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Additional News Related to Tesla’s Gigafactory

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There has been some additional news regarding the status of electric car manufacturer Tesla Motor’s rollout of its planned gigafactory to produce its own electric cells for use in both its automobiles as well as other rechargeable battery supply needs.

The Associated Press reports that Tesla has now received and sold about $20 million in transferable tax credits granted by the State of Nevada in conjunction with an overall $1.3 billion incentives package put in place to lure Tesla to selecting the northern Nevada site location. In its most recent progress report issued to the state, Tesla indicated that as of the first quarter of 2016, an average of 369 workers were employed at the plant thus far, while an average of 599 construction workers continue to work on plant construction and fit-out.

Tesla battery gigafactory

Source: Tesla Motors

Reports point out that Tesla continues with a strategic supply agreement with Japan based battery supplier Panasonic. This supply agreement reportedly calls for the production of 1.8 billion battery cells through 2017, to support the output needs for both the Model S and the Model X. As of Q1, Panasonic had over 50 employees working at the Nevada battery plant.

The battery plant is being designed to eventually support the production needs of upwards of 500,000 electric powered vehicles per year. The design goal is that the plant would ultimately be able to produce batteries at 30 percent less cost, and when operational, would provide the capacity to be the single largest battery manufacturing volume plant in the world. The gigafactory is part of Elon Musk’s vision that batteries will not only be required in new automobiles, but in alternative energy applications as well. Hence, Tesla’s recent announcement of its intent to acquire SolarCity, the other component of this strategy, which includes supplying storage batteries to capture electricity captured by solar cells during the day, for use in other periods.

Meanwhile, a Bloomberg Businessweek published a report indicates that pressure to speed-up the original production ramp-up output of the gigafactory has taken on new significance because of the 330,000 preorders that have already been received for the new Model 3.

According to the report- “The accelerated schedule to supply the Model 3, the automaker’s first mass market car, doesn’t leave much time to create a complex supply chain that includes expanded mining and exploration operations.”

Further noted is that the Model 3 will feature a newer high-capacity battery with enhanced energy density to expand operating range.  To keep the base price of the Model 3 at its targeted $35,000 range, Tesla engineers are working on different compositions of metal content within the rechargeable batteries. Tesla has reportedly hired specialized metals experts to travel the world to seek out and work with metals suppliers.

In a Supply Chain Matters commentary published in September of 2015, we highlighted the bold supply chain vertical integration strategy that resulted in the concept of the gigafactory, destined to be one of the largest battery manufacturing plants in the world. We further noted the strategic importance of plant’s location in Nevada, close to available suppliers of lithium metal.

At Tesla’s annual stockholders meeting in May, Founder and CEO Elon Musk indicated that lithium metal will only account for two percent of the total materials in the firm’s electric cells. Rather than compete with high-tech and consumer electronics producers across Asia and Korea that consume 85 percent of current lithium supply, the strategy appears to be substituting other metal compounds instead. Similar to what we noted last year, the Bloomberg report indicates that strategic supply agreements for lithium have been signed with Bacanora Minerals and Pure Energy Minerals, each to explore and mine the metal within sources close to the new factory. However, a specialized metals research firm predicts a global deficit of lithium supply this year, turning to slight surplus in 2017 and 2018.

Musk reportedly indicated to stockholders that a bigger determinant for the Model 3 is the cost of nickel in the form that Tesla engineers require. That metal is being substituted for cobalt. Global-wide supplies of nickel have increased during the past two years resulting in a 50 percent decrease in prices.

As with many value-chain strategies related to a firm’s product supply chain, the ability to support both short and long-term customer demand need often rests with key strategic supply agreements. In the case of Tesla, that equates to the critical supply of not just battery cells, but the metals and compounds that go into the production of such cells.

A glance at Tesla’s recently filed Form SD, Specialized Disclosure Report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) related to adherence to avoidance of conflict materials can give one a sense of how important metals supply is for Tesla.  The Annex lists 41 different global suppliers of Tantalum, 51 suppliers of Tin and 35 suppliers of Tungsten. The scope is truly global in-nature.

Bob Ferrari

 


Volkswagen’s Initial Settlement with U.S. Regulators- More Challenges Remain

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Today marks the initial formal settlement by Volkswagen with U.S. based regulators regarding approximately 500,000 U.S. vehicle owners of two liter diesel engines as a result of the emissions cheating scandal. The financial settlement amounting to more than $15 billion, ranks as one of the highest ever incurred on an automotive manufacturer, a new industry milestone. It further represents what could be one of the largest vehicle buyback offers in U.S. history, one that we believe will test reverse supply chain processes.

Today’s settlement adds additional challenges for VW in its efforts to move beyond this emissions scandal. They include continued damage to brands because some consumers feel deceived and continued heartburn for existing VW dealers and retailers in selling what remains of existing gasoline powered vehicles.

Of the $15 billion total, a little over $10 billion is set aside in a civil settlement to offer vehicle buybacks and additional cash settlements to owners of existing vehicles that were implicated in the software manipulation of diesel powered emissions while $5 billion in allocated to offset excess diesel emissions and eventually boost efforts for new green energy and zero emissions vehicles by VW.

Yet remaining to be eventually settled is the issue of 85,000 4.0 liter diesel powered vehicles involving other primarily Audi and Porsche brands.

According to various published reports, existing owners of 2009-2015 affected vehicles will receive direct compensation of at least $5000 along with the estimated cash value of the impacted vehicles. Prior owners are expected to receive half the compensation of current owners while leased vehicles will also be included in some form of financial settlement. Buybacks are not expected to begin until October at the earliest, pending final judicial approvals of the settlements.

The company faces other fines involving governmental or civil settlements both in the U.S. and other countries as a result of the incident. According to Reuters, regulators will not immediately approve fixes for all three generations of polluting 2009-2015 vehicles. There are still open questions as to whether these vehicles can be economically and logistically repaired.  That opens the potential for a significant reverse supply chain challenge to move such vehicles to recycling or environmentally safe disposal channels.

As noted in our Supply Chain Matters commentary last September, Volkswagen runs the risk of losing the trust and loyalty of its U.S. and global customers if this crisis is not proactively managed. Thus far, it would seem that VW management is trying to move forward in settlements and in executive leadership changes but much more work remains. Many other ongoing supply chain and product related challenges remain as well.

One relates to the inventory of unsold diesel cars that now have had their U.S. and European sales suspended. That adds to the recycling and reverse supply chain challenges. If VW elects to repair or refit some of the diesel powered fleet, there are challenges related to who performs these services, how will compensation be administers and where the refits will be performed.

It is no secret that Volkswagen has struggled with its vehicle line-up for the U.S. market, including a market competitive and fuel efficient mid-sized SUV which was initially promised for 2016 market entry. That model availability problem has become much more complicated and may force VW to reach out to other manufacturers to fill-in holes in the model line-up.

VW continues to learn financially painful lessons regarding its ongoing emissions scandal. A company noted for a somewhat tops-down management style and an engineering-driven culture and among one of the two top global producers will learn some tough lessons as a result of this scandal. The most important when all the dust settles, will be more sensitivity to customer and market needs along with implications of being afoul to governmental emission standards. Now, more than ever in the company’s history, VW needs to take an industry leadership role in alternative powered and green energy powered vehicles.

All of these present a difficult set of challenges in the months to come, when that demands that VW executives move beyond the halls of Wolfsburg.

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2016 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All Rights Reserved.

 


E2open Executes Another Acquisition- Orchestro

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Yesterday, E2open announced its acquisition of Orchestro, a Cloud based demand signal repository and analytics platform provider catering to Retail and CPG Industry Omni-channel business process fulfillment needs. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed, which is not a surprise since E2open was taken private in February of 2015.

This acquisition comes on the heels of the firm’s acquisition of product demand sourcing provider Terra Technology in March, and a further indication of an unfolding strategy centered on expanding technology support for specific industry related supply chain B2B and B2C business process network needs.

This author and industry analyst has had the opportunity to have been briefed by both vendors within the last nine months.

Orchestro’s concentration has been on demand-driven CPG companies requiring what that firm describes as an analytical edge. This technology provider was founded in 1999 primarily as a data harmonization services provider, and morphed to target specific CPG and Retail industry needs. The firm’s marketing message currently reads:

We harmonize, analyze, and monetize demand data across omni-channels to drive profitable actions both in-store and online.”

Orchestro’s lighthouse customer listing includes very well-known CPG and food and beverage names including Campbell’s, Coca Cola, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Kraft, Mars, PepsiCo, among others. The primary customer target has been product category managers seeking more intelligence related to product promotion execution, new product introduction effectiveness, broker effectiveness as well as inventory optimization.  In essence, Orchestro supports the needs of CPG firms to establish an enterprise-class demand signal repository which today is a more complex challenge because of the rapidly expanding focus on Omni-channel customer fulfillment. The firm’s TANGO Insights service supports needs for deeper analytics utilizing interactive dashboards and results. A complementing TANGO Science service provides support for more predictive analytics and workflow support for product promotions and on-shelf availability. Recent interest has come from various S&OP teams seeking more specific methods to be more predictive related to supporting changing product demand and in-stock requirements in an Omni-channel environment.

If reader’s have not gathered thus far, this latest acquisition has a common theme with that of the Terra Technology acquisition, that being a more concentrated focus in supporting high profile consumer product goods producer’s unique customer-facing needs as well as a deeper emphasis on providing an end-to-end platform supporting complex distribution and Omni-channel customer fulfillment. As noted in our prior commentary related to the Terra acquisition, the strategy unfolding is to augment E2open’s synchronized supply chain execution platform with augmented capabilities in supporting product demand planning and sensing. Once more, there is an obvious common thread among the customer names of both acquired vendors.

From a technology market perspective this latest E2open acquisition is from this author’s lens, signifies another shot across the bow to existing supply chain planning and demand management best-of-breed providers such as JDA Software, Kinaxis and other smaller, specialized analytics firms who have been targeting larger CPG manufacturers and their supply chain ecosystems. The augmentation of analytics with an end-to-end supply chain execution platform is a different approach that involves far more members of the overall supply chain ecosystem. Once more, E2open has gained an initial foothold in many of these stellar accounts.

We again re-iterate that the benefits of technology acquisition only come with subsequent integration of technology, people and business process expertise. In the specific case of Orchestro, the customer base is somewhat product management focused with different needs than the broad supply chain management community.

In order to be able to conduct its current wave of acquisitions, E2open made significant cuts in prior headcount resources and support budgets in order to regain profitability, thus this latest acquisition adds more speculation as to whether E2open needs to reinvest in its own business needs, beyond just a direct sales team.

We therefore advise existing customers of Orchestro and of Terra Technology to await the specific elements and timetables of the planned integration of all of this augmented technology. On paper, the strategy and the approach toward integrating customer fulfillment execution with deeper analytics and process intelligence is sound. But as with many of these efforts, the proof and the long-term success come with follow-through and without added distractions.

Bob Ferrari

© 2016 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All Rights Reserved.

 


Two Contrasting Events: Brexit and the Expanded Panama Canal Add New Dimensions for More Active Planning – Part Two

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It’s the last Monday in June and as we pen this part two Supply Chain Matters advisory commentary two major developments over these past few days are going to have a definitive long-term impact on various industry supply chains. One is the unexpected results of the referendum by voters in the United Kingdom endorsing an exit from the European Union. Our part one posting of this series addressed our initial perspectives and recommendations regarding Brexit. In this part two advisory, we will address yesterday’s formal opening of an expanded Panama Canal.

Yesterday, after nine years and in excess of $5 billion in investment, the Panama Canal Authority formally opened new locks on both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean facing entries to accommodate the transit of far larger ships. The first ocean container ship to transit the expanded canal, the renamed Cosco Shipping Panama, operated by Costco Shipping Lines traversed an expanded canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific side.   PanamaCanalExpansion_2_450

The opening of this well-known expanded waterway was completed after nearly two years of delay, and considerable cost overruns. At one point in 2014, a stalemate raised doubts as to whether this huge infrastructure project would ever be completed.  Container vessels with capacity in excess of 12,000 TEU’s are now expected to be able to take advantage of the widened canal with promised faster direct transit times from Asia based ports directly to eastern United States ports, thus avoiding inter-modal movements across the United States. The other opportunity is for east coast based regional shippers to now have a direct transit route to East Asia.

There has been much anticipation as well as speculation regarding the benefits of an expanded Panama Canal. About a year ago, The Boston Consulting Group (BSC) and C.H. Robinson released a joint study-How the Panama Canal Expansion is Redrawing the Logistics Map, and predicted that by 2020, up to ten percent of container traffic bound for the United States from East Asia could shift their destination to U.S. East Coast ports. According to the authors, that shifting volume is equivalent to building a port double the size of the existing Ports of Savannah and Charleston. The study concluded that this container routing shift will permanently alter the competitive balance among U.S. East and West Coast ports as well as the battleground region for determining the most cost efficient or service-sensitive assumptions in logistics and transportation routing. The BSC study concluded that time-sensitive cargo may continue to route through U.S. west coast while cost sensitive or high density cargos may have economic advantages in east coast port routings.

Since then, other studies have pointed to new opportunities in logistics and transportation related to direct Asia to U.S. and converse goods transit, including the operation of new inland ports.

However, the one current gating factor is that many of the key U.S. East Coast ports are still working on infrastructure projects that would allow larger vessels to call on such ports. The ports currently best prepared to handle these larger vessels are the Ports of Miami and Savannah. Both the Ports of Baltimore and Charleston have active dredging projects underway while the combined Ports of New York and New Jersey still have significant infrastructure requirements yet to be overcome including a bridge near Bayonne New Jersey.

As we noted in a previous Supply Chain Matters commentary, a current boom in distribution and warehouse development includes large investments in east coast regions. The State of South Carolina is aggressively positioning its logistics and distribution infrastructure to be an economic beneficiary of the new routing. Over six million square feet of warehouse space is under construction in the Greenville- Spartanburg region mostly being attributed to the ability to support direct ocean container movements from Asia to the U.S.  An inland port at nearby Greer South Carolina is connected by rail to the Port of Charleston. From the Greenville- Spartanburg area, trucks can transit goods to the rest of major eastern U.S. cities or to U.S. Midwest manufacturing regions within a day’s drive. Thus, an alternative option opens up for direct transit and distribution of goods.

A lot will depend on active analysis and modeling by logistics and transportation as well as S&OP teams on the various cost and service options related to ocean movements to U.S. West Coast ports with intermodal truck and mail inland vs. direct ocean transit to U.S. East Coast ports with adjacent inland distribution and transit. A factor in modeling will be assumptions on port and infrastructure readiness as well as direct labor environment. Another uncertain factor is the all-important long-term cost of fuel, which is currently still hovering at unprecedented  low levels.

Needless to state, global supply chain logistics and distribution routing has no changed. Active global supply chain network modeling and assessment has become an all-important necessity followed by capability elements for ensuring broader supply chain wide visibility. The expanded Panama Canal now opens a long anticipated new opportunity but comes with differing and changing assumptions.

Be prepared with people, technology and more informed decision-making capabilities.

Bob Ferrari

© 2016 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All Rights Reserved.


Two Contrasting Events: Brexit and the Expanded Panama Canal Add New Dimensions for Active Planning- Part One

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It’s the last Monday in June and as we pen this advisory commentary two major developments over these past few days are going to have a definitive long-term impact on various industry supply chains. One is the unexpected results of the referendum by voters in the United Kingdom endorsing an exit from the European Union. The other is yesterday’s formal opening of an expanded Panama Canal. Supply Chain Matters features two commentaries related to both developments. We begin with the Brexit vote.

The results of the Brexit referendum took many by surprise, including this author.  On Friday, alone investors wiped away nearly $2 trillion in market value from various global equity markets in reaction to the news.

By voting to exit the EU, British voters have set off a series of events that many are describing as unprecedented.  The most cited analogy seems to be- “unchartered waters and political events.” Such uncertainly not only surrounds the direct impact on the U.K., but on the EU alliance itself if other select countries take a similar course. Some fear the unwinding of Europe itself, which seems somewhat extreme at this point.  However, it will add more political and governmental dimensions to this ongoing crisis, along with building pressure to accelerate Brittan’s exit to stave-off other efforts at similar separation.

Many of the implications currently reflect such uncertainty and caution. After all, the timeline of Brittan’s exit would likely span two or more years. None the less, there will be short and longer term industry supply chain impacts and various supply chain and S&OP teams need to begin thinking about and educating management on certain strategy scenarios. We view these impacts coming from specific industry, trade and transportation as well as people related dimensions.

Two major industries dominating UK based manufacturing are automotive and aerospace industry, the latter being focused primarily in commercial aircraft component manufacturing.

Two of the most dominant stakeholder brands of autos in the UK are Volkswagen and Tata Motors, The latter is currently the leading car maker in sales of various VW, Audi and Porsche branded vehicles and has a significant manufacturing presence in these brands as well as that of Bentley. For VW, the news is especially troubling given its current crisis for dealing with the financial and brand fallout stemming from the diesel emissions scandal across Europe and the United States. It adds yet another challenge to protecting its market interests. Tata Motors is the producer of Jaguar and Land Rover branded vehicles and the U.K. represents its single biggest market and source of profits. The shares of both of these manufacturers were impacted by the news of the exit EU mandate.

According to published business media reports, most global auto manufacturers seem to be collectively in reassessment mode regarding their current UK based operations. Concerns center on impacts on tariffs, uncertain currency fluctuations and the local market, as U.K. consumers themselves deal with new uncertainties and any economic consequences related to exit. According to a published report by The Wall Street Journal, registrations for new autos amounted to 18.5 percent of all European registrations last year. The WSJ cites forecasting firm data indicating that there could be as much as an $8.9 billion hit to auto OEM earnings and a nearly 14 percent decline in U.K. new car registrations in 2017. With the broader European auto industry coming off multiple years of retrenchment and downsizing as a result of the past global financial crisis, news of the UK exit, coupled with potentially other subsequent impacts, has many industry executives at-pause.

According to Wikipedia, the aerospace industry within the U.K. is the second- or third-largest national aerospace industry in the world, depending upon the method of measurement. The industry employs around 113,000 people directly and around 276,000 indirectly and has an annual turnover of around £25 billion. Domestic companies with a large presence include BAE Systems (the world’s third-largest defense contractor), Britten-Norman, Cobham, GKN, Meggitt, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce (the world’s second-largest aircraft engine maker), and Ultra Electronics. External companies with a major presence include Boeing, Bombardier, Airbus, Finmeccanica, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Safran and Thales Group. From our lens, the most significant company to watch will be that of Rolls Royce which was already struggling with growth and profitability challenges.  Many of these providers exist in supply chain ecosystems being challenged to ramp-up production but at the same time, reduce overall costs. With such presence from many component manufacturers and actual commercial and military aircraft producers the open question is whether the reliance on a local currency and broken ties with EU trade policies will have an impact on the economics of the local industry. Only time will tell if they do.

From the independent trade and transportation lens, we had already predicted at the beginning of the year that major geopolitical developments centered on global trade agreements would present new concerns and challenges for industry supply chains. With a U.K. exit from the EU, industry supply chains need to factor another border crossing in their logistics and transportation plans, not to mention the potential for different tariffs or duties to emerge.

With major trade pacts such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (T-TIP) still in ratification stages, a new unknown is entered, namely the U.K. as a separate negotiating party.  With many pushing for quicker ratification because of the current anti-trade political environment, these agreements could be faced with having to factor the U.K. as an unknown until exit is achieved and new trade policies adopted, not to mention a possible change in political leadership. The implication extends to product labeling, country of origin, intellectual property protection and other unknowns at this point.

Finally there is the issue of people, both in talent attraction and retention. An advisory from CBI Insights notes- “The free movement of workers between the U.K. and the EU arguably made London into a top tech startup talent pool in all of Europe. The decision to leave the EU may cause a brain drain that could hamstring innovation in London.” Some others take issue with the notion of brain drain.  However, multiple industry supply chains have already been impacted by the need for new talent and as supply chains become deeper invested in new technology needs and requirements, UK based producers, service firms and tech companies will need to assure that workers will find the U.K. economically and workplace attractive.

Brexit has ongoing implications beyond the U.K. that could conceivably impact other geographic regions, specific countries and industries. We advise supply chain and line-of-business teams to take on a precautionary approach towards any impacts brought about by Brittan’s exit from the EU. Rather than alarm, now is the time for active supply chain modeling and scenario planning to advise senior management of various business or financial implications, if any? Clearly, with overall global supply chain activity levels already trending toward contraction, and with this new politically active and vocal electorate, the global economy and global markets are becoming less uncertain.  This is a time of constant strategy awareness and attention to needs for contingency planning with added visibility to ongoing global events. We highly recommend that industry teams be vested in market and industry intelligence, supply chain risk mitigation and technology that brings added intelligence and insights to both customer-facing and supply-facing operational, financial and global trends.

Bob Ferrari

© 2016 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All Rights Reserved.


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