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Supply Chain Matters Impressions of PTC LiveWorx 16 Internet of Things Technology Conference- Part Two

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Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Internet of Things (IoT) technology provider PTC held its annual LiveWorx 16 IoT conference in Boston last week amid over 4500 attendees. Supply Chain Matters in the person of this industry analyst was invited to once again attend this annual event and walked away with varying impressions regarding the state of IoT adoption and on some shifts among PTC’s ongoing product strategies.

In our previous Part One commentary, we shared various overall impressions, insights and takeaways. In this Part Two posting, we share additional impressions.

Prediction Seven within our 2016 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains (available for complimentary download in our Research Center) anticipated that B2b focused manufacturers and services providers would broaden their perspectives on connected devices and enhancing customer needs, but also stumble because of conflicts in approach, conflicts in stakeholder interests or data silo approaches. We were therefore especially eager to attend the LiveWorx panel discussion featuring select PTC partners. This panel consisted of executives from Cognizant, Dell, Flowserve, Glassbeam, HP Enterprise, National Instruments, ServiceMax and SAP.

Most all of these panelists observed that for now, most customers are not seeking out a specific IoT initiative per-se. Instead, they are seeking technology to assist in resolving use cases involving ongoing business challenges in manufacturing or supply chain or tapping new business opportunities and revenue streams. One panelist indicated that the current hype surrounding IoT has many teams “scratching their heads” in terms of selecting start points or understanding what business problems IoT will solve. From our lens, that reflects a need for broader market education.

Where projects lean toward IoT, the sales and approval cycle tends to be elongated, cited in the range of 6-12 months, with indications that discussion with up to 7 people representing different business functions such as IT, manufacturing, service management and other functions are involved.

Regarding project ROI, the panel indicated that IoT related projects must address definitive returns to the business in areas such as moving the revenue needle, avoidance of expensive downtime particularly in process intensive industry settings, safety of operations and of-course, enhanced customer service and response.

Another common challenge cited by panelists was the need for ubiquitous connectivity of networks, both in broadband Internet connections and mobile devices. Noted was that today, many customers do not have the scalable networks to support the large amounts of data flow implied by IoT use cases, along with the perception that doing so now would be cost prohibitive. One panelist questioned the large amounts of “junk” data now being collected.

As noted in our Part One posting, information and data security remains a top customer concern with panelists indicating that a lot of additional multi-industry education remains to be done. A separate panelist noted this as consistently one of the top three concerns from any customer. One panelist with lots of experience in process based industry observed that industry already has data security standards that are well-understood. This panelist pointed out that the controller domain will always be protected by separate protocols than the data extract domain.

One other area we wanted to highlight for our readers was the topic of what is commonly termed agile engineering.  This is practice commonly adapted by software and technology companies that promotes the creation of scrum teams that conduct frequent product prototypes, gaining immediate customer feedback on a proposed new product, and moving forward with yet another improved prototype until the ultimate product is released.  With more multi-industry products now having more and more technology and software content, classic “waterfall” engineering processes have a hard time keeping up with needs for constant agility. Readers may note the common thread among equipment product recalls of-late has been problems with the functioning software component or needs to update that software to address hardware issues.

PTC executives addressed this specific challenge in the industry analyst and press briefing, along with why they believe that augmenting PLM processes with more AR and VR tools can help support more agile engineering needs. To help in this effort, PTC is sponsoring specific thought leadership for customers to more fully understand agile engineering needs and requirements.

We did manage to attend a couple of breakout sessions focused on Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) and specifically customer efforts to upgrade older versions of either MCA or Xelus service parts planning application to PTC’s latest releases.  From the customer presentations we observed, the upgrade process was reported in positive terms. What was more interesting was the motivations for upgrading, which ranged from internal business changes or consolidation to needs to upgrade to more modern and more advanced planning capabilities.

Finally, during the executive Q&A, PTC CEO Heppelmann indicated that he does not expect PTC to get any more deeply involved in supply chain management focused IoT application needs.  Rather, PTC will allow its partner network to address SCM business and process needs utilizing PTC technology platform and applications.

Overall, LiveWorx 16 was a much more productive and educational conference this year, one that reflected on PTC making its own transitions into the current realities of the current Industrial IoT market.

Bob Ferrari

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


Volkswagen Reports Profitability Despite Ongoing Emissions Scandal

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Supply Chain Matters provides an important follow-up to the ongoing diesel emissions scandal and brand crisis associated with Volkswagen. Today, in announcing its financial performance for the first quarter of 2016, the company surprised many by actually reporting respectable operating and net profits. VW characterized such results as “respectable” considering the challenging conditions and further re-iterated that it has the financial resources to weather the current emissions scandal.

Last September, the U.S. Justice Department initiated a wide ranging investigation into alleged use of software installed in nearly a half-million diesel powered cars that make these vehicles appear to have cleaner air emissions than they actually do in operation. Volkswagen has since acknowledged that the vehicle software installed in some U.S. diesel powered passenger cars make it appear that the vehicles conform to U.S. emissions standards. Since that time, there has been a series of internal and external investigations, management accounting and other management actions and/or missteps related to this situation.

Despite group sales revenue being down 3.4 percent from the year-earlier period, operating profit climbed to €3.4 billion, while net profits fell to €2.3 billion ($2.6 billion), down from the €2.9 billion reported in the year-earlier period. Automotive division’s net cash flow attributed to operating activities declined by a hefty 45.8 percent but total corporate-wide was slightly up because of a nonrecurring gain on the sales of LeasePlan. According to a published commentary from the Associated Press, the Volkswagen brand made only 73 million euros in the quarter, down from 514 million a year earlier, leaving an operating margin of only 0.3 percent.

It would therefore appear that the company’s broader brands and operating groups, in particular the highly profitable Audi and Porsche Divisions, are financially making-up the difference in the ongoing crisis.  Many manufacturers, not of the sheer global size and breath of Volkswagen would have suffered more financial implications.

In the announcement of financial performance, VW CEO Matthias Mueller states:

2016 will be a transitional year for Volkswagen that will see us fundamentally realign the Group. Nevertheless, we remain confident that our operating business will again record solid growth this year. The Group’s robust financial strength and earnings power are key to our ability to take the necessary decisions calmly and diligently and to resolve the strategic policies that will shape our future with the necessary determination

Today’s announcement of Q1 financial performance did not include any updates on financial contingencies related to ongoing actions related to the emissions scandal. The company outlook for the remainder of 2016 expects 2016 sales revenue for the Volkswagen group to be down by as much as 5 percent.

Reports indicate that a tentative agreement was reached with U.S. authorities in federal court in San Francisco to buy back or repair upwards of 500,000 vehicles. Attorneys for Volkswagen owners have until June 21 to file a final settlement with the court.


Chipotle Feels the Financial Impact of its Ongoing Food Safety Crisis

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This is a Supply Chain Matters update commentary regarding Chipotle Mexican Grill, specifically efforts to address its ongoing food-safety challenge that not only threatens the restaurant chain’s value to its brand and to its investors, but on perceived quality risks in its farm to fork supply chain.   Chipotle logo

This week, the restaurant chain posted its first quarterly financial loss as a public company amid a nearly 30 percent reduction in same store sales. Total revenues were down 23.4 percent while net income dropped by $122.6 million. Operating margin dropped to 6.8 percent from just over 28 percent a year earlier due to what was described as higher marketing, waste and food testing costs.

In a previous February commentary, we observed that the restaurant chain had entered a new critical phase, one focused in rebuilding its brand integrity along with assuring that food safety practices were re-addressed across the supply chain and within its individual restaurants. In our mid-March commentary, we highlighted reports that seemed to put a different twist to the ongoing crisis. At the time, The Wall Street Journal citing informed sources, reported that the restaurant chain considered stepping back from the food safety changes touted back in February. Rather than conduct high-resolution DNA testing on a multiple of inbound supply ingredients, the plan was apparently to test only certain foods. Further reported was that the chain’s beef supplies would be pre-cooked in centralized kitchen facilities to insure that E.coli was eliminated, and then packaged in vacuum-sealed bags and shipped to local outlets where the product could be marinated and grilled.

We speculated that the decision to scale back DNA testing may have been brought about by further process and supply chain focused analysis.  Yet, the restaurant chain later announced the hiring of a noted meat industry food safety expert to be its new director of overall food safety.  We questioned whether such decisions for scaling back testing should have been made so early in the process, without the insight or input of the chain’s newly hired food safety expert, and without allowing more time to address consumer concerns regarding uncertainty in food sourcing and handling practices.

Our stated belief was that restoring consumer trust in a badly damaged brand is not a one-time marketing or financial budgeting challenge, but rather a systemic management challenge to address quality and food safety practices among all farm to fork processes and activities.

The chain has since stepped-up training within local restaurants on food safety and food handling practices as well as the assistance of a field leadership program to assist local managers in managing and auditing food safety and handling practices.

Chipotle’s co-CEO, Steve Ells indicated to investors that rebuilding trust with customers would take some time. While we found that that admission insightful and somewhat overdue, we were taken back by a subsequent statement:

We will continue to make it our top priority to entice customers to return to Chipotle through effective promotions and marketing, and when they do return, we’re committed to providing the very best experience that we can to help ensure that they will keep coming back.”

Not a mention of testing and assuring consistent food safety practices as the top priority.

Further noted in business media reports are even further changes in food preparation and sourcing practices after apparent customer feedback indicated a decline in the quality of certain ingredients. Customers complained that produce or lettuce no longer tasted as it should. For instance, now the chain claims to have refined its washing of lettuce which will once again allow local restaurants to cut lettuce locally while still ensuring that it is safe. Similarly, bell peppers will be blanched and sliced in local restaurants rather than the previous change to do so in central kitchens.

On a positive note, customers apparently have endorsed the process for cooking organic beef in vacuum sealed bags within central kitchens because the meat is now perceived to not as dry to the taste.

As Chipotle customers may now be aware, the chain is attempting to incent customers to return by offering free burritos and other promotions. Over 5 million free burrito offers were issued followed by a direct mail promotion distributed to over 20 million households. Judging from the customer traffic statistics to-date, the chain’s most loyal consumers may not be completely convinced as of yet to return, although data seems to point to return by some not as loyal but cost conscious customers. One equity analyst has indicated that couponing is a short-term rather than a more sustainable strategy for restoring traffic.

In recent weeks, both Glass Lewis & Co. and Institutional Shareholder Services, both influential proxy advisory firms have weighed in on management. ISS is recommending a vote against re-election of certain current Chipotle board members at the upcoming annual stockholder meeting in May. The firm questions whether the ongoing food safety issues have exposed a flawed board succession process that nominated directors who have the management skill sets to keep pace with a chain’s size and complexity. Further stated was a failure of risk oversight by the firm’s Audit Committee.

Glass Lewis has reportedly taken issue with the board’s pay-for-performance model. As we noted in our March commentary, senior executive bonuses were recently changed to be pegged to increases in the firm’s stock price alone. ISS has also opined that the majority of discussion with major investors has focused on improving share price and changing executive compensation as opposed to addressing food safety.

The reality of losing the trust of loyal customers is indeed an ongoing challenge and Chipotle management must by our lens, have as its collective top priority means and methods to address food safety and quality from farm to fork. Management compensation not directly tied in some fashion to that goal, and management briefings and direction-setting that continues to lead with marketing and sales tactics are not going to convince this past Chipotle consumer that issues have been addressed and the quality and safety of food is industry-leading. Apparently we are not alone in that perception.

Bob Ferrari

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


Major Move by Boeing to Secure Service Parts Revenue Control

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Equipment and capital goods manufacturers have increasingly re-discovered new and growing revenue opportunities that reside in added services and service parts sectors related to in-service equipment. Such opportunities are especially pertinent across commercial or defense focused aircraft which have operational service that spans many years of service. However, when an industry dominant such as Boeing decides that it wants to take more control as well as revenue cut of all service parts, the financial implications and subsequent impacts will reverberate among all key suppliers.

Today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal reports such an implication as Boeing elects to secure a new source of revenue beyond building aircraft. (Paid subscription required) The report indicates that whereas in the past, Boeing’s largest suppliers such as Spirit AeroSystems or Rockwell Collins could sell respective manufactured parts directly to airline and aircraft operators for in-service service replacement needs, the OEM elected in late February to prohibit suppliers from directly selling proprietary service parts, along with suspending licenses to suppliers to sell any such proprietary parts to its customers. The WSJ characterizes this development:

It is the most aggressive move to-date in Boeing’s year-long effort to assert control over distribution-and the resulting revenue- of parts.”

According to the report, Boeing is looking to nearly triple revenues associated with commercial and defense aviation parts and services business by 2025.

Supply chain teams in these sectors know all too well that margins on service parts can far exceed those for original equipment production needs. According to the WSJ, it can be upwards of 4X more than what Boeing pays for the part to support initial production. Suppliers will often forego margins on supply contracts to a customer such as Boeing with the expectation that multi-year margins can be garnered in service parts needs over the operating life of an aircraft model.

In a highly regulated industry such as commercial or defense focused aircraft, certain structural or key operating parts have designated service-life provisions which must be adhered to, thus assuring ongoing component stocking and service part demand needs.

The WSJ report further links these moves to Boeing’s ongoing Partnering for Success initiative addressing added cost control opportunities among existing suppliers. According to the report:

Boeing also prohibited some suppliers from being given new work or withheld regulatory approvals for parts until revised (supply) contracts were complete.

The report cites a Credit Suisse aerospace industry analyst as indicating:

The economics of being a Boeing supplier could be facing their greatest challenge yet.”

While airlines themselves have become increasingly concerned by the rising prices of service parts charged by suppliers, by our Supply Chain Matters lens, this revised strategy by Boeing does not necessarily address nor mitigate that trend. It obviously takes away profitability opportunities for suppliers while adding yet another intermediary in the service parts supply chain.

One of the most promising service management opportunities related to commercial and defense focused aircraft resides in the leveraging of Internet of Things (IoT) focused technologies that would allow operating equipment the ability to communicate service and replacement needs based on operating environmental conditions. Rather that static, fixed maintenance schedules, the opportunity is for the equipment itself to self-diagnose its parts replacement needs.

Many original equipment manufacturers are thus positioning to take advantage of such technologies in new service focused business models.  That includes aircraft engine producers such as General Electric and CFM International. With this latest move by Boeing, a new participant is added to the overall business model, a participant that must share the same technology tenets being promoted in automated performance monitoring and service dispatch. Add the notion of IoT platform providers positing for their portion of the overall business model via platform adoption and subsequent dominance, and the picture begins to turn to one we have witnessed before with breakthrough technology.  Every participant attempting to position for leveraged control of a promising new business model while target customers have to determine what all of this implies for added efficiencies or cost savings.

The dilemma of commercial aircraft supply chains that presented multi-year order backlogs and insatiable demand for more fuel-efficient technology-laden new aircraft has met the reality of more educated and aggressive airline customers, coupled with rapidly changing economic times.  These forces are inserting their influence on aircraft pricing, delivery expectations and operating service needs.

Boeing is now responding to these needs by aggressive supply chain cost and headcount reductions, and now, demanding its proportional cut of service parts revenues. In essence, like too many supply chain dominants, the picture is again moving the need of cost reduction or added revenue needs down the supply chain.

More and more, the notion of we are all in this to share industry growth opportunities together reverts back to the supply chain dominant as the ultimate long-term benefactor.

Respective suppliers will obviously have to determine their own response strategies. Larger suppliers will be able to find means to remain resilient to such changes while smaller suppliers may feel the bulk of the pain. In the long-run, the party that ultimately controls the customer relationship along with product and process design ends up to be the eventual winner.

Bob Ferrari


Not a Good Week and Time for Automotive Service Management Supply Chains

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For service facing and aftermarket automotive related supply chains, news developments this week have undoubtedly bordered on the surreal or even bizarre.

The ongoing product recall crisis involving airbag inflators’ producer by Takata took on even broader dimensions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicated this week that as many as 85 million potentially defective airbag inflators are still inside cars and trucks now being driven across the United States. That number is supposedly in addition to the nearly 29 million inflators that have already been designated for replacement in the ongoing massive product recall campaign.  Reports indicate that thus far, at least 11 people have died and over 400 have been injured by defective airbag inflators.

There are many facets compounding this overall logistical challenge. NHTSA itself indicates that because of inadequate reporting information from automotive producers, the agency does not exactly know how many vehicles are exposed to potentially defective airbag inflators that were produced by Takata. There are also multiple inflators installed in every vehicle. Add to this, that previous replaced inflators were not properly designed, causing a second recall.

As Supply Chain Matters has noted in our previous commentaries regarding this industry recall challenge, the problem of premature explosion of the inflators has been linked to long-term exposure to high humidity.  Thus the failure profile can be linked to specific U.S. states whose climate matches such humidity, such as Florida and the U.S. Gulf Coast states. One potential fix to the problem has been the addition of dessicant drying agent material to the inflator to lessen the moisture caused by high humidity.  That obviously implies a separate part identity.

The far broader problem is the sheer scope of the potential campaign. The government is not even sure it has the authority to mandate a recall of such volume and with such monetary implications. With a potential of over 100 million inflators having to be eventually replaced, the recall campaign would obviously exceed current capacity for producing replacement parts, implying multiple years of effort.  The sheer volume is of the magnitude of supporting the redesign of multiple new models of automobiles and trucks and would have to involve many more airbag inflator suppliers.  As Supply Chain Matters noted earlier week, suppliers such as Autoliv have already benefited from the crisis, and with such massive numbers, other suppliers will benefit as well. And then there is the biggest question of all, who will pay for all of the replacement parts and installation costs.

The Donald Trump analogy of: “This is a HUGE problem” is an appropriate descriptor.

This saga and its implications will obviously test the limits of automotive service supply chains and dealers for many months to come.

Then the industry has the diesel engine emissions crisis involving certain Volkswagen produced models. Since our prior commentaries in late 2015, we have refrained from other updates because of the sheer kaleidoscope of bizarre actions by Volkswagen.  First there was the sacking of senior corporate product design and quality executives.  Then came the sacking of the top U.S. executive Michael Horn, who was revered by U.S. dealers, after Horn supposedly proposed monetary gestures to affected vehicle owners.

While the global auto maker has initiated a product recall plan for affected vehicles in Europe, the deadline for a plan to address polluting vehicles in the U.S. has come and gone and remains somewhat a work-in-progress.  According to industry reports, VW continues to face upwards of $20 billion in potential fines as well as class-action lawsuits, not to mention a rather tense ongoing relationships with U.S. regulators and legislative bodies as well as its U.S. dealers.

Meanwhile VW senior executives had the shear nerve to position themselves for management bonuses. That had drawn the ire of executives of the IG Metall trade union who are influential members of the company’s Supervisory Board. The news this week is that executive bonuses have now been squashed by that board.  Details related to future actions that VW will take related to a recall plan for the U.S. are not expected until VW’s board of directors meets later this month to review various investigative reports related to the U.S. emissions scandal.

The VW service management supply chain remains with lots of pending challenges and unknowns. Thousands of in-service diesel-powered vehicles may be subject to costly vehicle hardware and software fixes that potentially will involve significant labor hours per vehicle. Unsold diesel-powered vehicles remain in dealer lots awaiting a disposition as well. If a vehicle recall is initiated, individual owners are likely to very intolerant to repair times that extend over many, many months. Then again, what-if VW elects to buy-back certain models? That’s a reverse supply chain challenge in the making.

Overall, automotive service management supply chains remain stressed and face unprecedented process and execution challenges in the coming months and years. There is obvious learning that will come from this ongoing multi-brand crisis, involving product-design, supplier quality and supplier management dimensions. Many consumers will be impacted and will get first-hand knowledge of the effects.

Bob Ferrari

 


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