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Report Card for Supply Chain Matters 2015 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains- Part Two


Industry supply chain teams continue to drive on achieving and enabling their various 2015 strategic, tactical, and operational line-of-business business and supply chain focused performance objectives. This series of postings is the opportunity for Supply Chain Matters to reflect on our 2015 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains that we published at the start of this year.

Our research arm, The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group has published annual predictions since our founding in 2008. Our approach is to view predictions as an important resource for our clients and readers, thus we do not view them as a light, one-time exercise. Thus, not only do we publish our annualized predictions, but every year in November, look-back and score the predictions that we published for the year. After we conclude the self-rating process, we will then unveil our 2016 predictions for the upcoming year.

As has been our custom, our scoring process will be based on a four point scale. Four will be the highest score, an indicator that we totally nailed the prediction. One is the lowest score, an indicator of, what on earth were we thinking? Ratings in the 2-3 range reflect that we probably had the right intent but events turned out different. Admittedly, our self-rating is subjective and readers are welcomed to add their own assessment of our predictions concerning this year.

In the initial posting of this Predictions Score Card series, we looked back at both Prediction One- global supply chain activity during the year, and Prediction Two- trends in overall commodity and supply chain inbound costs.

In this Part Two posting, we look back at predictions three and four.

2015 Prediction Three: Momentum for U.S. and North America Based Manufacturing Continues and Motivates Broader Investment Needs

Self-Rating: 2.8 (Max Score 4.0)

As we entered 2015, we predicted that the momentum for U.S. and North America based manufacturing would continue with discernible benefits for certain industries and countries. We further pointed to needs to broaden investments in industry supply chain value-chain ecosystems, tiered component supply chains as well as U.S. logistics and transportation infrastructure.

U.S. production and manufacturing activity reflected in the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) PMI Index indicated average growth activity in the first-half of 2015, but somewhat of a declining trend by the second-half of the year. A number of U.S. based manufacturers or brand owners revisited their global production sourcing strategies and re-shored. However, the jury is still out as to whether the trend reflects a substantial rebirth of U.S. manufacturing. Growth however seems to be driven by a smaller number of specialized industries and firms. A strong U.S. dollar created significant headwinds for U.S. based manufacturing costs making areas such as Asia and the Eurozone countries more attractive in raw material and component costs. That has deflected interests in the further building-out of North America based value-chain components.

On the transportation and logistics infrastructure front, in the first-half of this year, manufacturers and retailers continued to feel the effects of the U.S. West Coast port disruption, with holiday related imports and exports flowing in too-late to be sold, and generating lots of consternation on west port infrastructure and labor practices. U.S. East and Gulf Coast ports continued to invest in infrastructure to prepare for the opening of a widened Panama Canal in 2016 allowing more Asia sourced goods to transit direct to East Coast ports.

Manufacturing PMI activity for Mexico averaged 53.17 from 2012 until 2015, reaching an all- time high of 57.1 in December of 2012. In 2015, PMI activity has averaged 53.4 through October which reflects a steady as well as a higher pace than that of the United States. Many global manufacturers continue to invest in Mexico as the lower-cost alternative for satisfying North and Central America based demand. The Boston Consulting Group continues to maintain that the manufacturing costs among China and United States place Mexico as a more attractive alternative for certain direct labor intensive industries.


2015 Prediction Four: Internet of Things (IoT) Continues to Attract Wide Multi-Industry Interest but Challenges Need to be Purposely Addressed.

Self-Rating: 3.8 (Max Score 4.0)

Our prediction was that cross-industry interest levels surrounding products and services leveraging IoT would continue to attract wide multi-industry interest. Indeed, that high level of interest and investment continues, not only across manufacturing focused industries but in the technology industry as well. Research firm Gartner is now estimating that there will be 6.4 billion connected devices in 2016, growing 30 percent from 2015. The one clear testament to this trend was a statement by General Electric Chairmen and CEO Jeff Immelt who declared to his employees: “We went to sleep as a broad based manufacturer and woke-up as a software and analytics company.”

Our prediction further concluded that IoT would drive a further convergence among product and service focused supply chain planning, execution and product lifecycle management processes and that indeed is occurring as well. Many manufacturers continue to explore and deploy product strategies that incorporate both physical products with sensory based services and added intelligence.

Finally, our prediction was that the realities in the lack of consistent global-wide standards addressing data security concerns will provide visible challenges for broader industry deployments. Indeed, the technology vendor community has now recognized these concerns particularly in the light of continued large scale cyber-attacks and associated data thefts throughout 2015. Our recent coverage of this year’s Oracle Open World featured comments from Oracle founder and CTO Larry Ellison as declaring that the technology has not gone far enough in actively addressing data and information security threats and global-wide standards. More efforts will be required in order to insure continued large-scale investments in IoT related strategies and programs.


In our next posting in our look back on 2015, we will review Prediction Five reflecting on certain industry-specific challenges.

In the meantime, please share your own observations and insights regarding momentum in North America based manufacturing and Internet of Things during this year.

Bob Ferrari

General Electric Places Priority on Industrial Internet


The Wall Street Journal’s CIO blog (paid subscription) notes that today, the new CIO of General Electric begins work. Jim Fowler, the previous CIO of GE Capital, indicates that his first priority will be focused on helping GE build the Industrial Internet and demonstrate how this global diversified manufacturer has implemented Industrial Internet and Internet of Things (IoT) within its own factories.

GE anticipates that half a million applications will eventually be written for its Predix Industrial Internet platform.  Further noted is that Predix based applications will generate more than $5 billion in revenues this year, and GE anticipates that the platform will be a $15 billion business by 2020.

Blue Bell Creameries Resumes Production After Product Recall

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Roughly four months after Blue Bell Creameries voluntarily recalled most of its ice cream and frozen yogurt products and suspended operations after listeria outbreak concerns, the Texas based producer has now resumed selling and distributing its products in select locations.  Blue Bell Ice Cream recall

In April, Blue Bell widened a series of voluntary recalls to now involving all of its branded ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks branded products distributed among 23 states and various international locations. The recall was prompted after samples of Blue Bell Ice Cream chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for the potentially deadly disease, listeria. The illness was tracked by health officials to a Blue Bell production line in Texas, and later to another production line in Oklahoma. Three deaths were linked to the outbreak.

Production plants in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas have since undergone extensive cleaning and decontamination under regulatory oversight. Alabama Public health officials gave Blue Bell the OK to resume production and sale of ice cream manufactured at its Alabama plant in early August.

At the time of the voluntary recall, Blue Bell took relatively swift action by actively removing products from retailers and other food service facilities it served. A statement from Blue Bell’s CEO Paul Kruse apologized to consumers along with a firm commitment to fix the problem.

Today’s visit to the Blue Bell web site features a prominent commitment to consumers for producing safe, high quality, great tasting ice cream as well a statement related to upgrading of procedures and employee training. Blue Bell notes that it continues to retain an independent microbiology expert for ongoing evaluation and has implemented a “test and hold” process where production runs are tested and held until results are received before distribution to markets.

The company remains very active on Twitter and Facebook, thanking consumers for their patience and providing updates as to which flavors of ice creams are currently available and in which states.

However, the cost of this recall, as has been the case with many other product recalls, remains troublesome. Four months of limited revenues can do that.

In July, Blue Bell management reached out to a prominent Texas billionaire investor for an added infusion of cash. That investment was reported as “significant” and came with a partnership arrangement with the company.

Hopefully, with new processes, training and revamped production facilities, consumers can look forward to enjoying a popular brand of ice cream.

Supply Chain Business Intelligence for SAP Environments and our Latest Supply Chain Matters Sponsor

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In early January, Supply Chain Matters provided our positive review of the book SAP Nation by Vinnie Mirchandani. We felt that although this book may be considered controversial by some vested in SAP’s success, the book’s observations are for the most part objective, insightful and written in a context for what SAP as a global technology provider needs to address to make its customers’ successful in their business and technology deployment goals.

The book describes SAP’s ongoing efforts of strategic pivoting, efforts to become more nimble, cloud-focused and more simple for customers to do business with. Yet, as witnessed by the messaging delivered at the recent SAP Sapphire conference, the rate and complexity of ongoing changes being introduced to the SAP customer base is dizzying, and perhaps overwhelming. As users are well aware, while SAP applications have bullet-proof design and rigor, end-user productivity and simplicity have not been the strong point to-date. Thus the continued skepticism associated with the tag line: SAP Run Simple.

The now four-year effort for convincing customers to deploy the HANA in-memory based technology platform (including upgrades to major ERP business suite applications and other associated cloud-based applications supporting end-to-end supply chain business process needs) has customers in a predominately wait and see mode. A recent posting by Information Age has the headline, SAP users struggling to keep pace, citing research from the UK and Ireland SAP User Groups indicating: “74 percent of members indicating that SAP is bringing innovations to market quicker than their organizational ability to adopt.”

As supply chain business processes become ever more complex, teams try to fill the gaps with downloads of static reports and ancillary spreadsheets to provide more meaningful operational analysis. We feel and sense that this is indeed representative of the broader SAP community.

IT support teams need to sort out the various cost, data and technology platform tradeoffs as well as the risks to added business disruption. Meanwhile, supply chain functional and operations teams continue to be challenged with increasing business fulfillment needs related to global markets and rapidly changing business events. The development and rollout timetable of SAP is not correlated to the current needs for increased predictability, broader supply chain business intelligence and more-timely decision-making.

This line-of-business and functional frustration is described in SAP Nation, specifically why existing best-of-breed and other cloud-based competitors are gaining increased attention and consideration. The  consequence is increased momentum of the “ring fence” of cloud-based applications that surround SAP applications. The strategies and purposes may have different motivations and timetables. Those committed to SAP will perhaps continue with their wait and see approach, but at the same time, will consider the deployment of augmented cloud-based applications to enhance extended supply chain focused decision-making and other line-of-business needs.

In an effort to assist our SAP installed base readers, Supply Chain Matters has called attention to various technology providers who possess deep knowledge of the SAP information landscape and understand the current business and functional needs for quicker time-to-benefit. We have called attention to planning and B2B business network support needs, but have not dived deeply into on-demand business intelligence until now.

We call reader attention to Netherlands based Every Angle Software , a self-service operationally focused business intelligence tool providing an extensive list of installed base customers with SAP backbones. We are further very pleased to announce to our readers that Every Angle will be a new Named sponsor of Supply Chain Matters, as this provider expands its footprint into North America from successful implementations and market presence across Europe and other regions.

Founded in 1996, Every Angle provides insights into the operational progress, status and performance of the entire supply chain along with a transparent overview of current and future supply chain focused bottlenecks, including root causes. They describe their value-add as transforming SAP data into simple actionable information in the language of supply chain.

In product briefings thus far, we have been impressed with their inherent in-depth knowledge of the SAP applications landscape applied to supply chain business process and decision-making needs, along with a clear user-interface. A glance of customer testimonials listed on the Every Angle web site have consistent themes of providing a powerful yet simple insights tool, offering end-user friendliness flexibility and impressive response times. Every Angle is quick to point out that rather than being characterized as traditional business intelligence (BI) that has a vertical information perspective, an Operational BI application is more horizontally focused on real-time operational analysis which is critical to extended supply chain decision-making and synchronization needs.

In the coming weeks Supply Chain Matters will provide added perspectives of ring fence strategies applied in supplier relationship and supply chain management environments, easier methods in tackling master data rationalization in SAP environments and other topics related to enhanced business intelligence time-to-value in SAP environments.

In the meantime, have a look at Every Angle Software. Readers can obtain additional information by clicking on the logo that appears on our blog sponsorship panel.

Bob Ferrari

Disclosure: Every Angle Software is one of other sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog.

APICS and APICS SCC Announce Revised Engagement Programs

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It has been a little over a year since the Supply Chain Council (SCC) announced that it would be merged into APICS  The SCC provided corporate and public sector members access to supply chain research and the well-recognized Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model methodology APICS- professional association for supply chain and operations managementand benchmarks for evaluating supply chain metrics and performance. Upon its merger with APICS, the organization was renamed APICS Supply Chain Council (APICS SCC).

Today, APICS announced an important milestone related to this merger, namely three different engagement programs that should allow organizations to take advantage and leverage both APICS and APICS SCC benefits. As our readers may be aware, APICS has catered to individual supply chain and operational professionals in their needs for education, certification and career advancement.  APICS SCC caters to corporations and service providers in their needs for research, supply chain frameworks and educational requirements.

The three programs announced today, in-capsule, consist of the following:

APICS SCC Affiliate – according to APICS this program offers tiered level benefits depending on an organization’s level of needed participation. Current affiliates are comprised of more than 400 globally based organizations that actively encourage individual APICS memberships for their employees. With today’s announcement, employees gain access to APICS SCC research projects while corporate affiliates are able to sit on the APICS Corporate Advisory Board. Affiliates have the opportunity to take advantage of group training programs or receive discounts to APICS SCC training including SCOR. Premier Corporate, Corporate and Public Sector affiliates gain access to SCORmark Benchmarking consisting of 20 years of accumulated SCOR data. A specific APICS web page describes the Affiliate Program.

APICS One- members are eligible to provide up to 500 employees with APICS enterprise memberships to support individual development needs and the organizational improvement opportunities supported through the APICS SCC premier corporate affiliate category.

APICS Sponsor- companies are provided with a license to utilize and incorporate APICS SCC frameworks and other APICS published material into products, services or marketing materials.  The program is further described as offering opportunities for engagements with APICS SCC affiliates, access to benchmark reports, publications and research, as well as tailored marketing opportunities. There are three different tiers of available sponsor participation which are outlined at this APICS web page link.

In a previous Supply Chain Matters commentary we questioned what we felt was the slow progress of the overall merger and combined benefits for both APICS and APICS SCC. Today, the APICS web site has been completely revised and features a new design and feel.  These newly designed program offerings should help organizations to be able to take advantage of the combined body of knowledge for both organizations, as well as the ability to provide needed education for different audiences.

This is an important milestone.

We encourage organizations that are engaged with either of these new programs, or are contemplating taking advantage of such programs to let us know your thoughts and impressions.  You can email us at: info <at> supply-chain-matters <dot> com.

Bob Ferrari



The Competitive Race Within Aerospace is Manufacturing and Supply Chain Execution

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Supply Chain Matters calls special attention to readers who are involved in either commercial aerospace or engineer-to-order focused internal and supply chain environments. Today’s printed edition of The Wall Street Journal features a front-page article, Airbus-Boeing Speed Race Increasingly Takes Place on the Ground. (Paid subscription or metered view) By our lens, this article should be mandatory reading.

The article itself is well written and very insightful in pointing out how two rival commercial aerospace OEM’s are learning important lessons in consistent manufacturing and supply chain execution.

We cite two opening excerpts:

After years of racing to develop and market new models, both have clear product lines for the next decade. Their order backlogs stretch as long.

Now, the world’s two biggest jet makers are squaring off on execution. Each aims to grab market share by building its planes faster and more efficiently than the other—a gambit both have struggled with in the past.”

Specific examples are provided on how Airbus and Boeing have addressed inter-organizational and supplier cooperation, more streamlined and focused processes, and a reoriented focus towards how aircraft will be built vs. what they would look like.  It is a focus toward design for manufacturability as well as supply chain. In the specific example of the new Airbus A350 program, insights are brought forward in organizational design, workforce selection and manufacturing process design.

Included is a powerful quote from Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney:

It is not just about building more airplanes but also building them more efficiently, with higher first-time quality, greater component reliability and improved employee safety.”

Well stated and an important reference for both internal and supplier based teams.

Bob Ferrari

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