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The Tech Twist to the Amazon-Whole Foods Acquisition

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Over the coming days Supply Chain Matters will feature both our own and invited guest commentaries regarding last week’s blockbuster announcement that Amazon intends to acquire the Whole Foods grocery chain for $13.7 billion.

In this posting, we update our readers on rather interesting added developments, to state the obvious. Whole Foods Austin The Tech Twist to the Amazon Whole Foods Acquisition

A report published by The Wall Street Journal, Get Off Amazon’s Cloud, (Paid subscription required) once again reinforces the extent of the cutthroat competition that Wal-Mart and other retailers now have with Amazon. The report indicates that Wal-Mart is instructing software and other technology suppliers to the global chain to refrain from utilizing Amazon Web Services (AWS) as the backbone Cloud platform. The report notes:

Wal-Mart , loath to give any business to Amazon, said it keeps most of its data on its own servers and uses services from emerging AWS competitors, such as Microsoft Corp’s Azure.”

That is certainly an unexpected boost for Microsoft as well as AWS competitors such as Oracle, Blue Cloud, IBM and others. Other technology providers catering to retailer software technology needs further confirmed specific retailer requests to prefer Cloud platforms other than Amazon’s.  We have similarly heard of such concerns shared by certain vendors in their retail customer interactions.

The concern is access to sensitive customer or other fulfillment or supply chain related data. That makes sense. However, AWS, along with other Cloud platform vendors must adhere to certain regional and global data security standards associated with certification standards. But that is not going to appease retailers who after last week’s announcement, are not going to trust anything related to Amazon supported services.

The obvious benefactors are software and Cloud applications providers catering to retail industry needs who elected to outsource Cloud infrastructure to providers other than AWS. That would include B2B Business Network and EDI messaging support providers as well as transportation and logistics Cloud-based providers. After today’s WSJ report, product marketing teams of Cloud infrastructure platform provider will likely re-double their efforts for targeting retail industry, including all its supporting elements.

Another Whole Foods Suitor?

While on the subject of Wal-Mart, JP Morgan indicated in an investment advisory that this retailer is likely the only other retail chain that can make a counter-bid to acquire Whole Foods, but there are likely other overriding factors such as clashing corporate cultures, Whole Foods customer whiplash and a potential bidding war with Amazon that would likely make such a move unlikely.

A posting published by Business Insider provides added details of the JP Morgan analysis. The sum total of the JP Morgan argument is why play defense when it’s better to stick to offense:

Given Walmart’s 20%+ share in grocery, why should the company spend $14B+ on what it’s already good at (selling food via brick-and-mortar) when the money instead could be used to expand and improve Jet.com and Walmart.com? Jet.com is Walmart’s urban/millennial alternative to Amazon Prime, and Walmart.com is in many ways the ‘forgotten man’s’ alternative to Prime.”

From our lens, that is a powerful argument and a likely indication that there will not be a counter bid.

Many of the post-announcement opinion commentaries speculate what Amazon will do to leverage a well-respected grocery retail chain.  From our lens, we advise readers to consider all the supply chain, customer fulfillment and customer intelligence capabilities of Amazon applied to a leveraged online and physical retail grocery presence. Picture a Whole Foods store augmented with an added, automated customer fulfillment storeroom complete with Kiva robots sorting and staging online orders for parking lot pick-up. Think of the possibilities of the virtual Amazon fulfillment button affixed in our kitchens that electronically transmits the grocery shopping list to an online order available for one-hour pickup.

The possibilities are endless and the threat is real.

Stay tuned for continuing commentary.

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2017. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.


More Definitive News on Pending Foxconn Investment in the United States

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In late January, we alerted our Supply Chain Matters blog readers of a published report from The Wall Street Journal indicating that global contract manufacturer Foxconn, (Hon Hai Precision Corp.) new parent of Sharp Corp. was evaluating a $7 billion in new LCD manufacturing facility in the United States. Our takeaway from this report was that if this investment did indeed occur, it would represent a significant milestone for the high-tech and consumer electronics supply chains. We believed that the plant investment would further have a linkage to Apple’s production needs.  Foxconn 300x201 More Definitive News on Pending Foxconn Investment in the United States

Since that time, there have been various reports indicating on and off again negotiations with individual U.S. states. Last week, the Associated Press, citing an informed source, indicated that Foxconn’s proposed U.S. factory might have a Wisconsin address and that active negotiations with state officials was occurring. The report indicated that the state of Michigan was also a possibility.

Today, the investment advisory site Seeking Alpha, Reuters and other news outlets are now indicating that a final decision is expected in July.

According to Seeking Alpha, the total investment is $10 billion across the United States, beginning with a $7 billion LCD factory. The July decision will likely determine whether Wisconsin or Michigan are the likely site for the factory.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou has indicated that five other states are under consideration for Foxconn investments including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, and Texas.

Reuters reports that Gau indicated to shareholders:

This time we go to America, it’s not just to build a factory, but to move our entire supply chain there.

Prior reports were indicating that Gau was playing hardball in his ongoing negotiations with individual states, in-essence threatening to continue the process until favorable terms to Foxconn were evident. In the latest Reuters report, Cau is now quoted as indicating he has been favorably impressed, beyond imagination, with the sincerity and confidence by individual state governors to attract investment.

If readers are noting a subtle political tone to these events, you are not alone. Many of the states noted under consideration, including the two finalists voted favorably for President Trump is the last election. The final announcement, when made, will resonate well with “Make America Great Again” voters.

Politics aside, make no mistake that this is a very big deal for high-tech and consumer electronics supply chains, specifically Apple’s supply chain, along with that of U.S. Based automotive brand owners that increasingly feature more high-tech electronics, autonomous driving features and visual displays in future automobile models.

A very big deal indeed.

 

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2017. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.


This Week’s Paris Air Show- More About Product Development and Supplier Tensions

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The Paris Air Show is being held this week representing an important sales and marketing event for aerospace and commercial aircraft manufacturers and supply chain participants. Thus far, two dominant themes appear; one being efforts by Boeing to premiere or hint of new aircraft as well as added services, the other by aircraft engine producers and key suppliers, exercising influence as the critical link in commercial aircraft supply chains.

Boeing has focused this week’s event as the formal market launch of the newest version of the 737-aircraft family, that being the 737 Max 10. This latest model of the 737 can seat upwards of 230 passengers and has a reported list price of upwards of $125 million, but customers more than often acquire aircraft at discounted price levels. Industry watchers position the 737-10 as a market response to Airbus’s rather popular A320 neo series Boeing began the week by announcing 135 new orders for the aircraft, and thus far, visibility to individual airline or aircraft leasing companies have come forth, including a United Airlines order for 100 of the aircraft. The aircraft manufacturer expects to book orders of upwards of 240-250 aircraft. The 737-10 is expected to enter operational service in the 2020 timeframe.  Boeing 737Max Tail 300x200 This Weeks Paris Air Show  More About Product Development and Supplier Tensions

The president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes indicated to attending press that customers wanted the aircraft producer to build the single-aisle 737 bigger, and with more operating range.  From our lens, that is reflection of airlines being primarily-driven by financial metrics vs. customer comfort factors.  Anyone who has had to endure a 5-6-hour flight on a packed 737 with few amenities including lavatories likely know what we mean by customer comfort.  Welcome to the new world of airline travel, where efficiency trumps any sense of overall customer experience. But, we digress.

From a product development perspective, because of existing iterations of the 737, incremental product development and manufacturing costs for the larger model are relatively modest by comparison, boosting product margins for Boeing.  The supply chain is already in-place and ramping-up production of all models of the 737 family.

Industry media including Aviation Week report that airlines in general have a mixed view of the 737-10, mostly because of market timing and overall claimed capabilities. Boeing is therefore taking the opportunity to leverage this week’s event as a sounding board for the development of a new, smaller twin-aisle “middle-of-the-market’ aircraft with the designated name of the 797 series.

The conceptual 797 would by some accounts, be positioned between the 737, and the 787 Dreamliner, providing airlines more options in operating U.S. coast-to-coast or transatlantic flights airlines. Many in the industry view this model as a successor to the very popular 757 series.

For Boeing, the 797 series would be a test of quicker-time-to-market since by some accounts, airlines have expressed enthusiastic response to initial paper designs. A further critical design decision would be the selection of the aircraft’s available engines. Thus far, we have read indications that existing 737 MAX and A320 neo engine providers CFM International and Pratt & Whitney would be potential suppliers as well as Rolls Royce, which has up to this point, concentrated its product strategy on the larger twin-aisle segment. However, we read one show report indicating that executives from General Electric and CFM International have no interest in sharing a supplier arrangement with Boeing’s 797 series. Instead that are bidding to be the sole engine provider to assure a timely market introduction.

On the subject of aircraft engines, this week’s event has manufacturers in this segment touting their new engine orders. As an example, GE and CFM expect to book $15 billion in new business, both in hardware and services. GE Aviation indicated that its engine order backlog now exceeds $150 billion.

Beyond the marketing, as we have noted in our most recent Supply Chain Matters commentaries focused on commercial aircraft supply chains, engine manufacturers are currently the critical weak-link in the supply chains for both the A320 neo and the 787-MAX.  Pratt continues to deal with initial engine component design and manufacturing deficiencies related to its new geared turbo-fan (GTF) engines requiring the planning of whole engine spares to keep existing operational aircraft flying to schedule.  Engine supplier CFM International, the joint venture of GE Aerospace and Safran, producers of the new LEAP series engines experienced an initial quality problem in a turbine disc within operating engines of the first 737-MAX. At this week’s event, CFM International management indicated confidence in discovering root cause of the turbine disc flaw and expressed further confidence in meeting the targeted delivery of 500 LEAP engines by the end of this year.

Finally, industry and business press is highlighting the July start-up of Boeing’s newly announced Global Services Business Unit.  This week, Boeing management indicated expectations to garner much more of the estimated 8 percent of business services existing Boeing operational aircraft representing billions of dollars in potential added revenues and profits. The goal is to double annual services revenues to $50 billion in five years. Boeing management acknowledged the potential of a “healthy tension” with major suppliers, including engine producers, since many key suppliers rely on services revenues to boost their financial performance. Some engine producers are currently threatening to invest less in product innovation if Boeing insists on taking more market-share in services. That threat includes the currently contemplated 797 aircraft.  For Boeing to accomplish its business goals for services growth, it will need to convince major suppliers to give-up intellectual property as well as spare parts distribution rights. That is a tall order that is bound to lead to added supplier tensions. A further battleground will be the area of Internet-of-Things enabled service models where both aircraft manufacturers and suppliers are expected to clash on whom owns and controls customer-focused operational and services data. This is an area that bears quite a lot of observation in the months to come.

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2017. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.


Can Automotive Industry Supply Chain Strategy Undergo Disruption- Perhaps Yes?

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To state the obvious, this has been a week of significant industry developments mostly all pointing to implications for industry supply chain structural change. Having just published our initial commentary on the thunderbolt developments in traditional grocery retailing, we now add more evidence of building disruption, in this case, for automotive supply chains.

Tim Cook has finally publicly acknowledged that Apple has a formal development effort underway focused on Autonomous Driving Systems. In a published interview on Bloomberg Television, Cook indicated: “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.He likened the effort to “the mother of all AI projects,” saying it’s “probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.” Tesla Mod3 Sized 450 Can Automotive Industry Supply Chain Strategy Undergo Disruption  Perhaps Yes?

As Supply Chain Matters and other business focused social media outlets have all previously noted months ago, Apple’s efforts in either autonomous driving or electric vehicle manufacturing, under the umbrella of Project Titan, were an open secret. While the effort itself has had its share of fits, starts and scope changes, Cook’s public acknowledgement is an obvious indication of a purposeful and meaningful business initiative that could soon lead to further announcements. With all things related to Apple, timing of announcements is always a prelude to an evolving marketing or pre-planned corporate communications plan to boost brand and investor interest.

In its summary of the interview, Bloomberg notes that Apple has had upwards of a half-dozen vehicles testing autonomous technology on public roads in and around the San Francisco Bay area for at least a year, citing a source familiar with Project Titan. Of course, Apple itself declined to comment on how long the company has been conducting road tests.

Always having a focus on industry supply chain implications, this Editor searched for other opinion and commentary, and found just that.  In fact, we found an opinion commentary that provides powerful arguments for a pending disruption of automotive industry supply chain, and in notions of automotive and electronics contract manufacturing.

An opinion commentary penned by EnerTuition, and hosted on the Seeking Alpha financial investor platform addressed the question: Can Apple Disrupt Automotive Manufacturing?  Without fringing on content rights, the arguments presented for the affirmative are by our view, powerful and dead-on.

The content makes a strong case that there is little doubt that Apple will enter autonomous car manufacturing, with the primary reason being that Apple never considers itself as just an IP or software components company. There is always the full branding strategy of products and related services.

Further challenged is the conventional industry thinking that “the auto industry cannot be disrupted” because of the capital-intensive nature of this industry. While the statement has meaning for traditional automotive manufacturing that is hardware, metal and sheet metal intensive, the counter argument presented is that autonomous electric vehicles provide a far different product value supply chain profile. That includes batteries as the highest cost-of-goods sold (CAGS) component, followed by vehicle sensors and software systems. The assumption presented, although somewhat future focused by our view, is that there will be no need for human factors such as steering wheel placements and instruments, which opens consideration for a singular global product design and manufacturing process.

The most interesting and profound opportunity for disruption is within the core area of manufacturing.

The argument made is that with most of the value-added of electric powered cars consisting of electronics vs. sheet-metal, and with the change coming so rapidly, manufacturers or industry disruptors will have little choice but to adopt a contract manufacturing strategy. With such a strategy, EnerTuition argues that the supply chain dominants will become emerging automotive component sub-systems and electronics providers, augmented with existing high-tech electronics contract manufacturers. Names such as Foxconn, Flextronics and Jabil are argued to grow more share of contract automotive manufacturing.

The above, ladies and gents, is a rather strong argument to support how Apple can indeed move directly into automotive manufacturing, because of its intimate knowledge and proven capabilities to understand the tenets of supply chain strategy and utilization of contract manufacturing. And, if you tend to dismiss any parts of the above arguments, consider that Apple, with its obscene cash balance, could acquire an electric automobile manufacturer itself. Guess which one- it starts with a “T”.

The reason we are highlighting this Seeking Alpha commentary for our readers is because this Editor and independent supply chain management industry analyst has been observing new and emerging positioning and capability among contract manufacturers and the industry that points toward such technology-driven changes.  Recall that just recently, Ford Motor elected to undergo a CEO change because of the stated need to move faster in technology innovation and in development efforts in autonomous vehicles.

There is ample evidence that disruption is indeed on the horizon soon, and traditional auto manufacturers and their key suppliers may be the deer in headlights if they do not move fast enough with an integrated product development and supply chain support strategy

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2017. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.


Breaking: Amazon to Acquire Whole Foods- An Obvious Industry Inflection Point

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In the history of any industry, along with its associated supporting supply chains, there comes a seminal series of events that ultimately point to a major inflection point, one that clearly indicates that business-as-usual is no longer an option. For the food and grocery industry, and all of its supply chain stakeholders, the year 2017, in the second week of June, two thunderbolt events ignited a seminal industry change.

As we pen this Supply Chain Matters posting, business and general media are broadcasting the headline announcement that Amazon intends to acquire Whole Foods Market for $42 per share, or more than $13 billion, a clear and obvious effort to directly penetrate the retail grocery landscape. This is Amazon’s largest acquisition to-date, and no doubt, there were likely multiple choices. In the press release announcing the acquisition, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos indicated that the attraction to Whole Foods was the wide offering of natural organic foods.   FBA sized Breaking: Amazon to Acquire Whole Foods  An Obvious Industry Inflection Point

By our lens, healthy margins, a loyal brand, and future methods to leverage online and in-store shopping were an obvious consideration, Whole Foods has also been under intense pressure from private-equity firm Jana Partners. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has been quoted as characterizing Jana as greedy. (Actually, he utilized a more direct term)

According to the release, Whole Foods will continue to operate under its current branding, and CEO Jim Mackey will stay-on as CEO.

News and social media reports further indicate that if the grocer receives a better acquisition offer, Whole Foods would be obligated to pay a $400 million termination fee to Amazon.

The other industry shockwave this week came from Kroger Company, one of the largest retail supermarket chains in the U.S., who issued unexpected lowered earnings forecast for the year. The aftermath of this news caused the chain’s stock to drop by 19 percent, the steepest one-day drop for the company’s stock in more than 17 years.

Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen is noted as sting the following in an interview:

The change right now in what the customer wants has never been faster.”

Business and general media reports are citing Nielsen and other retail sales data all indicating that consumers are both more price conscious in their food shopping, continue to seek out healthier food and beverage choices, and are increasingly turning to online channels for food and grocery needs. Nielsen data indicates that online grocery orders have risen 6.8 percent while visits to deep-discount chains are up 2.9 percent.

Other grocery retail chains are also feeling the effects of quickly changing  grocery shopping trends and the words, industry consolidation, are now coming to the forefront.

At the same time, discount grocery chains Aldi and Lidl are making a major expansion within the U.S. to take advantage of the current shopping trends, which will add to increased industry competition at the retail level.

What is now occurring in the retail channel will continue to cascade across consumer product goods, food and beverage supply chains in the form of tougher price negotiations and demands for increased product innovation addressing healthier food choices. The industry has already experienced the pressures from both Amazon and Wal-Mart as to which will receive the most attractive supply pricing deals.

As noted in our Supply Chain Matters industry commentary published in May, the industry winners are supply chain leaders who educate senior management on the differences of supply chain as a cost center vs. a business innovation enabler. They will also be those that can keep a laser focus on the end-goal, meeting and accommodating far different consumer preferences with changed thinking and distribution methods. By our lens, industry supply chains that invest in talent that can bring forward new creativity, collaboration and thinking for a supply chain model that leverages both online and in-store buying needs will likely benefit.

CPG suppliers are also subject to the influences of private equity, specifically 3G Capital, and no doubt, there will likely continue to be influences for additional M&A among major suppliers and food producers.

Consumer packed foods and associated industry supply chain teams need to pay very close attention to industry developments and associated implications. The notions of single-channel product demand forecasting or other business-as-usual supply chain planning and distribution methods no longer apply during now permanent industry shift. Agility, resilience, and a predictive understanding of consumer needs in food and food buying preferences are table stakes.

Be it noted that in June 2017, two industry shockwave developments became the catalyst for structural packaged and fresh food industry change.

Supply Chain Matters will continue to monitor industry supply chain developments and share insights. We predicted significant industry changes at the start of the year, and the clock speed has accelerated.

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2017. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.

 


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