Gluten-free gastronomy: Celiac disease and the growing product market

on Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gluten-free gastronomy: Celiac disease and the growing product market

"Gluten-free" is now a term that we're seeing pop up on labels with increasing frequency, even on items that have always excluded wheat, and foregoing flour has become something of a craze. Some people are  adopting gluten-free diets to see if  the approach helps their tummy trouble, while others simply want to know what all the hubbub is about. Whatever the case may be, gluten-free food items are becoming increasingly popular. There is such a huge demand for the products that companies are hopping on the bandwagon to try to profit from the craze. And they might as well do just that, since the market for wheat-free fare is growing by the year.

The disease

Celiac disease is a condition that involves the body responding to gluten by having the immune system attack the small intestines, explained the Celiac Disease Foundation. This does not allow the small intestine to properly absorb food nutrients, thus causing myriad health problems if left untreated. While seemingly innocent, Celiac is an autoimmune condition that is estimated to affect one in 100 people globally. There is no cure for this disease and the only treatment so far is a strict gluten-free diet, meaning wheat, rye and barley are entirely off-limits.

The market

Up until a few years ago, most of us had no idea what gluten was, let alone Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. Now, gluten awareness is much more widespread. The grocery store used to have a few offerings for people afflicted with Celiac, but now there are large sections and many more options of gluten-free products. Menus specifically note when items are gluten-free, which indicates that restaurants are doing their best to cater to the masses of people afflicted. In 2014, gluten-free foodstuff sales reached $973 billion in the United States alone, reported More businesses are looking to offer gluten-free options and take advantage of the craze to accommodate more customers.

Out in Kansas, scientists are looking into the genetic make-up of wheat, trying to pinpoint what exactly about the plant DNA causes such adverse reactions. Should the hard science work out, there could be an entirely new market for genetically modified wheat that doesn't include the intolerable ingredient, noted the source. If this does indeed occur, companies that provide procurement services will be falling over themselves to satisfy the wants of consumers who desperately miss the texture of fluffy, fresh bread.

Other therapies

While some scientists are hard at work in the wheat fields of Kansas, there are others in North Carolina looking to develop a therapy to help manage the symptoms of Celiac sufferers, stated Reuters. There are still many more tests to go before this treatment can be tested on a larger population, but the earliest results are proving to be promising. It's not clear whether people will be able to consume gluten without restriction while taking the drug, or if it can only control small amount of the DNA protein in the system.

Should these early tests continue to be positive, we could see these therapies hit the market in as early as three years, asserted the source. This is huge for those who suffer from an intolerance or full-out refusal of gluten. If the remedy does pass the FDA guidelines, hundreds of thousands of people will be aching to get their hands on the miracle pills, resulting in the creation of a new market for the materials of the drug itself and its various components.

In the meantime, gluten-intolerant individuals will wait with bated breath, eating corn pasta and flourless cakes until there are more scientific solutions to treat Celiac. Looking forward, the wheat-free food market may suffer, but other sourcing sectors will undoubtedly rise to prominence and the procurement of these new products will become paramount.


How will the IoT impact strategic sourcing?

on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How will the IoT impact strategic sourcing?

Unless you've been living under a rock for a while, chances are you have heard all about the growing trend known as the Internet of Things, which is essentially characterized by all "things" becoming connected to the Web. This impacts larger frameworks and systems such as power grids and even cities, as well as smaller items including baby monitors and dishwashers.

In the not-so-distant future, the world will look very much like, well, the very distant future, with data being generated around every corner and in every crevice of the world. Businesses in virtually every industry are going to need to face this trend head-on or run the risk of going the way of the dinosaur, as consumers demand relevance and modernity from the companies they choose to frequent.

For obvious reasons, strategic sourcing and procurement will be major points of interest for all businesses that begin to embrace the IoT, especially in the earlier stages of deployment when feet still need to get wet. Before diving into those considerations, though, it will be helpful to understand just how quickly the IoT is coming to pass on the global scale.

Move over George Jetson

Gartner recently released a study that estimated roughly 1.1 billion things will be connected to the Internet by the end of this year amid the push for smart cities. As a brief note here, smart cities are catching on significantly, with buildings, facilities, transportation systems, utilities and more getting a boost in functionality from the use of Internet connectivity.

According to the researchers, the biggest drivers of the IoT in smart cities this year will be commercial buildings, homes, transportation and utilities, each of which have already started to gain traction in the realm of Web connectivity. Although many business leaders have looked at this trend as a threat and challenge – which it certainly could be – progressive mayors and other city officials are looking at it as an opportunity.

In many ways, business leaders would do well to face the IoT in an opportunistic fashion, as there are so many applications and potential advantages of having a well-crafted strategy to capitalize on the trend.

"Electric mobility, charging stations and embedded IoT will generate additional IoT opportunities in smart cities," Gartner Research Vice President Bettina Tratz-Ryan affirmed. "This could be, for example, IoT in vehicles, or vehicle batteries sensing and communicating with the driver, or the next charging station to negotiate charging terms. New and transformative business environments and ecosystems will emerge. For instance, automobile companies are investing in streetlights with charging stations embedded in the post to reduce the infrastructure investment for automobile charging stations. Sensors allow these companies to identify vacant charge-parking spaces for their customers, communicated via mobile applications and on-board systems. They will also be the facilitators of the payment and transaction for ease of use."

Now, with all this in mind, let's talk procurement and sourcing.

Where to begin?

Business leaders will not only have to worry about sourcing and procuring the right devices that fall into the category of the IoT, but also the staff to manage these tools, the solutions to support them and so much more. The IoT is similar to enterprise mobility, which caused a wealth of headaches in the provisioning realm, only the IoT is far more robust, diverse and enormous.

As such, companies should consider leveraging professional strategic sourcing services to get the job done and make the most out of this highly novel and advantageous trend. With the right procurement and sourcing support, investments can fly high and yield strong returns every step of the way.


The Importance of Spend Analysis


Spend  Analysis ConsultingSourcing initiatives start with a spend analysis for a simple reason: You can’t improve what you don’t measure. But we shouldn't think of spend analysis as only a component of strategic sourcing. Your company shouldn't only be doing a spend analysis when trying to justify something or decide on a course of action – just like you shouldn't go to the doctor ONLY when you’re sick. Think of a spend analysis as preventive maintenance for your ledger.
But, if you’re not using the right tools for this maintenance, you won’t be effective. The process can end up taking too long, won’t be repeatable, and can ultimately give you un-actionable results. Bringing together disparate, decentralized data through cleansing, standardizing, and enhancing to get to the right level of detail within and across all applicable categories? To do this requires discipline, time, and resources that companies don’t always have to spare.
Suppose you do manage to pull off a good spend analysis in your time of need. What about when you need to do it again? Repeat analysis helps you identify spend changes across suppliers and products/services, incorporate forecasts as well as past data, and audit your contracts to make sure you’re getting the value you expect.
Spend Analysis expert and Source One Associate Director, Jennifer Ulrich, will be speaking at LaSalle University this week. Speaking for LaSalle’s Business Systems and Analytics program, which educates students on the methods of capturing data and producing decision-ready information, Ulrich will provide insight into the application of spend analysis for continuous program optimization. 

Dips: A necessary evil or a trend?


Dips: A necessary evil or a trend?

Dips in trade are about as common as ripples on a pond. They occur, the effects are felt, but then the water returns to a calm state and business is once again fine. These little trade hiccups can happen for all sorts of reasons and disappear just as quickly as they emerged. For example, the cost of purchasing materials or products can fluctuate based on the season or an unexpected weather event. Whatever the reason, the supply chain experiences dips, and while there is not always a bad omen attached to the lower numbers, a downward trend does raise some eyebrows. How are consumers reacting to dips in trade?

Steel production

Steel production is a large business with China at the top, manufacturing over 65 million metric tons for the month of February 2015. This number, while immense, is down 0.7 percent from the month before, while production for the first two months of 2015 was down 1.5 percent compared to the same time frame from 2014, according to Industry Week. These small percentage changes may seem paltry to some, but when there are hundreds of thousands of metric tons of crude steel that isn't being used and it's the third month out of four during which numbers are dwindling, others are beginning to ask questions.

The production of steel and some alloys has decreased from January to February 2015 while the demand for the same materials increased by 3.8 percent from January to February 2015. Why this change? It is posited by some that people are searching for recycled materials to satisfy the relationship between supplier and procurer. If this is going to be a continuing trend, there could be a significant change in the way steel refineries are managed and marketed. Moreover, this is not the only market that has seen a decline in the last month.

Trailer orders

The demand for large-scale trucks also decreased in February - it was a whopping 26 percent lower than in January, reported SupplyChainBrain. This dip, however, is not surprising, nor is it ominous. SCB asserted that while the number of orders fell significantly, there is a huge backlog in processing orders and fleets of trucks are booked in full for Q3, which is nothing but good business for trailer rentals. It's estimated that the industry will see about an 8 percent increase for the year of 2015, despite woes in February.

What can we assume was the reason for the lag? The adverse weather that the United States experienced in February could certainly have something to do with it. For many around the country, it felt that the snow and ice would never subside and trade could very well have suffered as a result. Other guesses include the idea that people were sourcing in smaller numbers or were able to receive shipments via train or cargo boat instead of trailer.

Our perspective

While there is always demand for some items, steel and trailers among them, trade is a business with many variables and chances for decline are almost always around the corner. There are so many factors that go into procuring materials and making sure that global sourcing can stay a cost-effective enterprise. One thing is for sure, some products will never go out of style, and there will always be a demand if the supply can keep up.

The idea behind smarter sourcing practices in the world of trade is that customers get the better end of the deal to keep them coming back for more. If there are dips in the economy, trade-caused or otherwise, prices are likely to fall, whereas times of assurance drive prices up. Consumers experience these dips just as often as businesses do and the most important thing to mention is that there will always be a need for some services. Who knows? Next month might be better.


Public sector to take pages from English university procurement process?

on Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Public sector to take pages from English university procurement process?

When it comes to total containment, colleges and universities really know what they're doing. They have to support a certain number  of students on a predetermined budget and while tuition does rise, much to the dismay of students and parents, the allocations generally stay the same. In order to achieve this grand feat year after year, higher education institutions need to procure their materials in smart and economical ways. If there were to be an award for smart spend management and procurement, it would have to go to the colleges and universities in England. The savings they've managed to accrue could put the public sectors of many countries to shame, so perhaps these nations should learn some lessons from English higher education institutions.

Smart savings

Universities all over the globe have many small moving parts, and they all require money. Food services, cleaning products and a wide array of other materials are necessary to make institutions habitable and safe for students. While it would be possible to save a lot of money by getting the cheapest stuff available, that would not appeal to people paying tuition. Public Finance reported that English universities have saved over £1 billion in the past three years due to smart spending and proper procurement. 

These colleges have been working closely with procurement services to ensure that they are getting the most out of their money while still adhering to the standards for which they are known. The market is difficult for universities on an international scale, as students want to get the biggest bang for their buck and not have to sacrifice anything in the process. 

Learning some lessons

The public sector should take a class from English universities, at least as far as their spending habits are concerned. While, of course, spending is a necessary evil for the public sector just as it is for education institutions - creating jobs, fixing infrastructure, maintaining prisons - there is a way to spend the budget without overstepping fiscal bounds. In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, the author noted that reducing taxes would be a smart impetus to jump-start monetary austerity. This would encourage those who divvy out the funds to look at how they procure materials and spend tax dollars.  Universities have caught onto something - success can be profitable and still be smart. 

Emulating universities' approach however, is not a surefire plan, or even one that could work in the long term. However, it does spark a conversation that could force those in charge of our money to take a long, hard look at how we procure necessary items and how much it's actually costing the people. 


Identify the Right Targets with Spend Analysis

on Monday, March 23, 2015

Within the larger process of strategic sourcing, a spend analysis is the necessary first step in identifying savings opportunities and providing a baseline for improvement. But surely before having a formal spend analysis (and undertaking a sourcing initiative), companies can already have particular savings opportunities in mind, such as changing to a preferred national or regional supplier. But pre-ordaining a particular course of action, before you have the analysis to back it up, you could set yourself up to achieve inferior results – or at least, not the best results you could possibly get.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, finance keynote speaker Joe Knight noted, “most people use [return on investment] analysis as a way to justify something they really want to do anyway.”  He recounted how, in a previous job as a CFO, the company’s owner asked him to do an analysis to justify purchasing a $100k 3-D printer. The idea was that the printer would reduce instances of rework in the fabrication of component parts, because often the translation of CAD data into a real-life object revealed issues in dimensions. Knight provided a quick projection based on five years of operating and associated costs. He suggested that the analysis might conclude that it’d be more cost-effective to make due with occasional scrap parts and rework rather than invest $100k plus ongoing maintenance. 

Ultimately, the owner went ahead with the purchase, saying that Knight’s analysis was wrong. This way of operating is not just for equipment purchases, but mergers and acquisitions as well. Knight notes, “Even large companies make investments such as acquisitions based on irrational projections. The CEO negotiates with a company he or she wants to acquire. If the numbers don’t work, the CFO is told to revise the projections so that they do.” 

Due diligence exists as a mechanism to identify risk and, plainly speaking, not do risky things. Aspirations are great, but you need the numbers to back it up. As we learn in elementary school studying the Scientific Method, we start with a hypothesis as the basis for experiment – but we have to accept that our hypothesis can be disproved. If, after repeat experiments, your results indicate that your hypothesis was incorrect, then you need a new hypothesis.

When undertaking a cost savings initiative, companies must keep an open mind to what the spend analysis will reveal. Maybe migrating to one national supplier, for example, looks attractive on paper, and could cut down on the number of invoices to manage, or the number of line items in the ledger. But does migrating to one supplier produce the most practical savings opportunity? Does it ensure sustainable cost savings? Source One Associate Director, Jennifer Ulrich, will speak at La Salle University’s Business Systems & Analytics Club this week, covering how a solid spend analysis will provide the best visibility for decision support – not only for sourcing initiatives but also for any spending course of action. 

Image courtesy of LexisNexis

Olympus Corporation vs FDA in Killer Bug Responsibility


It takes a certain amount of clout to push back the FDA. Olympus Corporation has the necessary clout.

To those who do not know Olympus Corporation, they have been providing minimally invasive therapeutic and diagnostic technologies globally since 1919. Since then, Olympus has gained over approximately 70% of the $2.5 billion gastro-intestinal endoscope market. 

Olympus has been of recent interest to more than just endoscopy patients due to an outbreak of a “super-bug” at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. wrote an article explaining the details of the infectious parasite: “Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae bacteria are part of a family of bacteria commonly found in the colon. Over time, some of these gut-dwelling pathogens have developed high-resistance against many widely used antibiotics.”

The FDA has been aware of these colon bacteria for years and drafted up new guidelines in 2011 that would “set non-binding recommendations for manufacturers of many types of medical devices, including the complex, hard-to-clean instruments called duodenoscopes that recently harbored deadly drug-resistant bacteria at UCLA Medical Center and other hospitals. The day after the UCLA outbreak came to light, the FDA warned that the instruments involved may be impossible to fully sanitize.”  

It would seem that the federal government’s agenda is to hold Olympus solely accountable for the sanitation of their devices at point-of-use. This can be compared to the infamous 1994 case, Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, aka the hot coffee lawsuit, where the law favored the consumer and awarded $2.86 million to the plaintiff. A quick reminder that it was the consumer who decided to put the 180-190 degree coffee in her lap and then proceeds to drive her vehicle. The government is not doing its due diligence nor is it being logical in its demeanor. Why is it afraid to admit that the user, the person, the consumer has partial responsibility for the appropriate use of a product? Is the government thinking that the average Joe cannot handle average responsibilities? There should be shared responsibility when it comes to preventing defects and infections.

It seems what the government is trying to do is use Olympus as a scapegoat.  But what Olympus Corporation is trying to do is due diligence and logical thinking. The company makes no claims that its devices require no pre-procedure sanitation, so, how can it be held solely responsible for the lack of purification at point-of-use? Why are the hospitals or cleaning companies not involved in this matter?

Olympus Corporation has already made many efforts to describe the necessary effort to sanitize its machines. “Olympus’s instructions warn that if the scopes ‘are not immediately cleaned after each patient procedure, residual organic debris will begin to dry and solidify,’ making them harder to disinfect. Hospital staff are supposed to “pre-clean” the devices before they leave the room where the procedure took place.” This is not an issue of negligence, but an issue of shared responsibility.

We can take this issue out of the scope of medical devices and the life sciences field and to supply chains in general. It is in fact up to the end user (the consumer) to choose whether or not to use a product, a device, or a service based off ratings and reviews of its necessary requirements. The beauty of a free market, of capitalism, is the choice to let a company go under because it is not at the level which the consumer desires. The government has divisions to oversee fair trade and to seek out corruption and public deception. The government looks out for the safety of its citizens but should not control the fate of companies working in its domain.

In the end it is the last stop of the supply chain, the company that the consumer sees and purchases from, that will always get the largest blame when defects and incidents arise. It is up to that company to control the quality of its materials, but when it comes to the consumer using, cleaning, and maintaining the product purchased, we cannot alleviate responsibility and blame from the consumer as well.

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3-D printing: The coolest trend in tech


3-D printing: The coolest trend in tech

We've had so many advancements in the past few years - landing a rover on Mars and the creation of an electric car that can go zero to 60 in a matter of seconds among them. One of the coolest things to come about may just be the advent of 3-D printing. No longer do we need to order a small part and wait for it to arrive in our mailboxes. Now, we can download a file and get a resin version of that same part in a matter of minutes. Innovators are getting more creative in terms of what we can print out, and the list of options is widening to include car parts and toys. With this new technology available in such small quantities (although it will hopefully will become more widespread), there is a new market for resources to accommodate the growing  trend. 

What will we need?

According to 3DPrint, there are many new items that can now be downloaded and printed out for convenience, including a wedding gown. This is a development that could entirely revolutionize the wedding industry, or even the clothing industry as a whole. What new materials do we need to procure in order to properly manufacture a beautiful wedding dress? There is an entirely new enterprise for a substance that can be manipulated in such a way, and it appears that people are responding positively to the advancements. 

The here and now

While the widespread use of 3-D printing for designing ready-to-wear clothing may be a bit far off, there are other applications that are right around the corner. Replacing a part in a phone or computer used to be something that only experts or enthusiasts could complete, but it might be something that we could all accomplish in the very near future. 

In 2014, Google toyed with the idea of 3-D printing parts of its phones, stated Tech Republic. This process is something that users could replicate at home to make their devices last longer. Brand loyalty will boom if a company allows you to fix your phone rather than purchase a new one altogether. Again, there is a certain set of materials that will need to be available on a large scale in order to accommodate this offering.

3-D printing still feels like something out of a science fiction movie, but it is undoubtedly here to stay. The market of procuring materials and parts for these machines will likely balloon as a result. 


The benefits of going green

on Friday, March 20, 2015

The benefits of going green

Climate change, global warming, sustainability and the future of natural environments have been some of the more widely debated topics among politicians, members of households, business owners and others throughout the past two decades. Although there has been somewhat of a split between those who believe that human beings are causing a decline in environmental sustainability and those who do not even think that anything is wrong with the planet, the specifics of each faction's argument are really neither here nor there in commerce. 

Regardless of which side of the debate you might be on, if you are a business owner, there is only one right choice, and that is to work to reduce your carbon footprint, launch green technology initiatives and step into the modern era of customer and talent attraction. Studies indicate that consumers are already looking to do business with green-thumbedfocused companies rather than those that do not have any foundation in environmental sustainability. 

What's more, the whole point of going green is to reduce waste, drive efficiency and lower overheads - all of which can have a substantially positive impact on profit margins over time. So, rather than going into whether scientists are right about ocean temperatures and other matters, let's discuss why all companies should simply make it a point to become a bit more eco-friendly through the use of advanced green technologies. 

Benefits for days

The Napa Valley Register recently reported that vintners in Northern California are hopping aboard a very large bandwagon with businesses from virtually every other industry, heading toward greener practices and the use of sustainable sourcing models. Although this agriculture-based sector might be a bit more clearly suited to green initiatives, this does not take away from the lessons to be learned through both the state's efforts and those of vintners in the area. 

According to the news provider, green initiatives can directly translate to financial incentives from the government, which is somewhat of a common theme regardless of what state a business might be operating within. The source also affirmed that meeting certain types of criteria put forth as part of green initiatives is not just a matter of acquiring those financial incentives, but also achieving a line of "performance benchmarks" that can take a business to new levels of success. 

Over in the Motherland, The Guardian recently affirmed that a focus on green technology is one of the only ways to ensure that businesses, households and the government itself are becoming more sustainable and efficient. Luckily, solar, wind and other sustainable resources are far more attainable and feasible for a wider range of entities, meaning that reliance upon fossil fuels could potentially be a waning theme in global commerce. 

The source explained that Sir David King, a former scientific matters adviser to the United Kingdom government, spoke at a conference in Paris regarding these issues. 

"Technology is moving ahead very rapidly," he said, according to The Guardian. "I think we need to focus not only on the details of the negotiations, but also on what the technological revolution is going to bring to us."

Getting on board

Business leaders might not always have a tight understanding of what it takes to achieve more sustainable operations, nor which options are available to ensure a seamless path toward this objective. However, information about green technology best practices is readily available through a wide variety of resources, as ecological themes have certainly become prominent in the public eye, while strategic sourcing service providers can also help with these matters. 

The reason why going green is important and how to do it is there for the taking, so do not hesitate to get on board!


Staffing as the new challenge in global sourcing

on Thursday, March 19, 2015

Staffing as the new challenge in global sourcing

The skills gap and talent shortage have been two of the more prominent points of discussion among economists, analysts and others from around the world, with some arguing that better education is the only path to dropping the unemployment rate. This is not necessarily a new theme in global sourcing, either, as companies have long had to work hard to get their workplaces staffed with the right individuals, and talent shortages have always been at least somewhat of a factor. 

However, the problem has intensified significantly, especially in the United States, as studies from various major research firms have found that the skills gap is wider than it has been in almost a decade. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs are, and always have been, the most highly demanded and trickiest to staff, but others are becoming a bit more prominent as well as time goes on, and companies have to find creative ways to overcome the obstacles contained therein. 

Remember, when it comes to running a business, few assets are as important as human ones, as operations will come to a standstill, errors will become more frequent and brand stature will deplete when skills are lacking in one or more areas of the organization. Before diving into the options leaders have today to source staff members from around the globe and fill open positions in an efficient and productive fashion, let's take a look into what the more common approaches entail. 

Attracting talent

The Association for Training and Development recently reported that strategic sourcing is becoming a more significant demand of doing business in the modern era, but a combination of evolving technologies and the growth of global marketplaces is helping to soften the blow of the talent gap for many companies in the U.S. and abroad. After all, opening up prospect pools to the global realm will inherently boost the chances of getting the right skills into the business in a shorter period of time. 

According to the news provider, one study revealed that too few recruiters and other professionals are using social media as a tool to attract, identify and hire new talent, despite the advantages of doing so given the widespread participation in these platforms among the workforce. This is to the tune of 23 percent of recruiters using Google+, one-third using Facebook and only 50 percent leveraging Twitter as a resource to find talent. 

Now, getting into social media-based strategic sourcing practices are not all smiles and ease, either, as it takes hard work to differentiate the brand in the eyes of prospective employees from other companies in the market. The source pointed out that American firms have indeed enjoyed a significant level of success in building massive applicant pools, meaning that each individual strategy must have some unique bend to get the job done. 

ATD noted that a mixture of artful and scientific approaches to strategic sourcing of talent, which would be characterized by participation in social media ventures along with more personalized communications, can be just the medicine many firms need. 

True sorcery

Some companies will struggle to strike the right chord with global sourcing and strategic attraction of talent pools containing potential applicants, and this is entirely understandable given the challenges and obstacles almost all firms will face on the road to optimal performances in these areas. However, leveraging the support and solutions of a proven global sourcing provider can help to minimize the strain and headaches involved in these highly important aspects of corporate management. 


Weird weather events mean trouble for California


Weird weather events mean trouble for California

Mother Nature certainly has a mind of her own and the only thing we are able to do about it is prepare for the worst. We can look at forecasts and have a disaster plan, but weather is mostly a waiting game. California is a trouble spot in the world of natural disasters - earthquakes, forest fires, mud slides... the list goes on for a while. The most prevalent problem in recent years has been drought. This is a long-standing issue that could very well disrupt how California procures certain raw materials and the cost of those materials on the market.  

What's missing here?

Obviously, what the state is missing is water, and lots of it. California is no stranger to dry weather and has experienced droughts and water bans in the past, but this year has been especially trying. According to The New York Times, December 2014 had promising amounts of rain but the hope for a respite from the dryness and heat was short-lived come January. The rains that usually fall between December and April sustain the reservoirs and the state's water supply, but so far the sunny skies are a foreboding omen for farmers and residents aching for rain. 

Not only has California not been getting the rain it needs, the Golden State has been especially golden this year. Record-high temperatures in Southern California, stated the Times, are depleting the already dry soil of all moisture. Thanks to the lethal combination of scorching sun and the sky's refusal of rain, there are stringent water bans in place that have led to crimes such as water theft. Multiple sources even noted that, should these intense conditions continue, California only has about one year's worth of its water reserves. What is this going to do to trade and the supplies that we rely on California to provide?

Is there hope?

Droughts are not new to the West Coast, but never before have the circumstances been this bad. In the past, California has relied on the spring El Niños coming off the Pacific Ocean to temper heat and bring moisture. In 2014, it was suspected that California would experience a huge El Niño and rain would soak the sun-scorched soil. Unfortunately, the weather event seemed to fizzle out and, according to Vox, the conditions in the atmosphere weren't strong enough to cause the pressure for rain. 

In early March 2015, the Climate Prediction Center announced that an El Niño was forming in the Pacific, noted Vox. However, this might be a case of "too little, too late" for California. Based on past  data, the average temperature for the year will be higher than in non-El Niño years. This does not bode well for California's trade market or its residents. It seems that 2015 will be another dry, hot year with chaos right around the corner. 

What will happen?

California's outsourcing framework is in trouble. The California Department of Food and Agriculture noted that the state's top commodit​ies of 2013 included milk, almonds, grapes and strawberries. The culture that we've set up for ourselves means we have access to products that are otherwise out of season in our region of the country or the world. California's economy is likely to take a hit, both exporting and sourcing, unless we can find a solution that can suit our needs or alter our "needs" entirely.

Procurement of these resources and many others will still remain a priority for some companies. It's important that we take care of the Earth that these materials came out of, and people are already taking steps to ensure the future of the industry and the economy.


Mitigating unavoidable problems in the supply chain

on Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mitigating unavoidable problems in the supply chain

One would be hard-pressed to find an organization in the public or private sector that does not rely on supply chain management efficiency to succeed every day of the year, although certain industries such as manufacturing, retail and food service will inherently be more rooted in these matters than others. Despite all of the modern technologies available to achieve optimal strategic sourcing performance, many companies have yet to perfect their supply chain management plans, which can quickly lead to poor financial prospects. 

There really are not all that many excuses not to have a strong procurement plan in place, nor to be incapable of executing the various components of the strategy in a smooth and progressive fashion. It is worth noting here that there are plenty of unforeseen issues that will sprout up at times and cannot be avoided, but having a tight ebb and flow of supply chain management in place can even help to reduce the damages incurred when something unexpected does surface. 

By leveraging the support and solutions available in the modern market, firms can avoid major headaches that stem from issues in the supply chain, such as poor brand recognition and a lack of fluid operations. As is the case with any corporate strategy, the success or failure of the program will be inherently and decisively entrenched within the management of people, processes and technology, along with another new addition explained in a recent report. 

Challenges in focus

Fleet Owner recently argued that technology, personnel and infrastructure will be the fundamental drivers of supply chain success around every corner, and that the challenges companies face might be most attached to the last piece of that particular puzzle. Remember, studies from a wealth of third-party researchers have asserted that America's infrastructure is in need of massive overhauls, and the country's failing framework is already causing disruptions in supply chains, not to mention general traffic. 

Still, it is not like a company can simply invest billions of dollars into public infrastructure to ensure that its transportation needs are adequately met - this is something that the government will need to take care of, and business leaders can only hope that it does so sooner rather than later. According to the news provider, Congress recently heard from members of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, including VP of Government Affairs Kelly Kolb, regarding the problems supply chain managers are facing due to poor infrastructure. 

"We believe that the next surface transportation authorization bill must include a cohesive national freight policy that focuses on improving all services in a collective manner," Kolb asserted in her testimony, the source cited. "Access to efficient and reliable transportation systems is a vital component to the success of America's retailers," she added. "Our freight arrives by using a combination of planes, trains, ships, and trucks. When a disturbance occurs in the system, it has a ripple effect on retailers' supply chain operations."

Steps to take now

A decision-maker in a manufacturing or retail business might believe that there is nothing he or she can do to really avoid major infrastructure-related problems, but hopelessness is not, and should not be, an option. Rather, taking proactive and intelligent steps toward more progressive strategic sourcing practices through the use of proven solutions and support can make all the difference in the world throughout the supply chain, even when infrastructure is not properly functioning. 

By becoming clear that the business will be the one to take the fall should issues arise in the supply chain, and that ownership is needed to sustain a positive brand image, managers and leaders will have taken the first step toward stronger procurement practices. 


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