Tag Archives: recession strategies

Recession – 5 steps to take now

rough road

Are you prepared? What is your plan?

This week has been a week like no other as the stock market reacts to falling commodity prices, interest rate changes and devalued currencies. Bloomberg Business published an interesting article, “China may tip the World into Recession: Morgan Stanley”, that points out that a continued slowdown in the next years may bring global economic growth below 2%. Ruchir Sharma, head of emerging markets for Morgan Stanley Investments, views this as the threshold equivalent to a world recession.

While this is a bold prediction, it should serve as a warning to procurement and supply chain practitioners to dust off and review risk management plans. In any recession, where volumes are dropping, inventories are growing and cash management becomes critical, it is necessary to assure that the supplier network can withstand financial stress.

It’s also wise to do a complete contract review with both leverage and strategic supply sources. It will be smart to assure that the volumes are not overcommitted. In addition to reviewing contracts and volumes, building scenario forecasts can help a company to determine options and strategic directions. Now would be a good time to understand the impacts of currency changes on both the buy and sell side of the transactions. The savvy purchaser will align the supply chain with the impact of the customer’s terms and conditions on currency; in other words, understand the currency risk end-to-end and plan accordingly.

Review contracts with customers, too, to understand what commitments are being made to customers and take the opportunity to solidify some of the future orders in advance. Another practice I recommended, as we approach a potential recession, is business reviews with suppliers and customers.

Economists will argue for many years whether we’re approaching or are in recession. One of the worst things managers can do when the world is dipping into a recession is to take no action. Personally I like the Boy Scouts motto: “be prepared.”

  1. Review and update all risk management plans
  2. Review all customer and supplier contracts
  3. Build best and worse case scenario forecasts
  4. Understand all international contracts adjusting for currency fluctuations
  5. Audit the supply chain

What’s your strategy?


ISM Report on Business: Working on the Edge

ISM released its August Report on Business – Manufacturing, and the news is not surprising considering the continuing European debt saga, Indian snafus such as the biggest power outage in history and other uncertainties. The index is just under the 50 mark — making it the second consecutive month of manufacturing decline after a run of 34 positive months. According to ISM, the overall economy is still growing, and that mixed result is reflected in comments from survey participants that ranged from “demand is strong” to “a marked slowing in business overall.” While it generally makes sense not to take great risks in the face of such uncertainties, there are also good opportunities for leverage if your company or your industry is one of those that still has positive momentum. Suppliers who see softening demand from other customers may be willing to trade margin for the certainty of your business. These are times when you can take advantage if you have been careful to build cost models for what you buy. The more you understand what drives the prices of your suppliers, the better position you’re in lower them without driving your supply base out of business.

Reality check Q & A — Inside Supply Management

John Yuva at Inside Supply Management just published a good set of questions and answers that — taken as a group — are a good reality check for anyone managing a supply chain. I’m glad he asked me about innovation — because I’ve been talking quite a bit about it lately.

Here’s the link: Inside Supply Management: Strategizing the New Normal.

2010 – Recovery and Risk

Happy New Year? Or Not?

According to the Institute for Supply Management’s latest Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®, “the manufacturing sector expanded in December for the fifth consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the eighth consecutive month.”

Nevertheless, as we look at the year ahead we are still recovering from one of the worst economic climates since the Great Depression.  There is little doubt that suppliers in commodity channels will be again at the mercy of their customers for lower costs, green products, inventory-free supply chains and stretched out payment terms.

I think we can also expect major initiatives from leading global supply managers, as they adjust to the new landscape and try to find ways to gain a competitive edge or hedge their bets to protect against the dangers of an economy recovering in fits and starts. Already we have seen a major announcement from Wal-Mart saying it wants to achieve lower costs by going to sources directly — cutting out the middle level of distribution.  I have also read that there the giant retailer will push to get supplier support of green initiatives.

Many companies that have reduced demand will not be as willing to add capacity quickly until markets and customer demand level off. Consequently, that reluctance will likely bring shortages in some categories.  It is also likely that we will see prices rise sporadically as demand and supply go out of balance.  Overall, increasing activity in 2010 will bring increased prices and inflation.

Supply management talent, already in short supply, will become increasingly tough to come by this year, and companies will have to make investments to attract, develop and retain people who can generate value from the supply chain.

These are significant challenges, but I am looking forward to working through them as the new year unfolds.

Wal-Mart’s Speedier Pay

Looking at this news from Wal-Mart — using a very smart strategy to reduce its supply risk by speeding up payments to its clothing vendors:

Wal-Mart Offers Way to Faster Payments to Vendors

There’s a lesson here for companies that have been stretching payment terms to 90 or 120 days….


More Inflation Cautions

The Institute of Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for October that was reported today made its biggest jump since 2006. — from 52.6 in September to 55.7 last month. (See the news release.) That’s good news for the economy as a whole, but it bolsters our cautions that pressures on prices are likely to increase faster than the pace of economic recovery over the next few months.

The PMI is considered a leading indicator of economic business conditions. Purchasing managers are already reporting price increases in 11 commodity categories. Furthermore, inventories have been contracting for 42 consecutive months. Those facts suggest that price pressure is likely to go up.

Suppliers may be trying to recover from their losses over the last year and perhaps betting that shortages might drive prices higher quickly. It’s also possible that tight credit is still limiting manufacturers to add production capacity. Whatever the reason, buyers must remain diligent in their efforts to contain cost.  As companies recover and work to improve their bottom line, cost containment will be the core focus in managing suppliers in 2010. It will be necessary for buyers to review their tools for containing costs and develop new methods for dealing with price escalation.

In southeast Michigan we see the same kind of pressures on prices, but there was also a drop in the local PMI, released by the Institute of Supply Management – Southeast Michigan.  The ISM-SEM reported that its October purchasing managers index was 51.3, a drop of more than 10 points, but still in the range that demonstrates some modest improvement in economic conditions. The three-month trend of the index also remains positive.

We likely had an uptick in September as a trailing result of the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ automotive incentives. The October composite figure shows a slight cooling off, but looking deeper we see local purchasing managers reporting higher prices in a number of categories. That suggests there is finally demand building that can drive new growth.

The drop in the southeast Michigan index might suggest a note of caution about the national figure, too, because Michigan’s PMI often leads the index for the rest of the country. October’s big jump in the national PMI might be followed by a lower index next month, matching Michigan’s pattern. With so many uncertainties, we shouldn’t be surprised if the recovery has some fits and starts. Overall the outlook is still positive.”

Have we hit the bottom …. of prices?

Governments around the world have pumped billions. Wait. Trillions into economic stimulus and bailout programs. Although you may still be able to leverage prices down right now — my colleague in London, Robin Jackson suggests that you ought to be prepared for rising prices ahead.

Here’s his analysis and list of tips.http://www.adr-international.com/BusBrief-Oct09-golden-age.shtml

To see the all latest ADR International commentary and analysis use this link:


Still at risk …

The economy may be topsy-turvy, but issues such as risk management are timeless.

I was reminded of that when Jan Husdal recently reviewed an article our consultants Jim Kiser and George Cantrell wrote in 2006 for Supply Chain Management Review.  It lays out six steps necessary to manage risks in the supply chain. Here’s the link:


One of the messages we often forget is to look beyond direct suppliers right through the supply chain. As we were saying on the PI Window on Business Blogradio program recently purchasers are prone to focus on what’s immediately in front of them. I like to use the term “supply management” or “sourcing” rather than “purchasing” because they both imply a deeper approach to the profession.


I recently had a good conversation with Richard Weissman at Purchasing Magazine about buying chemicals. I can tell you a few things I told him — or you can read the whole article (with good comments also by Tom Brossart, the director of global logistics and trade and compliance at W.R. Grace in Columbia, Md.).


1. Nothing really replaces an in-person supplier visit. Travel budgets are tight, but risks from low-cost country sources are significant.

2. An example of an area of risk is environmental practices. You can no longer “export” pollution to countries that have less stringent laws than the U.S. Organizations are monitoring practices around the globe, and consumers hold companies here accountable for what their suppliers do abroad. Sustainability and the environment are critical issues that reach through the whole chemical supply chain.

3. The chemical supply chain is suffering from the same effects of the credit crunch as other products. Buyers are extending terms. Suppliers are squeezed and risks of disruptions are increasing. We work with clients to run simulations that gives us clues where the stress is greatest, so we know where we ought to line up standby sources.

It is easy to think of chemicals as commodities that need to be evaluated almost exclusively on price, but when you add considerations of risk — environmental, logistical or financial — procurement strategies have to more carefully constructed to accommodate them.

Riding the economic Tsunami

Darwin probably said it best – the fittest will survive. That’s also the assessment of my colleague in the UK, Robin Jackson, CEO of ADR International. If you haven’t seen ADR’s newsletter, this is what he had to say:

“The business environment has changed fundamentally and we will have to look back to the great depression of the 1930s, the collapse of South American economies in the 1970s and 1980s and Japan’s “lost decade” of the 1990s to draw lessons.

In this radically changed environment it is vital for the survival of businesses for procurement leaders to consider new ways of handling these challenges and develop new offensive and defensive sourcing strategies.

Remember this is a once-in-a-century readjustment of prices. Only if you are bold and act speedily will your business survive. Your competitors will be doing it and to survive you will need to do it too.

It’s time to call in the favours – if ever there was a time for strategic co-operation with key suppliers, this is it. If they don’t live up to their part of the strategic partnership billing, move swiftly to find alternative partners. Leverage your strategic supplier relationships. Be demanding and move rapidly.

Conserve your cash. Even if your business can borrow it is more expensive to do so now. So extend payment terms to the maximum without damaging the viability of your suppliers.

If you receive a price increase request then the supplier must be having a joke. With basic commodities falling in price by 40 per cent or more (a barrel of oil is down 70 per cent) how can any supplier claim their input costs are increasing? Any increases caused by the fall in the value of currency will be more than offset by the collapse in input prices.

Your defensive strategy should include preparing now for possible disruption of your supply chain. Disruption can result from suppliers going bankrupt, economic meltdown in countries, significant currency fluctuations and political unrest, so plan carefully how your business will manage it by developing detailed countermeasures.

In China the number of bankruptcies has increased significantly and this has led to an increase in social instability – imagine the chaos if a new political regime closed China’s borders to the West again, or Russia switched off the gas.

We need more than ever to be aware of currency movements and take them into account in all our procurement decisions. Given the volatility now inherent in the world economy, today’s low-cost destination of choice could be tomorrow’s high-cost country to avoid.

In this climate, it almost certainly makes sense to shorten your supply chain to reduce risk and vulnerability, so local sourcing could become the new must-do procurement strategy to replace the obsession with low-cost country sourcing of recent years.

These are unprecedented times. So our strategy for 2009 should be: be bold, be brave, act swiftly and be ruthless. Develop new offensive and defensive ideas and ways of working. Only then will you and your business have a chance to survive this economic tsunami.”

Thanks, Robin. We should all bookmark this. Post it on our desktops and build it into our work plan every day for 2009.

Find more articles by Robin and others at our ADI International web site