It’s Friday, and readers have more than likely had a challenging week. Thus, this is a good time to feature some bizarre and whacky postings for readers to appreciate, so here goes.
A Mega Printing Snafu
A Business Insider via Yahoo Finance posting reports that the U.S. Bureau of Engraving screwed-up in the printing of 30 million brand new hundred-dollar bills. That represents $3 billion in currency that more than likely will have to be re-inspected or scrapped.
The posting points to the occurrence of “mashing’, when too-much ink is applied to paper causing the ink to run. According to this report, the bills were actually shipped out to Federal Reserve banks for distribution with the mashed unacceptable bills intermixed with passable bills. That motivated the Fed banks to return the entire batch demanding their money back. Talk about customer dissatisfaction.
This new $100 bill was original targeted for introduction in 2011, but encountered an initial printing error causing the bills to be printed with a blank spot. Later, thieves made off with a large shipment. The Bureau must now work to correct this latest snafu and meet a deadline of October 8th for general circulation.
So if you think your supply chain team has been working on the product launch from hell, consider the plight of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving.
Hold on to those used U.S. $100 bills.
A Drunken Episode Gone Awry
A posting on the China based CRI English.com web site via Cargo Business Newswire reports that a drunken man in the Chinese city of Qingdao awoke to discover he was trapped in an ocean transport container suspended more than 65 feet above the ground. Now get this- the inebriated man had evidently mistaken the container for his apartment as he returned at 4 a.m. in the morning from his drinking endeavors.
The container itself was scheduled to be shipped to the United States via container ship the following day. Fortunately, when this man awakened, he had his cell phone with him and called his friends, who then contacted the local police. Apparently, other containers were already placed under and on top of the container this man mistook for his apartment. About 40 police officers from the Qingdao Development Zone eventually located the container within the staging yard after repeated calls to the man’s mobile phone to have him bang and make noise in the container. More than 60 dock workers joined the search including the removal and shuffling of containers to allow removal of this man. He was later released by police authorities after being detained. Readers can view actual photos of this episode including the man being taken into custody on the CRI English web site.
I suppose the moral of this story is to insure you have a photo of your apartment so you won’t confuse it as an ocean cargo container. Or maybe that is that the other way around.
The takeaway for this episode is the following- If you are going to get totally inebriated, do not live or work near an ocean container facility. Certainly not if your residence entry door resembles a truck trailer lock.
Send us more bizarre stories and we will consider running a periodic series.
Today is the eve of July 4, a rather significant holiday in the United States.
July 4th is Independence Day, a celebration of the founding of the country with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Many will celebrate with picnics, barbecues and the traditional viewing of fireworks, this author included.
Since this is a blog that has a focus on manufacturing, supply chain and online fulfillment, we provide this commentary in the spirit of the 4th of July holiday.
In its 2013 listing of the Gartner Top 25 Supply Chains, Apple was once again cited as the number one supply chain. Our readers are very much aware that the bulk of Apple’s supply chain activities reside across Asia.
Readers may have also taken note of Apple’s new unfolding media ad campaign which features very upscale design and messaging that speaks to the elegance of design and experience factors of the company’s products. Each ad closes with the new signature: “Designed by Apple in California”. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Apple purchased a complete two-page spread to deliver its new message. This was quite an expensive statement to say the least.
We extract two specific paragraphs from this ad:
We don’t believe in coincidence.
Or dumb luck
There are a thousand “no’s”
For every “yes”.
We spend a lot of time
On a few great things.
Until every idea we touch
Enhances each life it touches.
We’re engineers and artists.
Craftsmen and inventors.
We sign our work.
You may rarely look at it.
But you’ll always feel it.
This is our signature.
And it means everything.
Designed by Apple in California
Thus in the spirit of the July 4th Independence Day holiday here in the United States, we offer the following challenge to Apple:
You are indeed engineers and artists, craftsmen and inventors, probably the best of the best.
You are also logisticians, supply chain and online fulfillment leaders.
You spend a lot of time on a few great things, but perhaps too much concentration in a particular geographic region.
You represent the spirit of the United States in entrepreneurship, creativity and savvy including how to park your profits and cash in foreign entities.
You stand for excellence and social responsibility but seem to drag your feet in establishing a manufacturing presence in your home country.
Our Independence Day wish is directed at Apple:
Change the signature to the following:
Designed by Apple in California and Built With Pride in the United States and Other Countries
Happy 4th of July to all our U.S. readers.
Next week, Supply Chain Matters will publish on a limited frequency as we take a few days to enjoy the summer season.
Last week was one with rather disturbing reminders. These reminders have caused us to pause beyond our usual Supply Chain Matters commentaries..
Last week began with the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday which inflicted horrendous injuries and the subsequent tragic loss of life of four individuals. A sporting event of huge traditions and broad community spirit was shattered by the acts of cowardly terrorists. Supply Chain Matters originates from the Boston area and thus, the tragedy and the subsequent days of terror and suspects on the loose was very real and very visual. Our hearts go out to all of the victims. We also echo the praise of all law enforcement, first responders and all other medical support professionals who risk their own lives in their efforts to aid all victims in their time of grave need.
Then there was the massive explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas on Wednesday that nearly wiped-out a small town. The devastating explosion could be felt 50 miles away and the video images were disturbing to watch. As we pen this posting, 14 bodies have been found, the majority of those that perished being firefighters and first responders who sacrificed their lives to save others. Many, perhaps up to 60 more, remain missing, and many more have been severely and emotionally injured. Much effort will be required to rebuild. Our hearts go out to these victims as well.
Saturday morning, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck residents in the steep hills of China’s southwestern Sichuan Province. Thus far, 160 have been reported killed with over 6000 injured. The earthquake was shallow, estimated to be about 13 kilometers, causing additional amplification. Numerous aftershocks continue. The government of China has dispatched over 7000 military and other rescue personnel to assist in the rescue effort. The impacted area is quite close to the earthquake that struck in 2008 which claimed the lives of 70,000 people, but fortunately, reports from seismologists indicate that the current quake was not as severe as in 2008. Regardless, more lives have been lost and many have been again injured. Our hearts go out to earthquake victims in China.
More than likely, there were many other unreported, yet personal tragedies. We had one in our extended family.
Last week was a brutal reminder of the fragility of human existence and that resiliency is not just a word, but an expression and state of purposefulness.
We have written many commentaries reflecting on business and supply chain risk. Sometimes, the human side of these events gets blurred in the news and commentary cycle. Not so, last week.
Last week was a stark reminder of what is really important and of personal priorities. We all need to take accounting of the blessing of friends, family, colleagues and life.
The 24 hour news cycle, convenient memory and the next priority sometimes numb us all to the fragility of our surroundings and to the bonds we have as a global community. Violence, accidents, disaster and who knows what else, surrounds us each day. Insuring what is important in one’s life transcends events, and bonds us as a human society.
Last week, Aberdeen Group announced a change in the availability of its research reports, one that reflects some of the realities of today’s extraordinary reach facilitated by the Internet. Readers however, should exercise caution.
Effective April 20th, Aberdeen will opt for an open research model, eliminating its previous paid Research Vault memberships. This so termed AberdeenAccess business model is described as allowing access to Aberdeen research published within the past three years. We would speculate that Aberdeen had not experienced significant revenues from its previous user paid research business model, opting instead for this revised strategy. The move is also a reflection of the changing fortunes of today’s industry analyst business model where sites such as ours have made their impact.
There is a catch however, one that we advise our Supply Chain Matters readers to carefully heed.
Readers should understand that Aberdeen is actually an operating group of Harte Hanks. On its web site that company describes itself as the following:
“Harte-Hanks today is a worldwide direct and targeted marketing company that provides insight-driven direct marketing services and shopper advertising opportunities to local, regional, national, and international consumer and business-to-business marketers.”
We again remind our Supply Chain Matters readers that since our founding, we have always subscribed to an open research model , Further, Supply Chain Matters has a stated policy that we will never share any of your specific personal information with third parties.
In November of 2009, Supply Chain posted a commentary in the wake of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway $26 billion acquisition of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad. At the time, Wall Street was really puzzled why Buffet would invest so much money in a railroad.
In our commentary, Supply Chain Matters viewed the supply chain headline of this acquisition as Buffet’s huge bet on the economic future of the United States and consequent needs for more efficient transportation infrastructure. In the case of a major U.S. railroad, it was the reality that the compelling forces leading to the eventual return of high fossil-fuel prices, coupled with alternative energy realities, will make rail the most efficient alternative for moving goods across the country, and that BNSF is in a great position to leverage these economic forces. BNSF was also strategically positioned to leverage west to east transportation needs in inter-modal ocean containers as well as other commodities.
Over three years later, the motivations and business results from that acquisition are becoming ever more visible. This week, an article published by Bloomberg News indicates that the BNSF will boost crude-oil shipments by 40 percent in 2013, by investing “a couple hundred million dollars” on capital improvements. The BNSF is positioning to take advantage of the booming new reserves of crude oil being harvested from the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana. That formation along with other newly discovered sources are positioning the U.S. to be the biggest global producer of crude by 2020. In the Bloomberg article, BNSF CEO Matt Rose is quoted: “We’re the 1,000-pound gorilla in the oil markets”. From a business perspective, taking maximum advantage of the void in moving crude by rail from the Bakken to Gulf coast refineries also offsets BNSF business decline in previously moving coal, which fell 6.2 percent in 2012. BNSF has also experienced a 26 percent increase in moving chemical carloads, which is another byproduct of the new crude oil discoveries. According to Bloomberg, the railroad is in talks with other railroads Norfolk Southern and CSX to move crude to east coast customers, including the Trainer Pennsylvania oil refinery owned by Delta Airlines.
Once more, there is more unfolding regarding Buffet’s investment strategies in U.S. transportation infrastructure. Union Tank Car Co. is Another Berkshire investment and that firm is operating at full capacity to produce the needed tank cars to transport this crude. We read recently that the tank car industry in the U.S. has order backlog in the thousands.
This author does not own Berkshire Hathaway stock but we sure do wish we could have afforded to do so back in 2009. A strategic investment in the U.S. transportation infrastructure is paying enormous business dividends for years to come.
Supply Chain Matters readers will note that we are experiencing some temporary technical difficulties related to the Menu structures appearing on the Blog’s top panel. A recent WordPress upgrade over the weekend caused these difficulties and we are working to resolve these issues.
Bob Ferrari, Executive Editor