Five tips for a more effective supply chain in 2017

2016 has seen many new developments: an uncertain global economy, the shock of the American presidential election and disruptive technological innovations. These solutions will optimise your supply chain in 2017.

Get closer to the authorities and governments

While most of the world's resources are in the hands of the private sector, the concentration of industries makes managing a large number of factors, such as the environment, performance, ethics or even society's expectations more complex. Throughout the world, governments provide platforms for coordinating and facilitating supply chain operations (customs agencies, domestic security, food security, ethical resources). Nowadays, a wise supply chain manager understands the benefits of keeping close to the authorities: local economic development, transport, workforce, culture and salaries.

Go through your contracts with a fine-tooth comb

Follow the example on contract theory developed by Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström, awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2016. Their work sets out a framework for analysing all aspects of a contract: managers' remuneration based on their performance, deductibles, co-payers in insurance and even the privatisation of (some) public sector concerns. Guides are available for drafting more pertinent contracts for managing the supply chain.

Even less income, even more experiences

This trend is no newcomer, but is a growing one: when making a purchase customers are no longer satisfied with a deal in which they take all the risks. They hold the seller responsible for the promised quality of the purchased product or service (for example, a diesel car promising 62 miles to the gallon). The way ahead is the following: establish a long-term relationship with the customer based on trust and made indispensable by the growth in social networks. Managing reputation and the customer relationship become crucial factors given that consumer demands have never been so strong and/or supply chains have never been so interdependent.

Assess the value of every employee against automation

Automation affects all economic sectors. McDonald's has launched self-service order kiosks in markets where the cost of labour is significant, particularly in Europe and the United States (against the mass movement for an hourly rate of $15). If this decision involves some controversy, it begs the question: what is the impact on the supply chain managers? Labour has always been the biggest item of expenditure in the chain. For certain positions, automation enables fixed capital investment costs and fewer variable costs. The new rule is that in order to know when and where to implement automation, you need to know the value of each worker.

Make a friend of technology

Making technology work for you enables the supply chain to be successfully digitised. To this end, a combination is vital: automation and adoption of the industrial Internet of Things, along with best security practices against threats (ransomware, hacking). Intelligent initiatives will enable you to optimise the 'leagility' (a combination of the words lean and agile) of the supply chain.



Technology is transforming the supply chain

The rate of adoption of new technologies in the supply chain has not yet passed 26%, but it should reach 75% in ten years' time. What does this mean for you and how can you prepare for it?

The integration of technology into the supply chain has long been the exclusive preserve of major companies, often motivated by the idea that their departments or subsidiaries will become more efficient by being interconnected. The most striking example of this is the adoption by FedEx in 1985 of a system of handheld scanners, enabling real time package tracking. A revolution back then, but commonplace today!

"Since the 1980s, computer technology has advanced at such a phenomenal rate that it is currently far ahead of the ability of the supply and logistics field to adequately utilize the new technologies", according to Georgia Tech.

In the midst of the revolution in mobile computing, the latest white paper from C3 Solutions – the source of the adoption figures quoted above - explores how IT will shape the supply chain in years to come, thanks to three basic levers:

1. Mobility is more accessible

The policy of “bring your own device” (BYOD) has spread throughout businesses and brought down technological barriers, a move facilitated by falling equipment prices. So, an iPhone 5 has 2.7 times the processing power of the Cray-2 which FedEx had in 1985. The industries that benefit most from this are in logistics (dispatch management, GPS navigation, dock scheduling, parcel tracking, proof of delivery and customer service).

2. Cloud, SaaS and Big Data are becoming instinctive

Like mobile supply chain apps, even though a strong trend in IT, cloud computing is still immature and has yet to truly develop its potential. Although the costs are difficult to calculate, the roll-out of SaaS (software as a service, where the company's applications are based in the cloud) is becoming more and more natural, as it is inherent in the digital nature of the supply chain, particularly in view of the proliferation of connected items (the Internet of Things) in the business environment.

Cloud-based apps are the ideal way to gather data silos for analysis, but Big Data is not a new phenomenon for brands. What's different now is the velocity of solutions compared with the volumes processed and the availability of analytical tools to use this data. Accenture notes: structures that use analytical solutions have faster reaction times (47%) in their supply chain.

3. Web APIs also reign outside "dotcoms"

Application Programming Interfaces have become the plumbing of the Internet of Things. They enablecommunication between different services or apps. For example, US giant Target required its suppliers to connect to its own APIs in an attempt to curb stock-outs. The company managed to reduce delivery windows from two days to one. It also penalises suppliers using outdated tools if deliveries don't arrive in the scheduled window.

Intelligent employment of these tools should result in significant supply chain optimization: increased visibility, better cost control, more efficient integration between companies, more accurate tracking and planning, not forgetting improved regulatory compliance. To gain a better understanding of the issues involved, read the white paper entitled "Technology Reshaping the Modern Supply Chain" published by C3 Solutions. It can be downloaded for free by simply registering on the publisher's website.

Source : C3 Solutions



What "local" contributes to your supply chain

Countries that have spent the 30 last years closing their factory doors are seeing an unexpected return to local industry. The short chain has maybe even taken on a certain value in an unstable economic climate.

From the start of 2016, international exchange volumes have been falling. For the first time since the Second World War, a commercial treaty with the United States has failed during a growth period. Both candidates in the American presidential elections recently opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership in order to embrace "Made in the USA". The United Kingdom voted for Brexit. In Belgium, Wallonia went head-to-head with the European Union and Canada over the CETA. In other words: globalisation is no longer an unshakeable conviction.

A survey carried out by SCM World indicates that in the United States, companies are three times more likely to recruit (than dismiss) staff in the supply chain area. The trend is identical in European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and even Great Britain, as the diagram below shows.


(Source: SCM World

Made in China was synonymous with everyday low prices. The paradigm has shifted.


During the 90s, international exchanges grew twice as fast as the international economy. Europe united under a shared currency. China became the world's factory. Tariffs fell, as did transport costs. Nevertheless, if you believe the New York Times, the Walmart revolution was over. So China joined the former prosperous nations club: she used her factories to build a middle class. As for Europe, from now on economic stagnation makes the signing of trade exchanges more complex.

Conclusion: local is back and redesigning the supply network rules. Why?

Distance increases costs

It makes no sense to boast about container capacity and the fall in the price of oil. Transport costs from Asia to Europe are more expensive and riskier than before. Add to this the doubts surrounding trade regulations.

Local is more flexible

The example of Trellebord in Sweden is particularly enlightening. This SME chose to use robots in order to automate a part of its work in a high wage country without having to go through relocation.

For Kevin O'Marah, SCM World supply chain expert, "adaptable platform design is Western industry's best defence against devastating supply constraints." The more such vital inputs can be shared, the better the business can support local production with limited bill-of-materials risk. This is true for Mondelēz, which is pioneering this approach in food, or BMW in automotive."




The Supply Chain of the future will be agile and responsible

Do you know about Supply21? This revolutionary Supply Chain designed by the consulting firm Proconseil claims to be "bolder, more respectful, and more connected." This is what it will look like.

Proconseil unveiled Supply21 at a conference in Paris at the end of January. This method, which is still at the concept stage, arrives at a time when 38% of companies are yet to consider how factories and logistics will work in the future. Some sectors are exceptions, however, and are proving to be pioneers in this area. One is the automotive sector, where 50% of companies are already adopting open innovation approaches. In agri-food, a similar proportion of companies are now starting to consider the factory of tomorrow.

What is Supply 21?

Supply 21 (an allusion to the 21st century) is presented as a "frame of reference enabling self-evaluation according to the three Ps (People, Planet and Profit), and is based on an ecosystem of engagement. The method, which is backed by David Gau of Proconseil, adopts a durable supply model that "is relevant to everyone, stays abreast of social, organisational and technological breakthrough innovations, and works collaboratively."

Modus operandi: Manon's story

The firm bases its description of the chain on an order for a custom-made fairphone (ethical smartphone) on a leasing contract:

"Manon receives three text messages informing her that the local factory is to start manufacturing her product. Using a 3D printer, the factory takes just two hours to manufacture the specific features of her product, assembling it with standard components. Like 70% of people from 7 to 99 years of age, Manon is glued to her mobile. She finds waiting unbearable. She chose the local factory herself, as it generates the smallest carbon footprint. Marc, who delivers products on foot for the social enterprise La tournée du dernier kilomètre, uses the QR code of the local shop to identify the phone to be delivered to Manon's address, and Manon finds out how to use her phone on its augmented reality app."

Though some aspects are well developed already, the model remains theoretical for now. On the basis of the first results, the observatory intends to extend its work to publish a new frame of reference by the end of 2017 with greater representation of the different sectors. A white paper has just been published detailing this tremendous new evolution in the Supply Chain. You can download it (in French or English) by filling in this form.



4 essentiële tendenzen van de Supply Chain in 2017

Les 20 dernières années nous ont prouvé que la chaîne d'approvisionnement de l’entreprise est soumise à des évolutions constantes. Dans un dossier publié en ligne, le professeur Robert J. Trent (Lehigh University) évoque les grandes tendances actuelles dans le domaine. Que faut-il en retenir ?

1.  La gestion des talents autour de votre Supply Chain devient une arme stratégique.

La transition d'une chaîne d'approvisionnement tactique vers des modèles plus stratégiques et globaux entraîne une redéfinition du rôle des personnels en charge et une attention particulière au talent humain (et à son évolution). Pour y parvenir, les entreprises peuvent faire appel à des solutions RH analytiques sophistiquées afin d'analyser les données des collaborateurs et assurer une productivité optimale.

2.  L'instabilité internationale nécessite l'adoption de solutions de gestion de risques dans la Supply Chain.

Plusieurs formes de risques sont en jeu : financiers, opérationnels, stratégiques, mais également à l'égard des catastrophes, incidents et accidents. Une étude menée par Aberdeen identifie les raisons - individuelles ou combinées - pour lesquelles l'adoption de SCRM (Supply Chain Risk Management Strategies) devient cruciale :

  • La protection de la marque et des avantages compétitifs.
  • La volatilité des marchés internationaux (prix des matières premières, par exemple).
  • La pression des gouvernements pour imposer la gestion des risques.
  • La conquête de marchés émergents.

3.  La pression compétitive oblige les Supply Chain Managers à devenir… Financial Managers.

En Europe de l'Ouest et en Amérique du Nord, les 30 dernières années ont connu l'une des périodes de prospérité économique les plus fastes dans l'histoire de l'économie. Cette ère arrive à un tournant, ce qui entraîne des pressions à tous les échelons de l'entreprise, y compris dans la chaîne d'approvisionnement.

Quelques enseignements du professeur Robert J. Trent à cet égard :

  • Connaître ses fournisseurs et ses clients mieux qu'ils ne vous connaissent.
  • Les dépenses ne sont viables que si elles sont des investissements.
  • La prise de décision ne peut intervenir sans une information exhaustive.

4.  Le besoin de comprendre et d'influencer le cours des événements entraîne la nécessité de solutions analytiques.

En matière de Supply Chain comme ailleurs, l'analytique prédictive joue un rôle désormais déterminant dans la stratégie commerciale d'une entreprise. Cette exploitation des Big Data permet d'effectuer des prédictions et de l'anticipation.

Un exemple parlant n'est autre que l'analytique en matière de météo, qui permet de prévoir des ruptures d'approvisionnement, de trafic, voire des estimations précises sur la demande d'un produit ou d'un service. Robert J. Trent cite plusieurs domaines d'application : analytique descriptive, analytique prédictive, analytique prescriptive, télématique, tracking (livraisons), technologies wearable et autres capteurs intelligents.

Téléchargez le dossier en ligne (au format PDF) 

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