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Some Quantification of the Potential Impact of the Tianjin Port Warehouse Explosions

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There has been much reporting within social and business media regarding the potential industry supply chain disruptive effects of the recent massive warehouse explosions that affected the facilities adjacent to the Port of Tianjin.

It is rather important and crucial that industry supply chain and sales and operations team obtain meaningful and insightful information regarding what is happening on the ground as well as the potential short or long-term supply chain impacts, if any.

We at Supply Chain Matters are disappointed to observe that certain technology and service providers are attempting to utilize this tragic incident as a backdrop to product marketing outreach campaigns. Neither should technology providers suddenly become news outlets.

Not good ideas by our lens.

Supply chain technology providers should instead continue to educate on the benefits of the technology they provide and allow industry supply chain teams to receive clear, unfiltered and unbiased insights and information from informed and educated sources.

One of the better Tianjin perspectives Supply Chain Matters has reviewed to-date ia a published white paper: The Aftermath of the Tianjin Explosions: A Global Supply Chain Impact Analysis, authored by supply chain risk management provider Resilinc.

While this 24 page white paper does include some product marketing, along with requiring registration, the bulk of the report provides meaningful and insightful information related to potential immediate, near-term, medium and longer term supply chain impacts.

The paper concludes that the less apparent ripple effects of the warehouse explosions will be felt weeks, months and even years to come.

The paper provides meaningful background information regarding this vital logistics and manufacturing hub, which services industry needs of automotive, commercial aerospace, high-tech, petrochemical and general industrial manufacturing supply chains, among others. It further outlines important mapping of industrial manufacturing and supplier concentrations within close proximity of the explosions, based on a mapping of over 30 sites in a 2-10 mile radius of the blast.  Four large industrial zone districts are adjacent to the port, with the port serving as what is described as the largest free trade zone in northern China, and the second largest Vehicle Processing Center for importing and exporting of automobiles.

On the topic of near-term ripple effects, the Resilinc analysis predicts that extensive delays can be expected for most companies and sites moving products through Chinese ports as government agencies deal with the after-effects of a regulatory environment needing extra attention.

There are predictions that Tianjin port operations will only begin to resume normal operations by approximately mid-September, and that any containers now at the port will be inaccessible for the next two months, even if they are intact. Resilinc indicates that for any suppliers located within 2-15 miles of the explosions, companies may presume 12-16 weeks of delays.

Long-term impacts outlined related to the ripple effects of increased regulatory actions impacting certain industry sectors including the location and storage of goods near large population centers.

Regarding potential long-term impacts, the paper cites Chinese media as indicating the economic cost of Tianjin crisis could be as high as $8 billion.

If your organization is dependent on operations, logistics partners, suppliers or service providers in the Tianjin area, we recommend you review this report which can be accessed at the following Resilinc web link. (Some personal registration information required)

Bob Ferrari


The Marketing and Selling of Cloud-Based Technology

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In our previous Supply Chain Matters commentary, we called attention to the significant winds of change that are blowing across the high tech and consumer electronics industry. Much of this has to do with more rapid cycles of advanced technology including the advent of cloud-based software applications and IT infrastructure.

This author recently read a published Bloomberg Businessweek article that reported on the significant implications in selling cloud-based technology.  The article triggered me to share my observation and thoughts as to what is occurring in efforts related to the marketing and selling of supply chain, manufacturing, PLM and B2B business network support technology.

The Bloomberg article observes that classic sales techniques of setting high expectations for software, investing in numerous conferences and associated demo booths at industry conferences have become passé. Noted is that most technology buyers do their research online to ascertain the strengths and shortfalls of a particular application and/or vendor.  This author founded Supply Chain Matters for that specific purpose, and there are now other well recognized independent and unbiased sources providing online technology perspectives.  The days of traditional industry analyst firms, holding hostage with technology ratings and advisories is fast waning.

Bloomberg further notes: “The personality profile of the technology salesperson has shifted from aggressive and persistent to technical and smart.”

We could not agree more.

In my 16 plus years of observing and participating in the dynamics of positioning and selling information technology, I have witnessed many types of traditional sales personalities.  The profile often tended toward high energy, ego, social and aggressive. Traits included meeting and exceeding quota goals in spite of any barriers, garnering all forms of sales perks and selling the customer as much as possible. That sometimes called for last-minute super deals offered over the weekend at quarter-end. Those traits and requirements are definitely changing, perhaps for the better. Yet, some technology providers continue to hold to prior methods, constantly churning sales teams to seek the most aggressive performers.

More importantly, the selling of technology that will support mission critical business process needs reflected in many supply chain focused opportunities requires a consultative marketing and sales approach. It requires marketing and sales teams to fully understand both supply chain and B2B focused business process challenges, industry-specific nuances along with an awareness and full understanding of required line-of-business outcomes.  The prime buying audience of today’s cloud technology is functional and business teams, while IT teams provide architectural advice, counsel and input.

Consultative sales cycles related to cloud-based software can extend through many weeks and months, helping customers to gain initial proof-of-concept and early benefits, and later extending those benefits with broader scope deployments.  It is not a focus for seeking the 7 figure deal by end-of-quarter, but rather balancing customer sales cycles with required inbound revenue needs. Sales cycles are supported by industry and prospect education, continuous web-based content and ongoing interactions.

Building a trusted relationship with customer teams is thus essential. No longer can one just walk away to seek other opportunities. In essence, the marketing and sales model associated with cloud technology is akin to your neighborhood auto mechanic.  He or she knows all about the vehicle, continuously stays current with the latest technology, is willing to go the extra mile to help customers and strives to be always available in time of most need.

What about your perspective?  Do you feel cloud-based technology providers are adopting these new methods of interaction and support?

Bob Ferrari


Gartner Reports Robust Growth in 2014 Worldwide Supply Chain Management and Procurement Software Revenues

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In conjunction with its Supply Chain Executive Conference held this week, industry analyst firm Gartner reaffirmed a rather robust year of nearly 11 percent growth for supply chain and procurement software during 2014. Gartner estimated total revenues for SCM and procurement software to be $9.9 billion last year, outpacing other software market segments. The 2014 sizing of $9.9 billion reflects a nearly $1 billion increase from the Gartner $8.9 billion number reported for 2013 performance. The current 10.8 percent growth rate compares to the 7.3 percent growth reported for 2013. The fact that the pace increased by 3.5 percentage points is by our Supply Chain Matters lens, a reflection of a stepped-up emphasis in supply chain business and procurement process support needs.

Gartner again confirmed the overall fragmentation of this market segment which has continued by this author’s perspective, for the past 15 years. The top 10 vendors currently account for 55 percent of total market share, while the remaining 57 vendors tracked by Gartner account for the remaining share of the overall market. Gartner further reports that the average growth rate for remaining 57 vendors averaged nearly 10 percent, which is again, a very healthy growth performance.

As in the past, SAP and Oracle are again reported as the overall leaders of this market segment, followed by JDA Software (current Supply Chain Matters sponsor), Manhattan Associates and Epicor rounding out the top five revenue listing. We caution our readers to not be totally enamored by the SCM and procurement revenue numbers reported by both SAP and oracle since they are often internal estimates that are generated by each of these ERP providers vying for number one bragging rights. Neither reports such breakouts in their official financial reports to the investment community.

Double digit growth for this particular software segment is not at all unusual and reflects the continued importance that industry firms place on investing in supply chain capabilities. The most recent peak was in 2011 with a 12.2 percent growth rate. In its announcement, Gartner stated that: “The SCM and procurement software market experienced solid growth through sustained application demand, as supply chain remains a key source of competitive advantage in driving business growth objectives, such as improved customer satisfaction, greater business agility and operational improvements.” That statement seems understated.

From our discussions, client interactions and travels, we believe that the overwhelming complexity that is now impacting multiple manufacturing, retail and service focused industry supply chains has prompted needs for added technology support.

Bob Ferrari

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


An Important Milestone Reached in RFID Enabled Item-Level Tracking

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It was nearly 10 years ago when the initial hype of item-level tracking enabled by RFID began to emerge across retail and other consumer and industrial focused supply chains. The vision for the ability to connect the physical and digital aspects of the supply chain was within grasp and the hype cycle was extensive. Our readers might recall Wal-Mart’s highly visible corporate initiative for mandating RFID-enabled tracking across its supply chain as well as the U.S. Department of Defense efforts to do the same. But something happened, namely learning that seems to be rather consistent with advanced technology initiatives.

In the early days of RFID, there were challenges involved with the economic cost of individual RFID tags. Recall the threshold number of tags eventually costing less than 5 cents each. The IT infrastructure of required mobile and fixed readers, antennae, and database systems was more expensive than vendors were communicating.  Industry-wide consistent information transfer standards development was elusive because either technology vendors continued to advocate for certain proprietary standards, hoping to cash in on the new technology wave, or specific industry groups themselves favored certain standards.

It is therefore very noteworthy to reflect on results of a recent survey conducted by GS1’s US Apparel and General Merchandise Initiative. For those unfamiliar, GS1 is a global information standards based organization that fosters trading-partner collaboration through adoption of global-wide consistent item numbering and identification electronic information exchange. Keep in-mind that apparel and merchandise supply chains operate on narrowest of product margins, with cost, inventory and shrinkage being prime challenges. Apparel and general merchandise was one of the prime targets of the early RFID mandates.

Last week the organization released the results of a 2014 survey providing indicators for how apparel and general merchandise manufacturers and retailers are utilizing item level Electronic Product Code (EPC) enabled RFID tracking. That survey indicates that nearly half of the manufacturers surveyed now indicating that they are currently implementing RFID, with a further 21 percent planning to implement within the next 12 months.

Of the retailers surveyed by GS1, more than half reported current implementation efforts underway with another 19 percent planning to implement in the next 12 months.  Retail respondents indicated that on average, 47 percent of items received in their supply chains have RFID tags. In the news release, an Auburn University researcher indicates that retailers are garnering greater than 95 percent inventory accuracy, decreased out-of-stocks, increased margins and expedited returns.  That phrase should sound familiar since it was the original declared benefits of the prior mandate efforts.

In the current clock-speed cadence of business where results are measured and expected in weeks and short months, 10 years is a lifetime. Yet, that it what was required for the technology maturity and economics of RFID item-tracking to reach what appears to be the dawn of mainstream adoption.  This GS1 survey announcement should be viewed in that light.

For RFID enabled item-tracking, the early innovators have paved the way of learning and economics, as well as what worked and what did not. We at Supply Chain Matters have already brought to light the next wave of item-level tracking, sensor tags that can monitor the composition, state and movement of products across the global supply chain utilizing today’s mobile technologies and near-field communications (NFC). These tags will eventually provide for use cases in supply chain settings requiring higher levels of monitoring and detailed visibility such as fresh foods, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and others.

What is ever more important is that as a community, we learn from previous technology adoption curves where elements of business process adoption, standards and cost-effective technology all interplay.  One obvious conclusion is that supplier mandates for technology implementation will not work if these elements have not been realistically evaluated.

Beyond all the hype are the inherent realities. Advanced technology does provide meaningful business benefits when applied to well-understood business process needs, challenges and cost factors. Technology adoption is not driven by vendor product marketing but by business education, process maturity, people and process realities.

Bob Ferrari

© 2015 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and the Supply Chain Matters blog. All rights reserved.


Automotive OEM’s Hightened Sensitvity to Value Chain Quality and Service Networks

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Prediction Ten of our Supply Chain Matters 2015 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains calls for increased attention and new investment interest for service focused supply chains in the coming year. This includes after-market business process services, service parts and service delivery supply and demand business processes.

The obvious reasons are the unprecedented increases in occurrence of product recalls that add large amounts of consumer negativity towards a brand, especially in the U.S. automotive sector.  Too often, there has been a “throw it over the wall” mentality involving service beyond product sale and thus the after-market service supply chain has lagged in process modernization and investment.

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article, Auto Industry Galvanized After Record Recall Year (paid subscription but complimentary metered view with sign-up).  This article reminds readers that about 700 individual recall announcements involving more than 60 million motor vehicles occurred in 2014 across the United States, double the previous record logged in 2004. The rate of recalls was the equivalent of one in five vehicles currently in the road.  Many of our readers can probably attest to the current situation.

Auto manufacturers have been forced to clean-up years of defects that were either undetected or ignored amidst heightened regulatory scrutiny.

The result is obvious, service supply chains swamped with requirements for numerous replacement parts and service networks buffeted by consumer rage as to why their perceived unsafe vehicles cannot be immediately repaired.  In the care of the massive recalls involving airbag inflators sourced from supplier Takata, product recalls are prioritized for warm region sensitivity along with broader U.S. wide needs.

The Times article observes that sending out notification letters does not suffice, requiring more direct interaction with consumers. That, by our lens, implies more timely information and visibility as to the prioritization of repair campaigns and availability of required repair parts for specific regions.  The article further hints to underreporting of potential product defects or failures.

OEM’s such as Toyota are overhauling safety and product recall practices as well as processes incorporated within its service networks.  Supply Chain Matters has previously highlighted General Motors new brand survival emphasis on up-front product quality and more responsive tracking and detection of potential product problems.  Social media will play a very important role in these new methods including the transmission of product recall information directly to consumers and their individual vehicles.   Legislators continue utilizing the big-stick of criminal prosecution of executives and a means to motivate automotive OEM’s to be more responsive to product quality and overall vehicle safety.

Crisis often brings opportunity, and in the case of service networks, the opportunity is the ability to leverage today’s more advanced technologies related to vehicle sensors, predictive analytics, advanced simulation and scheduling, demand sensing and item-level B2B business network wide visibility among service focused supply chains.

The forces are indeed in motion for greater attention to service supply chain capabilities in the New Year.

Bob Ferrari


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