September 2011
The average consumer has unresolved debt and poor credit. As prevalent as the problem is, credit resolution and repair is a subject most do not want to approach. Many factors have added to empowering this evasive mind set. One of them is that the credit industry and the legal legislation has successfully created an overly complicated system that overwhelms and intimidates the average consumer. Many consumers have resolved to hiring lawyers or credit repair specialists to help resolve their credit problems. These avenues are costly and the risk of hiring a scam artist is an increasing reality.

How did we get here? The problem is consumer ignorance. Over the years, consumers have allowed credit to run, regulate, and control their lives. When the economy boomed, banks irresponsibly flooded the consumer markets with credit cards and lines of credit. Getting a open line of unsecured credit was as easy as buying candy at the dollar store. Banking institutions flooded consumer mailboxes with marketing literature that promised alluring lifestyles with a swipe of card. Fast forward 30 years, the result of the careless lending is now bearing its fruit.

There is hope. Just as ignorance (intentional or unintentional) has led this industry into the deep ruins of economic upheaval, information and understanding on how to apply the information will dig this nation of the dirt.

A damaged credit report can be restored. The process will take time effort. Just as it took time and effort to get into the mess, getting out of the mess will also require time and effort. This blog will outline the credit repair process that is available to all individuals at any level of credit disarray.

Credit repair is the process that a consumer (the individual or the representative that the individual retains to represent them (credit repair company or law office) takes to improve their credit score with the three credit bureaus. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reliable information on credit repair.

It is important to understand that any thing that a credit repair company offers, every individual can do on their own for little or no cost.

The credit repair process consists of:
  • obtaining a credit report from the three credit bureaus for free.
  • reviewing the credit report and identifying any inaccuracies or outdated information to dispute.
  • writing letters of dispute to the credit bureaus
  • Once an item is changed or deleted, the credit bureau cannot put that information back on the credit report.
  • The credit bureau must provide a notice that details the name, address, and phone number of the entity that reported the item on the credit report.
  • The consumer can request the credit bureaus to send notices of the corrections/changes to credit report inquirers (within 6 months).
  • The consumer can request that the credit bureau send a corrected report copy to anyone for employment purposes (within the past two years).

While the credit repair is in process, it is also important to become educated in managing finances in order to stay out of the credit mess. Build a realistic budget and stick to it. Consult with financial planners to learn about all viable investment vehicles. Understand that credit is money. If more is spent on credit cards than is available to pay them off, a deficit occurs and the vicious cycle begins again.

Many valuable resources are available online. Research today for freedom tomorrow.

Make it a goal to be debt free and stay debt free.
About 10 years ago retail chains began introducing self-checkout lanes. They promoted them as a quick and easy way for shoppers to scan, bag, and pay for their items without waiting in long lines. Utilizing this technology and a new way of doing business, retailers anticipated a cost savings in labor through reducing the number of cashiers and baggers. Most retailers only require one cashier to monitor 4 to 6 self-checkouts.

We have all seen them and I’m sure most of us have used them. Since their implementation, retailers have had to deal with numerous concerns – certain barcodes that wouldn’t scan, oversized items, items without barcodes, and restricted items like Natural Ice Light (They should work on a way to make that double restricted). They also had to deal with a multitude of security issues. Customers would remove the barcodes of low ticket items and tape them to higher cost items. They could also place high ticket items like “Cool Runnings” on DVD into the most recent copy of the Weekly World News (Top Story: Man gives birth!), which is surprisingly a fraction of the cost of the DVD.

Despite some of these concerns, retailers adjusted their business accordingly and built these self-checkouts in almost every store across the country.

However, recent studies have shown customers are increasingly becoming dissatisfied with using these machines.

A recent study done by the Arlington, VA-based Food Marketing Institute found only 16 % of supermarket transactions in 2010 were done at self-checkout lanes at stores that offer them. That's down from a high of 22 % three years ago.

Overall, people reported being much more satisfied with their supermarket experience when they used traditional cashier-staffed lanes.

Customers have become frustrated with the inability to use the technology, consistent equipment failure, and lack of responsiveness from the staff.

Big Y Foods, which has 61 locations in the New England area, has announced recently it was phasing out the self-serve lanes. Many other major retail chains have also either removed or reduced these self-checkouts and converted back to traditional staff run lanes.

Big Y conducted an internal survey and cited delays in its self-service lines caused by customer confusion over coupons, payments and other problems; intentional and accidental theft, including misidentifying produce and baked goods as less-expensive varieties; and other problems that helped guide its decision to bag the self-serve lanes.

Furthermore, retailers will eventually need to replace their checkout computers to read newly emerging types of bar codes, so if the self-checkouts are not providing increased customer service there's little business sense in keeping and replacing them.

Perhaps more importantly in the decision is the growing trend toward utilizing bar code-reading programs on smartphones, which is likely to change everything in supermarket shopping over time.

However, not all retailers agree with this trend. Home Depot and other similar retailers report success with their self-checkouts which may be due to the “do-it-yourself” attitude of their customer base. Therefore the success of these self-checkouts may not be dependent on the technology but come down to the demographics of the area.

It will be important for retailers to appropriately match the technology with their customer base.

Now that many retailers better understand customer preferences and how the technology impacts their business, they will (hopefully) make better decisions as to the best way to manage the check out process.
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When I heard Robin Quivers of The Howard Stern Show report how fast food chains are offering extremely cheap deals to not only assist low-income families or those who are suffering in today’s economic times but to help stay afloat, I know things are still really bad.

Over the past few years fast food chains have become less popular maybe because of continuous reports of the Obesity problem in the US or even the popular documentary released in 2004 Super Size Me, Fast Food Nation. I then started reading how some of these fast food chains even want to allow low-income families to be able to use food stamps in the establishments; “Yum! Brands, the purveyor of fine establishments like KFC, Long John Silver’s and the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, is now lobbying the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be able to accept food stamps”

There are continuous discussions as to whether this should be allowed; “There was a debate in The New York Times yesterday over the "proper" use of SNAP (formerly "food stamp") funds. The basic question is whether use of food assistance dollars should be restricted so as to preclude unhealthful food choices: soda, fast food and so on”

Who is to decide what is best for the people and why not allow this when the government already supports the use of SNAP at gas stations, farmers markets, and some convenient stores like Wawa. People have to eat and they should be able to eat what they want. The article continues by arguing that food stamps should not be used on prepared food. I am not saying we should allow food stamps in every fine restaurant in the US, but come on…it is fast food. Also, the government should be supportive of companies making efforts to stay in business and show their own support to those in need.
As U.S. finances switch to electronic medical records, Britain provides lessons in how to proceed, experts say President Obama and healthcare experts have touted electronic medical records as a means for physicians and other administers of care to improve their performance, increase efficiency and achieve cost reductions. The 2009 federal stimulus bill included provisions aimed at spurring hospitals and clinics to rapidly implement electronic health records, and billions of dollars is allocated toward such a goal.

However, the shift to EHR can prove to be a daunting and unproductive operation. That was the conclusion of Britain's National Health Service, which last week announced it would drastically alter its course of action as it worked to make the change from paper to electronic medical records.

The NHS is Britain's state-funded healthcare service, and the World Health Organization ranks it as one of the top 20 health systems in the world. The NHS unveiled in 2002 a plan to modernize its medical records system, a project it budgeted at $19 billion and hailed as the "world's biggest civil information technology program."

The NHS' latest announcement, however, comes as a stark reminder of the difficulties nations face as they work to improve performance and cut healthcare costs with the help of modern technological systems. Healthcare experts contend the British government made crucial missteps in its implementation of its own EHR program, mistakes U.S. officials are keen to avoid as the government prepares to allocate billions of dollars to healthcare institutions across the U.S., The New York Times reports.

The British government said it intends to overhaul its own approach to the EHR system. The Department of Health affirmed it is shifting its plan, and will allow local governments more decision-making powers.

"We need to move on from a top down approach and instead provide information systems driven by local decision-making," the Department of Health said in a statement. "This is the only way to make sure we get value for money and that the modern NHS meets the needs of patients."

In the U.S., David J. Brailer, the national coordinator for health information technology under President George W. Bush, told The Times the British government failed to actively engage local communities.

"The British government treated it as a big procurement program, putting out bids, selecting contractors, picking winners and concentrating their bets," he affirmed. "They crushed what had been a pretty vigorous health information technology marketplace in Britain."

Other experts contend the U.S. approach is different, as the government stresses hospitals and other healthcare providers hoping to receive government incentives for implementing EHR systems must demonstrate "meaningful use," allowing doctors and caregivers to essentially draw up their own courses of action.

Regardless, with billions of federal dollars at stake, experts are increasingly observing to determine whether the U.S. EHR program becomes a success and helps to improve patient care and reduce costs.

I have long stood by my conclusion that the most challenging aspect of strategic sourcing in the world of telecommunications is not network design, nor negotiation , nor understanding contract terms, SLAs, tariffs, and service guides, nor migration management, but being able to call a project complete by confirming that the invoicing is correct. Why? The invoicing is never correct, certainly not in the first bill cycle and probably not during the second, either. Not completely, anyway. This is no secret, an entire Telecom Expense Management (TEM) industry was spawned from and has thrived due to telecom providers' inability to get their own billing correct.

I am willing to give the providers the benefit of the doubt only in that most providers are the products of various mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, re-merges, etc. Both their networks and billing systems are legacy and poorly integrated. There is bureaucracy on top of bureaucracy layered throughout most organizations leaving the customer feel like they are playing a childhood game of "telephone" (no pun intended) with their provider. The customer may ask for a circuit to be disconnected, for example. Maybe the disconnect group will actually get the message (hopefully in a reasonable amount of time) but will the billing group? Maybe, maybe not? How long will it take for the customer to realize that the circuit that has been disconnected and is unusable has still been billing because the provider's billing team never got the message, or never worked the order?

But beyond the poor integration and the bureaucracy, there is a big problem when telecom giants allow glaringly obvious errors to occur. For example, I cannot count the times I have audited carrier invoices for new clients where there are no actual charges for services on an invoice -nothing at all billing on the account. Why is there an invoice? Well, because the carrier needs a place to bill their invoice charge. Plus taxes and surcharges of course. That's right, an invoice generated and sent to the customer to bill the customer for that exact invoice being generated and sent to them.

For another customer, a credit of a certain dollar value was written into a network agreement. The credit was clearly demonstrated in the agreement and was identified in very explicit terms that it would be issued the fourth bill cycle after the effective date. Despite our babysitting and notification to the account team (who did make a great and sincere effort on our behalf) prior to the fourth bill cycle -we did not receive the credit until the sixth cycle due to internal debate over when and how the credit should be issued. As it turns out, without our babysitting it would have taken even longer because there is a manual internal mechanism to start the process that no one on the account team was aware of.

Despite most telecom invoicing being fairly simple -even most large networks only typically have a few dozen billable elements- carriers struggle with it where much more complex projects in other industries seem to manage just fine. In order to realize the savings you have negotiated you need to carefully manage your carriers. Typically engaging directly with the billing team throughout the negotiation and immediately thereafter can pay significant dividends. Most of the big players (who seem to have more trouble billing correctly than the smaller ones) have dedicated folks available to ensure billing is correct. Depending on your account size, they may or may not be made available to you without your asking for them. This may be something you ask during a negotiation and can pay huge dividends in terms of the costs you and your team will have in long term management of incorrect billing: continual auditing of invoices and chasing the carriers for credits. Further, engaging billing earlier will allow you to track their progress. If they come up short and don't get all of your negotiated rates in place in time for your invoice, they can immediate take corrective action for the next cycle and do most of the grunt work (which you should audit) in terms of calculating the credits due on the next invoice as well.

Telecom billing is a extraordinarily difficult to understand completely and manage closely. To do so is extremely time consuming and that is usually time you and your team do not have. But it's a necessary evil -even once things are correctly billing, they need to be tracked because they will almost inevitably bill erroneously for one reason or another in the future. Without close management of your providers and your invoicing, all that hard work you put into your RFP and negotiation may be left fruitless. Source One can help your organization not only improve pricing, but make sure the pricing bills correctly and stays correct.
Economists surprised by August data showing strong demand for U.S. capital goods The U.S. economy started the year amid signs of economic growth. Employers were adding jobs, the manufacturing sector was churning and GDP growth was accelerating. However, economic reports have become increasingly pessimistic over the past four months, as lingering concerns over Europe's sovereign-debt crisis and tepid economic activity have eroded consumer confidence.

The Institute for Supply Management's August report on U.S. manufacturing concluded the sector was growing, but its pace had slowed. Still, economists were cautiously optimistic following reports released Wednesday illustrating increased demand for U.S. capital goods.

Bloomberg reports orders for U.S. capital goods jumped in August by the most in three months. Analysts assert the rise underscores how business investment has helped to spur growth and, at least thus far, has helped to prevent the recurrence of a recession.

Companies increased their orders of computers and communications gear by 1.1 percent, representing the biggest uptick since May. The Commerce Department also said although total demand for durable goods fell by a scant 0.1 percent, it still beat prior forecasts.

Growth in global markets continued to benefit international corporations like Siemens and General Electric, which manufacture industrial equipment and expensive heavy machinery.

The Associated Press reports economists were largely positive in their interpretation of the latest Commerce Department data. Shipments of capital goods climbed 2.8 percent in August, logging their fourth consecutive monthly gain.

Moreover, analysts said the new data was encouraging given growth occurred during a month in which the stock market experienced volatile swings, Europe's debt crisis reached a fever pitch and U.S. officials nearly failed to prevent a government shutdown.

"Business capital spending is rising," Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi chief financial economist Christopher Rupkey said. "There is no recession."

Other experts backed such an assertion, affirming as long as businesses continue to invest, it is unlikely the U.S. economy will slip into a so-called double-dip recession.

"Companies are still willing to continue with their investment intentions despite the recent financial-market volatility," affirmed Bank of American economist Neil Dutta. "The risk was always that the recent volatility would prompt a pullback among businesses. At the moment there are no signs of that happening in any meaningful way."

Economists at a number of financial institutions, including JPMorgan Chase and Barclays Capital, raised their growth outlooks for the third quarter as a result of the strong investment data, according to Bloomberg.

Toyota's domestic output rises year-on-year for first time since March natural disasters Japanese businesses were greatly impacted by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that battered the island nation on March 11. Many of the nation's automakers, located in the country's Northeast, were incongruously affected, with production levels at Toyota, Honda and Nissan plummeting.

Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, had to drastically reduce its manufacturing capacity as crews worked to repair factories. However, after nearly seven months of progress, the company announced it had achieved its first increase in its monthly domestic output.

Analysts hailed the announcement, affirming the Japanese carmaker's struggle to overhaul its strategic sourcing and implement procurement best practices during the crisis would serve as a model for companies in the future.

MarketWatch reports although the Japanese automaker was excited to announce the uptick in domestic output, executives cautioned the strong yen could undermine its ability to cheaply manufacture cars in Japan, perhaps slowing future sales and revenue.

Toyota said its domestic production in August climbed 12 percent compared to 2010 levels. Company officials said they were finally able to piece back together its complex and global supply chain, prompting the increased manufacturing output.

Honda and Nissan, on the other hand, continue to suffer from the effects of the March 11 natural disasters. The former, the nation's second biggest carmaker, said domestic output declined by 2.5 percent in August, while the latter, Japan's third largest auto manufacturer, affirmed its domestic output declined by 17 percent.

Officials from Honda and Nissan said sales were exceedingly high in August of 2010, as consumers hoping to benefit from government subsidies rushed to buy fuel-efficient hybrid models. Analysts had projected the firms' domestic output to decline as a result.

Nevertheless, Suzuki Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. said they increased domestic production in August, citing strong demand and a realignment of their supply chains.

Japan's overall automobile output slumped between April and July of this year, with manufacturing activity plummeting 34 percent, or 1.4 million vehicles. Experts contend Japanese carmakers' domestic production levels are poised to soar over the coming months, though, as they continue to recover from their post-crisis crash.

In today's economy, saving money, making calculated investment decisions, cutting back, and other financial measures have become focal points in society. There are many other measures that can be considered to save money. One simple and inexpensive method is Preventive Maintenance. Preventive Maintenance is maintaining equipment to ensure longevity and to reduce major equipment failure. In layman's terms, "take care of your stuff."

Most mechanical and electronic equipment (appliances, televisions, computers, home heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, vehicles, and more) are carefully engineered and designed creations that come with a comprehensive instructional manual.These manuals contain valuable information on maintaining and cleaning the costly investments.Most consumers do not read the manuals in detail; however, it is would be wise to pay attention to the preventive maintenance section.This section may be called “Care and Maintenance”, “Use and Care”, “Preventive Maintenance”, and other terminology.If the original manual is missing or misplaced, there are many great online resource that provide free manuals.

Preventive Maintenance is designed to be simple and easy to complete.Some simple measures to maintain equipment may involve rinsing out filters, wiping open ducts, routine cleaning, changing used oil, and more.These procedures are easily completed and the costs are relatively low.Not performing routine preventive maintenance on equipment may lead to a costly repair and replacement.For example, not changing car motor oil (ranges from $25 - $75 per change) may result in thousands of dollars in engine damage.
Adding preventive maintenance to the list of money saving ideas is a wise decision.Several simple steps can be made to ensure large savings.

  • Take an inventory of large and costly equipment purchases around the home or office.
  • List the make, model, and serial numbers on a spreadsheet or notebook
  • Retrieve user’s manuals.
  • Contact original manufacturer for missing manuals.
  • If the manufacturer is no longer available, obtain a generic preventive maintenance procedure from online resources.For example, a washing machine’s make and model cannot be identified, find a similar washing machine from a known manufacturer and follow their preventive maintenance procedures.
  • Make a list of materials needed to perform the maintenance.Many times the materials (grease, motor oil, cleaning solution, etc…) can be used for several equipment.
  • Schedule preventive maintenance procedures in advance.Use an electronic calendar or a planner to plan out each procedure.
  • Contact preventive maintenance service providers to perform the services for large and complicated procedures.
  • Keep a log of all work that is completed.Include date, materials used, procedure completed, and a signature to indicate “complete.”Add any other information that may be pertinent to the equipment as needed.

These small steps are crucial to ensure equipment longevity and reduced repairs.
Start saving today.  Maintain your investments now and save later.
Experts call on government to act on medication shortages, as desperate healthcare centers work with procurement consultants to shore up supplies Healthcare facilities in the U.S. are reeling from shortages of a number of life-saving medications. Physicians across the nation assert an ever-growing number of many drugs used to treat bacterial infections, cancers and other serious illnesses are in short supply. Analysts contend manufacturers are failing to inform healthcare providers of the supply constraints, leading to increased business costs and endangering patients' lives.

The shortage of more than 200 medications, including commonly used chemotherapy drugs and antibiotics, has increased over the past 18 to 24 months, doctors assert. U.S. lawmakers discussed the drug shortages last week at a hearing on Capitol Hill, where doctors and industry experts asserted government action is necessary to prevent further supply shocks.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices concluded shortages have thus far been faulted for at least 15 patient deaths in the U.S. over the last 15 months. A growing chorus of industry experts, including many pharmacists and doctors, contend the actual figure is likely higher.

The supply constraints are impacting healthcare providers, with many of the nation's premier hospitals affected. Many hospital administrators have incurred increased business costs as a result of the supply issues, as they have had to hire procurement consultants and other experts to overhaul the strategic sourcing of medications.

Healthcare providers often have no forewarning from manufacturers about the supply shortages, according to Cynthia Reilly, the director of the practice development division for the American Society of Health System Pharmacists.

"In a lot of instances there is no advanced notice," Reilly contended. "You order a product, and literally the next day it does not come in and you need it."

Government officials are beginning to heed calls from concerned physicians and hospital executives. Experts have urged lawmakers to enact legislation that would allow the government to stockpile critical drugs.

The number of Americans diagnosed with cancer and other maladies each year is relatively constant, experts say. As a result, many physicians assert the government could do so without spending too much or accruing unnecessary levels of medications.

The shortage of medications is driving up costs for many healthcare providers in the short-term. Hospitals and other medical centers throughout the U.S. are increasingly working with third parties to procure the drugs, but such companies often increase prices by more than 600 percent, a precipitous uptick insurance companies – and often, the government – must cover.

Reilly asserts reports have circulated of injections normally purchased for $30 soaring to more than $1,500.

Report: Goldman Sachs executives could be mulling additional business cost reductions Goldman Sachs has long been the envy of the financial world. The bank recruits top graduates from the best business schools throughout the world, and it seemed to adeptly navigate the murky global economy in the wake of the recession.

However, the vaunted institution is reportedly suffering through one of its worst fiscal quarters in more than a decade, and company officials are embarking on an initiative aimed at achieving significant business cost reductions.

In an effort to increase profitability, Goldman officials said this summer the bank would layoff roughly 1,000 workers and cut $1.2 billion in costs by the summer of 2012. The New York Times reports senior executives at the firm are mulling even deeper cuts, though the bank has not commented publicly on any additional cost-cutting measures.

Goldman's third quarter closes on Friday, and executives are considering salary cuts for employees, as well as overhauling programs contributing to an uptick in operating expenses, such as real estate and travel. The bank could announce plans to realize an addition $250 million in cost reductions, according to The Times, as part of its overall plans to overhaul its expenses.

While unnamed sources acknowledged the bank has not made final plans on such proposals, speculation is mounting Goldman executives will address such measures when the bank's quarterly results are announced in mid-October.

Medical technology companies turn to mergers and acquisitions to drive growth Medical technology companies have increasingly looked to improve profit margins amid enhanced competition and a tepid economic climate. Medical technology companies have worked to achieve business cost reductions and improve revenue flow through mergers and acquisitions, with the value of such deals surging over the past few years.

Businesses are turning toward mergers and acquisitions as a means of overhauling their strategic sourcing and retail sourcing programs. The value of M&A activity by medical technology companies in the U.S. and Europe has surged in value, more than doubling to $30.6 billion in 2010 compared to the year prior.

Bloomberg reports the trend has continued this year, as accounting firm Ernst & Young estimates such transactions have totaled $47.3 billion through the first nine months of 2011. Contributing to that figure is Johnson & Johnson's $21.3 billion bid for Synthes Inc.

Aside from blockbuster deals, the number of mergers and acquisitions within the medical technology sector has climbed, jumping from 171 in 2009 to 201 last year. Many industry experts project the trend will persist, as companies are loath to invest in initial state technologies as regulatory agencies intensify their scrutiny of new products.

If you have never heard of Facebook, then you must have been living under a rock for the last few years. The social media site has over 750 million users worldwide and is only expected to grow. The company has been very successful; however, it has been experiencing a little negativity over the last week. During its annual conference last Thursday in San Francisco, Facebook announced a number of changes that users are not too happy about. In addition to announcing how user profiles will be changing to more of a timeline-like design, they have also introduced the new "ticker" feature. The small ribbon of updates appears on the upper right corner of a user’s homepage and literally shows your Facebook friends’ every move. Whether it’s "liking" someone’s status or posting a comment on a family member’s wall, the ticker shows it all. Amid much backlash for these changes, there are some who love it and will hopefully profit from this. They are the ones who invest millions in online advertising through Facebook.

Many companies have been following the trend of switching from traditional marketing to e-marketing, as more and more people opt to have their mail sent through the Internet. To me, it’s a win for both sides. I’m not overwhelmed with millions of pamphlets and postcards every month from companies and companies can cut costs by not having to spend money on making them. Since millions of people use the Internet, it’s a great source of advertising especially if done through Facebook. The ticker plays a role in the site’s advertising scheme. Not only does the ticker show the more common activities on Facebook, it also shows your activity on a number of apps used to play games, listen to music, and watch movies. By clicking on a link on the ticker showing a song a friend is listening to or a game he/she may be playing, you could automatically be sent to another page where you can sign up for free trials or services from that site.

The user may not like this, but this is great for the company. This feature serves as a huge advertising tool and companies feel more confident with this information than its own advertising data. If users click on a link posted through the ticker, it gives companies a better idea of the sort of music and movies that they are interested it. With this information, companies can tailor their advertising to meet the specific wants and needs of consumers, ensuring that they are getting the biggest bang for their buck. It would be pointless to invest large amounts of time and money in advertising products that consumers are not interested in.

I know I visit Facebook at least 5 times a day, and there are a number of advertisements on the homepage based on the information that is posted on my profile page. Usually these advertisements do not appeal to me, but I’m sure once something interesting hits the ticker, the advertisements will become more appealing. I know Facebook is counting on this.
Boeing delivers first Dreamliner – after 3 years of delays Boeing officials announced this week the company had finally delivered the first of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft after more than three years of delays. The company's stock rose to its highest levels in more than six weeks as a result, and executives affirmed they had overhauled supply chain logistics as they hope to avoid future repeats of such wide-spread delays.

Bloomberg reports Boeing delivered the first of its vaunted 787 planes to All Nippon Airways this week. The newly designed twin-engine 787 is the company's best-selling new jet ever, according to officials. Thus far, 56 customers have placed 821 orders for the energy efficient aircraft, which will enable airlines to achieve business cost reductions, as it is 20 percent more efficient than similar-sized planes. Boeing hopes to ratchet up production of the Dreamliner now that it has successfully delivered the first model, analysts asserted.

"Boeing is now in the position of demonstrating that it can begin the ramp-up," Jefferies & Co. analyst Howard Rubel said in a note. "We figure Boeing can deliver eight to 12 planes prior to year-end."

The $200 million aircraft is expected to give Boeing a leg-up – at least initially – over rival Airbus, Reuters reports.

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Over the past few years, many companies began to question whether or not to globalize and/or outsource their business. There are many areas to consider when faced with this important decision. Companies often tend to globalize to gain benefits from industries and technologies developed abroad. Corporations are able to appeal to a larger market after the domestic market is saturated to be able to expand and continue growth. While many other counties have different local products, companies need to be able to customize their products to adapt to other cultures. Douglas Daft, a past CEO for Coca-Cola said that globalization strategies had to adapt to the times and firms needed to “Think global. Act local.” His idea allowed for the company to build a global brand image while creating products to meet the local demands of the target market.

The questions corporations need to ask is: why do firms globalize? One of the main reasons why United States based corporations chose to globalize is for them to benefit from technological advancements that are used around the world. Global development makes sense as a competitive weapon. When choosing to globalize a company, there are many factors that come into play that could make or break the success of a company entering into a global market.

On the other side of the spectrum, what are the pros and cons of outsourcing? Outsourcing can range from payroll processing and accounting to production and customer service. One of the main advantages of outsources is to cut costs and streamline operations. Another benefit is to reduce labor costs. Hiring and training staff for short-term projects can be expensive; outsourcing gives the advantage to have other people focus on your projects at a lower cost. As far as cons from outsourcing are concerned, they involve loss of some control and the reliance on others who do not work directly for the company. The loss of control can create problems in areas such as delays, quality issues, and customer service. Outsourcing may also cause a negative reaction from the public and investors. The loss of jobs from home country to low-cost alternative locations represents difficult job losses. Although there are no negatives associated with outsourcing, the advantages also create reasons for larger corporations to outsource some work.

So to wrap this up, what are the outlined pros and cons of globalization and outsourcing?

  • Products accessible to reach more people
  • Companies can benefit from technological advancements from around the world
  • Labor and material costs may be cheaper in developing countries
  • Lower trade barriers
  • Competition may tend to lower prices and decrease the chances of inflation


  • Some products may not be accepted by different cultures (products need to adapt to fit)
  • Outsourcing as resulted in loss of jobs in home country
  • Environmental restrictions may occur
  • Loss of control may create problems such as delays in manufacturing, quality issues, and customer service

While there are many decisions to take into account when adapting a new change, the most important part is weighing the pros and cons and taking time to make the correct decision. In the book Carry a Chicken in Your Lap Bruce Alan Johnson and R. William Ayers demonstrate what can go terribly wrong when not being fully prepared to enter into global markets. This book provides failure and success stories of what companies can expect while contemplating the idea of expanding into foreign markets. Globalization and outsourcing may be the ticket to success for many companies, but careful preparation is key.
Commodities plummet on negative global economic reports Surging commodity prices over the past two years have squeezed profit margins at businesses, and have contributed to the overthrow of governments and political unrest in many regions of the world. Recent economic indicators are increasingly negative, however, and have driven commodity prices to their lowest levels in months.

Commodities fell to a nine-month low on Friday as exceedingly anxious investors viewed pessimistic economic reports out of the U.S., Europe and Asia as signs of a stalling global economy. Soaring worldwide demand for commodities had driven up prices, but some analysts contend commodities might be reversing their upward trajectory after years of steady gains.

Bloomberg reports silver, copper and nickel prices plummeted on concerns officials have exhausted monetary tools used to inject life into the global economy. The Standard & Poor's GSCI Index of 24 commodities, a broad gauge of the health of commonly used and traded raw materials and metals, fell as much as 2.2 percent on Friday. That figure represents its lowest such level since December 2, 2010.

In fact, the index dropped significantly this week in New York, falling 7.8 percent, its biggest reduction since May.

President Obama urged European leaders this week to ratchet up their support of flailing European Union nations. Germany and France have largely footed the costs associated with bailing out Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, and growing resentment among the German public has prompted a backlash against further aid packages to the Mediterranean country.

However, if Greece defaults on its debt obligations, the effects could be catastrophic for EU nations, as well as the U.S. and worldwide banking sectors. U.S.-based banks hold vast reserves of foreign nations' debt, and experts contend a Greek default could trigger a crisis reminiscent of the 2008 financial tumult that brought the worldwide finance sector to its knees.

Since reaching a 32-month high in April, the GSCI has fallen 21 percent. Some analysts contend the drop is the result of a correction, one spurred by global economic malaise.

"We are seeing commodity prices correcting, so they are more compatible with the global economy," Danske Bank senior analyst Christin Tuxen affirmed. "When we have fears over the economic cycle as we have now and a higher probability of contraction, it hits industrial metals and commodities."

Reuters reports gold fell to its lowest levels in nearly seven weeks on Friday. The yellow metal is on pace to hit its largest weekly drop since December 2008. Gold futures had risen above $1,800 per troy ounce. On the New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday, gold futures for December delivery declined by 5.8 percent, settling at $1,639 per troy ounce.

This quarter, Corporate United, the nation's largest group purchasing organization, conducted an interview with the authors of "Managing Indirect Spend: Enhancing Profitability Through Strategic Sourcing".  Additionally, this month's letter newsletter included excerpts from the book.

Visit the Corporate United Quarterly Newsletter to read the author's answers to the following questions and topics:

  1. The author's experiences as they relate the the topic of Indirect Spend Strategic Sourcing
  2. When and where the idea for the book came from
  3. Who else was involved in developing content
  4. Who would benefit most by reading the book
  5. How is the book structured
  6. What are the author's favorite parts or concepts within the book.
Read the interview
Learn more about the book
United Technologies bids for Goodrich in all cash deal The record pile of cash many corporations are sitting on is the subject of fierce debate among economists, many of whom assert businesses' reticence to spend is contributing to - and in many ways prompted – the slowdown in the U.S. economy. One company, however, announced this week it would put its cash – and ample amounts of it – to good use.

United Technologies said this week it had reached an agreement to purchase Goodrich Corp. for $127.50 per share. Purchasing shares at that value equates to a total enterprise value of $18.4 billion, which includes $1.9 billion in net debt assumed, company executives affirmed.

Hartford, Connecticut-based United Technologies is responsible for the manufacturing of a number of high-technology products, such as Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines, Sikorsky helicopters and Carrier heating, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. Goodrich has a diversified portfolio of systems and services it supplies to aerospace and homeland security markets.

Government regulators must still lend their approval to the proposed buyout, as do Goodrich shareholders. When – and if – United Technologies' bid is approved, the company would have worldwide sales of roughly $66 billion, based on forecast 2011 results, analysts asserted.

United Technologies officials contend the acquisition will effectively enhance the company's market clout, and achieve significant business cost reductions in the long-term. What's more, by purchasing Goodrich, United Technologies said it would have a strengthened position within the exceedingly competitive and oligopolistic aerospace and defense sectors.

The company is paying a 16 percent premium to Goodrich's stock's closing price on Wednesday, according to The New York Times. Moreover, the price represents a 47 percent premium compared to Goodrich's shares' closing price on September 15, before whispers of an impending deal surfaced.

"Goodrich delivers on all of our acquisition criteria. It is strategic to our core, has great technology and people, and strengthens our position in growth markets," United Technologies chairman Louis Chenevert said in a statement. "We are very excited to bring the capabilities of two great companies together, making us more competitive and better able to provide value to both customers and shareholders."

Per terms of the deal, Goodrich would be absorbed into United Technologies' aerospace division. Goodrich chief executive Marshall Larsen would continue to run its operations.

Any Gmail users may have noticed the “+You” icon at the top of their toolbar, after investigation I discovered the new face in the social media realm, Google+. I began to question, what the hype was over the newly identified Google+? So after exploring with Google+ for a few days, I was able to get a gist of the tools that Google+ has to offer compared to Facebook. According to David Magee of International Business Times, “Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with a reported 750 million global users. But Google+ became the world’s fastest growing Internet site during its test phase, before opening to the public.” So what are the major differences?

  • Google+ has a video feature to enable users to host an online broadcast (you can also use the “hangout” feature to chat with friends in your “circles” using a webcam). Facebook also has a video chat feature, but currently does not allow you to chat with multiple people at once
  • The Circles targets specific friends you chose to show information to, you can drop people into certain circles to follow and share information with. This could compare to the Facebook friends list, but provides greater control over just who sees your content. You no longer have to worry about offending your boss or your parents because you did not accept their ‘friend’ request. Just accept them and drop them in a circle that you do not share information with.
  • Google+ huddle is an application for mobile phones as text-chat. Facebook allows you to chat with friends on your mobile, but doesn’t not have an official app for chat only
  • Google+ app for mobile phones has unlimited photo and video uploads. Each photo you take on your phone is automatically uploaded into a private folder within Google+. For Facebook, users can manually upload mobile photos and videos to the mobile album
  • The “Stream” on Google compares the Facebook Wall. You are able to choose which streams you want to view (friends, family, coworkers, etc.)
  • For business needs, Google+ has not yet publicly introduced a page for businesses to market services and products. With Facebook, businesses are already able to monitor traffic to their company pages
The bottom line, while Google+ still has far to come to achieve the amount of users as Facebook, there is potential due to the Google+ features. With the advancements of social media in businesses, reaching thousands of potential customers and clients has become an inexpensive way to market and expand business. Businesses should keep an ear open for Google’s next round of business beta testers to try to secure a spot.
Airline profits to plummet next year, according to industry group's forecast Though they have continued to raise fares and fees, airline carriers are experiencing heightened demand. An industry group representing carriers said airlines will likely log bigger profits this year, but future growth prospects are bleak as the government mulls levying higher taxes on air travel.

The International Air Transport Association affirmed global demand for air travel is at exceedingly high, far surpassing average levels. The elevated demand comes at a time of depressed economic activity, surprising analysts.

Nonetheless, the group asserted the number of people traveling by air – whether for leisure or business reasons – will likely fall by the end of the year, spurred by the ongoing sovereign-debt crisis in Europe coupled with persistent joblessness and a tepid economic climate in the U.S.

The association represents roughly 50 percent of the world's airlines, and projected combined 2011 profit for its members to total $6.9 billion. That figure represents a significant uptick from the group's June forecast, which pegged profits at $4 billion, according to The New York Times.

Still, in March, the group said total profits this year would hit $8.6 billion. Analysts assert the fluctuation in forecasts is a result of volatile economic conditions. The March projections arrived prior to the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that brought the Japanese economy to a standstill, and before the wave of revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East sent oil prices soaring.

The group also contended fewer airline passengers over the coming months would likely erode airlines' profit margins next year. Business cost reductions will be difficult to achieve during such an economic climate, experts say, and it is likely airlines will suffer as a result.

"Airlines are going to make a little more money in 2011 than we thought. That is good news," International Air Transport Association director Tony Tyler asserted. "Given the strong headwinds of high oil prices and economic uncertainty, remaining in the black is a great achievement. Even with the extra shocks this year, people are still flying."

Amid the global economic slowdown, the association said collective airline profits in 2012 would likely fall to $4.9 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In 2010, carriers earned nearly $16 billion in profits. Airlines have historically struggled to augment their profit margins, as oil costs often erode cash stockpiles. The industry is susceptible to economic shocks, and is often one of the first to feel the effects of a slowdown in growth, experts say.

ConAgra posts disappointing earnings report, citing soaring raw materials costs Commodities' prices have surged over the past two years, as demand from emerging economies eroded global stockpiles. The surging costs helped to drive the spate of revolutions that resulted in the overthrow of autocratic governments in the Middle East and North Africa, and they are hurting companies' profit margins as well.

Food giant ConAgra Foods Inc. is the latest company to suffer from the burden of surging commodity costs. The firm said its first quarter fiscal earnings were significantly lower than the same period in the year prior, with officials attributing the lackluster financial report to the uptick in commodity prices.

ConAgra officials said first quarter earnings sank 42 percent compared to last year. Though the company reported brisk sales, analysts noted the rise did little to make up for the precipitous jump in the prices of many food staples, including corn, wheat and sugar.

In a further acknowledgement of the tepid economic climate, ConAgra executives asserted volatile commodity costs, coupled with increased marketing expenditures, could diminish its earnings during its current fiscal quarter, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Nevertheless, officials worked to quell investor unease over the earning report, affirming the company would meet its earnings outlook for the year. The assertion surprised some experts, who noted the consumer-foods segment's inflation rate is expected to hit 9 percent to 10 percent, higher than the company's previous inflation projections of 7 percent to 8 percent.

ConAgra's struggles with rising business costs are emblematic of the consumer foods sector as a whole, experts say, as commodity prices have soared into record territories over the past year. Though commodity prices retreated slightly in August, and are down through the beginning of this month, analysts contend scorching demand from Brazil, Russia, China and India is unlikely to fall, meaning high prices could persist indefinitely.

Amid such a backdrop, companies have increasingly moved to work with procurement consultants and other experts as they endeavor to achieve business cost reductions. Many firms have been successful in their quest to boost profit margins, and ConAgra officials said the company is poised to reduce its operating costs during the current quarter.

Merck to buy back operating plantPharmaceutical giant Merck sold one of its operating plants more than two years ago to a Philadelphia-based firm. Now, however, the company wants it back.

The plant, based in Riverside, New Jersey, belonged to Merck for nearly 60 years before the corporation sold it to PRWT Services in early 2008. Earlier this month, Merck announced its intention to buy the plant back and reincorporate it into its production line.

"Merck has had a long and successful history at the site," company spokesman Ronald Rogers explained to "The products at the site are critical to our supply chain. Most importantly, they're critical to our customers. We felt it was important to ensure that the supply chain continues."

Rogers refused to comment on which company, Merck or PRWT, initiated the buyback. The price of the deal has also not been disclosed.

Despite plans to reorganize and rebuild the Riverside facility, Merck is downsizing internationally. The corporation plans to close seven international plants and one stateside facility located in Miami Lakes, Florida. Additionally, although Merck has roots in 140 countries, the drugmaker wants to reduce its international workforce by 15 percent - a move that would save $3.5 billion by 2012.

Merck, established in 1891 as a subsidiary of a German corporation, is one of the largest pharmaceutical operations in the United States. The company manufactures drugs including Singulair, a popular asthma medication, and Propecia, a treatment for male pattern baldness. The company also manufactured the arthritis treatment Vioxx, until revelations in 2004 showed the drug could cause medical problems and a recall was issued.
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I was reading an article on about epic career mistakes and how some big time journalists were not only able to recover from these mistakes but come out way ahead.  I found this to be a good topic that can be applied to strategic sourcing or any life situation really. You can find the actual stories in the article but below I will use these same failures as they would apply in sourcing and discuss how you can recover from or avoid such incidents.

“Actually record” – In this instance the journalist in question was not entirely prepared for a big interview he was conducting. This resulted in him having to go back and re-interview the individual.  The obvious lesson to be learned here is to always be prepared.  When conducting a sourcing event you should get to know your product or service category, your supplier base and the market, as well as have a thorough understanding of what you are looking to accomplish.  This should all be sorted out prior to starting any sourcing activity.  This stage of the process is often one of the most intensive and comprehensive and as such should not be shortcut in any way, because there aren’t always second chances to be had.

“Check your facts -- and your geography”, “Name (the right) names”, “The devil is in the details”, and “Read it out loud” – All of these epic failures have a similar theme and include journalists and reporters not checking their facts…..frankly leaving all looking quite foolish.  Lesson to be learned, check, double check, and triple check your work before presenting it.  Even the most seasoned sourcing professionals, or any professional for that matter, can benefit from having a colleague or manager review a report or presentation or even the wording of an email before shipping it off to another party.  We often write things during a heated moment or in some instances when you have spent a great deal of time on a subject you may be interpreting it differently than the way you intend, by having another pair of eyes review the data you can be saving yourself a world of trouble.

“Listen up” and “Relax” – These two stories refer to reporters not communicating correctly and having to quickly adapt in a messy situation.  When working with suppliers or customers it is important to not only hear them, but to listen as well.  We can easily find ourselves falling into a routine when sourcing a product or service, and this is important to maintain a sense of structure and order.  However we need to be able to adapt in situations where the standard operating procedure may not apply.  Lesson to be learned, pay attention to your surroundings and know when to change courses to remain headed in the right direction toward your sourcing goals.

“Put everything in context” – This story is a simple but common one, a journalist used an improper phrasing without thinking about the consequences of his actions.  The easy lesson learned here is think before you speak. This can definitely apply in almost any situation, professional or not.  Don’t blurt out a response, written or oral without first thinking about the context in which you are speaking or writing. You may also benefit by considering your audience as well when addressing particular topics.

All in all, as the article tells us, you can recover from epic failures and in some instances quite successfully.  But the best way to not have to recover is to avoid making these mistakes to begin with.  We’re all human and as such prone to imperfection, but why not get a leg up on ourselves and follow some simple guidelines to preparedness.
Google teams with Visa on mobile payment technology In an effort to tap into the rapidly expanding mobile payments sector, two industry behemoths have teamed up with the hopes of attaining a significant market share before industry titan Apple unveils its own plan.

Mountain View, California-based Google and Visa Europe announced this week they would work together as they endeavor to draw revenue from consumers hoping to pay for store purchases using their smartphones.

Per terms of the deal, Google received a worldwide license to Visa's payWave, a newly launched NFC-based payment technology. The tool allows consumers to make secure payments at stores and other retail locations by waving their mobile phones in front of a payment terminal, according to the company.

Visa's payWave technology is already accepted at hundreds of thousands of retail locations throughout the world, and the company is actively working to bring it to additional businesses.

With payWave technology at its disposal, Visa customers using Google Wallet, a mobile application that effectively transforms a smartphone into a digital wallet, will be able to integrate their credit debit and prepaid accounts into the service. The newly launched strategic partnership between the two companies will allow consumers to more easily use mobile technology when paying at retail stores in the future.

"Mobile technology is transforming how people pay for goods and services," Visa global product head Jim McCarthy affirmed in a statement. "This agreement builds on Visa’s strategy of enabling consumers to make mobile payments with whatever device they choose using the trusted accounts they already have."

Industry analysts contended the deal represented an attempt by Google to gain market share in the potentially lucrative sector before rival companies are able to. Apple has an advantage if – and more likely, when – it launches a similar mobile payment technology, experts say, as more than 200 million people have already stored their credit card information in iTunes, making the transition a rather simple one.

Nevertheless, with Visa as a partner, Google officials hope to tap into the burgeoning market.

"This agreement extends Google Wallet to Visa account holders worldwide," Google commerce and payments vice president Stephanie Tilenius said. "This is a crucial step towards realizing our shared vision for the future of mobile commerce - one that creates a rich shopping experience for consumers and merchants alike."

Commodity prices continue to edge down amid economic concerns The price of nearly every commodity has surged over the past two years, as global demand outstripped worldwide stockpiles. Investors concerned over lingering worries about Europe's economy have sent prices falling over the past few weeks, however, with many commodities dropping on Monday.

Commodities fell precipitously in trading on Monday as reports indicating Greece could fail to qualify for additional financial aid necessary to keep its economy afloat. The country, which has drawn the ire of a number of wealthier European Union nations, has relied upon generous aid packages orchestrated by France and Germany to avoid defaulting on its considerable debt obligations.

Strife among EU nations has played out over the course of this year, unfolding incrementally as investors have awaited definitive action from the continent's leaders. Europe's sovereign-debt crisis, once relegated to smaller countries such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland, has spread, as concerns have emerged over both Italy and France's finances.

Some analysts contend Italian and French banks are significantly exposed to the debt crisis, with a number of experts contending they could face financial ruin unless EU leaders undertake a comprehensive course of action. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have sought to allay investor concerns, but they face domestic opposition for additional bailout funding.

Bloomberg reports Greece's Finance Ministry affirmed it had a "productive and substantive discussion" with international officials to determine whether it qualifies for more financing. Reversing losses it has logged over the past decade, the dollar jumped as much as 1.2 percent against a basket of six other major currencies, eroding the appeal of raw materials.

"Today was more about dollar strength driven by the deteriorating global economy," TEAM Financial Management LLC wealth manager James Dailey asserted. "Traders were moving away from riskier assets."

The drop in commodity prices extends a slump that began earlier in the month, data indicates. The Standard & Poor's GSCI Spot Index, an aggregate measurement of commodities' performance, has fallen 5.3 percent this month. The index also dropped in August, logging a 1.7 percent fall during the month.

Gold, silver, platinum and copper all fell on Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange; soybeans and wheat futures similarly dropped on the Chicago Board of Trade, according to official data.
Amazon continues to deliver impressive results, though recent report ignited controversy over its methods As the globe's biggest online retailer, Amazon has weathered its share of challenges during its surprising ascent to the top of the corporate ladder. The company's ever-increasing productivity levels, however, have spurred a new challenge for company executives: How to continue to top itself.

The New York Times reports Amazon employs a comprehensive network of distribution centers across the U.S., each charged with moving products at a rapid pace. The company is a leader in its strategic sourcing initiatives, and it has achieved stellar results, achieving manufacturing cost reductions at a blistering pace.

Still, the company has come under fire over the past week after a report in a local Pennsylvania newspaper found conditions in at least one of Amazon's distribution centers were dire. According to a report from the Allentown Morning Call, officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were notified after a local Amazon facility's heat index allegedly soared to 102 degrees earlier in the summer.

A number of issues have surrounded the Amazon distribution facility, according to the local news provider. However, for its part, Amazon said "the safety and well-being of our associates is our number one priority." Officials from the company also noted the warehouse was shut down on three separate occasions during previous heat waves to prevent its employees from suffering through high temperatures.

Hyundai announces recall of roughly 200,000 Sante Fe, Veracruz models The National Highway Traffic Safety Association announced earlier in the week more than 300,000 vehicles manufactured by Honda were being recalled. A manufacturing defect in the company's Pilot sport utility vehicle models was cited as the cause, prompting the safety warning.

The NHTSA announced on Friday yet another large-scale recall, though Honda was not implicated. Seoul, South Korea-based Hyundai was cited by the federal regulatory agency. Two of the company's popular vehicle models were found to have potential issues stemming from faulty air bag systems, the NHTSA said.

Hyundai is recalling its 2007 to 2008 model year Sante Fe and Veracruz vehicles. Company officials asserted roughly 205,000 vehicles would be affected by the recall, which was spurred by a defective air bag system implemented in the company's popular models.

Engineers said a clock spring contact assembly for the passenger side air bag system could potentially become damaged over time through usage. If the clock spring develops high resistance, the air bags in the vehicles could potentially not deploy in the event of an actual accident, the NHTSA concluded in a safety report.
*Editor's Note, an individual contacted us and informed us that this statement may not be correct.
The driver's side air bag would primarily be affected by the gradual degradation of the critical safety system. Sante Fe models affected by the recall were manufactured from April 16, 2006, through March 20, 2008. Affected Veracruz models were manufactured between December 26, 2006, and March 21, 2008, according to NHTSA data.

Hyundai has cooperated with the government through the newly issued recall. The company, which has experienced significant sales growth in the U.S. over the past few years, asserted consumers who owned either of the affected vehicle models should bring their cars into local Hyundai dealerships.

Hyundai officials said local dealers would replace the vehicle's driver's air bag clock spring contact assembly at no cost to the car's owner. The safety recall has already taken effect, and owners who believe they own one of the potentially affected vehicles should contact a Hyundai dealer to ensure their vehicle is safe, experts said.

Hyundai has successfully overhauled its business model over the past decade, and has gained a sizeable market share in the U.S. The company announced earlier in the month its U.S. auto sales jumped 9 percent in August, compared to the same period in 2010, according to The Detroit News.
China increasingly flexes its stranglehold on supply of rare earth metals China has a veritable stranglehold on the global supply of rare earth metals, with analysts estimating the country control's roughly 95 percent of global production. Chinese officials have increasingly moved to scale back rare earth mining operations, driving up the price of the critical metals.

For their part, Chinese officials affirm the country's progressively strict laws governing rare earth production result from the significant environmental toll the mining process inflicts. However, officials in other countries worry China is using its rare earth dominance to drive up prices.

China came under fire late last year when it initiated an unannounced rare earth embargo against Japan, in the aftermath of a naval dispute between the two countries. China, now the world's second-biggest economy, similarly cut off supplies to Western European countries, as well as the U.S., though it later resumed shipments.

The New York Times reports the country's scaled back production quotas have driven up prices for a host of consumer products for which the metals are a critical component. Rare earth metals are critical components of computers, smartphones and other electronic gadgets, and prices could rise unless additional sources rapidly reach manufacturers.

Alcoa to invest $300 million in Iowa manufacturing plant's expansion Automakers have experienced significantly increased sales across the globe in the wake of the recession. Even as economic growth has sputtered, many carmakers have reported sales upticks, driving demand for products ranging from rare earth metals to rubber.

Alcoa Inc. has benefited from soaring worldwide automobile sales, with the company reporting increased sales over the past year. Officials announced Thursday they plan to invest roughly $300 million as they expand an Iowa manufacturing plant.

Officials from the company have worked to overhaul their spend management and strategic sourcing initiatives over the past few years, as volatile commodity prices began to squeeze profit margins. However, one Alcoa vice president affirmed the increased manufacturing capacity was essential, given automakers' explosive demand for aluminum.

A shift among carmakers spurred the project to expand the company's Davenport, Iowa, production facility. A growing number of automobile manufacturers are transitioning from steel to aluminum products, according to experts, as the lighter metal helps engineers craft cars with increased fuel efficiency and improved safety, durability and performance.

The Davenport production plant is already one of the company's most technologically advanced, and is primarily responsible for constructing aerospace materials. The manufacturing hub hosts a 220-inch wide mill, the largest in the world. Company officials hope it will soon become one of the world's foremost producers for the automotive market.

Alcoa officials are confident aluminum demand will continue to climb over the coming years. Their hopes are corroborated by a number of studies projecting worldwide automobile sales to surge, especially in the so-called BRIC emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Construction crews will outfit the manufacturing plant with a host of new technologies aimed at improving efficiency. The significant investment will help achieve business cost reductions in the long-term, Alcoa officials affirmed.

"The automotive market is a tremendous growth opportunity for Alcoa over the next several years," Alcoa chairman Klaus Kleinfeld said in a statement. "Our leading-edge technology solutions and our world-class manufacturing capabilities, combined with our dedicated and highly-engaged workforce, put us in an enviable position in the market and bodes well for future growth."

Upon completion, the manufacturing plant will employ 2,300 people. Officials expect construction will be completed by 2013. Shares of the company rose slightly in afternoon trading following the announcement, according to The Associated Press.
UPS offers positive growth outlook, despite lackluster economy Even as the economic climate has soured, many businesses have continued to report record profits. It may seem counter-intuitive, given depressed consumer spending levels and ostensibly tepid demand for a host of products, but businesses have worked with procurement consultants and other specialists as they endeavored to achieve business cost reductions and improve performance.

The United Parcel Service (UPS) has adeptly navigated a shaky economy, delivering fiscal results that have continually impressed investors. UPS chief executive Scott Davis affirmed this week the company is on pace this year to accrue record results, Reuters reports.

While industry analysts voiced concerns over the ability of companies such as UPS, FedEx and DHL to continue to drive profit and revenue gains amid diminished demand, UPS' annual performance thus far has put an end to such worries.

The world's biggest package delivery company has successfully expanded its worldwide operations. What's more, it has invested a substantial amount of money in healthcare logistics, a sector expected to drive future growth. UPS chief financial officer Kurt Kuehn said the U.S. economy will likely continue to experience slight growth, before ultimately rebounding.

"We do remain cautious on the U.S. economy, but our expectation is that we have another year, year and a half, of sub-par growth and then we'll return" to pre-recessionary levels, he asserted.

Soaring deficits spur U.S. healthcare providers to make cost reductions As the federal government wrangles with a soaring budget deficit, economists assert the mounting costs associated with Medicare and Medicaid payments are unsustainable. This contention has prompted public officials to increasingly push physicians to reduce business costs.

Such a concept may seem counter-intuitive when it is applied to the management of medical care, but business classes are not components in the curriculums of the vast majority of medical schools, leaving many physicians struggling to run their own practices.

Businesses often work with procurement consultants to overhaul their strategic sourcing operations, but the healthcare sector has only recently come under pressure to cut expenses. Healthcare economists assert it is critical that costs come down over the next few decades, with many warning the failure to achieve business cost reductions within the industry could effectively bankrupt the U.S.

Though initially hesitant, many doctors say they now understand the dire need for efficiency improvements. This has led many physicians to more carefully balance the exceedingly difficult and nuanced act of simultaneously serving their patients, and keeping a close eye on spend management.

The latest government data underscores the need for such an overhaul. U.S. expenditures on healthcare jumped past $2.3 trillion in 2008, far outpacing real wage and inflation gains. Analysts working at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found 2008 healthcare expenditures were more than 300 percent higher than the $714 billion the government spent in 1990. Compared to the $253 billion paid out in 1980, healthcare costs continue to soar.

The precipitous uptick in the costs of healthcare are putting a drag on the economy, economists assert, and have contributed to the economic slowdown experienced over the past five years. The government is incongruously spending on healthcare procedures, draining its coffers during a period of depressed tax revenue.

Physicians, however, are actively endeavoring to reduce their costs, potentially saving billions of dollars each year.

"Overhead continues to go up, but your ability to raise prices is very limited," former president of American College of Physicians Fred Ralston Jr. said. "Never in that time - which included the 1918 flu epidemic, two world wars and at least one depression - have we been as challenged as we are now in the changing world of health care."

Medical practices are accomplishing their goal of achieving cost reductions through a myriad of ways, experts assert. One of the easiest methods they use to cut costs is eliminating personnel. Doctors are increasingly taking vital signs, greeting patients when they arrive for visits and improving their efficiency. This has helped many clinics to vastly reduce overhead costs, experts say.

Adding doctors to medical practices is similarly helping clinics to negotiate better rates with insurance companies. What's more, the economics of a larger organization are more conducive to cost-cutting measures, as fixed costs are more readily stretched when more physicians are working.

Instead of a single doctor running a practice, working roughly 40 hours per week, an increased number of practicing physicians effectively raises the facility's utility, as the same amount of square-footage begets more revenue.

The New York Times reports that the transition toward electronic medical records has also helped to boost productivity and efficiency at the nation's hospitals and healthcare clinics. The 2009 federal stimulus incentivized healthcare providers to upgrade antiquated record-keeping systems; those who fail to implement such a system by mid-decade face the threat of reduced government payouts.

By keeping indirect spend payments down and implementing other cost-cutting measures, healthcare providers can help to keep soaring healthcare costs from further ballooning, industry analysts assert.