Ivory: Uses, sourcing and legalities

on Friday, August 29, 2014

Ivory: Uses, sourcing and legalities

While many companies would assert their absence from the global sourcing of ivory, they may be unwittingly contributing to the decimation of an endangered species.

A number of enterprises and consumers throughout the world prize the precious material, primarily using it to make jewelry or apparel. Many countries have banned the ivory trade altogether, as it contributes to the depopulation of elephants and endangered species such as the rhinoceros.

The value

Rebecca Rosen of The Atlantic noted 70 percent of the world's illegal ivory typically heads to China, where one pound is worth around $1,000. People assign such value to the material because of the historical context behind it: Rosen acknowledged artistic ivory carvings originating from the sixth millennium BCE. Archeologists have discovered common accessories and tools such as chopsticks, bow tips, combs, buckles handles and other artifacts.

Why was ivory made a commodity to begin with? Rosen noted its durability and the ease with which it can be carved and shaped into a variety of objects, which has resulted in it becoming a luxury symbol.

How does the ivory trade affect the legitimate procurement process?

The fact of the matter is, many organizations could be unwittingly transporting ivory across the world without being aware of it. That being said, how could such blindness persist? Organized crime. Because demand for the material is so high, structured underworld factions have collaborated to penetrate legal shipping operations. False containers, barrels disguised as oil drums and other duplicitous assets are employed.

It's a situation some would expect out of a TV show, but fiction is usually inspired by events grounded in reality. Supply Management noted a report conducted by the Born Free Foundation, which discovered between 2009 and June 2014, 170 tons of ivory had been seized by officials. This equates to the deaths of nearly 230,000 elephants.

How can procurement services purge illicit ivory trade from company practices?

  1. Quiet audits: It may seem over the top, but auditors operating incognito may be able to prevent employees with nefarious intentions from smuggling illegal goods.
  2. Look at the hot spots: Companies with operations in ports that have lax trade regulations and standards should be thoroughly assessed - criminals look for such locations to traffic products.
  3. Test the waters: Before the RFP process, get as well acquainted with a business as possible.

It's a frightening idea, but it's possible for criminals to exploit global shipping endeavors. Those are three steps companies can take to ensure this isn't happening in their supplier relationships.

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How much do consumers care about ethics?

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How much do consumers care about ethics?

It's assumed marketing analysis would show consumers base decisions on how socially and environmentally conscious companies are. 

Is this really the case? Professionals take note of how easy it is for the average person to collect information on global enterprises and their practices. There's no disputing this, but analysts should also consider the following factors:

  • People don't always regard everything they read on the Internet as truth, even if the materials originate from reputable sources. Everything is perceived with a hint of criticism. 
  • Some consumers have accepted the intricacy of global sourcing, recognizing how difficult it is for enterprises to keep track of all their sources
  • Many individuals are desensitized to reports detailing poor business practices or scandals. 

A tough trade to make 

One would assume consumer cognizance of animal rights effectively eliminated the fur trade. However, The Telegraph contributor Oliver Duggan noted The Polar Group, a holding firm that owns and operates Hockley - a company specializing in designing fur apparel - is encountering an increase in sales

The enterprise's chairman, Frank Zilberkweit, asserted the industry encountered a social setback a decade ago due to the sector's lack of transparency with the public. Duggan referenced pictures of animals raised in poor conditions branded Hockley and other fur traders with a negative image. 

Tempering assumptions

Now, the tide appears to be changing. Zilberkweit noted Hockley responded to the demand for ethically bred animals by sourcing from members of Moscow's Origin Assured program, which defines industry best practices. 

"The industry has got its act together and offers much more information, which is demonstrating that we have very high standards, probably greater than most other animal industries, particular (sic) meat and leather, because we are so aware of past criticism," Zilberkweit told Duggan. 

A need for a bargain 

Consumers aren't disregarding prices either. Business Wire cited a study conducted by Trade Extensions, which scrutinized sentiments among consumers in the United States and United Kingdom. The study discovered 80 percent of respondents believe businesses should conduct themselves ethically, but when it comes to purchasing goods, price, value and quality are top of mind. The research discovered two seemingly contradictory attitudes:

  • 40 percent of shoppers ranked price as the most important factor after being asked to list their three biggest concerns
  • 70 percent of participants said they're more likely to purchase goods from companies with strong sustainability and ethical standards

In other words, people are paying attention to best practices, but these are not necessarily going to make a buyer-seller relationship. 

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Emissions reduction a priority for large corporations

on Thursday, August 28, 2014

Emissions reduction a priority for large corporations

Time and again, marketing analysis has shown western consumers favor renewable energies.

Companies selling goods in the North American and European economies are recognizing this fact, prompting them to reevaluate their procurement strategies and contract with companies using the technology. Just how much green energy a production firm uses to power its facilities can be vague, depending on how thorough factory audits are.

Asserting priorities 

According to Associated Press writer John Flesher, popular consumer packaged goods brand Kellogg announced its intention to reduce its overall greenhouse gas output by reassessing the practices of its suppliers. Diane Holdorf, the company's chief sustainability officer, says the firm intends to build a broader plan based on a goal posited in 2008, which obligates Kellogg to decrease emissions by 15 percent to 20 percent. 

"Not only is it what our customers and stakeholders expect of us ... but we want to hold ourselves accountable," said Holdorf, as quoted by Flesher. 

Kellogg intends to increase its use of low-carbon power 50 percent by 2020 and install reusable water processes in 25 percent of its plants. In addition, the food company wants 30 percent of its facilities to stop sending waste to landfills within the same timeframe. 

Is using renewable resources viable? 

Over the past couple of years, a number of major technology firms have used solar and wind power to achieve corporate cost reduction and decrease their environmental footprints. As data centers typically require 100 percent uptime, green energy has proven itself as a feasible source of power. 

But do the same rules apply to factories? The electricity needs of such facilities are much different than those of information-intensive data centers. 

Hitting the right angles 

Essentially, photovoltaic panels need to become more productive in order for manufacturers to seriously consider procuring them. The Christian Science Monitor noted how one company, Glint Photonics, has developed solar equipment that can absorb sun radiation from multiple angles, a capability that apparently wasn't so prevalent.

Glint developed "a protean material that adapts its reflectivity depending on the heat from concentrated light," the news source reported. The technology is self-activating, requiring no active monitoring from third parties, and can capture sunlight from disparate angles during various times of the day. 

The panel manufacturer asserted this solution is much cheaper to produce than more technical counterparts, and concentrates light 500 times more than conventional PV surfaces. Once Glint's innovation becomes more ubiquitous, it's likely factories will see solar energy as feasible to install. 

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The Decoupling Debate – A Source One Marketing Category Blog Series – Part 1 – An Introduction to the Decoupling of Agency Services

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Centralized or Decentralized? Consolidated or Unconsolidated? If you ask any sourcing professional the best route in organizing their company’s supply base and achieving cost savings, the most common response to these two questions is centralize and consolidate…as much as possible. But if you ask the question: “Coupled or Decoupled?”, these terms may not be all too familiar to a sourcing professional, unless they oversee the marketing spend category.

Most of the time, centralizing your supply base and consolidating wherever possible delivers the most benefits for your organization in the form of cost reduction and easier supplier relationship management. However, this approach might not make sense for certain spend categories you find yourself managing and there may be other objectives you need to keep in mind. If you are responsible for overseeing the marketing spend category, you may be asked by your stakeholders to decouple an agency relationship or two or at least explore the option given some recent trends in the industry. Well, what does decoupling mean exactly? And why would this approach make sense?

Decoupling is when an advertiser chooses to separate the production of a creative concept or idea from the actual development of the idea (and strategy behind it). The term can also apply when you are referring to the separation of media buying from creative. Traditionally, agencies have been viewed as a one-stop shop for developing and executing marketing campaigns, meaning they are responsible for the development of ideas, bringing these ideas to life through production (e.g. print, broadcast, digital), and then sharing these ideas with the end consumer through media platforms. Some traditional agencies are now only being asked to come up with the core idea and then this deliverable is passed off to production agencies, bringing rise to production houses focused strictly on one thing – you guessed it, production; and since this is their one and only core competency, they are able to deliver faster turnarounds, lower costs, strong expertise and reliability.

There is an ongoing debate about decoupling and whether or not it is the right strategy to employ. Decoupling may not make sense for every advertiser, and in fact, many still argue that media and creative should not be separated, which is a very common practice these days. Others say that the strategy makes sense, but only for digital media and digital creative projects. The reality is, the optimal solution depends on a company’s overarching marketing strategy and internal resources. Typically, if there is a great deal of production work required for certain marketing tactics within your brand’s campaign, decoupling may be a good sourcing strategy to consider. If the scope of a project is small, a single agency may be able to deliver and deliver effectively on every core competency needed to run a comprehensive campaign from start to finish. The decision to decouple depends on the makeup of your current agency network and how well they support your brand. Sometimes it does not make sense to disrupt the current state if relationships are healthy and ROI is high.

The topic of decoupling deserves its own blog series, so this post is the first of a few. In this series, we will be discussing all things “decoupling”, covering the following:

  • Historical and recent trends as they relate to decoupling services, specifically media and production, answering the question: How did decoupling originate as a strategy?
  • The advantages and disadvantages that the decoupling of agency services can have on your brand; key considerations before getting underway with this type of sourcing strategy
  • Scenarios where decoupling makes the most sense and which categories fit the model well; we’ll also call out some key players to consider that have sparked this trend
In our next post, we’ll provide some additional context around decoupling and why it is a topic that is growing in popularity.
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Can food companies benefit from sourcing grass-fed beef?

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Can food companies benefit from sourcing grass-fed beef?

Western consumers have grown incredibly health-conscious lately, prompting many supermarkets and restaurants to offer customers beef products from grass-fed cows. 

What's wrong with corn-fed? The basic explanation is that cattle can't properly digest grain, despite the fact that many large food companies use it to feed their livestock. Although grass-fed beef is better for consumer health, enterprise procurement processes officers are wondering if it's better for them. 

A meager supply 

Food Renegade acknowledged restaurant chain Chipotle's commitment to sourcing 100 percent of its beef from grass-fed cows, the majority of which are raised in Australia. The organization's reasoning behind this decision is that there aren't enough farmers based in the U.S. who follow a truly organic protocol. 

Although farmers raising grass-fed cattle are all over the U.S., Chipotle asserts too many of them use hormones and antibiotics. Therefore, sourcing from businesses raising livestock in such a manner prevents the brand from honestly labeling itself as a user of organic meat. 

In contrast, Australian-raised cows spend their entire lives in pastures, eating grass or forages such as hay, the source noted. Procurement services and other organizations have discovered other Australian practices surpass standards outlined by the American Grassfed Association, further solidifying the reasoning behind Chipotle's decision.

Organizing supply 

It's this stringent policy that's causing Chipotle to resist purchasing beef from American farmers. Many of the U.S.-based livestock herders that follow Australian practices can't adequately support Chipotle's demand: The volume is simply too great. 

Not to mention, the U.S. suffered a drought in 2012 that killed off much of the nation's grass-fed livestock, causing many companies to turn to commercial producers that feed their cattle corn, Bloomberg News' Megan Durisin reported. However, 2014 has proven to be a bountiful year for grazers. Durisin noted that Glen Cope, owner of a 2,000-acre ranch in Aurora, Missouri, is benefiting from a season that's "been getting plenty of rain."

Durisin noted that 48 percent of pastures and rangeland were labeled as either being in "good" or "excellent" condition as of August 17 - the best rating since 2010. She cited a statistic from the U.S. Drought Monitor, which showed a 32 percent decrease in aridness. 

As grazing conditions improve throughout the nation, strategic sourcing specialists may advise U.S. enterprises to source from farmers specializing in raising grass-fed cattle. Hiring procurement services to conduct comprehensive surveys of farmer practices and protocols will help businesses accurately inform consumers that they're providing organic beef. 

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Why a Career in Supply Chain Management Trumps All

on Wednesday, August 27, 2014

As Source One plans to attend the Rutgers University Supply Chain Meet and Greet on September 17th, we decided to take a deeper look into why there was such an unarguable demand to attend this event—for students and corporations alike. While supply chain professionals work daily to refine supply chains and granular details of business process, it can become easy to overlook the larger impact of supply chain management and why jobs in the field are so desirable. Supply & Demand Chain Executive Magazine made it clear why supply chain management is the “Sexiest Job in the World” in their March 2014 article. Here’s some key take aways from what they had to say:
1. Successful Supply Chains are the Blueprint for Successful Products
Without a smooth backbone of operations, none of the products and technologies we value most would be possible. As a product or service gains global traction, effective supply chain management is what allows for the expansion of that offering and its effective transition into a new area.

2. Supply Chain Management Demands The Newest Technology
As globalization becomes a crucial component of countless businesses, supply chains become more and more complex. Advanced technologies can aid in managing relationships with partners, ERP software, and cloud-based collaboration platforms.

3. The Most Successful Supply Chains are Fast and Agile
To overcome disruptions, keep up with changing market conditions, and withstand competitive burden, supply chain management requires quick response to changes. For professionals up for the challenge, this offers an exciting and active role in a company’s stability.

For these reasons among others, it seems clear why crowds of job seekers will be flocking to the Supply Chain Meet and Greet on the 17th. If you are a job seeker and are interested in the same fast-paced supply chain environment from a consultant perspective, there is  chance Source One is the company for you. Come see us at the meet and greet and learn more about all the supply chain field can offer—you’d be pleasantly surprised.

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Procurement services wonder if China is losing its luster

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Procurement services wonder if China is losing its luster

Whether companies headquartered in North American and Europe will continue to source from Chinese manufacturers is up for debate.

Over time, spend analysis has shown the cost of producing goods in China is growing more expensive. Some professionals have even asserted the nation's enterprises aren't focusing on quality. 

Not impressed 

At least, that's what Australian entrepreneur Amanda Bennett believes. BRW spoke with the former business owner, who asserted she had to liquidate her company as an direct result of doing business with Chinese production companies. 

The concept behind Bennetts Boots was to create footwear for people with wider calves. Initially, the finished goods Bennett received from China were a hit with Australian consumers. Upon opening a store in Melbourne, she sold $700,000 worth of merchandise in the first six weeks. 

However, in 2011, the quality of the apparel began declining. Bennett recalls one shipment of boots that were literally falling apart. About 80 percent of the units were unsaleable. This trend continued, and despite cutting staff, running a leaner business and taking other measures to achieve corporate cost reduction, Bennetts Boots ultimately had to shut down. 

A poor way of doing business? 

BRW acknowledged the findings of Chris O'Halloran, a procurement process specialist who assists Australian enterprises in doing business with Chinese manufacturers. He noted the disparity between two types of production companies the country harbors: Those that are completely automated and others that seek to improve profits wherever possible. 

"The Chinese do business by going in cheap and then try (sic) to recover margins by cutting corners, hoping no one notices," said O'Halloran, as quoted by the source. "To the Chinese, if it looks the same to them, then it is the same. They're not trying to be nasty; it's just the way they do business." 

China beginning to outsource

Speaking of footwear, some Chinese production companies are finding doing business domestically isn't as feasible anymore. The Week noted that, although China bereaved the U.S. of about 2.4 million jobs over the last decade, companies such as Huajian Shoes are outsourcing operations to Africa. 

"Ethiopia is exactly like China 30 years ago," said Huajian Shoes President Zhang Huarong, as quoted by the source. 

Huarong noted that Ethiopia has a high unemployment rate, which makes the country perfect as a strategic sourcing partner. China's average manufacturing wage dwarfs Ethiopia's by approximately $530, so the profits associated with procuring goods from the latter country are enormous. 

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Strengthen supplier relationships to improve production quality

on Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Strengthen supplier relationships to improve production quality

As product release dates are central components of retail marketing strategies, those managing the procurement process need to ensure items are operable when they arrive to market. 

Manufacturing delays and mishaps can offset distribution, in turn causing disappointment among consumers. If a new item is set to be unveiled in October 2014 but won't arrive in select stores until the following month, there's a fair chance sales may suffer. 

Mitigating errors 

Apple may encounter just such a setback. According to Reuters, the reputed software and hardware manufacturer is working frantically to assess a critical screen glitch that may postpone the iPhone 6's September 9 media event. This particular model is anticipated to have a wider display than its predecessors - the iPhone 5S and 5C. 

Two Apple suppliers informed the source that the backlight illuminating the screen had to be redesigned. In an effort to create a thinner screen, Apple blueprinted the iPhone 6 to possess one layer of backlight film. As a result, the display wasn't as bright as the manufacturer hoped it would be, obligating Apple to revamp the smartphone to fit an additional layer of film. 

What's to be learned?

It's unlikely that Apple's initial iPhone 6 prototype didn't coincide with its designers' expectations, but there's no way of validating this assertion. Product teams are typically a collection of professionals specializing in disparate fields, which can cause confusion if department organization isn't employed. 

Yet, one still can't turn away from supplier relationship management concerns. In this regard, Apple actually did a fantastic job of making the most out of an unfavorable situation. Tight, comprehensive communication between blueprinting specialists in headquarters and manufacturers across the globe was maintained, allowing the company to implement changes swiftly. 

The manufacturer's input 

What defines a strong supplier connection? Supply Management spoke with Planning Perspectives CEO John Henke, who authored a report titled "OEM Profitability and Supplier Relations." The general sentiment is that greater profits can be achieved when production companies are regarded as partners as opposed to simply sources. 

"It doesn't matter what business you're in," Henke told the source. "If you want to maximize the opportunity to make a profit it is absolutely important that you develop the best possible relationships you can with your suppliers."

For instance, if Company A spends more time communicating and collaborating with Manufacturer C than Company B, Manufacturer C will likely keep Company A informed on the best hardware. From there, designers can integrate such implementations into their products, improving quality and therefore customer opinion. 

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Creating Synergy in Procurement

on Monday, August 25, 2014

With a new presence in downtown Chicago,  Source One is excited to attend Corporate United’s 2014 Synergy Conference on September 15th & 16th and network within the Chicago community. The SYNERGY 2014 Conference was designed to provide the tools and insights to help teams overcome age-old challenges and lay the foundation for the procurement of tomorrow through the “Four Ps of Procurement”:  People, Priorities, Progress and Promotion. As thought leaders in the procurement and strategic sourcing space, Source One is attending with the goal of learning about diverse needs of the market and ways to optimize work based around those items.
As Source One, the industry, and general business climates continually shift, Synergy strives to approach the issues procurement executives and practitioners believe remain key areas worthy of attention. Whether it’s a lack of category knowledge, inability to achieve buy-in, or difficulty creating more value from supplier relationships, the challenges consistently remain the same. A main emphasis of the conference is that innovative solutions are the cure for advancing through these unchanging problems.
As a sponsor of the event, Source One stands by this emphasis on the need for innovation and distinct market intelligence in order to overcome procurement obstacles. With a talented workforce dedicated to delivering value to clients, Source One believes there will be enhanced success in engagements from learning new strategies at the conference. While becoming accustomed to a new area, Synergy will also serve as a good way to develop connections and learn how our services can support the Chicago market further.

If you plan to attend the conference and would like to meet with Source One to exchange thoughts or ideas, we would love to set up some time to make this a reality. Please contact Heather Grossmuller at hgrossmuller@sourceoneinc.com with any requests. 
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NLPA Emphasizes How SRM Can Transform Your Business

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Next Level Purchasing Association (NLPA), a global organization that helps clients establish procurement best practices and supports the education of procurement professionals, holds its annual conference September 15-17 in Pittsburgh, PA. Source One Director, Brad Carlson, will be at the event on an interactive panel to share insights for improving procurement performance.

A key topic of this panel, which happens to be Carlson’s area of expertise, is supplier relationship management. Supplier relationship management programs can help businesses optimize and generate additional value from their supplier base post-contract signature. In June, Source One released its SRM Insights Report, which outlines the business case for implementing such a program.

Why SRM?

In truth, many companies spend valuable time and energy finding best-fit suppliers and negotiating cost-effective contracts.  However, that investment is often neglected or mismanaged once the deal is completed. In the SRM Insights Report, it shows three distinct paths that supplier relations can take after the contract has been signed. Suppliers can be essentially ignored (1), even after long and timely negotiations; suppliers can be somewhat managed (2), but not enough to sustain any long-term value; or suppliers can be (3) setup to succeed through SRM. SRM programs support collaboration efforts and put processes in place so that suppliers are engaged and aligned with your business objectives at all times.

Though there are some SRM skeptics in the world, studies show that without rigorous contract management, 75% of sourcing savings can disappear within 18 months. [1] Some sourcing and procurement departments are resistant, purely due to a lack of understanding of such a program. Carlson hopes that he can illuminate those business professionals and help them realize that SRM can produce continuous improvements in supplier customer service, quality, overall costs, and material flow. The NLPA Conference panel should be an interesting and lively discussion on the topic, but for those not attending you can learn more at srm.sourceoneinc.com.

As an evolving area, we recognize that the most innovative ideas pertaining to SRM involve diverse input. We would love to combine ideas and have a conversation with anyone who is attending the conference and would like to meet. Please contact Heather Grossmuller with any requests at hgrossmuller@sourceoneinc.com. For more information about the conference, visit the NLPA Conference webpage. Don’t miss this great event!

[1] The Corporate Executive Board Company, Create Value Through Productive Supplier Partnerships and Become a “Customer of Choice, http://www.executiveboard.com/exbd/procurement-operations/transformation/supplier-management/index.page (last accessed May 1, 2014)
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Rare earths: Strategic sourcing considerations

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Rare earths: Strategic sourcing considerations

Those in the tech industry, particularly companies manufacturing central processing units, are quite familiar with procuring rare earth minerals. 

IT hardware producers belong to just one contingency out of the many kinds of businesses that source such materials. As these commodities are of incredibly high value, some enterprises employ supplier relationship management tools to ensure the following:

  • Miners aren't cutting corners and acquiring the minerals from insurgents
  • Distribution routes are secured to reduce the chances of thievery 
  • Producers aren't smuggling rare earths to terrorists or criminal syndicates

Conducting a thorough assessment of supplier practices requires companies to review policies, practices and finances. 

Defining rare earths 

According to InformationWeek, assigning the name "rare earth" to a particular mineral doesn't necessarily mean it's rare, but simply cannot be found in concentrated forms. Extracting these metals often requires complex mining processes, and refining them typically has a detrimental affect on the environment. 

The source listed the rare earths, several of which are outlined below, along with what they're used to create:

  • Scandium: Aerospace components with light aluminum
  • Lanthium: Hydrogen storage, battery electrodes and camera lenses
  • Gadolinium: Computer memory (RAM), MRI contrast agents and X-ray tubes
  • Erbium: Infrared lasers, fiber-optic cables 
  • Ytterbium: Stainless steel, stress gauges

Scrutinizing "the largest player" 

Investor Intel contributor Christopher Ecclestone wrote China is the largest participant in rare earths global sourcing, producing an estimated 90 percent of such materials mined throughout the world. The writer noted that despite the nation's heavy involvement in the industry, measuring price, volume and vendor output rate has proven quite vexing for those specializing in the procurement process. 

Ecclestone acknowledged one particular instance in which the country reported a 3.5 percent drop in rare earths exports from 2011 to 2012, or 16,855 tons to 16,265 tons. However, this statistic contradicted an estimate released by the vice director of the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in 2013, which asserted China exported 18,600 tons in 2011. 

What does this discrepancy show? Ecclestone believes this ambiguity is a sign of smuggling. For example, while the country's mines that were taking advantage of Ionic Adsorption clays were reportedly shut down four years ago, procurement officers can only truly rely on the good word of the Chinese government. 

He noted another instance in 2011, when Burma (now Myanmar) exported nearly 14,000 terapascals of antimony concentrate to China, with an undetermined amount being smuggled by rebel tribes who mined the mineral. In other words, Ecclestone believed China was importing conflict metals. 

Being able to navigate through the opaque, befuddling trade of rare earths can be quite difficult. Procurement services and other such professionals have the knowledge, resources and time to do so successfully. 

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8 Resources Needed to Keep Current with the Medical Imaging Industry

on Friday, August 22, 2014

In a highly specialized and technical field keeping up to date may seem like climbing Mt. Everest. As a follow-up to the Keeping up with Pharma: Resources Strategic Sourcing Experts Use to Stay Informed I'd like to provide a simplified roadmap and several examples to navigate the closely related medical imaging device field. This includes an introduction to terminology, what areas of focus are commonly presented, and a look at the leading societies and online news sources.

Getting familiar with terminology is the key step to abate confusion before it starts. Although, this can pose quite a learning curve if not focused on a specific area of interest. The terms biophotonics, biomedical imaging or optics, medical imaging, and bioMEMS have very specific interpretations, but can be considered as simple search keywords for the first pass. It helps to associate imaging with the traditional approaches of light microscopy, x-ray, ultrasound, and MRI. While, photonics and optics are usually related to new and emerging technologies such as laser and fluorescence microscopy, fiber-optic instruments, and microfluidics and microelectromechanical methods.

The search for information is simplified by relating the area of interest to the commonly presented divisions within the field. Science (research), medicine, techniques, tools, and business trends provide common categories. For example, if considering melanoma diagnosis and treatment BioOptics World, and Medical Physics are good first stops.

For in-depth reviews of current techniques and tools review articles are indispensable. The Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) publishes several journals related to biomedical and medical imaging. The Optical Society of America (OSA) is widely recognized for its optics journals, but also publishes biomedical optics express to highlight evolving technology in the field. Open access information is available from both societies.

Well organized databases are critical, such as the The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) which provides access to biomedical and genomic articles in the health and science fields from the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM). PubMed Central (PMC) serves as the free full-text archive of NIH/NML journal literature.

For everyday updates, short descriptions of innovations in the field, and business news the sites from Photonics Media, and PennWell Corp. relate the technical aspects of the field to the activities of the leading companies.

Although, Photonics is the most well known site from Photonics Media, the BioPhotonics portal filters articles centered on the biomedical industry. They present short descriptions of recent research, product, and business news with a link to the original journal and author's site. The buyer's guide can be very useful when searching for suppliers in a specific area.

BioOptics World is PennWell's site for the biomedical community. They also separate research, medicine, techniques, and tools while linking advancements in the field to business trends. Laser Focus World and Strategies Unlimited serve as links to the optics and market intelligence communities. Although reports are offered for a fee, viewpoints are given from both the supply and demand side of the market and are based on in-house data collection efforts. This helps when trying to predict the market directions of new technologies or applications.

Gathering news articles, and keeping track of trends in technical fields can be a daunting prospect, but a systematic approach along with dependable publications can ease the introduction. By concentrating on getting familiar with the field's terminology trade publications and journal articles will become more accessible. With the wide availability of open-access literature a thorough and focused research initiative can then be carried out utilizing the associated society publications, databases, and market intelligence reports.

Image courtesy of http://www.ryerson.ca.

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