Tag Archives: global business

The cost of being a bad customer

If John Henke’s calculations are accurate, General Motors could boost its operating income by $400 million per year just by improving its relationships with its suppliers. For Ford the number is $327 million, and Chrysler, $308 million.

We are not alone in claiming that suppliers don’t give their best stuff to their worst customers, but Henke, who is a Ph.D. and president and CEO of Planning Perspectives, Inc. has finally projected a dollar cost for bad relationships. He’s been studying supplier relationships and cost concessions within the automotive industry for many years, and he developed an index to measure it.

For the first time ever, however, Henke used proprietary data his firm has collected, public records, and media reports to calculate the costs when suppliers do such things as shift their innovations, A-Team support, or added value service to other customers. Foreign automakers have been able to take advantage of those shifts and have saved significantly over time as a result, according to Henke.

You might quibble with Henke’s formula, but the conclusion is pretty solid for any manufacturer in any sector. Beating up suppliers on price is a short-term tactic, not a long-term strategy for profitability. Are the Big Three listening? Here’s an Automotive News video report with Ford’s chief purchaser sounding like he’s read the study and is trying to catch up, while Toyota’s purchasing chief is taking steps to shore up his declining supplier scores.

 

White House endorses quicker supplier payments

One of the maxims of this blog is, “Suppliers don’t offer their best ideas to their worst customers,” and one of the quickest routes to the category of “worst customer” is stretching out payments to 60, 90 or  120 days — as has been fashionable in the automotive and other industries. We generally applaud the idea of thinking like a CFO when you are a supply manager, but too often the finance-department led idea of pushing the cost of money onto suppliers by delaying payments results in tighter margins for the supply base that stifle reinvestment in equipment or research and development.

Apparently President Obama has come around to our thinking on the topic because he recently endorsed an organization of companies that have pledged to pay suppliers quickly, or help them find lower cost working capital.

In the White House announcement, the Administration claims its QuickPay program of paying small government contractors quickly has saved them $1 billion since 2011. The private business version of the program, called SupplierPay is an opportunity not just to save money, but to create better relationships that foster innovation.

 

Reactions to new EPA regulations run the gamut

Reactions this week to the new EPA regulations to cut carbon pollution from power plants ranged from the most dire to the most delighted, depending upon one’s industry, state or inclination for all things environmental.

On one hand, the new regulations will result in lost jobs and higher electricity rates.  On the other, they will improve our climate, our health and ultimately lead to greater innovation.

The energy space is a complex one, and the effect of these regulations will not be as cut and dried as some might think.  For example, weren’t we headed in this direction already?  Industries have been shifting to natural gas because it’s cheaper, and wind and solar are bringing up the rear.  In addition, each of the states will be able to select their own method of implementation from a menu of policy options.

This is a long way out and we’re just getting started.  There’s a public comment period, and the regulations themselves could be challenged in congress as well as the courts.  States have two years to submit their plans to achieve the targets, and it’s always possible they could get extensions to their timetables.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the regulations.  Is the sky falling as Chicken Little squawked or is this the best birthday ever?

Source Responsibly

Consumer pressure for sustainability has become so powerful that even a company that is dedicated to celebration and partying – Bacardi –  is taking a socially responsible position on sourcing. It has released a very detailed list of actions it’s taking.

These actions range from sustainable packaging to recycling waste to building a green-certified distillery in England. Bacardi even exclaims its goal to obtain 40% of the sugarcane-derived products used to make its rum from certified, sustainable sources by 2017 – and 100% by 2022.

Bacardi is using social media to promote its branded initiative, artfully called “Good Spirited.” So it obviously believes the initiative has marketing value. That tells us two things:  One. Sustainable sourcing is generally accepted as good for the company. Two. It’s still considered something that’s unique enough to set Bacardi apart.

The question is, how long until sustainable practices are so widely adopted and universally expected that touting them isn’t even worth it. What do you think?

 

To Become a CPO, Think Like a CEO

For a number of years we’ve been watching the trend of supply managers to think more strategically, for instance, looking for ways that relationships with suppliers can bring innovations that could increase sales instead of simply reducing costs. The Hackett Group recently released a research alert that confirms that trend. Read it here.
The report is based on an annual survey of procurement leaders, and this year’s survey found supply managers looking past cutting or containing costs to more strategic priorities as expanding the scope of procurement’s influence on spend and tapping suppliers for innovations.
The Hackett Group Global Managing Director and Procurement Advisory Practice Leader Chris Sawchuk said, “We believe many procurement organizations have reached the upper limit of cost reductions possible in categories they are actively sourcing today. So they’re looking for ways to reinvent their value proposition. A key part of this is expanding their influence, and taking a life-cycle approach to category management. This requires working more effectively with spend owners, executives, requisitioners, suppliers, and other stakeholders. It also calls for skills that are outside procurement’s traditional areas of expertise.”
The big idea from this research is that long term success for supply managers comes when they think like a CEO. However, as we all know, if you are stuck in the swamp it’s darn hard to see what it looks like from the mountaintop. To get from here to there it may take investments to raise your skills and those of the team around you. It may take a continuous process improvement approach to the work your department does, and it may take investments in technology to reduce the transaction costs of non-strategic purchases. In short, you may have to start thinking like a CEO of your team before you can align with the CEO of your organization.

 

 

 

 

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.

Conflict minerals reporting deadline approaches

The first deadline for companies to publicly disclose their use of conflict minerals that originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or an adjoining country is fast approaching.  Justmeans.com reports that nearly 6,000 companies will have to provide these disclosures by May 31, 2014, and they’re finding it’s a complex process.

Any company that uses tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold for the functionality or production of its products now must disclose specific information, including the source of those products, according to the “Conflicts Mineral Rule.” It’s part of efforts to raise awareness of and change the human rights abuses in the DRC mining industry, and the financing of armed conflict from the sale of the minerals.

Less that a year ago, a PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey found that almost half of the executives surveyed were still in the initial stages of their compliance efforts, while 16 percent hadn’t begun gathering information and 32 percent were still trying to determine if the rule even applied to them.

We’ll host a half-day Mega Session on this rule and its long-term implications for companies and their suppliers at the ISM Conference May 5-7 in Las Vegas.  We hope you can join us.

Five Predictions for 2014

The ISM Manufacturing Index this month showed that the overall U.S. economy has been growing for 55 consecutive months. The manufacturing sector has trended positive for seven straight months. Employment numbers aren’t terrific, but they aren’t terrible either. These are generally favorable signs for business — but they suggest higher pressure on buyers to contain costs. Based on our experience and work with current clients, here are five predictions for the year ahead.

1) Buyers will see increasing pressure on pricing as industries with tight capacity or depressed margins attempt to improve margins.
2) Buyers will find longer lead times and reduced capacity as suppliers have left industries as a result of recession and remaining suppliers are enjoying higher margins based on high demand and low supply.
3) Talent management and development will be critical to the success of supply chain management success.
4) New government regulations in health care, energy, banking and other sectors will increase complexity, compliance and cost.
5) More procurement and supply chain leaders will reach the C suite.

How does this match what you are seeing?

Consolidations: More May Not Mean Less

The global economy is at a point now where more companies are considering mergers and acquisitions for various strategic purposes – and one of them is often perceived savings from consolidating purchasing and supply management functions. And while it is generally true that consolidations can generate significant savings, the execution is always harder in practice than it is on the org chart. It’s a case where more does not always lead to less — in this case, lower costs. Here are a few things to consider:

Knowledge is power. Conduct baseline assessments of supply management functions in each location or division. At a minimum there are likely differences in systems. In a worst case, there could be a huge mismatch where one division has a purchasing department fulfilling a purely administrative function while another has a supply management operation that operates at a strategic level working with cross functional teams driving innovation and quick market responsiveness. No easy blending in that situation.

Change is hard. Expect resistance both passively and actively. Some people will naturally prioritize saving their job over saving money for the firm. Others will just find adjustments to new procedures difficult. Create cross functional and cross-location teams to work on projects, and use specific stakeholder engagement strategies to help team members understand and work with each other.

Parts are parts – or not. Not every category of purchase is suitable for centralizing under a corporate purchasing center. What may seem like a commodity may have subtly different specifications for different locations. Analyses of where to source ought be based on the total cost of ownership – not necessarily a simple benchmark price.

Look for the low-hanging fruit. There are often significant savings in indirect categories where the ownership of the spend is dispersed. In your baseline assessment, identify those areas where a quick change can make a big difference. When executive management sees savings it is more likely to provide the support you need to implement more complex, long-term supply changes.

GM Chooses new CEO with Supply Chain Experience

If you weren’t already convinced of supply management’s role in developing and driving overall corporate strategies in global companies — take a look at what General Motors just did.

The board of directors for General Motors took a bold step this week by naming a woman as the company’s Chief Executive Officer, replacing Dan Akerson when he retires next month. Here’s the GM News release.   Mary Barra will be making history as the first woman to ever lead GM — or any global automaker — as Chairman and CEO, and that’s certain to receive plenty of attention.

It’s also very important to look at her experience because she is a 100% GM insider. Barra rose through the ranks at GM as an engineer and engineering manager, starting as a co-op student at General Motors Institute (now Kettering University).  She was named the senior VP for product development in 2011, and a few months ago, also assumed responsibility for GM’s global purchasing and supply chain organization (with a promotion to executive VP).

That last step — tying together global product development with global supply chain sent a very strong signal that GM expects to deliver innovative products through its relationships with suppliers. Selecting the executive holding that dual position as the CEO over others who have managed brands or regional operations says a lot about GM’s strategy for the future.