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)
Every year at just about this time, ocean container shipments inbound from China and other Asian ports begin to surge as retailers ramp-up inventory levels in anticipation of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday buying period. Ever year at this time, Supply Chain Matters features commentaries noting how the ramp-up is progressing.
Last year, we raised early concerns about potential labor disruptions occurring along U.S. West Coast ports. We all know how that turned out. Multiple industry supply chains encountered long delays and inventory disruption, some at considerable cost.
This year shows signs of different industry dynamics that could once again lead to some disruption, or at the least, the need for very careful and methodical supply chain planning and synchronization.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a combination of tepid growth and a continued sluggish Eurozone economy has now motivated ocean container carriers to significantly cut back on scheduling. According to the report, the G6 Alliance, consisting of carriers APL, Hyundai Merchant Marine, Mitsui OSK, NYK, Hapag Lloyd and OOCL announced this week the cutback of 12 round-trip sailings from Asia to Europe starting in September. This equates to a one-sixth reduction in capacity for that route. This follows an earlier announcement from the 2M Alliance consisting of Maersk Line and MSC indicating it with withdraw 10 percent of capacity from the Asia to Europe route until further notice.
The timing of these cutbacks, while advantageous to container carriers, is not advantageous to industry supply chains. The open question is whether the removal of this much container capacity heading toward Europe will have any later impacts as we move closer to the holiday season.
It is further another indication of the significant gross overcapacity situation of ocean container fleets. According to the WSJ, freight rates between Shanghai and Rotterdam barely cover carrier operating costs, hence the announced cutbacks. The carriers are significantly reducing capacity to insure higher freight rates, in spite of dramatically reduced fuel costs.
In a related development, industry leader A.P. Moeller Maersk, in reporting its latest financial results, gave strong indications that it will defend and even expand its industry market share position. That raises the likelihood of additional industry cost or capacity cutting moves. The question is timing.
Maersk Lines additionally revised its estimates of global container volume down to a range of 2-4 percent from the previous 3-5 percent growth estimate which is a further acknowledgement of reduced global shipment volumes.
For industry supply chains, especially those that are B2C and retail focused, the timing of these ocean industry cutbacks is troublesome, coming at the time of peak seasonal movement. On the one hand, such cutbacks in scheduling may provide added flexibilities for alliances moving surge container volumes from Asia to North America. One of the newer mega-container ships can carry lots of last-minute cargo. On the other hand, the reduction in capacity places added pressures on various procurement and supply chain planning teams to carefully plan remaining inbound movements and required safety-stock levels. The challenges of container chassis availability and the ability of certain ports to be able to efficiently unload and reload the newest mega-container ships remains an open concern.
If any major U.S. or European port were to encounter a disruption or significant backup over the next three months, carriers will likely be reluctant to have ships sitting idle and generating additional operating costs. The open question is how many supply chain teams elected to balance inbound movements among U.S. West and East coast ports, and now, European ports.
Once again, it is going to be a challenging holiday surge period where careful planning will prove to be a key difference. Sales and Operations planning teams need to have a keen eye on supply chain planning and execution along with early-warning mechanisms. The lessons of from 2014 have hopefully translated into enhanced planning and risk mitigation since the turmoil of global transportation continues to play out.
While we were away on a two-week summer break, there was a significant acquisition announcement related to cloud-based supply chain technology, one that warrants a Supply Chain Matters perspective.
Last Tuesday, ERP provider Infor announced that he had entered into an agreement to acquire supply chain logistics and commerce network provider GT Nexus for $675 million. GT Nexus technology supports the ability of buyers to transmit order information across a connected supply chain business network, linking various suppliers, logistics providers and financial institutions.
According to the announcement, this deal is expected to close within 45 days, pending regulatory approval. GT Nexus is expected to operate as an independent division of Infor.
This author was not at all surprised at this announcement concerning GT Nexus. It was just a matter of time, and which ERP or enterprise software provider would pull the trigger.
In early January, The Wall Street Journal had reported that two supply chain business support providers, one being E2open, the other GT Nexus, were being pitched as potential acquisitions. Readers might recall that E2open, a publically traded firm at the time, was subsequently acquired by private equity firm Insight Venture Partners and has since been taken private. That transaction was valued at $273 million, approximately three times current revenues. The GT Nexus transaction value of $675 million however, is a surprise, in terms of overall amount paid.
The core of GT Nexus has always been its end-to-end supply chain execution connectivity with ten of the largest third-party logistics (3PL) services providers along with the largest ocean transportation providers as part of its supply chain execution network. Its customer base that includes names such as Adidas Group, Caterpillar, Columbia Sportswear, Pfizer and Procter and Gamble were motivated by needs for deeper supply chain wide execution synchronization.
In January of 2013, GT Nexus merged with cloud-based sourcing provider TradeCard in a strategy focused on adding financial services connectivity to supply chain networks. That included pre and post export financing and payment protection services. At the time of the merger, TradeCard had deep relationships among retail, apparel and consumer soft goods industry players who require such needs in financial supply chain services.
In the view of Supply Chain Matters, that merger moved GT Nexus further towards financial services business support opportunities as opposed to opportunities for broader supply chain planning and execution control synchronization. TradeCard CEO Sean Feeney assumed leadership of the combined companies after the merger.
For many years, GT Nexus had an on again, off again partnership with supply chain planning provider Kinaxis, in an attempt to add deeper planning and control capabilities. That relationship brought little in joint customer deployments and was broken off several weeks ago.
According to the announcement, Infor plans to leverage GT Nexus for its cloud-based capabilities in integrating direct procurement processes. Infor additionally has an existing ERP customer base anchored in fashion and retail customers which focuses this acquisition as an industry concentration strategy facilitating the integration of merchandising, marketing and online Omni-channel fulfillment needs across an extended supply chain business network. The ERP provider further hints of the ability to utilize the GT Nexus cloud-based network in the support a two-tier ERP strategy that utilizes the combination of Infor and GT Nexus capabilities in support of extended supply chain business process, S&OP and other decision-support needs. Once more, Infor is no stranger in M&A activity, and has demonstrated a track record of aggressive technology platform and application integration of its prior acquisitions.
Supply Chain Matters has long advocated the importance for industry supply chains to leverage an end-to-end business network to synchronize supply chain planning, execution and customer fulfillment needs on a global basis. The fact that two of the more visible, independent cloud-based extended supply chain network providers have now been involved in acquisition activity involving nearly $950 million is testimony to the attraction and importance of this cloud-based technology area.
For existing customers of either GT Nexus or E2open, the open question remains how each of these providers will evolve under new leadership and differing perspectives.
For our part, Supply Chain Matters will continue to provide insights and recommendations regarding this important technology area, and how both of these network providers evolve under new management.
The FedEx Express division of FedEx recently announced that it had signed a deal with commercial airplane provider Boeing to buy 50 new 767-300 cargo airfreight aircraft in an effort to deploy a more fuel-efficient airlift fleet. The deal, valued at nearly $10 billion at list prices, further includes an option for FedEx to secure a total of 50 of the 767F aircraft.
As of May, FedEx had commitments to purchase 40 767F cargo aircraft with deliveries extending through fiscal year 2019. FedEx expects to take deliveries of its new cargo aircraft order over the fiscal years 2018-2023. With this latest order, FedEx Express now holds a total of 106 firm orders for 767Fs from Boeing through fiscal 2023. The new 767F aircraft will ultimately replace older Boeing MD10 and MD11 freighters as well as Airbus A300-600 and A310 aircraft.
As far back as 2013, Supply Chain Matters highlighted the structural changes in international and domestic airfreight capacity needs that were impacting global carriers such as FedEx. The global-based transportation services provider has since embarked on a multi-year fleet improvement program that includes the addition of more fuel efficient, less maintenance prone aircraft. FedEx has a noteworthy strategic advantage in airfreight capacity requirements since the carrier recently renewed a seven year agreement to provide U.S. mail air transport services for the United States Postal Service (USPS).
The air cargo business never really recovered since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, reducing the overall need for newer dedicated air freighters. This has impacted both Airbus and Boeing’s efforts to secure new orders for such aircraft. Thus, this latest FedEx order is a boost for Boeing’s efforts in this segment. The 767 passenger aircraft platform has since moved to the new 777 and upcoming 777X platforms and thus orders for 767 freighters helps in Boeing’s bridging of production capacity to the newer passenger versions. We might speculate that FedEx perhaps secure some attractive pricing for its new deal.
For the past three years, our Supply Chain Matters editorial commentaries related to the annual Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) sponsored State of Logistics survey reports have consistently expressed concern towards a persistent trend for increased logistics, transportation and inventory costs within the U.S… The latest report depicting 2014 activity and our related commentary was no exception.
Thus it was rather timely this week for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) to release findings of a benchmark research report conducted with the help of the Boston Consulting Group. The report, A Hard Road: Why CPG Companies Need a Strategic Approach to Transportation, provides profound observations for Consumer Product Goods focused supply chains related to transportation cost increases trending way beyond a cyclical trend. The most sober takeaway from the report is the declaration that: “transporting goods to retailers is now the greatest worry of supply chain leaders.”
The GMA-BSC report indicates that more than 80 percent of supply leaders interviewed cited transportation as their top-of-mind concern, while across the board, service levels are declining. According to the report: “Trucks are chronically late, capacity is insufficient, and delivery windows are exasperating retailers” Once more, transportation costs are noted as eroding other supply chain cost savings. The report authors indicate that since the study was conducted in 2012, freight costs have risen as much as 14 percent over the four year period, and only a third of CPG producers were able to trim transportation costs these past two years. CPG firms are further increasing safety stock inventories to compensate for unpredictable service levels.
While there is no simple solution for tackling the current challenges related to transportation, the report outlines five different lever strategies for reader consideration. A key message is that the procurement of transportation can no longer be viewed from a pure commodity perspective, but rather a strategic internal or external sourcing strategy related to line-of-business needs. One important lever outlined was that active supply chain network design analysis should be considered a priority. A sober statistic noted that 72 percent of CPG firms surveyed are now actively engaged in network design efforts as compared to the 6 percent level reported in 2012. That is compelling. Such efforts are directed at dynamic means to optimize routes, locations of distribution centers for supporting customer fulfillment needs as well as assessment of trade-offs in owning transportation assets. Obviously, technology and services firms catering to supply need network design are rallying to support these needs.
This report concludes with a message that CPG supply chains need to view transportation from a strategic lens, focusing product distribution strategies on transportation-centric cost and service requirement needs. Supply Chain Matters obviously adds that such recommendations apply to other industry supply chains as well, along with active consideration for developing in-house supply chain network design capabilities.
U.S. transportation cost and service performance are indeed an ongoing key concern, one that will remain to be analyzed at the highest levels of supply chain leadership for many more months to come. Carriers and 3PL’s had better be attentive and proactive in addressing these concerns.
Supply Chain Matters calls reader attention to an added backdrop to the State of U.S. Logistics during 2014, specifically continuing ocean container shipping challenges. Robert Bowman, Editor at SupplyChainBrain penned an article, Searching for a Solution to Chassis Management.
The article observes that in a bid to cut costs and focus on the construction and launch of ever-larger container vessels, shipping lines began selling off intermodal assets such as owned truck chassis. The result is noted as some of the largest U.S. port complexes having a tough time managing the ocean container truck chassis flowing between terminals, attempting to figure out which entity has jurisdiction over inspection, maintenance and repair practices, and where chassis need to be scheduled to handle arriving vessels. Supply Chain Matters also called attention to this problem in our coverage of the U.S. West Coast port disruption in the fall of 2014.
While equipment leasing companies have stepped into the vacuum with various concepts of equipment pools or “pool of pools” the latest ratified labor agreement involving U.S. West Coast ports calls for dockworkers insisting that inspect chassis upon exit from a facility, That has led to additional challenges and frustrations, and according to this report, federal cout action is a strong possibility as lessors balk at this added inspection step.