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
The art of negotiating payment terms with suppliers
Cash management is an SME's frontline weapon, and payment terms are a key means of keeping it under control – providing companies proactively open negotiations with their suppliers. But this solution remains underutilised by entrepreneurs
Cash flow difficulties are the number one cause of company bankruptcy in Belgium. Business owners face a constant battle to stay in control and maintain the balance of their inflows and outflows. Negotiating payment terms is one of the levers that can be employed: shortening them for customers while extending them for suppliers. In Belgium, the statutory deadline between companies is 30 days. Yet the reality can be different, since either trading partner may deviate from the rule. Where one of the parties is in a dominant position, the other is often obliged to accept the conditions it imposes... meaning its payment term becomes longer. Everything is negotiable, however, even with "big" suppliers, as long as you formalise the situation and ensure you protect your business relationship.
Who is your supplier?
They say information is power, and there is some truth in this. Indeed, the more you know about your "opponent", the more you will be able to turn the tables. How are the company's finances, and what is its cash position? Is it experiencing difficulties? Where is it placed on the market, particularly in relation to its competitors? What is your dependency ratio in relation to this partner? How does it make payments, and what is its purchase history? The answers to these questions will allow you to take up better positions in the negotiations, and find the best angle to launch an attack that catches the other side by surprise. Specialised websites, data banks, word of mouth (the competition): all means are justified in order to find out more!
What do you want to gain?
And a resulting question: what are you willing to put on the table to achieve your objective? In other words, you need to be properly prepared and establish a strategy regarding what you are willing to concede (and how much this will cost you) and what you absolutely want to gain in return. Remember that the other party has presumably not requested anything, and potentially has little to gain. Therefore, you cannot arrive empty-handed. Are you willing to order larger volumes in order to extend your payment terms? Can you envisage a long-term contractual commitment? Could you contemplate paying more in return for spreading your debits further? Imagine you are playing poker: clearly, you should keep your cards close to your chest. Wait for the right time to show your negotiating partner that you are prepared to make concessions.
How can you negotiate successfully?
The art of negotiating is a difficult skill. However well prepared you are, keep the following principles in mind:
- Even if you have brought a proposal to the table, listen to the other side and pay attention to detail so that you can react quickly.
- Do not be frightened of bearing your teeth a little, even if you are concerned about spoiling the business relationship with your supplier. Stand your ground and mention what the competition can offer you, for example.
- You must control how you communicate, so that you avoid giving the impression that you have cash management problems. Emphasise that payment delays do not help anyone, and that it would be better to agree on a reasonable and sustainable schedule.
- If your business relationship is established, mention your positive partnership and your desire to see this continue.
- During discussions, regularly refer to how far you have come and your shared progress to date. This positive tone will be well received.
- If the negotiations stall, try to resolve the difficulty by pulling out a trump card, for example (i.e. a concession).
- Remember: a good agreement is balanced, and leaves neither party feeling wronged. So do not be too greedy: the outcome must be worthwhile.
- Are you happy with the situation? Move to finalise the deal, either by accepting what is on offer or by finally opting for a fair compromise.
Could your intuition help you make better decisions?
All of us have heard that little voice in our ear quietly persuading us of a new idea or a different way to tackle a challenge at work. But acting on that voice is another thing altogether. And yet...
Marcel Schwantes, an expert in workplace culture based on "servant leadership*", is well placed to recognise his intuition speaking. This small voice inside us has a tendency to bring out, from the deepest recesses of our beings, feelings that can be buried under rational layers of logical thinking.
People who are emotionally intelligent are more readily able to listen to this internal compass in order to keep themselves on the right track. But not everybody has this capacity.
How can we recognise the voice of our own intuition?
Here is some practical advice:
- If the voice signals a danger, it is undoubtedly your intuition speaking.
- Intuition speaks to you in a way you cannot ignore.
- First of all, we tell ourselves the voice is wrong.
- It gives us a message that is not particularly comfortable.
- We do not really want to act on its advice, or we tend to put off doing so.
- It seems counterintuitive!
- We allow ourselves to put it out of our minds...
Intuition and integrity – a perfect partnership
The reason why many of us still disregard this voice is that it can sometimes be unsettling. It pricks our consciousness and challenges our convictions, habits and belief systems. Yet it can hide precious inner resources just waiting to be revealed.
But to be able to utilise them, we must demonstrate integrity. When activated by the necessary bravery, this partnership between integrity and intuition can become a superpower that allows us to handle tricky workplace situations – or even run a company!
*Editor's note: Liberated leadership, as opposed to authoritarian leadership.
Reforestation and biodiversity in practice
Some causes are more important than the pursuit of EBITDA. Without trees there can be no biodiversity, and flora, fauna, soil, water and air are all affected. That is why WeForest is mobilising companies to plant forests.
Reforestation is neither a luxury nor a question for hippies. It is indispensable for the climate and biodiversity, the quality of our soil and water, as well as for food; it is thus vital for the future of all species.
The solutions, which remain under-recognised, are simply waiting to emerge. They are not technical, do not adhere to the logic of extraction and do not call on limited natural resources. They are tremendously effective, draw their inspiration from natural ecosystems and entail integrating trees into fields.
We have pinpointed two relevant non-governmental initiatives: Ecosia, a search engine launched by a start-up in Berlin, has attracted 7 billion users and plants one tree for every 45 searches made – the equivalent of some 27 million trees planted to this day; secondly, the non-profit organisation WeForest is utilising its expertise in this area, its basis in science and its business network to engage in sustainable reforestation. We went to meet Marie-Noëlle Keijzer, the founder of WeForest, to hear her story.
From carbon offsetting to corporate 'water footprints'
In the early days, WeForest was not convinced by carbon offsetting, which it regarded as too reductive. Yet it was a means to connect with its target audience: companies anxious to measure, reduce and then offset the carbon emissions that they are not able to avoid. Today, the objective of 'net positive emissions' has been set, which also aims to offset past emissions.
It is obvious that environmental concerns now extend beyond carbon alone. Many are beginning to examine their water footprint. A new vision is taking hold, which entails development aid via the promotion of reforestation. "Moving countries out of poverty and doing more than simply planting trees and leaving: this is how companies now wish to act in a socially responsible way", explains Marie-Noëlle Keijzer, CEO of WeForest.
Intervening on vegetation, carbon, water, air and employment
With the 270 corporate clients that have joined it since 2011, WeForest planted almost 17 million new trees and restored 13,000 hectares of land by the end of 2017, and aims to double these figures by 2020. It offers high-impact marketing materials to customer companies with messages such as 'one sale = one tree planted'.
In 2014, Brabantia decided to 'do something different'. It wanted to sell products, of course, but also give thought to global issues. Working alongside WeForest, the company entered into a joint financing project supporting reforestation. "Since Brabantia began to state on its website, on YouTube and on its packaging that one tree would be planted for every rotary dryer sold, it has seen a 25% increase in sales every year", explains the head of WeForest, citing well-substantiated case studies with certified benchmarks: "We go beyond the theoretical", she continues. "There is total transparency, with every customer receiving a GPS map of the hectares they have funded. We then ensure the forest is protected, approve our customers' projects and help develop the socio-economic activity of the entire region by initiating alternative revenue sources which create employment."
A tree is more valuable in the ground than on it
WeForest is not engaged in helping Zambia in order to maintain its reliance on international aid, but to educate the hundreds of farmers who chopped down all of their trees in order to sell them for firewood. By bringing them together, the association demonstrates that they do not have to clear trees to sell forestry chips, and that by selectively collecting biomass, they can provide heat without cutting a tree down. WeForest trains women to work as nursery growers, giving them a job, an income and an identity. It also supplies beehives to farmers who have begun to produce honey as a new source of income. Bees have other positive effects too, since they pollinate flowers, plants and fruit crops, for example. "It's really simple", affirms Marie-Noëlle Keijzer. "If we kill bees and birds by using pesticides and insecticides, we are preventing nature from doing its work."
Trees provide a habitat for animals and natural fertiliser for plants
In regions of Brazil where tree coverage is 3%, leopards have completely died out. Agriculture has supplanted forests wherever the ground is level. WeForest cannot operate across the entirety of the country, which is much too large. But they have created green corridors, and life has begun again. Trees and plants have been restored, attracting birds and animals that use them to move around, eat and reproduce.
Trees are also a natural source of fertiliser: corn grows more quickly when it is close to trees. They provide shade and retain water in the soil.
There are trees and trees
Not all reforestation projects are equal. Some trees boost the food supply or increase soil nitrogen levels (such as the lucerne), whereas others are detrimental to diversity. For example, no animals will live in palm tree plantations where the soil is also full of chemicals. "We won't solve the problem if we do nothing to change the causes of deforestation: intensive agriculture for the purposes of producing meat, for example", says Marie-Noëlle Keijzer, firmly convinced. Solutions exist, but everyone needs to accept their share of responsibility.
Sources: BNP Paribas Fortis, WeForest
2030, the future of work
Will the labour market in 2030 be blue, red, green or yellow? Consulting firm PwC tried to create four possible scenarios. This interesting projection exercise serves, above all, as a reason to begin a debate about the future workforce.
What will the labour market look like by the year 2030? This is a question that needs to be asked in an era characterised by significant technological shifts such as the automation of tasks, machine learning, as well as the emergence of new jobs and the requirement for the appropriate "human" skills. The revolution changing how we work is like a train that set off a few years ago and is travelling faster and faster, bringing changes for all of society. And the challenge for HR and other departments promises to be a sizeable one as everything will evolve, both now and in the future: the concept of talent, skills, modes of operating, infrastructure, tools, recruitment and training. On the eve of this major transition, consultancy company PwC imagined four possible scenarios designated by four colours.
Red: innovation holds the power
This is a fictional world where the number of US full-time employees with permanent employment contracts collapses – to 9%... This near-future scenario is typified by a lack of regulation, and gives prominence to specialists, niches and technological progress. The pace of everything becomes faster still (creativity, market entry, etc.) and the risks are greater than ever; today's successes become tomorrow's failures. On the labour market, companies are seizing talented and increasingly specialised people. Digital platforms connect supply and demand via automated processes, and competition is rife for the most highly-prized skills. For workers, experience and the highest level of specialisation both begin to outweigh graduate qualifications.
Blue: giants rule the world
The corporate giants are at the heart of PwC's blue world scenario. The larger, more powerful and more global they become, the better they can crush their competitors. These giants are dominant; they increase their profits and impose their law, even on states. But what of their staff? They are ultra-skilled and have transformed themselves into a "super workforce" of elite workers whose performance, wellbeing and risk of breakdown are measured to an obscene degree. In exchange for this constant pressure and continuous monitoring, the employees of the blue future receive a whole host of services from their company (e.g. childcare, healthcare, and so on.).
Green: the power of corporate social and environmental responsibility (CSR)
Companies are obliged to forego motor vehicles that run on fossil fuels, and account for the impact they have on the environment and society. But this green future is not about "greenwashing". CSR becomes a financial imperative because of the weight of public opinion (i.e. consumer views) and other pressures. Advances in technology support companies to achieve their green objectives and offer their staff a well-designed, well-balanced and ethical working environment. Values, including trust and loyalty, are at the heart of the relationship between employers and workers.
Yellow: humans at the centre
Despite technological progress, humans are still the pillar at the heart of society in this imaginary world. The "made by me" label, which stipulates that no machines were used to create the design, is recognised as the hallmark of quality. This is a utopia dominated by equity and ethics, where craftsmen and women are revered as sacred. Regulations establish the concept of "good jobs" and professional associations flourish. Workers act in solidarity and seek to do "what is good" through their work. Flexibility, autonomy and accomplishment are the watchwords. Society is split on the subject of the virtues and dangers of new technologies...
By imagining these four exaggerated scenarios, PwC has opened the debate on the future workforce. The report goes on to examine the challenges posed for human resources management. Read it in full to find out more.