure your supply chain team doesn’t forget key information?  Imagine having a supply chain that never forgets…

By Kletr/ Shutterstock

At last month’s CPO roundtable in London we discussed the importance of improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, how to nail your next big career move and how AI is enabling supply chain professionals to add greater value to their organisations.

At this point, supply chain and procurement professionals might be getting a bit impatient with AI. We’ve all heard how this technology is poised to revolutionise the supply chain, but day to day you’re not working in R&D; you’re responsible for P&L. You need the insight across the business and with your suppliers – but don’t have a technical degree.  The obvious question you might be asking yourself is – what’s in it for me and the bottom-line performance of my business?

Roger Needham, IBM Supply Chain Consultant, led an insightful discussion on why AI does matter to supply chain and procurement professionals.

IBM’s $2.47 billion supply chain consists of a 12,000-strong supplier base across 100 countries with 150,000 contracts managed. It’s no mean feat managing the risks associated with such a large-scale operation. So when it comes to AI, Roger argues, it’s not a theoretical concept. “AI has been deployed in IBM’s supply chain over four years and it is delivering real bottom line benefit.”

“What led to AI being directly implemented within our supply chain centered around the trade lane and visible logistics elements and how these impacted the supply chain. You can set up a factory perfectly but if you can’t get the materials you need to it then it’s a completely wasted effort.”

“After a Japanese tsunami disrupted our supply lanes in 2011, we asked ourselves how to get better predictive insights of real world supply chain disruptors. IBM Watson Supply Chain is the result.” AI can help manage unforeseen disruptions by alerting key decision makers and working towards solutions.

In Roger’s experience AI can supply chain teams to learn on a daily basis and to do more with less. From concept to final delivery the platform is developing but as a minimum we have to be able to do more with the same. With AI We don’t need to hire three more people, we can do more with the five we already have. And we are learning every day how to deploy this AI into our supply chain.”

Roger outlined the four pillars of Watson Supply Chain.

  1. Identify and alert – Control towers are able to alert supply chain professionals when something goes wrong
  2. Analyse and understand – Watson is able to analyse the impact of a disruption on the business. How many orders will be affected by a tsunami in Japan and what is the value of those orders? A supply chain that can feedback that critical business data is important.
  3. Interact, Collaborate, Resolve – If there’s a challenge that needs solving, Watson can bring all the relevant people into a virtual room and resolve it quickly, also advising who should be in that room.
  4. Learn and Share – How do you retain knowledge and talent and how do you ensure your supply chain team doesn’t forget things?  If your team encounter a problem that has happened before – you won’t know to resolve it if those involved the first time around have now left the business. You’re effectively starting from scratch. Watson, on the other hand, is like an elephant – it never forgets.

“Human and machine always get a better answer than human alone or machine alone” Ginni Rometty, THINK 2018

“Watson gives the information, and the ultimate decision rests with a human being,” explains Roger. “But an issue is solved with two individuals and three email exchanges with Watson advising versus three weeks to resolve with fifteen people and dozens of emails.”

Putting the D in D and I

In today’s workforce, diversity has become a buzzword, with organisations increasingly communicating its importance through their advertising and core business values.

But what does diversity mean, why is it important, how do you achieve it and, once you have it, what do you do with it?

Joelle Payom, Global Strategic Sourcing & Vendor Management Lead explained that there is an enormous pressure for organisations to hire people that are different. But alongside that moral pressure to ‘do the right thing’ is a very strong business case.

“A UK report revealed that the British economy could be boosted by as much as £24 billion if black and minority talent was fully utilised. When you have a diversified workforce you have a broader [talent pool] who are able to bring different ways of working, different ways of dealing with issues and can provide greater innovation.”

As Joelle points out, there is no point in building a diverse workforce if it is not nurtured into being an inclusive one. “To reap the benefits of a diverse workforce it’s vital to have an inclusive environment where everyone is treated equally, feels welcome to participate and can achieve their potential”

Diversity = The What 

A mix of diverse types of people

Inclusion = The How

The strategies and behaviours that welcome, embrace and create value from diversity

“What I want people to take away is that diversity and inclusion (D & I) is not only for women or for people of different ethnicities or sexual orientation. It is for everybody. D & I, which is much more important than diversity, means that we need to provide each human being with equal treatment in the corporate world. By having an inclusive corporate environment for people we can make a change and improve the way society works.”

Being a business leader

Lucy Harding, Partner and Global Head of Practice, Procurement and Supply Chain at Odgers Berndtson led a discussion on what it takes to get to the top and the qualities that will set you apart from the pack when aiming for the C-Suite.

She advises that ambitious procurement and supply chain professionals put the business first and the function second.

“The biggest reason CFOs go to market [for a CPO or Head of Supply Chain] is because they need a business leader, not a function leader.”

They will assume you can do the mechanics of a procurement or supply chain role and will spend far less time testing these specifics, particularly given that most CFOs aren’t in a position to test technical procurement and supply chain competence. “You should know your stuff and they’ll assume that.”

What a hiring CFO really wants to know is how you’ll apply what you know to their business and how you’ll build a talented team below you. Everyone else on the shortlist will equally qualified, from a procurement and supply chain perspective, so it’s about differentiating yourself.

Lucy highlighted a further four crucial capabilities for a prospective CPO or Head of Supply Chain

  • Breath of experience – function and broader business
  • Leadership
  • Learning agility
  • Embrace technology and innovation

IBM Watson Supply Chain sponsored Procurious’ London CPO roundtable on 13th February. 

To request an invitation contact Olga Luscombe. If you’d like to read additional related content or get involved with thought provoking discussions check out the Supply Chain Pros group – a one stop shop for all your supply chain needs

84% Of CSCOs Say Lack Of Visibility Is Their Biggest Challenge

84 per cent of Chief Supply Chain Officers say that a lack of visibility is their biggest challenge.  How can AI help?

By VicPhotoria/ Shutterstock

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.

Let`s 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 is an 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.

Genesis

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.

Watson infused into an Operations Center Cockpit

Watson Supply Chain Insights has the ability 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.

Partner 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.

Author : Yassine Essalih – Cognitive Supply Chain, Client Solution Professional


Streamlining Your Supply Chain With AI

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

By Chakarin Wattanamongkol / Shutterstock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’d like to read additional related content or get involved with thought provoking discussions check out the Supply Chain Pros group – a one stop shop for all your supply chain needs.



Are Smart Contracts A Game Changer for Procurement?

Are smart contracts, enabled by blockchain, the next big thing or just a temporary hype?

What is a contract? Put simply, a contract is any agreement that is built on the logic “if…[ABC] – then…[XYZ]”. And we make these kind of arrangements very day both in business and our private lives.

  • If I’m working on the development of the Procurement department at a particular company from 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday – then I’m paid £5000 on the 25th day of every month and I earn the right to have 25 vacation days per year
  • If I pay £45 on the first day of the month – then I get an unlimited internet package for the entire month delivered to my IP address from this internet provider

This is the basic logic behind all kind of contracts.

What is the no.1 problem with contracts today?

Nobody can guarantee the implementation of a contract’s conditions on both sides.

The employee might come into the office every day, but half of their working time is spent watching YouTube in the coffee area.

Maybe you pay each month for your internet service, but the traffic is too slow and connection gets lost at the most important moments…

In business these potential problems are solved by official contracts where a breach of contract could result in legal action.

But why should I trust my lawyers, my banks and the courts more than I trust my own business partners? Ultimately we are mutually dependent on each other so my business partner should be interested in maintaining that mutual trust. Moreover, why should I pay all these middlemen to implement and monitor contracts, why should I spend my time and money on court cases if the contract conditions have clearly been violated by the other party?

Blockchain is already addressing these issues with some success. And these “if… – then…” algorithms created with Blockchain technology are called smart contracts.

Example of Smart contract logic: Purchase of manufacturing equipment

Imagine a manufacturing company, MANCOM, needs to double its packaging line capacity. They are planning to get the new packaging equipment according to their technical specification, with production output of 10,000 pieces per shift, up and running at full capacity until 1st of June 2019.

After running their request for quotation (RFQ) – they have selected a company, YOURPACK, and prepare their Smart contract.

These Smart contract can include the following conditions in the protocol:

In the best case YOURPACK delivers the equipment to MANCOM before the 1st of March 2019, and gets 50 per cent payment automatically. Then before the 1st of June equipment runs with the planned capacity, and gets another 50 per cent automatically from MANCOM’s account.

If there are delays with delivery or installation – payment is reduced accordingly. So YOURPACK’s interest is to do everything in their power to make things in time.

If MANCOM delays the payment – the equipment blocks itself and cannot be used. So it is in MANCOM’s interest is to pay in-time and in full.

Once again, the main principle of the Smart contract is to use “if…then…” logic. And to decide upon the precise triggers that will lead to specific consequences. An important aspect of Smart contracts is automation – that is avoiding the human factor after the agreement is validated from both sides.

Invest time and efforts in writing down the causes and effects, which should be clear and transparent and which cannot be misinterpreted.

After you have agreed on the principles and the “if… then…” algorithms – give the assignment to programmers who will create their codes and protocols based on Blockchain.

Blockchain: the enabler of Smart contracts

At the heart of Blockchain we need the following core ingredients:

  • asymmetric cryptography – which gives the ability to create the records and protect them
  • distributed systems – which gives the ability to transfer value by making updates to the records

And the beauty of blockchain is that is allows us to digitally sign transactions. And what is even more important – you can prove it. After the record is created and distributed to the network, no one can modify or change it without others being aware of it. The levels of security and traceability are incomparable to traditional contracts and transactions.

Today we create huge contracts with numerous clauses and appendices. We hire expensive lawyers to create these contracts and then we hire yet more expensive lawyers to protect our rights, and prove in court what we meant by all those numerous clauses when the contract was first written.

Comparison table: Smart and Traditional contracts

Smart contractsTraditional contracts
Program or protocol, which uses Blockchain technology Paper documents composed using corporate and legal standards
Based on code, written in computer language Based on legislation and written by lawyers
You need assistance with defining terms of contract and with coding You need legal assistance to compose and register contract
Contract conditions are unchangeable once approved by all parties. They are transparent and automatically checked. If contract terms are violated – certain penalty, punishment or sanction occurs automatically Can be amended or interpreted differently by different lawyers. Conditions may be partly fulfilled or poorly fulfilled. If contract terms are violated – you resolve conflicts by negotiations or in the courts
The security of the transaction is guaranteed No guarantee, most laws can be bypassed
All transactions carried out without third parties and intermediaries Transactions are made with a number of other involved parties: lawyers, banks, courts or public services…
Transactions may happen using Crypto-currencies Transactions are made using traditional currencies through banks
When the terms of the contract are fulfilled, the exchange of values takes place instantly Exchange of values occurs with delays
The contract can be concluded with a person from anywhere in the world without personal presence The contract is signed only with the personal meeting of the two parties
Protection from corruption or fraud High risk of fraud, corruption or bribery

The next big thing or just a temporary hype?

Smart contracts are facing many challenges on the way to mass application in Procurement.

I don’t know how fast it will become a common practice, or the full possibilities behind blockchain technology for Procurement and Supply Chain Management, because we are only at the beginning.

In today’s world new technology can challenge and change the status quo within a matter of years. And I advise you to be at the forefront of these changes.

Modern Slavery: Don’t Get Named & Shamed In 2019

How should procurement and supply chain professionals prevent and address modern slavery in their supply chains?

The first day of 2019 saw the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act in Australia, requiring organisations above a certain size – consolidated revenue of A$100 million – to report annually on the actions they are taking to address modern slavery.

The Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index 2018* estimates:

•  In excess of 40 million people globally are subject to some form of modern slavery and approximately US$150 billion per year is generated in the global private economy from forced labour alone

• 24,990,000 people in the Asia-Pacific Region are ‘enslaved’, which accounts for 62 per cent of all modern slavery victims

•  15,000 people are currently victims of modern slavery in Australia

As organisations in Australia begin turning their focus to understanding their risk profile, there could well be a significant rise in these figures. With the legislation ensuring access to a public register revealing all the details of the submitted company statements, we can expect more noise online about the state of the nation when it comes to modern slavery, as well as the organisations implicated.

Organisations might be named and shamed for their lack of reporting, incomplete reporting or lack of action. As a result of the public access, board directors will be acutely aware of the risks to their brand reputation and demand much greater visibility of their supply chains.

Enter the procurement and supply chain leaders who are increasingly becoming the custodians of social responsibility in their organisations. Many organisations will be ignorant as to the scale of modern slavery risks in their supply chains. Forcibly detained adults and enslaved children work in many industries including fashion, fishing, cocoa, cotton, clothing, cannabis, construction and prostitution.

Integrated, global supply chains make it hard to tell whether products, even those that are stamped “Made in Australia” have at some stage relied on slave labour or underage workers as part of the production and supply processes.

Boards of organisations will need to accurately report:

1.The extent of their exposure to risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains

2.The action they have taken to assess and address those risks, and importantly

3. The effectiveness of their response

Some organisations may even take the next step and act strongly and visibly to help address the issue and help reduce or eliminate the slavery issue

How should the procurement and supply chain professional prevent and address modern slavery

  • Policy and Process Frameworks

It’s important to have a policy of some description that covers all the relevant principles. Policy also needs to extend into action by embedding changes into processes that cover things like supplier due diligence and ongoing performance monitoring

  • Understanding forced labour and monitoring slavery red flags in your data

Understand the areas of your organisation’s supply chain that will be particularly vulnerable to slavery practices. Many procurement platforms have additional features that can connect you to suppliers with known issues. There is no doubt that procurement and supply chain professionals will need to conduct extensive research into high-risk areas; certain countries, regions, suppliers, suppliers to suppliers, high risk supply chains, certain industries and products. Ignorance to the issue is indefensible.

  • On-site inspections

Determining high-risk suppliers is important but it will also be necessary to conduct on-site inspections to investigate further. On-site audits are one of the key mechanisms for monitoring supplier performance against agreed standards.

  • Developing and implementing a corrective action plan

Where an audit or an on-site inspection has confirmed instances (or suspected instances) of modern slavery, it is critical that the supplier develops and implements a Corrective Action Plan (CAP). The purpose of the response should be to clearly define corrective and preventative actions for resolving any non-compliance identified during the audit or inspection.

  • Engaging Suppliers

A problem as large as modern slavery will never be effectively impacted by policies alone, setting standards for suppliers, developing action plans and monitoring their implementation. CAPs will only be effective in their remediation activities if they are combined with programs that build a supplier’s capability. The ideal is for the supplier to integrate and drive antislavery policies into their own business. Be prepared to be involved in this activity and in some cases sponsoring the necessary business changes.

  • Building supplier incentives

The key to effecting changes needed is to develop supplier incentives, which ensure that the supplier takes ownership of the process and ensures continuous improvement.  Improvements need to be measurable to support the reporting and prove that progress is being made.

Such incentives may involve publicly announcing a supplier preference, in cases when the correct steps have been taken to address slavery. An alternate incentive might be to automatically qualify suppliers that have implemented robust procedures into their second tier supply base

What is the bottom line for Procurement and Supply Chain professionals?

While these changes to the regulatory environment are disruptive there is a silver lining in that it will bring new opportunities for the CPO to ensure increased visibility into the supply chain. Larger organisations, that have invested heavily in leading supply chain practices, may find themselves better equipped for responding to these changes. For others, the legislation will mean additional investment in order to play catch up, resulting in higher capital and operational expenditure.

Ultimately, the most effective response is likely to be organisations joining forces and jointly managing the supply-side, thus building an over-whelming demand for suppliers to abolish these practices. A slavery-free catalogue or certification may become the ticket-to-play for suppliers. A co-operative response will have the hardest hitting message of all and now is the time to be working together.

Procure with Purpose

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Diversity and Inclusion.

Click here to enroll and gain access to  all future Procure with Purpose events including exclusive content, online events and regular webinars.