Category: The Strongest Link in Supply Chain

Future-proofing Your Supply Chain

February 21st, 2020

Disruptions abound in supply chain circles. Just consider any of the following recent events: the tariff war, global unrest, the Coronavirus, natural disasters such as the volcano in the Philippines, the Hong Kong protests and more.

We have never had a client that could claim that 100% of the extended supply chain (from suppliers’ suppliers to customers’ customers) was inside the U.S. So, we have to be prepared to navigate these types of disruptions and the related impacts.

Disruptions certainly go beyond your physical supply chain. What about your human capital, technologies (accompanied with processes) and strategies? Refer to our article on future-proofing your skills gap and assess which risks might be on the horizon in your industry.

When it comes to technologies, there is no doubt that emerging technologies are gaining steam and are starting to transform supply chains. Just consider the application of collaborative robots, automation, RPA (robotic process automation), artificial intelligence, IoT, blockchain, and predictive analytics to name a few. Big name companies are dropping big dollars into these technologies. When thinking about strategy, remember strategy is no longer a multi-year exercise. We must be thinking in terms of strategic sprints. Who knows what will happen beyond a year out!

Several high-level categories should be assessed as you think about your supply chain:

  1. Sourcing – Are you sourcing from China? Is this a viable path forward to source 100% from China? There are increased risk factors to consider. Listen to an interview I conducted with John Tulac, international business attorney, on future-proofing and doing business with China. It is time to reevaluate your supply chain footprint.
  2. Logistics – There are significant disruptors transforming this industry, ranging from e-commerce and the the Omni-channel to robotics, additive manufacturing and the digitization of the supply chain. If you aren’t incorporating these impacts in future-proofing your supply chain, you will be left in the dust. These are concepts of focus for the consortium for logistics success in the Inland Empire to enable companies to stay informed and keep up with the fast pace of change.
  3. Manufacturing – Industry 4.0 is transforming manufacturing and changing the landscape. It will be a pivotal year that separates the winners vs the losers as advances are made. See what the National Association of Manufacturers’ Leadership Council sees as critical issues
  4. Demand & Supply – There is no doubt, there is a keen interest by business owners, executives and private equity leaders on creating predictable demand and forecasting sales. The more we understand our demand plan, the better our operational performance, supplier performance and customer performance. Read about SIOP (sales, inventory, operations planning) and how it can help future-proof this area.
  5. Inventory – As the disruptions abound and executives fear a slow-down, the proactive management of inventory and advanced collaborative programs are gaining in relevance. Pick up some tips and strategies in our recent article ” Inventory Management as Fashionable as Automated Intelligence for Distributors” for ACHR News.
  6. Metrics & Predictive analytics – Keeping a pulse on performance should remain a top priority while forecasting what will be needed.

Getting ahead of the curve might be the only avenue to success. Consider creating a resilient supply chain and future-proofing your supply chain. Stay tuned and read more about it, and If you are interested in discussing a supply chain assessment, please contact us.

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Made in Vietnam

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U.S., China Sign Historic Phase One Trade Deal

February 3rd, 2020

According to the National Association of Manufacturers press release, the U.S and China trade deal is an unprecedented phase one win for manufacturers.  Previously the NAM CEO lamented that “China has proven one of the most troubling markets in the world for manufacturers, due to its lack of commitment to free markets, fair competition and reform.” Thus, this statement was high praise for the deal, “It is a remarkable turning point for manufacturers, with the unprecedented and enforceable commitments on critical intellectual property protections to which China has agreed.

There are a myraid of issues in trade with China for manufacturing, and there is debate whether “phase one” went far enough or too far (as both extremes exist); however, according to my recent discussions with international business attorney and China expert John Tulac on future-proofing your manufacturing supply chain, there is quite a bit of risk in China to navigate.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

Certainly this trade deal relates back to tariffs. Of course, the U.S. agreed to cut tariffs of $120 billion in Chinese goods by half. They also held off on tariffs in December with expectation of the trade deal. Not surprisingly, economists expect this to positively impact growth.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, China agreed to ramp up purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over the next 2 years. Agricultural products will go up by $32 billion over that period, and China agreed to steps that will provide market access for dairy products, poultry, beef and more.

Most importantly to many manufacturers, there is strong language preventing thefts of trade secrets. That is certainly a huge frustration to manufacturers! We definitely aren’t too comfortable relying upon this but it can be seen as progress and eases some concerns. There is also agreement to create a dispute resolution office as well as to not manipulate currency. The bottom line is there is a host of positive outcomes and progress which provides a base to build upon.

By no means should we jump on expanding manufacturing in China as there are plenty of issues of concern. With that said, this trade deal might provide time for you to evaluate what will make the most sense for your business objectives while reducing negative impacts of tariffs. As costs have gone up in China and working capital increases in importance, manufacturers are starting to look at moving operations closer to customers to support quick turnarounds and a superior customer experience. Technology might provide a strategic advantage with 3D printing, AI, IoT, robotics and more. Commodity products with minimal freight costs are moving to other low cost countries. For example, Vietnam loves manufacturing and is rapidly expanding. There are plenty of options to ponder.

At a minimum, continually re-evaluate your supply chain road map and think through related impacts. These topics certainly relate to our new LMA-i, LMA-Intelligence series including the Amazon Effect, the Resilient Supply Chain and Future-Proofing and contact us if you’d like an assessment path-forward plan to accelerate your bottom line and customer performance.

 

 

 



Amazon Kicks off the New Year by Creating Disruption

January 30th, 2020

According to a Bloomberg article, Amazon kicked off the New Year by creating disruption. They have abruptly stopped buying products from some of their wholesalers, looking for ways to bypass wholesalers or push the cost to down the chain and increase profit. If your business depends on Amazon, hopefully you have been future-proofing your manufacturing and supply chain operations.

If not, you might be in a world of hurt! With that said, if you are heavily dependent on any one customer or supplier, you are in a risk-ridden situation.  It makes me wonder whether FedEx’s move away from Amazon was brilliant or whether they took on too much risk moving away from Amazon. Listen to a recent video where I refer to this topic. Are you taking these types of strategic questions into account in your 2020 plans?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Although the impact is obvious to wholesalers cut off by Amazon, the impacts are more widespread than that. Will Amazon be able to go direct to manufacturers? Will they be able to increase profits by squeezing their supply chain without impacting service? What happens, if that isn’t as easy as it appears? Will customers just wait? Are they getting too big or will other e-commerce players have an opportunity? It will be interesting to see.

In addition, no matter if you are related to this industry or not, it will impact you! If new players become involved, the manufacturing and logistics footprints will evolve. Will you be ready for opportunities? Undoubtedly, we will be impacted by changes in logistics infrastructure, rates and service requirements. The question is whether we will let this happen to us or if we will proactively address it. It might be too late to future-proof against this particular move by Amazon, but there will be countless more changes coming by Amazon as well as many other disruptors. Will you be ready to navigate changing circumstances and market conditions for a positive customer and bottom line impact or not?

At a minimum, continually re-evaluate your supply chain road map and think through related impacts. These topics certainly relate to our new LMA-i, LMA-Intelligence series including the Amazon Effect, the Resilient Supply Chain and Future-Proofing and contact us if you’d like an assessment path-forward plan to accelerate your bottom line and customer performance.



Will Amazon Pass UPS & FedEx?

January 26th, 2020

According to a CNBC article, Amazon is already delivering half of its packages. It appears that Amazon is on target to pass by FedEx and UPS. They have had distinctly different strategies. FedEx curtailed its contract with Amazon in early 2019, and Amazon just retaliated by not allowing 3rd party sellers to ship via FedEx. On the other hand, UPS is doubled down with Amazon. Which will turn out to be better in the long run? And, as we know, USPS has been delivering packages for Amazon behind-the-scenes. Could they come out on top?

Or will Amazon just crush everyone? In recently touring the Ontario airport (the powerhouse in package shipping), it is clear Amazon has a long way to go to catch up in air freight but they are also known to speed by competitors. Amazon is slowly making inroads to ocean shipping as well. No matter who you think might win this race, if you ship or receive anything, you should pay attention!

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Simply think about Sears. They were Amazon prior to Amazon entering the scene. Unfortunately, they didn’t keep up with changes occurring, and they are largely out of business. That annoying but not worrisome competitor might just speed by you if you aren’t staying relevant!

Additionally, from a supply chain and logistics point-of-view, there are substantial impacts. With the sheer relevance of the last mile, transportation infrastructure, customer perceptions, technology advancements and much more are becoming relevant. Undoubtedly, no matter your industry, it will be impacted since everyone relates to logistics. Not only logistics, but many industries relate to oil and gas prices or would be impacted by delays in materials etc. The impacts are widespread and substantial. Have you thought through your strategy and positioning based on these factors?

At a minimum, continually re-evaluate your supply chain road map and think through related impacts. These topics certainly relate to our new LMA-i, LMA-Intelligence series including the Amazon Effect, the Resilient Supply Chain and Future-Proofing and contact us if you’d like an assessment path-forward plan to accelerate your bottom line and customer performance.



Made in Vietnam?

January 19th, 2020

Vietnam has been the hot topic lately. After a visit recently, I saw first-hand the potential along with the challenges. Clients are definitely evaluating changing the source of supply to Vietnam. And the question is: should they? Or, alternatively, the question is: Are they moving fast enough?

Although there are infrastructure issues, the most successful clients are already ahead of the curve and seriously considering Vietnam. Of course, it is not best for all products and situations, just as China wasn’t best for all situations previously. If you are starting to see price increases in China and are concerned about the quality and reliability as China is struggling, it is definitely something to consider. Consider this fact – many Chinese companies are moving production to Vietnam.  Obviously there is something to be said for evaluating this source of supply.

Vietnam likes manufacturing and the United States. One of my proactive clients has been moving a significant portion of their supply from China to Vietnam over the last year. They started the process before the tariffs because they expected to save significantly with Vietnam production.  However, they really looked like heroes to their Board when they also beat the Chinese tariffs with the move.

This does NOT mean it will always make sense. We also have clients who outsourced to China a long time ago when it was the latest “fad”. In fact, the tide turned over the last several years.  The total cost of the product as well as the gains in customer satisfaction of sourcing closer to customer demand (typically in N.A.) makes a lot more sense.  Unfortunately for them, most of the companies in this situation haven’t changed supply yet due to capital and infrastructure costs and related efforts to move the source of supply. Yet it can be done. Our client reevaluated and started the transition to Vietnam. Recently, the tariffs are forcing several to re-think the China strategy, but is it “too late”? Are you going to wait for the next tariff scenario where you are on the defensive or are you gong to proactively reevaluate your entire strategy?

Certainly part of what you’ll need to evaluate is your working capital requirements. How does China compare with Vietnam? Both require an extended supply chain. Generally speaking, the longer lead times to cross the ocean carry working capital requirements. As customers become more demanding, you’ll need to consider inventory as a key component to your sourcing decisions. Pick up some tips and strategies in our recent article ” Inventory Management as Fashionable as Automated Intelligence for Distributors” for ACHR News.

Getting ahead of the curve might be the only avenue to success. When looking at China vs. Vietnam, it is quite clear that China is significantly larger and has far more manufacturing capability.  Yet, those early to Vietnam won’t have to worry about this particular issue.  And, of course Vietnam is racing to catch up.

Whether you have sourcing in China, Vietnam or neither, the underlying point is essential. Are you constantly revisiting your supply chain strategy? If not, you’ll likely be left following your competitors. Instead, consider future-proofing your manufacturing and supply chain business. Stay tuned and read more about it.

If you are interested in discussing a supply chain assessment, please contact us.

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