It's time to close the gender gap in the supply chain

on Friday, April 17, 2015

It's time to close the gender gap in the supply chain

It's no surprise that people are promoting gender equality across all industries in many countries across the world. Not only are people fighting for equal pay for equal work, but they are also advocating for the same opportunities to be made available to both men and women in a given field. There are skills both genders possess that would deem them qualified for careers in procurement and manufacturing - no longer are most jobs defined by their need for brute strength, but rather the willingness to put in the time and learn a new trade.

For some, anything to do with labor was seen as a man's job, and in the past, men's perceived superior ability to lift objects and control big rigs may have been deciding factors. In 2015, however, the supply chain has myriad positions for both men and women and there is a call for recruitment within the sector to be as inclusive as possible.

Creating opportunity

It's a known fact that businesses of all shapes and sizes need to have a certain amount of diversity in their company. The government has even gone so far as to mandate that women and other minority groups make up a certain percentage of workers. And while there are many women who would be willing and suited for jobs in the supply chain and procurement services, Supply Management reported that only 7 percent of senior leadership positions are held by women.

The source indicated that men are more likely to rise in their companies from the very bottom, whereas women rarely join as attendants on the shop floor. To remedy this issue, the article noted that firms should be looking for women graduating from college or vocational programs and creating access to positions that would eventually lead straight to the top. Many agree that having a diverse team in terms of intellectual and emotional intelligence allows for the best decision-making, rather than relying too heavily on gut instincts or analytics.

Visibility is key

One reason that women do not enter into procurement or manufacturing is that many are unaware that there are viable positions to be had. Many efforts are in place to help eradicate the gap, including various websites and symposiums. What these outlets hope to accomplish is to prove to women that they are necessary candidates for jobs in manufacturing or procurement. Sure, not all women will be satisfied with a position on a warehouse floor (just as some men won't either), but that does not mean women need to enter the field from the very bottom.

Women in Supply Chain, or WISC, is an initiative spearheaded by the Van Horne Institute that believes the gap is not a female issue, but rather a talent one. WISC offers information about events to attend and opportunities to grasp, specifically geared toward a female audience. The site makes a point to note some skills required and gained in the field that may appeal to women from various educational and intellectual backgrounds. Some skills include financial planning, knowledge of laws and general management abilities that can easily be transferred to other professions should the need arise.

It is not only important for women to enter into the supply chain to meet government quotas, but to round out the perspective of the employees at firms within the sector. The supply chain affects everyone and men and women should be equally represented within it. It should not be seen as solely a man's domain, but a profession that allows individuals to come together and provide a necessary service to the world.

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Why YOU should be networking

on Thursday, April 16, 2015

When it comes to professional growth and development, networking is not only fun but essential. Professional networking is more than meeting people to ask for a job. It is a continuous process of creating and cultivating relationships that produce benefits for both individuals and businesses as a whole.

  1. Open Communication: Whether you are seeking feedback or just an alternative view point, networking is a great way to share ideas and expand your knowledge. Connecting with other professionals can support your individual career growth by helping you learn from the experiences of others, no matter what stage in your career.

  2. Best Practices: Networking can also be a valuable strategy for businesses. Learning from what others in the industry are doing can help in identifying best-practices and benchmarks, and staying current with market trends.

  3. Opportunities: When done right, networking can provide opportunities for both individuals and businesses. If you’re seeking a new position, building relationships through networking can be vital. According to ABC News, 80% of today’s jobs are landed through networking. For businesses, contacts made through networking can open doors as potential leads for partnerships or new customers.
On April 23rd Source One will be joining the best and brightest in supply chain at ISM-7 Counties’ Professional Networking Event. As strategic sourcing experts and thought leaders, Source One will be sharing their unique insights, as well as engaging with other industry veterans and emerging professionals. Attendees will also hear from guest speaker Julienne Ryan, a professional speaker and prominent leadership coach. 
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What does the future hold for procurement services?

on Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What does the future hold for procurement services?

While there is nothing certain in this world - the only exceptions being death and taxes, as the adage goes - it is likely that industries will be evolving thanks to brand new technologies that have yet to emerge. Tech and gadgets have a habit of shaking things up, and the supply chain and procurement services are not immune from the reach of inevitable change. The only thing that is for sure in this business climate is that leaders and employees alike will need to adapt and adjust to the changing tides.

A glimpse into the future

Although we might lack the crystal ball to determine what's on the horizon in the years to come, we can reasonably surmise that as technology becomes more intertwined with our lives, the way in which we utilize collected data will change. Right now, analytics can only go back a few years, but what if the information were detailed and accurate enough to foresee dips due to weather patterns or political events? In 20 or 30 years' time, we might be able to prepare for specific events in a more in-depth manner and control costs down to the dollar.

As Procurement Leaders asserted, analytics and procurement will be very closely linked in the future. The source indicated that many CPOs and leaders are already using the existing data to make intelligent decisions and to better forecast demand, quality levels and performance. Not only will analytics help manufacturing operations, but it will also enhance a procurement service's buying power. "Knowledge is power" certainly takes on a new meaning in the procurement industry.

Preparing for the inevitable

Technology will be changing the field of procurement, most likely for the better, and leaders of the future will also need to up their game. Of course, tomorrow's CPOs will need to be well-versed in their understanding of analytics, but these people will face different challenges.

A separate Procurement Leaders article outlined several obstacles that CPOs need to be prepared to face in the coming years. Leaders need to be aware of unstable political regimes and the risk they present to the supply chain. Should government upheavals and coups be large enough, procurement services will need to practice strategic sourcing to get around new taxes or potential war zones. And as governments evolve, their currencies will go with them, causing a disruption in the exchange rate and leading companies to pay more for various services.

In short, things are changing for all sectors, and leaders will need to be proactive in their efforts to keep up and thrive.

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Why Sourcing Should Guide Your IT Investment

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Today’s technology is ubiquitous and ever-evolving as leading tech companies continue to deliver cutting edge user experiences and improved functionality for their devices and software.  With the goal of working smarter, more efficiently, and with increased productivity and flexibility, more and more companies across industries are renewing their interest in investing in information technology (IT). 

While executives recognize the role of technology in gaining and maintaining a competitive advantage, purchasing decisions are often made without a full understanding of the organization’s requirements, and the risks associated with IT such as security, backup storage, and recovery, and cost. Worse, these factors are not considered until after an IT project has started, hindering its success. This is where strategic sourcing can lay the foundation of success for an IT initiative.

Strategic Sourcing is a proactive approach to avoiding major pitfalls and creating a more collaborative relationship with your IT suppliers. Strategic Sourcing analyzes an organization’s requirements to identify ideal suppliers for those needs, engages stakeholders for initiative buy-in, negotiates contracts to ensure competitive pricing, analyzes and addresses potential risks, and creates a structure in place for supplier relationship management.   

Source One’s partnered webinar with Converge-One Program Management, Managing IT Supplier Risk: The Critical Roles of Strategic Sourcing and Program Management, outlines how to manage supplier risk, specifically through the synchronization between strategic sourcing and program management. The webinar provides an in-depth view of the evolution of sourcing and IT, the challenges within IT program management & sourcing, program management principals and how tight coordination between program management and sourcing ensures success, including real life case study examples.  

Watch the Managing IT Supplier Risk webinar for insights into how strategic sourcing and program management are vital to ensuring the success of an IT initiative as well as easy to implement concepts that will help make the process more manageable.
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What will the digital revolution do to the supply chain?

on Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What will the digital revolution do to the supply chain?

The world of business has seen quite a few revolutions through the centuries, with pros and cons accompanying each. As a result, the market landscape has been forever changed. Just as leaders took power and fell from grace over the years, technologies gained prominence in manufacturing and production only to be replaced by newer and more efficient machines.

In recent years, it seems that we have amassed more technology, but have not had a revolution pertaining to it. However, many experts are convinced that a digital revolution is underway, without chance of it fizzling away. How exactly will this transition to a total digital market change the way that business is conducted in the supply chain?

Upgrades abounding

If it hasn't been obvious enough, more companies are turning to software solutions to help streamline ordering and procurement services. This not only creates less room for mistakes, such as under- or over-ordering supplies, but gives details of how efficiently products are being moved through the warehouse. As Google's Renee Niemi asserted in her speech for Promat 2015, companies will need to take on the change towards total technology takeover with a few key players to make the transition smooth and effective, noted IndustryWeek. 

Many programs and software will come into play as the digital revolution follows its course, and Niemi recommended that companies ready themselves for the change. By implementing cloud, mobile and applications into their line of work, businesses will stand a chance at surviving the changing climate and emerge on the other side ready to face the next challenges.

Blurring the boundaries

With automated factory floors already a popular sight in certain sectors, the digital revolution and the interconnected system of the Internet of Things won't necessarily be as utterly groundbreaking within manufacturing as it will be to other sectors. However, the supply chain will now undoubtedly undergo some changes as man and machine begin to merge.

DesignNews asserted that productivity in factories where all processes are automated has increased. Many questions are raised with this new information: Are people losing their jobs to machines? Are jobs being created to monitor and service said machines? Are completely automated systems worth the investment?

At this juncture, we are only aware that the manufacturing sector is losing more jobs than any other, noted a separate IndustryWeek article, but the long-term effects of the technology takeover have yet to be seen. The supply chain may not be in peril, but the future may have some unforeseen repercussions due to the revolution in place. 

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Book Review: Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals

on Friday, April 10, 2015

Jeanette Jones and Kelly Barner’s take on market intelligence for procurement professionals is spot on.  “Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals” tackles one of the most important, yet least tangible aspects of the sourcing profession – how to get access to good, relevant information about supply markets quickly, and then maintain that information so that you have it when you need it.  The book provides insight into the importance of market intelligence, and explains why getting that information not only helps sourcing professionals do their jobs more effectively, but also how it can help them bring value to the organizations they serve in terms of access to new products or technologies, grabbing up capacity so your competitors cannot gain access to it, and making the best business decisions in regards to hedging, spot buys and long term contracting.  The book creates a business case for market intelligence with vivid examples that make it easy to understand the applicability and necessity of MI to the procurement profession at large.

Part I of the book provides a detailed overview of supply market intelligence, and how MI fits into a best in class procurement organization.  Their assessment is useful and insightful, and would be valuable to anyone from an entry level procurement analyst to a seasoned CPO.  Part I goes on to detail how procurement professionals can collect, analyze and utilize market intelligence, and the importance of continuous data collection as well as quality assurance – double checking your sources before making decisions based on your findings.  These are absolutely critical, and often overlooked aspects of supply market intelligence gathering.

Part II of the book then performs a deep dive assessment of all the market intelligence resources available to procurement professionals, including free and paid directories, consulting firms and blogs, market research firms and subscription services.  As comprehensive as the list is, where the book really provides some unique and thorough research of its own is in providing a list of market intelligence sources, by commodity, for a wide variety of industries and spend categories.  From commodity indexes and supplier directories for chemicals and agriculture, all the way to resources that can help attack marketing and IT projects, this comprehensive list of sources is by itself something many organizations might pay tens of thousands of dollars to gain access to.  The amount of independent research required to put together such a comprehensive list is staggering in the opinion of this market intelligence junky! 

The authors also understood that even the best sources of market intelligence aren’t stagnant, they are constantly changing and updating as new information, technologies and processes becomes available.  Therefore, they have also made all their market intelligence sources available online, so they can be updated as required.


I want to congratulate both Jeanette and Kelly on a job well done.  In a world where access to good, independent market intelligence is incredibly hard to come by, they have put together a user’s guide to MI that should stand the test of time in an ever evolving procurement industry.  Get your copy of the book today!
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Gas and oil continue to be pain points

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Gas and oil continue to be pain points

It's no secret that gas is not only a hot commodity, but also a hot-button topic. People can't stop talking about the price of gas, what the fuel cost a decade ago and how harmful the whole petrol procurement process can be. This isn't surprising because oil is everywhere. We use it to heat our homes, power our cars and we rely on it to power the planes and trucks that deliver our goods both in and out of country. Obviously, there are people who subsist without gas and its benefits and detriments, but those individuals are few and far between.

Now that we have finally been dragged through the final bouts of winter, plane, boat and automobile season is coming. The summer months are when people use gas the most, but with the oil reserves in the United States near max capacity and the discovery of oil overseas, what will the summer of 2015 be like and how will it compare to past years?

All new oil

In recent months, companies that make their money from the search and discovery of new oil sources have been experiencing the pinch of maximum capacity reserves. All sectors of the supply chain were feeling the heat, or rather lack thereof, and itching to get back out into the world. Some of the harder-hit industries were out of Great Britain, and so it's a little ironic that an exploration firm found oil outside of London, reported IndustryWeek. According to the source, there are about 100 billion barrels' worth of oil in the ground adjacent to Gatwick Airport.

Unfortunately for the United Kingdom, it's estimated that only 3 to 15 percent of the oil will be able to be extracted. However, the extraction method will likely not require fracking - instead, the Surrey ground will be mined in more traditional fashions. This discovery was huge for the island nation, as only last year the British Geological Survey announced that the whole region of Great Britain only had 8.5 billion barrels of oil left in the earth at the very most. Still, the world is not experiencing a shortage and in demand of oil quite yet, so the celebration of the discovery is on hold.

Feeling the summer heat

Even though spring has hardly sprung in the U.S., analysts are already thinking about the summer and what the gas market will look like. For the third year in a row, the U.S. is the leader in oil and gas production for the entire world. What has allowed for this upswing is fracking, reported Climate Central. Despite countless claims and petitions to desist the oil procurement process, it continues to be successful. However, there are more rules in place about greenhouse gas emissions that the U.S. supports and many believe there needs to be a reconciliation between production and emissions, noted the source.

At the moment, the summer of 2015 seems to be shaping up to have the lowest prices for seasonal gas on record in the last six years, reported The Times Leader. But now that the demand for more oil is sinking as the reserves are filling up, what will become of the booming gas and oil sourcing sector that been created? Crude oil prices are depressed due to the constant gas collection, but at what point will companies see that the more gas there is, the worse off the industry becomes? Perhaps this summer, with the expected high temperatures and the low gas prices, will shed more light on the issue than predictions can claim.

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The Largest Price-fixing Prosecution in US History: Supplier Collusion in American and Asian Automotive Industries

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Since the Great Recession the two major global industries hit the hardest by the economic downturn were the financial and automotive industries. The economic downturn created prime conditions for market manipulation. Such conditions were potentially escalated by a weakened global economy and unwillingness of the Japanese government to increase oversight of an already desperate, fledgling automotive industry. Likewise, the South Korean company, Hyundai Motor Group, was not diligent in their financial accounting of parts and prices. This is a massive diversion from what made Asian automotive manufacturers break into the global market: cost effectiveness and process efficiency. Additionally, American automotive manufacturing has not escaped criticism with companies’ manufacturing plants based in Ohio, for example, pleading guilty to allegations of fraud and cartel-like behavior.
                South Korea’s antitrust regulator will fine five auto parts firms, including Japan’s Denso Corporation and NGK Spark Plug, for a total of $3.2 million for fixing prices and rigging bids for engine parts. It has been largely noted in recent news that regulators are increasing activity and investigations in a global crackdown on price-fixing and supplier collusion against the automotive industry. The price-fixing and supplier collusion allegedly took place between 2008 and 2011. The companies that supplied Hyundai Motor Group and Kia Motors made up roughly 75% of the local car market in Japan and South Korea. While the South Korean Fair Trade Commission aggressively insisted that these fines sent a strict message that collusion and price-fixing will not be tolerated, there are still many questions regarding the intricacy of the situation that makes South Korean, Japanese, and perhaps global consumers feel very doubtful. Due to privacy laws and contractual restrictions, Hyundai Motor Group and KIA Motors have not released any financial information clarifying the size of the contracts awarded which would add context to the costs passed onto the consumers from parts costs being artificially high and how substantial of a signal this ruling sends to other automotive suppliers.
                The legal and financial ramifications in Asia have had a magnified effect in the United States with 33 companies pleading guilty and agreeing to pay $2.4 billion in fines. The investigations are still ongoing. States like Ohio are feeling the brunt of the impact with clusters of Japanese-based companies (that provided parts to Honda Motor Co.) pleading guilty. These plea agreements are exposing larger issues within the Japanese automobile manufacturer’s supply chains and broader business relationships. The ramifications of the conspiracy cannot be overstated in the United States with more than a decade of price-fixing across more than 25 million vehicles purchased by United States consumers.
The story of American entrepreneur Mike Tanner (highlighted in The Columbus Dispatch) captures largely what many in the United States automotive industry are feeling. Tanner spent five years trying to get Honda Motor Co. to purchase his brake hoses. Eventually, the company purchased a small share of Tanner’s hoses; of which, he, in hindsight, believes Honda Motor Co. was using to leverage against other parts suppliers based in Japan. American entrepreneurs and businesses have largely been criticized for costly labor and inefficiency; however, the unprecedented collusion on the part of Japanese suppliers may shift the focus of American automotive manufacturing from labor costs to product parts and supply chain management. 

Image courtesy of telegraph.co.uk



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Technology upgrades for the supply chain

on Thursday, April 9, 2015

Technology upgrades for the supply chain

Sometimes, doing things the old-fashioned way is the only method worthwhile: A classic cookie recipe doesn't need a hip, new ingredient and the best way to knit a scarf will always be with needles and yarn. However, innovations in technology and other sectors have treated us very well and the life we lead would be impossible without them.

In the business world, technology has been an invaluable resource. Regardless of what field people might find themselves in, there is probably some sort of gadget or software that has streamlined or improved a certain process. Recently, there have been some impressive tech upgrades for the supply chain that promise improvements in efficiency and the potential to maximize profits.

Anaplan applications

In mid-March, the cloud planning company Anaplan released a suite of supply chain planning applications that will simplify and maximize operations. All steps of the process from purchasing to procurement are immediately available for implementation through Anaplan's App Hub. What these apps provide is an insight into company plans. Looking at real-time supply and demand allows planners to make changes and track trends. In a recent press release, Anaplan Vice President of Product Marketing Folia Grace asserted that this technology will let planners and managers "embrace the chaos in the supply chain and use it to their business advantage."

These are very diverse apps and will work across an array of fields. One of the real draws for this suite of products is that they can be monitored and utilized by a small staff that doesn't require intensive IT training. This is rather appealing to smaller companies, as they are able to maximize the manpower already available to them without adding too much added cost to simplify the supply chain.

Terra Technology

Another company making impressive advancements in the supply chain world is Terra Technology out of Connecticut, which was recently named as a "Cool Vendor" in the Cool Vendors in Supply Chain Planning, 2015 report by Gartner. With its transportation forecasting that allows for businesses to cut costs and better synchronize where labor needs to be distributed throughout a warehouse, Terra is simply looking to fill the gap in the tech side of the supply chain that was seriously lacking. With Gartner's seal of approval, the company should expect to see more businesses trying out the transportation forecasting technology in the coming years.

Both Terra and Anaplan are filling in the spaces where there was a need to make the most of the business day and are doing so thanks to technological advancements.

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Smooth sailing for China's 'New Silk Road'?

on Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Smooth sailing for China's 'New Silk Road'?

The Silk Road was once a series of lucrative waterways and trade routes connecting the West with the East, the old with the new, the exotic with the domestic. Over millennia and 4,000 miles of land and sea, the trade market underwent a revolution and gave rise to the intercultural world we know and are familiar with today.

In recent years, the Silk Road has meant nothing more than a chapter in a history book... until now. China's President Xi Jinping has proposed a new Silk Road initiative that could potentially generate $2.5 trillion in a decade. What are the implications for the world stage should the Silk Road once again control the reins of trade?

"One Belt, One Road"

China's plan for a new trade route that mimics the Silk Road of old would extend across all of China and Asia and reach as far West as Greece, noted the International Business Times. President Xi is hoping that more countries from the West will want to join in on the action and participate in the $50 billion project that is being funded by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. This coop, in direct competition with the World Bankthat Washington, D.C. helps control, would provide funding for infrastructure for countries in need of repair.

With the massive over-reaching arm of the trade route and the AIIB (and the support of countries such as Russ​ia, Denmark and Australia, reported IBT), many are concerned about the amount of power China is trying to amass under the guise of cross-country friendship. To this effect, China vows to have a more open policy in addressing global concerns.

Rough roads ahead?

America sees the new project as something of a red flag, not a white one. The main concerns lie mostly with the technology and restrictions in the banking sector with the AIIB​ at the helm, reported The Maritime Executive. The source indicated that partners in the Chinese bank would need to forfeit their own secret source codes and adopt the cybersecurity encryptions provided by the bank.

Some see this as an abuse of world power while others have still not made a decision on the matter. At the very least, it would seem that the Silk Road initiative will have a strong impact on the supply chain as we know it. What changes will arise should President Xi's plan become a reality? That remains to be seen, but let's hope for a transition as smooth as silk itself.

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On the rise: Wages, employment... concern?

on Tuesday, April 7, 2015

On the rise: Wages, employment... concern?

Since the Great Recession of 2008, the United States has been hard-pressed to get the economy back to stability and make the dollar strong again on the national market. With our money troubles, we also saw the lowest employment the country had seen since the Stock Market Crash in the '20s. Over the past few years, more jobs have been created and the dollar has gotten stronger as other national currencies fell. This has been great for the American economy, but is the rise and the eventual plateau going to be tough on certain sectors?

Dollar on the mend

The U.S. dollar has been busy at work, rising at the highest rate it's seen in 40 years, reported CNN. This is great for our economy, but it's doing quite a number on the market overseas. While the dollar continues to strengthen and grow, the bottom lines of large enterprises are suffering, noted the source. The only way any currency can improve is by the demise of another - the Euro may even slip below $1, unheard of just a few years ago.

Of course, while we are interested in the global economy, the U.S. has been in stimulus mode for quite a few years and we are just now reaping the benefits of our efforts. As a country, our productivity has been rapidly increasing and strong wages will undoubtedly follow, reported Industry Week. Gas is at the lowest price in six years, the real estate market is booming despite a dreadful winter season and the unemployment rate is sinking by the month. The source noted that as wages in the United States rise, they will appreciate faster than they rose in the first place. While this is indeed a positive step toward rebuilding the economy, is the job market following suit?

Job market in jeopardy?

It's true that any jobs added to the American economy constitute a good sign, especially given the state of the market just a few years ago, but what does it mean when the jobs start to plateau?

According to a separate Industry Week piece, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 126,000 new jobs were added in March 2015. This represents a huge feat for any struggling country, but quite a good deal fewer jobs than have been added in the 12 months previous. The steep decline, from over 200,000 jobs per month to last month's number was hardest on the manufacturing sector. The Alliance for American Manufacturing reported about 1,000 jobs lost, noted Industry Week, and the strong dollar was to blame.

All of these factors roll into one complicated mess that has become the American economy. The source reported that while the dollar continues to be strong and oil prices remain low, the manufacturing industry will continue to suffer. How this will affect the supply chain in the long run has yet to be determined, but the losses to the sector will be undoubtedly large.

It seems to be a fascinating correlation: more jobs and the strongest dollar the country has seen in years against a flailing industry with layoffs in factories and refineries across the nation. What, in fact, will be in the future for the supply chain if so many people are being terminated? Will prices go up or will companies procure supplies from outside sources? Perhaps the rest of the year will be more telling in terms of whether jobs, the dollar and industry growth will level out and hopefully find a happy balance.

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Walmart to reconfigure supply chain

on Friday, April 3, 2015

Walmart  to reconfigure supply chain

It's not surprising that companies and business leaders are trying to cut costs where they can. Trying to save a few dollars here and there is not only good for business right now, but down the line as well. But what are the implications of a powerhouse in the retail industry requesting that its suppliers charge less for goods and products? The Arkansas-based giant retailer Walmart has been facing some difficulties in the past few years and is currently in talks with suppliers to slash costs for all stores, noted Fortune, but what does this mean for the company as a whole?

Normal behavior?

Asking suppliers to cut down on costs is not entirely out of the blue. As the source indicated, Walmart will focus on removing the bulky advertising displays along with large banners to minimize any extra costs. This action comes on the heels of the enterprise hiring a new chief executive to help the stores in the United States that struggle to keep up with the changes in retail. As a separate Fortune article detailed, the changeover in July of 2014 was to specifically address the falling sales of the past few years.

Even if it is perfectly normal to insist that suppliers reel in their costs so that stores may focus on selling more products rather than just advertising for them, these changes do feel a little desperate. The source noted that Walmart had been suffering from consistent quarterly earning declines, and that the new CEO was installed to return the store to its formal glory - but will this method of modifying the supplier relationship management prove successful?

What's the deal?

Walmart is faring much better than other brick-and-mortar stores which that have closed in the past few years, but what exactly is the to blame for Walmart's wavering confidence?

According to Supply Chain Digest, Walmart's year-end earnings for 2014 came out around $2.8 billion, nearly double from the year before. While the numbers are up from those of the years during the Great Recession, many believe that digital shopping outlets are to blame for the decline. Online retail giant and marketplace Amazon had some promising growth for 2014, with revenues increasing by 20 percent and merchandise sales up by about 28 percent for the U.S. alone.

There are a few reasons why people would rather use Amazon and similar services than venturing out to a physical store. Many prefer the convenience and privacy of shopping at home while others believe that they're getting better prices by cutting out the middleman in some cases and buying directly from suppliers. Regardless of the specific reasons consumers have turned their eyes toward an online store, the undeniable fact is that Amazon's style has become more popular in the past decade, leaving shopping centers with fewer customers and vacant stores.

Should these trends continue, Walmart may need to take a longer look at how it manages its hundreds of stores. It's unlikely that physical stores will ever be wiped away entirely, at least in our lifetime. The need for actual buildings will remain, but perhaps higher management will need to reassess procurement and purchasing to offer competitive prices but keep business going.

Whatever the case may be, the supply chain is undergoing a bit of a renovation. While this generally means that customers will be receiving the best deals possible, enterprises could find themselves changing business methods entirely to keep up with the changing times. Should this happen, the supply chain will undoubtedly benefit and customers will rejoice in their expanded options.

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