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ISM Semiannual Forecast Points to Lots of Optimism Among U.S. Manufacturers

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This week, the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) released its December 2013 Semiannual Economic Forecast, which serves as an outlook for U.S. manufacturing and supply chain activity in the first-half of 2014. This is ISM’s supplemental reporting to its monthly PMI reporting, which is very closely watched by Wall Street and business media. The report provided some noteworthy indications of what manufacturers are planning for in the New Year.

Expectations for 2014 are positive as 69 percent of survey respondents expect revenues to be greater in 2014 than in 2013. Respondents are planning for manufacturing revenues to increase 4.4 percent in 2014, almost a percentage point higher than consensus economic forecasts of global growth of 3.5 percent.

ISM reports that manufacturing employment is expected to increase by 2.4 percent which is a sign of continued confidence. Respondents report operating at 80.3 percent of their normal capacity, up slightly from 80.2 percent reported in April 2013. Capital expenditures are expected to increase by 8 percent in 2014 over 2013.

Of most interest were responses to a special question focused on expected supply chain improvements planned for 2014.  Supply chain and B2B technology and services providers, please take note.

The report indicates that 69 percent of respondents are planning improvements to supply chain processes, which is a rather strong indication of aggressive investment and renewal plans.  Areas of investments were described as strategic sourcing, supply base rationalization and supplier relationship management on the procurement side of supply chain.  Other areas of cited investment were inventory management and control, which we presume is supply-chain and multi-tiered in scope, along with improved cross-functional planning and scheduling.  It would appear that manufacturers have internalized the need for supply chain to have a more outside-in focus, with emphasis on proactively identifying risk, while deepening relationships with key suppliers.  Enhancing cross-functional planning is a sign of more closely aligning both planning and fulfillment execution processes into a singular management control process.

Thus, from the lens of U.S. manufacturers, optimism is running high for a banner year and renewed investment in 2014.


Supply Chain Matters 2014 Predictions for Global Supply Chains- Part Eight

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Once a year, just before the start of the New Year, the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters Blog provide our series of predictions for the coming year.  These predictions are provided in the spirit of advising supply chain organizations in setting management agenda for the year ahead, as well as helping our readers and clients to prepare their supply chain management teams in establishing programs, initiatives and educational agendas for the upcoming New Year.

In Part One of this series, we unveiled the methodology and complete listing of our 2014 predictions.   Supply Chain Matters Blog

Part Two in this series summarized Prediction One related on what to expect in the global economy and Prediction Two, what to expect in procurement costs.

Part Three summarized Predictions Three, continued momentum associated with the resurgence in U.S. and North America production, and Prediction Four, talent recruitment and retention as a continued challenge.

Part Four addressed some unique industry specific supply chain challenges in 2014.

Part Five predicted increased implications regarding current supply chain social responsibility strategies and practices.

Part Six explored the implications of increased supply chain risk on global sourcing strategies in 2014.

Part Seven dived into Prediction 8 related to expected global transportation consolidation developments, along with Prediction 9, our forecast for increased momentum in the “Internet of Things”.

In this final posting, we dive into our final prediction regarding what to expect in the information technology and services market arena next year.

Prediction 10: Continued Technology Investments in Cloud Computing, Predictive Analytics and Select Supply Chain Services. 

As noted in Prediction One, barring some ongoing remaining uncertainty, global economic growth in 2014 is forecasted to grow at a minimum of one percentage point from 2013, a number expected to be 3.6 percent.  That is a significant and long anticipated movement.

Industry supply chains will thus continue to turn their attention to increased business process and technology investments in 2014 to support business needs for increased top-line revenue and profitability growth, even more heightened industry competition, and enabling supply chain teams for more responsive to events. At the same time, continued uncertainties that abound in certain geographic markets and significantly increased risks associated with supply or value-chain disruption will place much more emphasis on more predictive planning that is closely integrated with customer focused fulfillment and execution process needs.  The current explosion in Multi-channel and/or Omni-channel fulfillment capability challenges outlined in Prediction Five will further drive increased technology investments in that area.

We believe that the prime areas for added investment will include:

  • Enhanced sensing of product and specific geographic regional demand.
  • Deeper and broader supply and value-chain visibility, including identifying and mitigating risk areas within lower tiers of the supply chain.
  • More predictive analytics and supply chain wide intelligence. That would include the overall integration of predictive planning capabilities that span supplier sourcing, ongoing supply and demand network design and/or reconfiguration, multi-tiered inventory optimization and multi-channel fulfillment management.
  • More emphasis on leveraging a single B2B network platform, connecting all key suppliers, with needs for integrating value-chain wide planning, team collaboration and customer and supplier fulfillment execution needs.

We concur with other industry analyst firms such as Gartner and IDC that the ongoing shift of influence and the ultimate decision in technology buying continues away from IT and towards the business side, with the continued counsel of the CIO and IT teams. The fate of technology investments to enable expected and more timely business outcomes now rests in the hands of business and supply chain teams.

The days of huge multi-year technology transformation initiatives will continue to shift toward targeted, tactical business process change initiatives of an average 3-6 months duration that phase-in capabilities toward a desired end-goal. The main focus will therefore continue to favor the Geoffrey Moore definitions of “systems of Innovation” and “systems of engagement.”

Hence, cloud computing and/or cloud-based applications technology options will continue to gain added attention across supply chain and B2B fulfillment areas because of needs toward quicker time-to-value. Because so many supply chainand customer fulfillment processes are deemed to be mission critical for the business, B2B platform vendors will need to continue to enhance data security management and control practices, especially in the light of continued incidents and threats of data breaches across multiple industry networks.  We continue in our belief that augmentation of cloud computing with managed services will be an attractive alternative for some select product or service management focused supply chains. We additionally believe that in 2014, supply chain teams will tend to hold favor toward private-based cloud options for the more mission critical aspects of product fulfillment, but will be somewhat more open to either hybrid or public cloud options supporting deeper analytics, value-chain wide collaboration or business intelligence.

In the area of predictive analytics, we predict 2014 will begin the emergence of a broader set of technology or services vendors offering deeper, cloud-based analytical capabilities in analyzing structured and unstructured data. These capabilities will have a strong dependence on supply chain wide event-driven data planning and execution streams. Predictive analytics will thus move toward more sense, predict and respond forms of approaches, including managed services of data scientists. This will afford the opportunity for supply chain teams to springboard capabilities in this area beyond the timetables of in-house development and better enable the foundations for supply chain control tower capabilities. Additionally, vendor marketing strategies that hype “Big Data” enablement will meet the reality of what teams really require, namely smarter, highly focused and more predictive data and insights that enable much more timely decision-making.

Finally in 2014, we anticipate broader consideration and evaluation of private and public social based interaction technologies to supplement existing product sensing and demand planning process needs, strategic vendor collaboration and broader external interactions within Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) processes. While a limited amount of supply chain teams explored this area in 2013, primarily on the sensing of product demand, we anticipate broader business process explorations and pilot capabilities occurring in 2014.


Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a rap, and that leads us to the conclusion of our series of ten predictions for the upcoming year.

We trust that these predictions and insights will help you and your organization prepare for personal and organizational team initiatives in the coming year. Once again, readers are encouraged to provide feedback or add your own view of what to expect in 2014 in the Comments section below each of our eight postings.

Throughout 2014, Supply Chain Matters will be providing periodic updates regarding these prediction areas and our research services arm will additionally feature some select research reports that dive even deeper into some of these supply chain management areas.

Our complete research report, 2014 Predictions for Global Supply Chains will be available for no-cost complimentary download via our blog Research Center in early January.  In the meantime, if you desire to receive a personal copy via direct email, please send your request to: supplychaininfo <at> theferrarigroup <dot> com. Please include your name, organization, title and email address in the request.

We extend to all of readers and followers our best wishes for a productive and rewarding New Year along with continued personal success.

Bob Ferrari

Executive Editor of Supply Chain Matters, Managing Director, The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group

©2013 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and the Supply Chain Matters Blog.  All rights reserved.

Increased Concerns for Information Security and IP Protection Concerning China Operations

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This weekend, The Financial Times reported (paid subscription required or free metered view) a significant finding, one that probably is not a surprise, but none the less should be of continued keen interest to product management, supply chain and IT functional support teams.  The FT article cites findings from the recently released 2013 China Climate Survey Report conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

The FT  headline is that a quarter of U.S. companies conducting business in China indicate that they have had trade secrets stolen or compromised through cyber related attacks on their China operations. The Chamber report cites 34 percent of respondents indicating material damage to China operations, a 12 percentage point increase from the previous annual survey. Once more, 14 percent indicated that these breaches caused material damage to global operations and a majority of these same respondents, 95 percent, indicate that this situation was unlikely to improve. More than 40 percent indicated that risk of a data breach is actually increasing. Almost half of all US companies surveyed indicated that intellectual property (IP) theft had damaged their operations.

The annual Chamber survey recorded a significant deterioration in perception of the investment environment in China, dropping from 43 percent a year ago, to 28 percent in the latest survey. Worries over corporate espionage were cited as a primary reason for the drop in confidence. Over one-third of respondents believe that industrial policies favor state-owned enterprises to the detriment of their own company.  De-facto technology transfer as a requirement for China market access was cited by 37 percent of respondents as an increasing requirement, a 10 percentage point increase from the prior year. This is a further indicator of concern related to IP protection.

These findings certainly echo the current public concerns now be openly expressed by many global governmental and legislative leaders regarding the increasing threats of cyber attacks. That included a recent trip to China from newly appointed U.S. Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew.

In response to questions raised by this survey, FT reports that:”… the Chinese foreign ministry described any accusation of Chinese cyber theft as “irresponsible” and urged US officials and companies not to politicize economic and trade issues and to stop hyping the issue of cyber security.”

Supply chain related technology and cloud services providers should take note of the survey finding that more China based companies are considering cloud computing options but the majority distrust China based providers because of data security concerns.

Readers can downloaded the full report at this web link.

Supply chain and IT professionals need to heed these growing concerns.  Insure that supply chain risk mitigation plans include special emphasis toward business and information policies for all owned operations within China. Emphasis should also be focused on information transfer and management practices that involve suppliers residing in the region.

China is both a vast growth market for goods and services and the global center of multiple industry manufacturing operations.  In the survey, the majority of the respondents continue to cite high profit margins in China. While those facts cannot be overlooked, attention to cyber security and IP protection should continue to be of a high priority.

Bob Ferrari

Does Technology Selection Need Yet Another Assessment and Evaluation Mechanism?

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Research firm Horses for Sources recently introduced its HfS Blueprint methodology for business process outsourcing capabilities which they argue is an assessment methodology that is not reliant on the arbitrary viewpoint of a single analyst. HfS is obviously pitching an alternative to either Gartner’s Magic Quadrant or the Forrester Wave methodology.

Our view is that technology vendors will embrace any and all alternatives to being held hostage to a single industry analyst firm.  However, for technology buying teams, while these evaluations can be helpful, they must be placed in a proper balanced context. Assessment of any technology vendor or service provider should be determined by consistency in rating among multiple analyst firms.  That would include that a vendor has demonstrated a consistently positive presence over a period of time, for instance two or more assessments. Additional attractiveness will be dependent on a number of other factors, including continual evaluation of more mature technologies and/or services which traditional industry analyst firms tend to de-emphasize, along with consistency in definition of the application and/or service.

Buyer reliance on these methodologies has been waning because there are so many other additional sources of information that selection teams can tap on their own.  They would include independent voices. Access to these methodologies also comes with a price that being a subscription to the individual analyst firm’s evaluation services. That is where the win-win proposition plays itself out for vendors and traditional analyst firms.  Vendors woe and lobby individual analysts to be rated favorably while the analyst firms garner a steady stream of subscription revenues. Any technology product marketing executive is all too aware of how subjective individual analyst rankings can become, especially when evaluation criteria is constantly in a state of purposeful change.

According to the HfS description of its methodology, vendors and service providers will have their capabilities ranked by two high level criteria, Execution and Innovation.  That is somewhat similar to the two axis of Gartner’s MQ.

The differentiators for Blueprint are described as crowdsourced inputs from four major constituencies: an Executive Council of Enterprise Buyers, Service Providers themselves, a body of advisors, consultants and other industry stakeholders, and finally, the HfS analyst team.  What seems not to be described is the overall weighting applied to each evaluation body. Perhaps that will be better clarified.

Data is collected from interviews with buyers, vendor briefings, and available information. Again, we cannot determine the overall weighting applied to each of these inputs.

Supply Chain Matters applauds the availability of alternative evaluation methodology for technology selection teams and we wish HfS well in its endeavor.

However, by our view, success of this or any new methodology will be highly dependent on the weighting criteria of major constituency viewpoints, perhaps with a stronger voice for buyers and the body of advisors, consultants and other industry influencers that are described as part of this process.  The more weighting that is placed external to the analyst firm, the more such methodologies can be viewed as objective and balanced.

Then again, the existence of a yet another methodology is another reference that can serve as a tie breaker for technology evaluation teams.

Bob Ferrari


Evidence of Stepped-Up Technology Investments in Aerospace in 2013

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Just this week, two announcements have come across the desk of Supply Chain Matters, each involving the highly stressed Aerospace industry and each directed at integrating information and insights across product management, manufacturing and broader supply chain areas.

Manufacturing platform software provider Apriso announced that Bombardier Aerospace will standardize on a common Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) platform based on Apriso’s FlexNet manufacturing platform software.  The technology will be deployed to support the expanded production for both the CSeries and Lear85 aircraft production across facilities in Canada and Mexico. Both companies were already working on a 20 month effort to support the CSeries program, which will now be expanded to support other Bombardier production facilities. Apriso’s FlexNet provides manufacturing business intelligence for use by ERP, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and other systems. According to a statement by Apriso industry director, Rick Gallisa, Bombardier has embraced a three platform IT strategy consisting of an integrated PLM, ERP and MOM systems landscape.

Separately, product and service lifecycle technology provider PTC announced this week that Eurocopter, a subsidiary of EADS, is expanding the use of PTC technology to enhance overall business performance. The Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a 5.4 billion Euro global helicopter manufacturer with orders for 457 new helicopters for global based customers.  There are more than 11,300 Eurocopter aircraft in service among 149 countries.  At the corporate level, the EADS parent company has outlined a goal of increasing service revenues to 25 percent of total revenues by 2020.

The EADS relationship with PTC dates back to 2008, with the deployment of its PHENIX Master Product Definition platform that harmonized the PLM environment across the company, followed by a Spares Configuration Data Management (SCDM) system to manage spare parts across a global service network. This newest agreement is described as an expansion of the relationship into the emerging area of Service Lifecycle management (SLM). Readers may recall that PTC recently acquired MCA Solutions, which we believe we form the future basis of SLM enhanced offerings for PTC.

In our 2013 Predictions for Global Supply Chains, Supply Chain Matters predicted both increased business turbulence for the Aerospace industry in 2013 as it deals with a combination of huge order backlogs, the need to dramatically ramp-up supply chain production levels, while managing a new business model of pay by operating performance.  A separate prediction outlined a broader umbrella of accountability for supply chain management teams that would extend into the areas of product management, manufacturing operations, after-market service and customer services.  Two separate technology investment decisions coming in the same week involving two aerospace industry players would tend to indicate some pent-up demand for leveraging advanced technology to support these more aggressive business goals.

We will certainly keep our eye on the further developments.

Bob Ferrari


Supply Chain Matters Guest Posting: My Ten Thoughts for Supply Chains in 2013

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The following guest posting contribution comes from Guy F. Curtin, Director of Product Marketing at RSi.  We previously published our Supply Chain Matters 2013 Predictions for Global Supply Chains. This posting represents Guy’s thoughts regarding supply chain technology in 2013. Guy has contributed prior guest postings on this blog and is no stranger to the supply chain technology space having contributed in roles of supply chain technology marketing.


Big Data or Real Time Data? Big data is everywhere. But is big data right for everyone? Supply chains are hooked on the idea that nirvana is somewhere to be found in that mountain of information. Is nirvana in that big data or could it be captured elsewhere? What about fast data? For example, do transportation companies need big data or fast data? It is more important to rapidly recognize patterns that might indicate a potential problem with a shipment rather than understanding 2 years’ worth of transaction data. While others, such as retailers,  look to leverage big data to extract patterns and insights previously not available – who wants to compare historical sales trends with promotions coupled with other data such as weather trends. For 2013, supply chain players will determine what type of data is more important to them…some might come to the conclusion that they need both.

Supply chains will look to business process management – BPM has been well known in process oriented businesses such as insurance and healthcare. Supply chains are recognizing the importance of instituting some BPM to their own ecosystems. Think of all the processes that take place within a supply chain – whether it involves the process associated with moving merchandise to bringing on a new supplier. Both vendors and users within supply chain will begin to seek or develop greater BPM suites and applications to bring some sanity to the myriad of processes needed to run a supply  chain.

Who will have a greater role in running your supply chain? Think marketing. Okay I realize that might be blasphemy in some circles. The department that is supposed to create colorful ads and glossies will all of a sudden manage the supply chain? It is already happening at some level – when a CPG supplier runs a promotion it is driven from the marketing side of the business. When you think of what is taught in every marketing class it is about the 4 P’s – product, place, promotion and price. Decisions at this level get pushed back to the supply chain to fulfill a 5th P – produce. Supply chains need to become more integrated with the marketing side of the house. Vendors will continue to find ways to provide solutions that tie together the supply chain and marketing sides of the house.

It is the consumer stupid. Related to the previous prediction, the consumer’s stature within the supply chain will continue to gain importance. A wise sage once said – “behind every B there is a C. There really are no pure B2B or B2C companies, but really B2B2C.” Regardless of what line of business you are in or where you fit in the supply chain, at the end of that chain is a consumer. Companies will strive to get closer to the end consumer – with access to larger amounts of data coupled with more powerful analytics – this will become a reality. Regardless of where you sit in the supply chain, you will have greater access to that end consumer. Those that recognize this and take advantage of the opportunity it affords, will find greater success in 2013.

More vendor consolidation…and more players. One of the big stories of 2012 was the announced merger between JDA and Red Prairie. I suspect other supply chain vendors such as Manhattan will find themselves targeted by the likes of SAP or IBM. (SAP also acquired Ariba in 2013 which also greatly impacted the supply chain space). As more of these “pure” supply chain vendors merge or get gobbled up the landscape looks thinner and thinner when it comes to solution providers. Or does it? While the landscape for pure players is thinning, in 2013 we will see solution providers emerging from unexpected places. For example, as I mentioned above BPM vendors such as Pega could begin to offer solutions that address certain supply chain issues. Or even companies such as Amazon will become players when it comes to certain aspects of the supply chain. Think fulfillment, distribution, warehousing, order management and demand sensing. Firms like will continue to expand from their CRM stronghold and leverage their cloud acumen to become a player within the supply chain arena. As the players that defined supply chain in the late 1990s – i2 Technologies and Manugistics for example – become buried under the layers of consolidation, look for new players to emerge that will help manage your supply chain. And do not be nervous when they come from unexpected places.

Social remains an enigma but someone will solve that puzzle. Social has been seen as one of supply chains last great frontiers, an ability for companies to get closer to the consumer (because it is all about the consumer!). Social has been seen as a way to get instant demand sensing, detecting issues before they become front page news and even provide customers with better after market assistance. Yet, I have not seen anyone truly take advantage of the social beast. But someone will. Think about the data that could be found from services such as Groupon and LivingSocial as they provide promotions and demand shaping services for local vendors. What about all the social tagging services such as FourSquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places? The data and ability for companies, such as retail and CPG, to access and take advantage of that information could have repercussions throughout their supply chains. As companies look to gain competitive advantages, look for the company or companies within the supply chain that can take the most advantage of social to gain that little extra in market share.

Speaking of social, what about mobile?? In last year’s predictions I spoke about the rise of mobility and the impact it will have on supply chains. This will only continue in 2013. Of course supply chains need to think of mobile from multiple angles. Mobile is yet another data source. Mobile is also another manner of getting close to the consumer (see how we are tying in some of what was said above?). When a supply chain company mentions mobile, I always wonder what aspect they are speaking of. The smart supply chain players will determine what mobile means to their supply chain. Is it a data source they want to leverage, is a manner to touch their consumer or is it a way to bring greater efficiencies to their processes? In 2013, the smart supply chain players will determine what mobile means to them – data source, customer interaction, unique user interface or something else? But just saying, “we have a mobile strategy” will not fly anymore in 2013.

And when we discuss mobile can we ignore eCommerce? eCommerce has become a part of our everyday transaction and retail experience since the late 1990s. The reality is, the actual percentage of retail that is done via eCommerce remains small. Less than 6% of US retail was via eCommerce in Q3 of this year (numbers from the US Department of Commerce). But the influence that number has on our supply chains is much greater. As companies, such as Amazon, begin to push for same day delivery, there will be a greater pressure on supply chains to meet these demands created by an eCommerce world. The genie is out to the bottle, 2013 will be a year when the logistical headache created by that genie will impact companies from Best Buy to Ryder – all scrambling to figure out how to meet this consumer expectation.

Governments’ role will become vital to supply chain risk management. Much like 2011, we witnessed some large supply chain disruptions in 2012 due to Mother Nature. Think Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of the United States. We also saw how human events can have an impact on one’s supply chain. Think the Olympics in London or the looming strike that could shut down the United States’ eastern port facilities. Supply chains have become global, complex and sensitive to disruptions…not a news bulletin. But because of this, governments are the only organizations that can truly ensure that the supply chains are kept up and running. Look for governments to begin to address how they can ensure supply chains are given the latitude to function properly. I might even suggest governments such as those of the United States consider cabinet level personnel to take on this task. Are you listening President Obama?

Public perception will drive supply chain decisions. Think about all the headlines that dogged Apple when the work practices at Foxconn were revealed. We all know that the “world is flat.” This flatness has allowed supply chains to find places and ways to gain efficiencies and lower cost. The flip side of the flatness has been greater openness of communication. When your main outsourced manufacturer leverages questionable labor practices to guarantee your margins…that might not be as easy to keep out of the public eye. The companies within the supply chain that have the greatest brand presence will also be the ones most sensitive to these issues. Look for companies such as Apple to turn a more PR savvy eye to some of their supply chain decisions.

Our Supply Chain Matters readers are again welcomed to share their own predictions and thoughts regarding what global supply chains can anticipate in 2013.

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