Earth Day: Does your company make the grade?

 

New-Life

On this Earth Day, it is appropriate to dedicate this blog to sustainability. There is no doubt now that sustainability will be a performance indicator for future investors in companies and it’s interesting to read corporate reports dedicated to green , sustainable priorities. While many corporations give lip service to sustainability, unfortunately, when it comes to funding such efforts many companies fall short. Fortunately, more companies are making the investment, like these that warrant mention:

  • Alcoa’s executive compensation is tied to safety and environmental leadership, which includes greenhouse gas emissions.
  • GE uses it in resources department to integrate sustainability into the company’s culture.
  • Coca-Cola has committed to reduce water use by 25% and hired an external audit firm to monitor these results.
  • At its shareholder meeting, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz discussed the company’s efforts to work with suppliers and local communities investing in sustainable farming and ethical sourcing.
  • Dell integrates recycle materials in its product and packaging and considers end-of-life recycling.

All are examples of leadership in sustainability that starts in the board room and becomes part of a company’s DNA.

Since sustainability is becoming important to investors, many firms are measuring corporate sustainability and ranking them according to their criteria. One notable firm is the Toronto-based Corporate Knights, who publish a list of the top 100 most sustainable companies.

For sustainability to be effective, there must be a deliberate strategy, commissioned by the Board of Directors, mandated by the CEO and driven to be part of the culture.

Is sustainability part of your company’s DNA?

Capturing Innovation – More Than a Concept

Everybody talks about capturing supplier innovation, but rarely is it a reality in many companies. An article in CEO magazine inspired this blog, and a post by Dave Henshall just this morning spurred this last minute mention before posting; both are worth your time for further reading. Just as CEOs have to create the conditions for innovation in a company, purchasing and supply chain leaders must create the conditions to drive and capture innovation from suppliers. Our companies’ futures depend on it.

In my career, I have been able to capture innovation multiple times. One occasion, driven by a problem, had a profound impact on my thinking. Vlasic Foods had just purchased a BBQ sauce product from General Foods. When tamper-evidence became a requirement, it was a challenge for food and consumer products, and for us the efficiency of the equipment applying shrink bands was no greater than 68%. We purchased the closures for this product from Brown-Forman, a leading manufacturer of spirits. When discussing the problem with the closure supplier, they offered to help by inviting our team to visit their plant in Louisville, where their engineers analyzed our shrink band and advised us that it was size too small to fit on the jar. They further showed us equipment that they had innovated for their own product to score and glue the band on the jar. By early the next week, we ordered the right size band, received new equipment from the supplier and our efficiency became greater than 92%. This would have taken our company several months and many dollars to resolve without supplier innovation.

The story is only important if we understand what drives supplier innovation. In this case there was total trust between the companies, a supplier relationship that was strong and growing. The personal styles of the management were similar and there was an open discussion about the issues. In addition to these factors, the Vlasic operations and engineering teams were open and accepting to the ideas.

This is only one example of many, but I think it is important to understand the motivation and conditions for innovation will be required for survival in the future. Innovation is a process that needs to be deliberate, managed and focused with the right mindset and attitude.

Is your company ready to make innovation a reality?

Slavery in your Supply Chain-Do you know?

Last week I read a very interesting article in the New York Times that detailed how an investigation by the Associated Press prompted the emergency rescue of over 300 Slaves. The astonishing thing is that the article reported the “men from Burma were among hundreds of migrant workers who have been lured or tricked into leaving their countries and forced into catching fish for consumers around the world including the United States.” Much of the fish caught by the enslaved men was tracked by satellite and traced to some of America’s largest supermarkets and retailers.

Forced labor and slavery is big business. Of the 35 million people estimated by the Global Slavery Index to be enslaved worldwide, the majority are victims of exploitation in private sector activities, such as manufacturing, construction and agriculture. The illicit profit estimated by the International Labor Organization is $150 billion per year.

Many companies are adopting risk strategies, but I don’t believe that companies go far enough. When I speak to groups of supply chain professionals about risk management, I always ask how many of the audience members have a risk management strategy. It’s not surprising that all hands raise to affirm they have a risk strategy. The second question I ask is how many people manage the supply chain beyond the tier one or primary suppliers. Most of the hands go down because companies rarely manage the entire supply chain. From my experience working with hundreds of companies around the world, rarely can you find a map of the supply chain end-to-end.

News headlines are further evidence that companies need a strong handle on the supply chain. When toy companies have been accused of buying from suppliers that lack ethics and abuse employees, and garment retailers have suppliers whose factories collapsed killing hundreds of workers, the brand names who sell these products scramble to issue statements that they were unaware of the problems and promise to tighten their policies. Have they been successful? How do they know?

My advice is that every supply chain should be mapped and the complete supply chain should be audited. This is the advice I gave in 1998 in the book “Transform your Supply Chain; Releasing value in Business” and the advice remains sound in 2015. An excellent tool for audit is the Supplier Risk Index (SRI), an online resource developed by Ethisphere and the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM) for organizations to survey the practices among their suppliers and their supplier’s suppliers.

Of course, Supplier Visits are essential wherever your supplier is located. Learning to ask the right questions, meeting with the right people and being observant to identify their suppliers can help put the supply chain puzzle together.

Do you really know if slavery is part of your supply chain?

What have you done for them lately?

I worked with a food industry client whose team was dedicated, hard working, and focused on their mission to reduce costs and deliver value. It was extremely competitive industry and the media reported that competitors were doing poorly based on price increases on commodities and raw materials. When this client reported a 57% increase in profit with a 9% increase in sales for the quarter, it became obvious to all that the procurement team was driving the results.

When I had a conversation with the CEO about providing a reward and recognition for this hard working team, he was astonished that I would ask what he planned to do for the team. Admitting he’d not thought of holding an event to reward and recognize the entire team, he was willing to try. He decided to host a dinner at the city’s finest restaurant. He invited all of the purchasing employees and their significant others and arranged a limo pickup for each. The CEO provided a nice gift for both the employees and their guests and thanked the guests for their sacrifice for the company to achieve this milestone. Needless to say, this recognition was the talk of the company for a long time. The team continued to excel and later the CEO acknowledged that this low cost activity provided many benefits long after the event occurred.

When economic and business conditions deteriorate, many companies cut employee reward activities when they are needed most. Low cost events can pull the team together and focus them on a shared vision and mission. While most companies acknowledge teambuilding as a key to organization development, they fail to see how a reward event can drive:

• Goal alignment
• Interpersonal relationships
• Role clarification
• Improved problem solving skills
• Sense of purpose

I think every leader should budget and plan for team events globally. These do not need to be elaborate nor expensive to be effective. The ability to have fun, get to know others in a non-work/political setting, and build understanding and trust go a long way to improving team performance and team dynamics. Don’t wait for a formal meeting or strategy session to do some teambuilding, although that is what many firms do. With finding and retaining talent a challenge, don’t forget the importance of a feeling of belonging to a team and company.

Looking for ideas for team activities? Here’s a good list I read recently “5 Team Building Activities That Don’t Suck”, January 2, 2015 — Posted By Kim Tracy Prince. And, here’s a list of fun events I’ve seen:

1. Whirly Ball
2. Bocce ball
3. Paint Ball
4. Picnic in the parking lot on a work day
5. Bowling
6. Attend a sports event

Casey Stengel said: “Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ’em to play together is the hard part.”

What will you do for your team?

Will the Heinz and Kraft merger impact your supply chain?

 

The food industry has been consolidating for the last decade with a big impact on its supply chain. Traditionally, the supply chain has been a combination of small suppliers producing ingredients that are combined by the manufacturers and then sold to food service and retail distribution channels. In my opinion, consolidation, regulation, increased cost of doing business, demand for additional inspection, demand for longer payment terms, just in time production systems and drive for lower cost has driven many suppliers out of the business.

Consolidation has also caused issues for the industry leaders since there are fewer suppliers, reduction of capacity, increased risk and increased costs and fewer choices for key ingredients. Many of the key ingredients and specialty packaging solutions come from only one or two suppliers. As companies like Heinz and Kraft merge and focus on homogenizing specifications and the supply base, it is essential that attention remains on maintaining a strong supply chain that can deliver in the ever-increasing demands of the industry.

For the suppliers in the industry, it will be essential that they maintain a healthy bottom line, innovate new products, remain lean and align with strategic partners both up and down-stream in the supply chain. The ability to continuously improve, remove risk and compete will be an essential factor in the ability to survive in an age of massive industry consolidation.

No one can predict the future, but understanding the ever changing environment will be the key to survive and thrive.

Will your strategic supplier get “voted off the island?”

Economy predictions and interest rate hikes: Is it a buyer’s or seller’s market?

Setting your strategy through 2016

In today’s economic environment, how should procurement professionals look at the market?

Let’s review the forecasts. Most economists are forecasting growth through 2015 and accelerated growth through 2016 with leading forecasters predicting that the world economy will grow between 2.8 and 3.0%. Looking at the October 2014 forecast of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), world growth was measured at 3.3% for 2014. There is little doubt that the US is leading the way with strong performance and lower unemployment numbers. However, while Janet Yellen sees “some of the headwinds that have been holding the economy back are beginning to recede” and sees a possible interest rate hike in as a sign the economy is healthy, what impact will a possible June interest rate increase have on the tricky financial supply chain?

As I review these numbers, consider the decline in oil pricing, increase in consumer spending and predictions of a strong global economy, I am placing my bet that the buyer’s market of cost containment, available supplies and increasing volumes back to pre-recession levels is here for a while, even if interest rates start to raise this summer.

Buyer’s market is great news as procurement professionals prepare plans for 2016. It’s always a challenge and worry when setting standards and budgets, but it looks like buyers can go forward with a great deal of confidence. Understanding the macro and microeconomics is an essential skill required by any purchasing professional.

Go forward with some confidence and capitalize on the buyer’s market as long as you can.

Make hay while the sun shines.

Manufacturing Today: Innovate or be Commoditized

Today I read an interesting article in Chief Executive magazine by J. P. Donlon about Dow Chemical’s CEO Andrew Liveris’ winning formula for driving manufacturing at Dow Chemical. Mr. Liveris’ message for fellow US manufacturers:” rethink your role in the evolving global supply chains and partner with others in training and developing the workforce you will need for the future.”

As I work with clients in the US, it is interesting that, for many in procurement and some areas of manufacturing, there are no strategic plans that exist beyond the next quarter. The focus seems to be in the near term and immediate. I dedicated myself in my new business to build strong category strategies linked to a strong strategic planning process. Some of the key priorities lacking in many manufacturing companies are acquisition of talent, developing the workforce to meet future strategic needs and the understanding of management of the supply chain and value chain. The other key message that I got from reading the Chief Executive article is that Mr. Liveris believes “manufacturing today means you’ve got to innovate faster than they commoditize you.”

After looking at many business strategies, supply chain strategies, and category strategies, I can say that there is no strategy if it doesn’t lead to topline growth, innovative new products, innovative processes and continuous development of  purchasing and supply chain business teams.

Looking at Dow’s success as a growing $57 billion company with 201 sites in 36 countries, a lot can be learned by their strategy of continuous reinvention of manufacturing to meet the needs of end customers.

Are you focused on innovation or will you be commoditized?