The biggest news last week and perhaps for all of 2015 was the announcement that long-time rivals Dow Chemical and DuPont‘s intend to merge into a specialty chemicals giant of more than $120 billion. There are stated plans to split both enterprises into three separate companies providing different specialty chemical based product offerings.
This proposed deal has obvious massive implications.
Saturday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal carried the headline that this deal cements activists’ rise. A profound quote of that article stated:
“While they (activists) have become increasingly powerful in recent years, forcing companies to do everything from buying stock to selling assets, their ability to help bring about such a monumental deal represents a new high.”
Today, the WSJ further described long-simmering hostilities between Dow CEO Andrew Liveris and activist investor Daniel Loeb which reached a boiling point this weekend after the announcement on Friday. Loeb apparently declared that this deal was too rushed, and called for Liveris’s resignation.
In October, former Dupont CEO Ellen Kullman suddenly resigned after fending off one of the most prominent wave of activist investor assault on a corporate board. Kullman was succeeded on an interim basis by board member Edward Breen while the company searched for a permanent replacement. Breen, whose resume includes being Chairmen and CEO of Tyco International worked with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris to orchestrate this deal.
Our Supply Chain Matters initial perception is that the announced deal provides a significant new and scary watershed as to the degree of influence that activists portend to have on corporate CEO’s. That is qualified, however, as to whether government regulators would allow this deal to go through given the significant implications. Analysts at Piper Jaffrey were quoted as indicating: “The global natures of the antitrust hurdles are likely to be significant.”
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has already expressed its frustration for yet another enormous merger. NFU President Roger Johnson declared: “Having just five major players remaining in the marketplace would almost certainly increase the pressure for remaining companies to merge, resulting in even less competition, reduced innovation and likely higher costs for farmers. This announcement, combined with the on-again-off-again Monsanto/Syngenta merger, is creating a marketplace where farmers will have very few alternatives for purchasing inputs.” The National Corn Growers Association declared it will do all it can to protect farmer interests and preserve an open and competitive marketplace.
Do not be surprised to read of other such declarations.
Since both of these global companies supply materials at the lowest echelons of many different industry supply chains, this proposed merger has significant internal and external implications from many industry value-chain supply dimensions. These will unfold over the coming days and weeks and will likely take on market, technology and human resource dimensions, since the cost and the scale of this merger is momentous and far-reaching. How long the regulatory approval process actually occurs is likely anyone’s guess.
One thing is certain however, the specialty chemicals industry has reached a watershed moment, one that will likely redefine industry players and their associated supply chains for many years to come.
There has been much reporting within social and business media regarding the potential industry supply chain disruptive effects of the recent massive warehouse explosions that affected the facilities adjacent to the Port of Tianjin.
It is rather important and crucial that industry supply chain and sales and operations team obtain meaningful and insightful information regarding what is happening on the ground as well as the potential short or long-term supply chain impacts, if any.
We at Supply Chain Matters are disappointed to observe that certain technology and service providers are attempting to utilize this tragic incident as a backdrop to product marketing outreach campaigns. Neither should technology providers suddenly become news outlets.
Not good ideas by our lens.
Supply chain technology providers should instead continue to educate on the benefits of the technology they provide and allow industry supply chain teams to receive clear, unfiltered and unbiased insights and information from informed and educated sources.
One of the better Tianjin perspectives Supply Chain Matters has reviewed to-date ia a published white paper: The Aftermath of the Tianjin Explosions: A Global Supply Chain Impact Analysis, authored by supply chain risk management provider Resilinc.
While this 24 page white paper does include some product marketing, along with requiring registration, the bulk of the report provides meaningful and insightful information related to potential immediate, near-term, medium and longer term supply chain impacts.
The paper concludes that the less apparent ripple effects of the warehouse explosions will be felt weeks, months and even years to come.
The paper provides meaningful background information regarding this vital logistics and manufacturing hub, which services industry needs of automotive, commercial aerospace, high-tech, petrochemical and general industrial manufacturing supply chains, among others. It further outlines important mapping of industrial manufacturing and supplier concentrations within close proximity of the explosions, based on a mapping of over 30 sites in a 2-10 mile radius of the blast. Four large industrial zone districts are adjacent to the port, with the port serving as what is described as the largest free trade zone in northern China, and the second largest Vehicle Processing Center for importing and exporting of automobiles.
On the topic of near-term ripple effects, the Resilinc analysis predicts that extensive delays can be expected for most companies and sites moving products through Chinese ports as government agencies deal with the after-effects of a regulatory environment needing extra attention.
There are predictions that Tianjin port operations will only begin to resume normal operations by approximately mid-September, and that any containers now at the port will be inaccessible for the next two months, even if they are intact. Resilinc indicates that for any suppliers located within 2-15 miles of the explosions, companies may presume 12-16 weeks of delays.
Long-term impacts outlined related to the ripple effects of increased regulatory actions impacting certain industry sectors including the location and storage of goods near large population centers.
Regarding potential long-term impacts, the paper cites Chinese media as indicating the economic cost of Tianjin crisis could be as high as $8 billion.
If your organization is dependent on operations, logistics partners, suppliers or service providers in the Tianjin area, we recommend you review this report which can be accessed at the following Resilinc web link. (Some personal registration information required)
Supply Chain Matters has in the past cited Andrew Liveris, Chairmen and CEO of Dow Chemical Company for his understanding and appreciation for the value and contribution of manufacturing and supply chain capability to business outcomes. Besides his current leadership of Dow, Mr. Liveris is an author and U.S. Presidential advisor on manufacturing competitiveness. In a September 2013 commentary, we highlighted his keynote delivered to the MIT Production in the Innovation Economy (PIE) Conference which unveiled results of MIT’s study on U.S. manufacturing competiveness.
Thus we were pleased to be alerted to a commentary appearing in the online version of Chief Executive Magazine where Mr. Liveris shares his winning formula for manufacturing success with other chief executives. His prime messages was for manufacturers to rethink the role in evolving global supply chains and actively address workforce training and development needs for today and the future.
One of the more powerful statements brought out in this interview article deserves highlighting:
“Entrepreneurial action and its ability to pivot, according to the world we face, is one of America’s greatest attributes. Manufacturers, for far too long, did not really display agility when global competition disrupted supply chains. We are in a different world. We’re traveling at the speed of flight. We are so connected to the information age without realizing that we’re still at the dawn of it. The smarter companies have figured out their place in the global supply chain and have adjusted their service and product models accordingly.”
Those statements are rather powerful when considering that they come from a CEO. They reflect the new awareness to supply chain’s contribution. Within his own industry, Mr. Liveris points out that of the top 20 global chemical manufacturers in 1990, 17 disappeared by 2010. Dow prevailed because of its ability to pivot to dramatic market changes.
A further pearl of wisdom:
“Manufacturing today means you’ve got to innovate faster than they commoditize you.”
On the all-important skills challenge:
“The biggest issue we have is training a new skilled workforce to deploy against that value add, and for me, that is the key topic in manufacturing today. We need technically trained people at the German skill level, in automation, robotics and fine-precision manufacturing. This is the world that we’re in today and we’ve got to adjust to it, and frankly that’s what I spend my time on.”
From our lens, there needs to be many more global manufacturing firm CEO’s possessing the wisdom of Andrew Liveris, one’s that understand that supply chains and manufacturing capabilities do matter.
During this period of earnings announcements for the December-ending quarter, a new and significant headwind, the effects of the U.S. dollar, has appeared for industry supply chains with operations anchored in the United States. That was significantly delivered to Wall Street by yesterday’s earnings announcement from Procter and Gamble, which currently has nearly two-thirds of its revenues coming from outside of the U.S. Procter and Gamble was not alone, even the likes of Apple encountered the same headwinds.
P&G reported a 31 percent drop in profit as the stronger U.S. dollar diluted the effects of a modest 2 percent organic sales growth. Net income dropped nearly a billion dollars from the year earlier quarter. According to business media reporting, foreign exchange pressures reduced net sales by 5 percentage points. Once more, P&G indicated that these currency effects will continue to be a drag within 2015, potentially cutting net earnings by 12 percent or in excess of another billion dollars.
The implications are obvious including a continued selloff of underperforming brands and businesses. One published financial commentary report by The Wall Street Journal implied the continuance of “ruthless cost cutting” and a continued slim-down of brands. P&G has further undertaken ongoing efforts to source more production among emerging global regions, and those efforts are likely to accelerate in momentum.
The strong headwinds of currency were not just restricted to consumer product goods. Today’s WSJ reports that it is now evident that:
“The currency effects are hitting a wide swath of corporate America- from consumer products giant Procter and Gamble Co. to technology stalwart Microsoft Corp. to pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc.. Those companies and others have expanded aggressively overseas in search of growth and now are finding that those sales are shrinking in value or not keeping-up with dollar-based costs.”
Further cited was a quote from the CEO of Caterpillar indicating: “The rising dollar will not be good for U.S. manufacturing or the U.S. economy.” The obvious fears for investors and economists alike is that the U.S. dollar’s explosive gains will backfire for U.S. based companies by reducing the price attractiveness of goods offered in foreign countries as well as reducing the value of foreign-based revenues.
The implications to U.S. centered industry supply chains are the needs for yet further shifting of strategies and resources. The existing momentum for U.S. manufacturing may well moderate with these latest developments. Initiatives directed at supporting increased top-line revenue growth now have the added challenges for more flexible, global-wide sourcing of production and distribution needs. Operations, procurement and product management teams that believed that they could get a breather from draconian and distracting cost-cutting directives will once again face the realities of having to cut deeply into domestic focused capabilities and resources.
We often cite the accelerated clock speed of business as a crucial indicator for agility and resiliency for industry supply chain strategy. Here is yet another example where perceptions of a booming U.S. economy quickly change to the overall business and supply chain implications of the subsequent currency effects.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the ongoing outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and humanitarian organizations such as Doctors Without Borders continue to work on the front lines to control the outbreak. The consequences of further international spread of the virus coupled with fears of wider-scale contagion have created a call for coordinated global public health actions to stop and reverse the outbreak.
Other concerns should be the short or longer impacts to industry and global supply chains if the current outbreak cannot be adequately controlled. Within close proximity to the current effected region within West Africa is the country of Cote d’Ivoire, which is a major supply source for cocoa. Countries within the West Africa coastal and interior regions also produce supplies of palm oil, iron ore and other commodity materials.
Beyond local sourcing are the broader implications to global transportation and logistics networks if the current outbreak spreads to other countries and spawns additional travel and cross-border restrictions. In short, industry supply chain and sales and operations planning teams definitely need to monitor the current Ebola outbreak and have some form of scenario and backup plans identified.
This posting serves to alert our Supply Chain Matters readers who subscribe to Accenture Academy training and webinars that this author will overview the current Ebola crisis from an industry and infrastructure supply chain perspective and provide expert perspective on the areas to watch along with considerations for building risk contingency scenarios. Accenture Academy is launching a new series termed Trend Talks, which are more compact and two-way interactive webinars that address and provide collective discussion on important, rapidly developing trends among industry supply chains.
I am pleased and looking forward to delivering this inaugural Trend Talk webinar addressing this timely and rather concerning global topic. The session is scheduled for Wednesday, December 10th at 10am Eastern time with participation available only to Accenture Academy members. Readers can utilize this Accenture Academy web link for login and registration.