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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


Major Automotive Supplier Component Safety Snafu is Another Supplier’s Strategic Gain

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As far back as 2014, Supply Chain Matters provided commentaries relative to the defective air bag inflator crisis that was impacting multiple global automotive brands. Even then, the product recalls involving airbag inflators supplied by Takata Corp. of Japan were estimated to be in the millions.

In an October 2014 posting, Supply Chain Matters echoed business media reports that brands such as Honda, were undertaking steps to seek out alternative suppliers, not only to provide augmented supplies of air bag inflators required to retrofit millions of recalled vehicles, but also to become a replacement supplier for current and future production needs. We noted that rival air bag suppliers that could benefit from the ongoing crisis included Autoliv, DaicelKey Safety Systems and TRW Automotive Holdings, which at the time was being acquired by German based ZF Friedrichshafen. We further pointed out that switching suppliers that support one or several global product platforms is somewhat more challenging from a timing perspective.

Flash forward to today and specifically a recent Bloomberg Businessweek report titled: The Company That Came out on Top After Takata’s Air Bag Mess. The report indicates that largest automotive-safety parts company in the world has successfully been able to step in and respond to the Takata focused crisis. This supplier actually began supplying air bags as far back as 1980. Amid the current wave of product recalls, Autoliv produced inflators are noted as emerging relatively unscathed in the crisis.

The overall scope of the defective air bag inflators is massive, with upwards of 60 million recalled vehicles on a worldwide basis. Noted is that about 28 million Takata air bag inflators have been recalled in the U.S. alone.

Autoliv expects to produce 20 million replacement inflators since alternate production began in 2015, and extends through 2017. Once more, the supplier indicated to Bloomberg that it had won about half of all frontal air bag orders for newer cars last year. This supplier is forecasting sales growth of 7 percent annually, a fairly healthy rate for a lower-tiered automotive supplier.

Once more, Bloomberg points to Autoliv’s newer focus on the supply of more sophisticated safety components for autonomous vehicles such as radar, vision sensors and other crash avoidance safety systems ranging from standard sedans to luxury vehicles.  According to a recent Boston Consulting Group study, within the next decade, one in eight cars sold around the world will have autonomous features. Bloomberg reports that Autoliv components are contributing to autonomy features in cars like Daimler’s new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which can steer itself in auto-pilot mode, brake in emergencies and evade obstructions. The company is also reportedly partnering with Volvo AB in a project called Drive Me that aims to have 100 self-driving cars on the roads in Gothenburg, Sweden next year.

In essence, this alternative supplier is not only benefitting from its abilities to step-up and respond to an immediate industry defective component crisis, but indeed, positioning from a product design strategy perspective to be a preferred supplier for future safety systems in multiple branded global vehicle platforms.

We have called reader attention to the ongoing Autoliv case study because it provides an ongoing example of how a major supply crisis and safety snafu can indeed lead to another supplier’s opportunistic gain. More importantly, thinking beyond the tactical crisis window at-hand with a focus on what will be the alternative technology.


Sports Authority-A Disturbing Twist to Consignment Inventory Management Practices

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Earlier this month we alerted Supply Chain Matters readers to the unfortunate filing of bankruptcy by retailer Sports Authority. Characterized as one of the largest sporting-goods retailers, the chain has been weighted down with debt from a prior leveraged buyout a decade ago. Today, business media has added a more disturbing development to this ongoing bankruptcy process, one that by our lens has significant ramifications for supplier collaboration practices within retail as well as other consumer goods focused supply chains.

In its bankruptcy filing, Sports Authority indicated $1.1 billion in debt that included $717 million in bank loans and over $200 million in trade debt owed to suppliers. As is a common practice in retail supply chains, suppliers had consigned inventory to this retailer, expecting payment when the goods were sold to consumers.

This week, the retail chain filed lawsuits with more than 160 of these suppliers challenging supplier claims to consigned inventories. According to a published report from The Wall Street Journal, upwards of $85 million in shoes and other gear that are currently on the shelves in retail stores and are at-stake. The supplier lawsuits are apparently a means to challenge who gets the bulk of compensation when consigned goods are sold in store closings or in discounted sales. According to this report, Sports Authority is owned by a private equity group as well as a consortium of banks that are apparently seeking to test defects in inventory consignment agreements.

Suppliers themselves have demanded that the retail chain stop selling these consigned goods because of their belief that they hold ownership to the inventory. Accordingly, lawyers for the retailer are invoking what they believe are unique powers defined under bankruptcy laws.

Yesterday, a court ruling from a judge instructed Sports Authority to comply with supplier demands to return the consignment inventory and reinstate arrangements that existed before bankruptcy filing. Lawyers for Sports Authority apparently are willing to comply with the judicial decision but also continue with the supplier lawsuits as a means to reclaim the monies later if their lawsuits are successful.

While we are not lawyers nor profess to interpret laws, this development struck a nerve within our supply chain management lens, thus we are alerting our readers to this development.

As our industry supply chain readers are well aware, consignment inventory or vendor managed inventory (VMI) practices are fairly common practice in consumer goods focused and other select industry supply chains.  They were designed as a response by suppliers to assist key customers in their inventory and cost-of-goods sold (COGS) financial objectives. In essence, suppliers holding inventory ownership until goods are sold is a means of lower cost inventory financing for the buyer. Challenging such practices under the umbrella of bankruptcy protection is an ominous sign, one that if successful, will by our view, reverberate across multiple supply chains and muddle inventory ownership practices. Further, it represents a new low by private equity firms in challenging successful established business practices for singular gain. It literally challenges the notions of win-win supplier collaboration practices.

How all of these developments turn out is a matter of time and interpretation by courts.  However, we wonder aloud whether this effort, regardless of final outcome, provides a longer-term setback in joint inventory management practices.

We welcome the views of our readers either through comments associated to this commentary or by direct email.

Bob Ferrari

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

 


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