Tag Archives: fuel costs

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.

Energy Prices in Flux

Where are energy prices going? We’re not really sure.  A recent forecast reports conflicting information.  U.S. crude plunged toward negative daily territory as the Energy Information Administration revealed worse than expected crude and refined products supply figures, signaling a strong bearish outlook.  The only bullish sign for oil was that supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma, dropped to the lowest level since October 2009.
Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, speaking at the ISM 2014 Annual Conference, suggested that new drilling technologies have radically changed the capacity of the U.S. to produce oil and gas over the long haul. He also said conversion from gasoline to natural gas in transportation fleets will come quicker than anyone else is predicting. He predicted those changes could keep domestic energy prices under control for the foreseeable future.

Calling all auto suppliers: fed money ripe for plucking

“An opportunity to hit the accelerator on U.S. auto manufacturing growth” is how Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz characterized the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVM) and the $16 billion in low-interest financing that is available to support efficient-vehicle programs.  While auto suppliers have always been eligible to participate since Congress created the ATVM in 2007, none have secured funding to date. Well, it’s about time the feds recognized that innovation comes from the supply chain as well as OEMs.

Moniz announced in a speech last week that the program is being overhauled to make it easier to fund production of technologies such as lightweight materials, efficient engines and low-friction tires.  The changes also include legal clarification to show that suppliers are eligible for the program, a promise to respond more quickly to applicants and the creation of a new on-line application portal.

Roland Hwang, director of the transportation program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, weighed in and said focusing on suppliers is appropriate because automakers are increasingly depending on them to help meet new fuel economy standards, which can strain the suppliers’ finances.

Ford Motor Company, Nissan, Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive all have participated in the loan program.  Auto suppliers, it’s your turn.


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.

Inflation Starts Here — or There

A very slow economic recovery in the U.S., and the associated headache of continuing high unemployment have generally kept inflation at bay over the last year. However, the recent spike in fuel prices and in some commodity categories have been warning us that the buyer’s market may be coming to an end.

Where will inflation start? It already has, of course, in most forms of transportation. The New York Times says in this article that you can add China to that list.

According to the Times‘ data, minimum wages in Beijing have gone up about 20% in the last year when calculated in terms of U.S. dollars — partly due to local  pressure and partly due to the rise in value of the renminbi. Overall the official inflation rate is listed as just 5%, although that is likely to be a low estimate.

This news brings more caution about sourcing in China — although the real key to success there has never been to race in, hoping for a quick fix to cut costs. And it’s a reminder to check every category you are buying for advance signs of price pressure.

2011 starts with manufacturing momentum

Yesterday’s ISM Manufacturing Survey reported economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in December for the 17th consecutive month. Norbert Ore, chair of the ISM manufacturing survey committee said, “the average PMI for January through December (57.3 percent) corresponds to a 5.1 percent increase in real gross domestic product (GDP).” That’s based on the historical relationship between the manufacturing index and the GDP.

The story for procurement professionals in the report is that manufacturers noted price increases in 23 different categories of commodities. Metals, chemicals, fuel, and grains were all there. Since the whole world seems to be shaking off the recession, upward price pressure is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Oil seems to be a particularly worrisome category. According to the Wall Street Journal, Goldman Sachs is predicting crude oil prices up to a $100 per barrel again this year. However, the Journal also says OPEC has a self-interest in keeping price hikes moderate because the giant spike in 2008 was one of the factors that killed the global economy. According to the Journal, that might have been a short-term windfall for OPEC, but the more stable prices through 2010 were really a better long-term deal for oil producing countries. And consumers as well. If oil prices cannot be contained and other commodities spike as well, the slow growth out of recession could still be in jeopardy.


Purchasing Briefs

Here are a couple of quick reads from my colleagues at ADR around the world. Robin Jackson is CEO of ADR Intl., Simon Aldred is a consultant, and Robert Sobcak is managing our new office in Prague, Czech Republic. Worth a look.

Now is the time to review everything procurement does or else face downsizing, says Robin Jackson.


Managing the big, core areas is the easy part, but the 20 per cent of less obvious spend can yield big savings too, says Simon Aldred.


Changed world conditions mean we need to think of companies, not countries, when looking for low-cost sourcing opportunities, says Robert Sobcak.


$100 Per Barrel Oil

They may only be bumping up against it now, but oil prices will soon hit and exceed $100 per barrel, and prices aren’t likely to drop substantially for the forseeable future. The reason for that is summed up in two countries: China and India.

Increased competition for the scarce oil from developing nations such as India and China are likely to keep the pressure on the price of oil for some time. Smart buyers who have watched the price go up have already created category strategies and relationships with their supply chain to manage the higher costs. Those who have not may be forced to look for strategic alternatives in energy and some raw materials in order to survive.

The $100 benchmark will significantly impact the Michigan, U.S. and global economies. The triple-digit price has a huge psychological impact that will affect consumers as well as every buyer throughout the supply chains that create consumer products. If they haven’t paid enough attention to the rising cost of fuel, the $100 mark is a loud wakeup call.

Buyers in every industry will be making cost containment an even higher priority than it has been, because oil provides more than just energy and fuel for shipping products. Industrial buyers will be encountering significantly higher costs for freight, plastics, chemicals, steel and travel.