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Report of a Different Focus for General Motors in Supplier Management Relationships

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The Wall Street Journal has reported that General Motors will allow 400 U.S. and Canada based component suppliers for GM vehicles being produced in Brazil and Mexico to be able to periodically renegotiate their supply contracts. These suppliers are currently challenged with the effects of a volatile foreign currency environment causing rising material and labor costs. At least once per year, suppliers can renegotiate terms when impacted by unexpected external economic factors.

This development is newsworthy because among long time automotive industry watchers, GM has developed somewhat of a past reputation as a strict negotiator with what the WSJ describes as “ironclad” contracts with suppliers. Annual industry surveys ranking the relationship of suppliers with various global OEM’s have consistently ranked GM much lower in past surveys.

This latest move is attributed to support a new GM strategy that involves investing $5 billion over the next ten years to develop a new line-up of Chevrolet branded vehicles for consumer markets in Brazil, Mexico and foreign markets such as India and China. Thus, procurement strategy has taken on a more active strategy to longer-term support product development needs. GM’s new chief procurement officer, Steve Kiefer has reportedly been exploring alternative supplier management efforts with GM’s supplier base since taking on the CPO role in late 2014.

What we believe should go unnoticed is that Keifer’s previous industry background included roles at Tier One industry supplier Delphi Automotive, thus providing a fresh bottoms-up perspective on supplier relationship management.  Since taking over leadership of GM procurement, he has reportedly fostered the creation of longer-term supplier contracts that include co-innovation in component design or automotive sub-systems for areas such as safety and more intelligent vehicles. The WSJ report quotes a marketing executive for supplier Magna International as reinforcing that GM has taken on a more collaborative approach with that supplier.

We wanted to highlight this report for Supply Chain Matters readers because it is indeed noteworthy.  We thought about extending our “Thumbs-Up” recognition but we will hold off somewhat until there is further history in these ongoing efforts.

However, in the meantime, well-done, GM…


Visibility to Wal-Mart Business and Supply Chain Strategies Again Front and Center

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Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer held its annual meeting at the beginning of this month, and business and general media has provided lots of subsequent news coverage.  Wal_Mart Store

During the annual investor meeting held on June 2nd that included upwards of 14,000 attendees, Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon urged employees and investors to reimagine the future of the retail landscape. He further added that the retailer is picking up the pace of change, and from the overall supply chain lens, winds of significant change remain evident for many months to come. Such a change will place added burdens on suppliers to insure that Wal-Mart maintains both its global leadership role but also its needs to added profitability.

Many published reports related to Wal-Mart over these past two weeks point to the retailer as being at an important crossroads in terms of its long-held dominance in pricing and convenience. We call particular reader attention to a published Economist article: Walmart- Thinking Outside the box, (Paid subscription required) which provides an in-depth perspective on strategies and business needs.

From an online perspective, Amazon continues as the dominant online retail platform, providing online shoppers with both competitive price and convenience.  With further expansion in household consumables, grocery and other foods, Amazon will increasingly encroach on the Wal-Mart customer. Wal-Mart itself has invested a reported $10.5 billion within new information technology to enhance its online web presence and fulfillment capabilities.  In January, both existing IT groups were also merged together into one singular group. Yet, industry media reports that online sales slowed to a 7 percent growth pace during the first quarter, below company and investor expectations.

CEO McMillon observes that his team has paid very close attention to current retail industry trends including the growth of online, and that his firm will dominate by executing a strategy that leverages the combination of online as well as physical distribution and retail store presence. Stores will serve both as a retail destination as well as an extension of online in customer pick-up and returns.

Within physical stores, the retailer has invested $2.7 billion in higher wages and employee training, but at the same time, consolidated its physical retail footprint by closing 269 stores. Efforts are once again underway to spruce-up stores, clean-up aisle clutter and include more fresh produce offerings. The retailer further announced that over the coming months, Wal-Mart will return to an aggressive pricing strategy, promising to once again reduce prices on a number of offered items.

This leads to the supply chain challenge that is currently underway, namely, to compensate for all of the added investments in operations and online capability, suppliers will have to divvy-up additional cost and price savings. In a sense, this is nothing new for Wal-Mart’s suppliers; however it appears as though it is taking on more aggressive dimensions. We initially highlighted stepped-up supplier pressures in April of last year, and consequent supplier push-back attempts in September.

One of the largest and most loyal suppliers to Wal-Mart has been global consumer packaged goods producer Procter& Gamble.  The business relationship has extended for decades and today, P&G garners in excess of $10 billion in revenues from Wal-Mart alone.

Today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal features a front-page article: Wal-Mart and P&G: A $10 Billion Marriage Under Strain (Paid subscription required) that provides added insights into supplier relationships with the retailer. Over year ago, Supply Chain Matters highlighted a similar WSJ report on the intense competitive pressures of both firms, when the retailer elected to offer Persil, a European branded laundry detergent alongside P&G’s Tide branded detergent across Wal-Mart’s retail stores.

This latest report indicates that both firms: “are increasingly butting heads as both try to wring more revenue out of their slow-growing businesses.” The retailer in-essence is pressuring for reductions in prices for best-selling goods as it furthers efforts to invest in new capabilities, while P&G is attempting to protect both volume and profitability of its largest brands.

One other revelation brought out was that unlike all other suppliers, P&G does not have a contract that governs supplier agreements. Rather, both parties rely on in-person relationships, emails and handshakes to address supply programs and other particulars.

Returning to the broader Wal-Mart supplier community, the retailer’s new U.S. chief executive is reportedly spoke directly with suppliers in February and delivered a stern message concerning needs to work more on inefficiencies. The WSJ cites indicates that several people that attended indicated that the retailer expects “healthy tensions” will suppliers and will be “maniacal about managing costs.” The U.S. CEO is further pushing his procurement team to fight more aggressively in negotiations with suppliers and all buyers are now required to attend a workshop conducted by a U.K. based negotiations consultancy.

We suspect that some of our readers who reside in supplier organizations doing business with Wal-Mart may have already encountered the effects of this renewed supplier management efforts.

Thus is the evolving strategy of Wal-Mart, evolve quickly in the new era of retail by leveraging all existing assets, fight for every consumer in price and convenience, invest aggressively in needed new capabilities and garner any and all compensating cost reductions and efficiencies from existing suppliers to meet required financial bottom-line outcomes.

In some sense, the more things change, the more an organization can revert back to prior methods. In the end, we continue to question whether pounding suppliers is counter-productive, since process, cost and product innovation comes from all tiers of any supply chain in joint collaboration efforts.

Bob Ferrari


Supply Chain Matters Highlights from ISM 2016- Part One

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This supply chain industry analyst just returned from attending the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) 2016 annual conference held earlier this week. This is the conference where purchasing and supply management professionals gather for added learning, education and insights related to supply chain management and in particular, supply management’s role in contributing to required business outcomes.ISM 2015 Conference Logo

I walked away from this particular conference with many positive impressions, some of which will be shared in subsequent Supply Chain Matters commentaries.

Overall attendance was impressive as well as the profiles of those attending.  I was especially pleased on observing the many Millennials in-attendance, more so than I have observed in the many supply chain conferences this author has attended over the years. That is indeed great and a testament to perhaps the growing attraction to careers in supply chain management. Praise to ISM’s conference planning teams for putting together an overall agenda that featured many topics related to do’s and don’ts of procurement management as well as a number of panels that addressed skills, talent and career management topics. In that light, I also had the opportunity to hear from five of this year’s 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars which was equally impressive.  More on that will also be forthcoming in a subsequent posting as-well.

One very impressive presentation I would like to highlight was presented by Ian Hope Johnstone, Head, Sustainable Agriculture for Global Operations at PepsiCo. His presentation addressed how this global based food and beverage producer is advancing sustainability in agricultural practices across a spectrum of farmers.  Further addressed was PepsiCo’s ongoing Sustainable Farming Initiative(SFI).

In a previous commentary addressing the global and industry supply chain ramifications of the recent COP21 Paris Climate Agreement, this author came to a realization, that the recent ground breaking COP21 Agreement on stemming global climate change provides both a profound call to action as well as a significant opportunity- an opportunity for bolder collaboration and joint goal-setting to not only address greenhouse gas reduction imperatives and to saving our planet, but the imperative of sustainable business itself.  It literally should change our perspectives and goal-setting for sustainability strategies surrounding industry supply chains, moving such initiatives beyond functional to line-of-business level efforts. Through Supply Chain Matters, my hope is to provide specific examples of such efforts, and clearly I can now cite PepsiCo’s ongoing efforts as a benchmark example of the context of business sustainability.

PepsiCo’s sustainability umbrella is indeed broad and includes sustainability needs related human, environmental, talent and global citizenship initiatives. No doubt the firm’s dynamic Board Chairperson and CEO, Indra Nooyi has been a guiding and important C-Level sponsor for such efforts and resources. Within the firm’s 2014 Sustainability Report, Ms. Nooyi articulates very powerful statements that communicate the broader requirements for sustainable business. One of those statements is here noted:

Weaving sustainability into the very fabric of our organization is a way to help future-proof our business for the changing world around us.”

PepsiCo’s sustainability umbrella therefore extends beyond procurement and umbrellas the entire value-chain and the many dimensions of doing business.

In his presentation, Johnstone highlighted the compelling need that food production must double by 2050 amid constrained land environments, an aging farm population and the ongoing climate changes impacting our globe today.  Once more, he validated that consumers are highly influencing sustainability needs, being much more demanding of health conscious and protein-based foods, along with demanding visibility to where particular food products are sourced.

From the procurement lens, PepsiCo’s Sustainable Farming Initiative is both consumer and supply chain facing linking the two toward common objectives. The Procurement criteria now include a diamond visual that includes Service, Quantity, Price and recently added Sustainability as buying criteria. Sustainability includes security of supply over a much longer-term window, ten or more years in many cases. Noteworthy was PepsiCo’s procurement team efforts in listening to and collaborating with various farmers on efforts required to reduce water consumption, smarter agricultural practices and respecting the data ownership needs of farmers.

This global food and beverage producer clearly recognizes that no one corporation can succeed in farming sustainability without actively working with other consumer products producers such as Land of Lakes, Kelloggs, McDonald’s Unilever and others in an industry consortium for addressing common standards in sustainable farming practices and in consistent water and land conservation and renewal practices.

For further information, our readers can review PepsiCo’s dedicated sustainability web page.

In our Part Two commentary I will address some other personal highlights from this year’s ISM annual gathering.

Bob Ferrari

 


Evidence of Business as Usual in North America Automotive Supplier Relationships

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In the week that the purchasing and supply management community is meeting at the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) annual conference being held here in Indianapolis, is a disappointing report of business as usual supplier relationship management challenges across the U.S. automotive industry.

The Wall Street Journal reports Lukewarm Supplier Ties Hamper Auto Makers (Paid subscription required), reflecting a recent survey involving many suppliers to the U.S. automotive industry. The report concludes that: “top U.S. and Japanese auto makers are losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in potential cost savings because of lackluster relationships with their parts suppliers.” This 16th annual survey, conducted by Planning Perspectives Inc. polled 647 salespeople from 492 top suppliers.

According to the survey results, four out of the six auto makers operating manufacturing plants in North America experienced erosion in their supplier rapport over the past year, a year in which auto sales have been booming in North America.

Among the top five ranked automakers in supplier relationships were brands such as Toyota, Honda and Ford Motor.

Noted as having the largest erosion in supplier relationships was Nissan Motors, which intensified pressures on suppliers to reduce costs. Cited as most improved in supplier relationships was General Motors which reportedly resulted in suppliers contributing more than $3,000 to the profit GM realized on every vehicle manufactured and sold in North America last year. However, GM was ranked just 25 points above Nissan. The report notes that GM hired a new procurement chief in 2014 with previous executive experience at parts supplier Delphi Automotive, who asked suppliers for input as to what GM was doing that, was not contributing to a win-win relationship.

Coming in with the lowest supplier ranking was Fiat Chrysler which reportedly has improved many of its internal processes but those processes still lag behind those of its competitors. The automaker has recently reorganized its quality and purchasing management teams including recruiting a new chief purchasing officer.

From our lens, the takeaway seems to be that for U.S. automotive OEM’s, when it comes to fostering more positive supplier relationships, the trend remains one of business as usual, namely singular cost reduction pressures flowing down the tiers of North America automotive supply chains. The more times change, the more behaviors remain the same, despite learning to the contrary including unprecedented industry product recall incidents


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


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