Daily Archives: April 1, 2009

Is Constant Change A Supply Chain Risk or a Supply Chain Reward?

A recent article by Noha Tohamy of AMR Research claimed that constant change was the buggest supply chain risk of all. (I assume she meant biggest, as otherwise it would just be a flea-sized annoyance and gnat worth discussing.)

Referencing a study that found that volatile fuel, energy, and commodity prices were the top three risks reported by companies last October, Noha noted how global companies faced a dilemma between the cheaper production costs and labor wages in China and other low cost countries and the high costs of transportation that result during periods of high fuel and energy prices and concluded that constant change must be the biggest supply chain risk at all.

I have to disagree. While volatile markets are a supply chain risk, which is sometimes only dwarfed by supplier solvency (which is probably the biggest risk these same companies are facing today as entire factories are closing up shop overnight without a warning in China) they are only one example of constant change.

Other examples of constant change are the constant improvements in supply chain technology, supply chain risk management processes, and supply chain finance. Today’s on-demand SaaS platforms, when adopted by your supply chain partners, can give you real time visibility into your supply chain and let you know where your order is at any time, anywhere. Improvements in scorecarding and supplier management practices can delivery higher quality products at lower costs. And modern supply chain finance methodologies, that include properly managed early payment discounts and buyer financing, can lower costs for all parties. I think these rewards far outweigh the risks of constant change in the supply chain.

What do you think?

Hidden Costs of Global Sourcing

Purchasing recently ran a good article on the nine hidden costs of global sourcing that should not be overlooked if you think global sourcing is your way out of the downturn. It might be, but if you don’t consider all the costs, you could easily make a wrong decision.

As per the article, the following 18 costs (which includes 9 bonus costs found only in the web version) can add up and turn that 20% labor-based savings you expected to see into a 10% loss over your current solution when compared to your current arrangement.

  • Internal Expenses
    The resource intensity of sourcing in unfamiliar markets with unsophisticated suppliers can easily erode forecasted savings by 5%.
  • Supplier Health
    If a supplier goes bankrupt, there go your savings, and then some, when you have to quickly switch to a (much) higher cost of supply.
  • Post-Contract Lull
    In order to insure that savings materialize, you need to monitor the contract in the weeks and months after it is signed. There is a resource cost associated with the monitoring.
  • Duty and Tariff Changes
    A change in the duty or tariff rate could dramatically affect the cost of a product being sourced and the savings that materialize.
  • Contract Non-Compliance
    If your buyers go maverick, so do you savings.
  • True Inventory Costs
    Sourcing from an overseas supplier lengthens lead times, which increases safety stock, and increase time in transit and this significantly increases your average inventory cost.
  • Logistics Volatility
    Not only does increased distance increase your freight costs, but so do rapid increases in freight demand which could cause freight costs to spike.
  • Technology
    Tracking product flow from global suppliers could require new technology, which will increase costs as well.
  • Quality Breakdowns
    If a contract manufacturer’s quality affects delivery of the part or increases the number of failures, it could wind up costing more than originally forecasted and wipe out the global sourcing ROI. And if it forces a costly recall, it could wipe out your business — period.
  • Transition Costs
    There’s nothing “soft” about this cost which will affect initial ROI.
  • Margin/Burden Stacking
    If supplier sites compete against each other, that can cost you.
  • Lost Tariffs/Taxes
    Improper classifications and missed recoveries on VAT add up quickly.
  • Packaging
    If you’re not careful, your supplier might try to profit off the packaging, taking another chunk out of your ROI.
  • Logistics Costs
    It’s not just freight — it’s handling, intermediate storage, and the costs of inevitable delays.
  • Hardware Costs
    Some overseas suppliers have difficulty obtaining standard parts at your cost. Failure to recognize this, and help them obtain parts cost effectively, also costs you money.
  • Labor Costs
    Failure to understand the labor cost breakdown can cost you.
  • Markup vs. Margin
    Know the difference — it can be very substantial.
  • Burden on High Dollar Parts
    Some suppliers may try to burden a $6 part the same as a $6,000! Be careful!