Category Archives: Risk Mitigation

Supply chain and Procurement – The Decade in Review and Key Strategies for the Decade Ahead

Current State of Procurement
Working with some of the world’s best companies has given me a good view of procurement and supply chain over the years. As we exit 2019, we’ve made much progress, elevating the importance and status of our profession. Many firms have clearly articulated strategies that deliver year on year price reductions, restructured operations to separate transactional activity from strategic activity, and have designed multiple supply networks to meet the needs of specific market segments.

Overall, as procurement professionals, we have failed to progress developing rigorous category strategies, planning, and fail to optimize the opportunities available from detailed plans and well-executed cross-business/cross-functional business category strategies. Many of the firms I have visited in the last three years are just now embarking on developing a category planning approach. Many companies are still working with a centric, functional approach rather than recognizing that procurement is a business-wide process. Many businesses tend to have an annual, sometimes even quarter by quarter, business horizon rather than a forward-looking multi-year strategy. Many firms have not sufficiently invested to leverage technology to manage the current state and are in no position to look to the future state where data analytics and digital disruption will be a way of life. With robotic process automation, the internet of things, and automation with Artificial Intelligence are considered futuristic, and the reality is that they are here now. Data scientists are in high demand among progressive procurement, and supply chain-oriented companies.

The most surprising thing to me is that most companies do not have detailed maps of the suppliers in the supply chain. For me, this is some of the most critical intel a procurement or supply chain executive must have. It is impossible to have social responsibility, anti-slavery/forced labor, environmental or risk management programs without knowing all the suppliers in the supply chain. Knowing just the suppliers in tier one is not enough.

While we have made significant progress in the past decade, the challenges of a rapidly changing environment will force our firms to have renewed strategies that are forward-looking. The days where we chased low-cost labor around the globe are in our rear view. Far too often found out too late that our source of low labor costs put us at risk from natural disasters, political regulation and was temporary at best as standards of living are on the rise. In all cases, automation offsets low-cost labor. Robots work 24 hours a day, 24/7, never get tired or sick, and quality and productivity are consistent. Another lesson is that many organizations are building facilities close to the markets they serve in smaller footprints, making the supply chains more secure, agile, and flexible.

Strategies for the next decade

  • Enhance category management and develop robust strategies that are forward-thinking
  • Redesign the procurement process with the understanding that is a business-wide process with many owners, not a functional activity
  • Invest in bringing the technology up to manage the current state. Many companies are reluctant to invest in technology. Failure to do so will put the company at a competitive disadvantage and perhaps extinct
  • Build a TCO approach focused on total value. You could be getting low prices but higher production or management costs
  • Develop full supply chain maps of the supply chain along with real social responsibility and risk management programs
  • Provide the procurement teams with a comprehensive business orientation; in the past decade some organizations have compartmentalized jobs. When this is the case, individuals and groups fail to understand the business, company, and business strategies.
  • Manage succession planning and develop bench strength and a continuous recruiting
  • Develop a supplier relationship management program that rewards innovation, speed to market, business alignment and value contribution
  • Develop the individuals and teams in your business. Many groups need a program that goes back to basics and develops the population to build, drive and execute well-planned category strategies
  • Develop and train procurement leaders to look forward and create new processes, systems, and comprehensive business programs to cope with digitization, disruption, rapid product change, and supply chain agility

The changes I have seen in procurement have been challenging, exciting, and thought-provoking. The reality is that we are at the crossroads of change. While you may not agree with the current state of procurement and strategies for the future, I urge you to assess your organization and make a strategic commitment for the decade ahead.

Are you ready for the 2020s?

Why I Worry About Interest Rates (And Maybe You Should, Too)

broken chain

The latest U.S. employment report seems to have given the Federal Reserve a strong signal to bump interest rates after it failed to do so in September. Employment increased by 211,000 people following a gain of 298,000 in October that was bigger than previously estimated, easing concerns that manufacturing activity is slowing.

While the interest rate increase is expected to be modest, it will have an impact on procurement activity and supply chain finance. Before looking at the impact of raised interest rates, let’s look at the impact of reduced loan availability a few years ago and extended payment terms–stretched from 90 to 180 days in some industries. These extended terms have fueled a booming factoring market where suppliers sell their receivables at discounts that are far higher than loan interest rates to maintain cash flow. Not only is the sustainability of this practice in question, but it becomes difficult for a company to compute true days sales outstanding. So, can the supplier who factors or the buyer who relies on liquidity calculations as part of risk management really know where the company stands? Higher interest rates will not help a company stop this sell-receivables-today-to-fund-new-sales-production cycle.

We have become comfortable with low cost money and when that cost is increased, it will have a serious impact on low margin, high volume suppliers who are essentially financing the supply chain for the end customers. Labor costs will likely be impacted as the cost of credit cards, hard goods, homes and automobiles carry the increased interest rate cost to the consumer and workers will look for higher wages.

While the interest rate hike will not be a surprise, the market change from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market may catch some procurement and supply chain professionals by surprise, who in many have not lived through periods of inflation and increasing prices.

While I hope that the impact is minimal, I am advising all of my clients to complete a financial risk assessment of their supply chain, dust off cost containment processes, retrain their teams and review all contracts.

In times of uncertainty, its always best to drive a proactive approach.

Where have all the ethics gone?

fingers crossed

From time to time I write on procurement ethics, but today I question where the business ethics have gone. In the past two weeks, we’ve seen:

  • Volkswagen’s Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn resigns after it was disclosed that Volkswagen will repair up to 11 million vehicles and overhaul its namesake brand following the scandal over its rigging of emissions tests.
  • Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired the rights to Daraprim, which was developed in the 1950s. The drug is the best treatment for a relatively rare parasitic infection. People with weakened immune systems, such as Aids patients, have come to rely on the drug, which, until recently, cost about $13.50 a dose. But when the price was raised to $750 a pill, a more than 5,000% increase, Mr. Shkreli’s brash defense of the decision has made him a pariah among patients-rights groups, industry spokespersons and politicians, making him one of the most disliked CEOs in America.
  • Stewart Parnell, the former CEO of Peanut Corporation of America, was sentenced to 28 years in prison. He had a role in concealing a 2008 and 2009 salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 700 people and killed nine.

It seems that we are seeing integrity breaches in business every day. There is a code of ethics for all business that true procurement leaders have always followed. I believe this is an area that sets apart leaders from the crowd; it’s obvious that these three CEOs lacked the integrity and leadership to do the right thing.

On a personal note, I had a mentor and boss in the early 1980s who gave me some advice and coaching that set a standard for how I operate. When I made a decision in the best interest of my company, several corporate executives wanted me to compromise my ethics and give an unfair advantage to a business owned by someone with political influence. I held my ground and my mentor said “I can’t help you and you may get fired, but there are worse things than getting fired for having integrity.” He also said “Remember, you can never put a price on integrity.” These were wise words and some advice that these three executives either never received or chose to ignore when faced with the choice between profit and principles.

I must not be alone in questioning ethics; this morning’s HBR Management Tip of the Day is Know When to Speak Up About an Ethical Issue. Is it time for your firm to think about reinforcing the company ethics standards and conducting an integrity audit?

Does your reputation have a price?

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?

How do you manage risk?

A recently released Accenture study, “Don’t Play it Safe When it Comes to Supply Chain Risk Management,” shows the wide range of approaches companies take when it comes to managing their supply chain risk.

Unfortunately, only slightly more than one quarter of the companies surveyed are taking the most important tack, developing a “playbook” or plan that various parts of the organization can implement immediately when a crisis strikes.

It’s well and good to identify alternative suppliers that can step in when needed.  And it’s critical to monitor all of your suppliers (not just Tier 1) on an ongoing basis for troubling trends and potential risks.  Building in excess capacity in the event of high volatility is important, too.

But if you don’t have that plan or playbook everyone can follow, you risk having everyone react “one off” and potentially exacerbate the crisis.

On Wednesday, July 16, ISM will host its Risk Management Summit in New York City.  It’s an opportunity to learn how to identify and oversee critical risks, and learn the key measurements you need to effectively communicate and implement a risk strategy.  For more information, visit ISM Conferences for 2014.

 

Executives worry about supply chain risks

Supply chain disruptions were noted as the biggest risk to overseas business operations, according to a recent survey of high level executives conducted for Chubb Insurance.
Nineteen percent of the respondents listed supply disruptions as the number one risk of relying on overseas business partners. Other risks included data breaches, political instability and natural disasters.
This data wouldn’t really be newsworthy, but the Chubb survey also found that only 56% of the responding companies have a business continuity plan that addresses overseas risks, and 22% of those companies have never tested it.
Even considering the potential bias of a risk survey from an insurance company, there is clearly a gap there.
If you think your company may not be prepared for managing supply disruptions, a good first step is mapping your supply chains deeper than the first tier or two. Too often, real surprises come from problems at suppliers we didn’t even know we had in the chain. Think about the pigment factory closed by a tsunami in Japan, or the high temperature resins that disappeared when a plant in Germany burned.
If you know your chain, you can run simulations to assess the impacts of potential events.  The best practice is a detailed survey and a predictive model indicating which suppliers have the highest probability and impact.  I think the highest risk suppliers are sole source suppliers with a single location and a unique technology  Your mitigation plans should take into account both the likelihood of each event and the profit and cost impact it would create.

Shock proofed supply chain?

Most Americans probably couldn’t locate Crimea without the help of Google Earth. (It’s the peninsula that juts south from the northern coast of the Black Sea.) Nevertheless, the actions of the Russian army in and around Crimea are sending shock waves through some key commodity markets, including oil. Here’s the Washington Post coverage of the story.

Have you felt any effects from the spikes in market prices? Even if you have not, this is another reminder that your supply chains likely have connections around the world that may not be obvious from your first tier suppliers. It’s good practice to map your supply chains and analyze scenarios for disruptions that could happen at any moment.

While the chances of any individual incident might be very small, there are so many potential disruptions that it is quite likely something will go wrong sometime. Smart supply managers build risk management strategies into their planning to accommodate them.

Like it or not, you “own” your entire supply chain

Wal-Mart, Sears and Disney have all moved quickly to distance themselves from the fire in a garment factory in Bangladesh that killed 112 people — after reporters found items with their logos and other evidence of business relationships in the charred rubble of the building. Associated Press reports that all three companies claimed they had tried to sever ties with Tazreen Fashions Ltd. before the tragedy, and that any production there had been “unauthorized.”
Two important items to note:
1. The unspoken assumption in the coverage is that consumer companies are essentially responsible for their entire supply chain — no matter how far it is from U.S. jurisdictions. Tazreen may have been a tier-three supplier, but no matter to the media. If the smoking sweatshirt has a Wal-Mart label — reporters demand a response from Wal-Mart.
2. In their rapid responses, all three companies appeared to accept that premise as they distanced themselves from the factory and its owner. In fact, according to their statements, they recognized the risk at some level and had tried to sever the relationship before the incident. In a world where communications have such a broad and rapid reach — that’s the only prudent approach. Like it or not, it’s best to know your product’s entire supply chain – from its beginnings as raw material to the time it hangs in a customer’s closet — and be prepared to manage risks of any kind throughout it.

Everyone is Shopping, But Not All Are Buying

A friend of mine visited an upscale suburban mall over the weekend and found the parking lot full and the shoppers lively. The only things missing were lots of  bags crammed with merchandise coming out of the stores. In other words, people were having a lot of fun looking, but appeared to be careful about their buying. Based on the latest ISM Manufacturing Report on Business and other indicators — that observation might be a good analogy for the global business climate.
For instance, the ISM ROB for September went positive again — after three months in negative territory. The manufacturing PMI went up to 51.5 — an increase of 1.9 percentage points over the last month.  The Non-Manufacturing PMI jumped 1.4 percentage points to 55.1 (Here’s the link to find both reports
ISM ROB.)
From our perspective — that’s a sign that the “shoppers” are out again, but just because they are looking doesn’t mean they all will be buying. There’s still far too much uncertainty for many companies to make firm plans. They are waiting for election returns and Congressional action on the “fiscal cliff” — not to mention a European recession and Chinese economic slowdown.
Consumers uncertain about the economy are saving more than spending, and companies are following a similar course — hoarding cash by meeting slowly growing demand with minimum new investments.
This period of uncertainty and incremental changes up or down may last through the end of the year — or longer. If so, it would be a good time to push through the programs that sometimes get set aside during rapid growth — visiting suppliers, mapping your supply chain deeper than the first tier or two to assess risk, reviewing sustainability or establishing better documentation of the chain of custody. All these things will put you on firmer footing regardless of which way the economy turns.

Drought shock — are you prepared?

No big surprise to anyone who has been baking in record temperatures and drought conditions anywhere in the central part of the country, but today’s US Dept. of Agriculture food price forecast projects increases in the range of 2.5 to 3.5 percent for the remainder of 2012, and uncertainty about the full effect of the drought.
If grain or livestock is a category you source, are you prepared for “drought shock?”
How about the short term dip in beef prices as farmers sell off stock rather than pay higher costs for feed?