Monthly Archives: November 2014

80 Years Ago Today

Land transportation reached a new record when the Flying Scotsman became the first steam locomotive to be authenticated as reaching 100 mph. While slow by today’s standards (with the TGV being clocked at 357 mph in 2007), this was phenomenal back in 1934 when many goods were still shipped horse and buggy (with the average walking speed of a horse pulling a cart being 4 mph) and the average speed of a railroad freight shipment (at least before the introduction of the streamliner) was estimated to be about 5 mph (Source).

I’ve got the freight train blues
Oh, lawdy mama got ’em
On the bottom of my ramblin’ shoes
And when the whistle blows, I gotta go
Baby, don’t you know
It looks like I’m never gonna lose
The freight train blues

Integration Point: A Global Content Provider

When we last covered Integration Point (in 2008 and 2010), we discussed their solutions for customs, security, and product classification; for free / secure trade zones and for regulatory compliance.

We talked about how their SaaS solutions helped companies with product classification under HS codes, advance notification (as required by 10+2), denied party screening (through integration with the US denied party lists), free trade / special economic zones (and identification of associated agreements), and the creation of necessary documents as well as the creation of surveys to determine if the supply base was compliant.

It was a good all-around solution, but it wasn’t a one-stop shop. While the import and export management solutions were extensive, the supply chain compliance solutions were limited; free trade was primarily ECCN, entry visibility, and country of origin; there was no automatic HS or country of origin classification; and content was primarily limited to HS/HTS codes, common import documentation, custom compliance documentation, and FTA summaries.

However, recognizing that their entire solution was dependent on good content, Integration Point, which now has twenty (20) offices across six (6) continents (and which promises an Antartica office as soon as the penguins start trading), started working on a Content Repository ten years ago and over the last decade has grown that content repository into a Global Content Repository with relevant trade data for over 185 countries. This include HS Codes, Tariff Schedules, Import/Export documentation requirements, rulings, free trade agreements, free trade and special economic zones, customs compliance programs, denied parties, sanctions and embargoes, and relevant trade acts, such as Lacey. The repository, which is maintained by a team of over 200 people globally, contains millions of base documents and millions of codings and mappings and is updated daily.

Daily updates is a critical part of a trade content repository. While some countries only update their tariff schedules a few times a year, others update their schedules monthly, and some update their schedules weekly (or more as Brazil once updated its schedules 80 times in one year). In addition, as trade relations improve or break down between countries, new trade restrictions / sanctions / embargoes are created almost overnight, denied parties get added to the list daily, and new regulations and rulings also come out on a daily basis. Correct classification, coding, and documentation is the difference between trouble-free trade and having your shipment held up for days, weeks, or months. And not shipping a restricted product to a denied party is the difference between smooth sailing and being federally investigated and fined millions of dollars. In both cases, your logistics and trade managers can only insure properly documented, legal, trade if they are on the ball with up-to-date data.

Since Integration Point has a global team, Integration Point, which sells access to its content repository as well as its trade management solutions on a subscription basis, is able to keep its repository current, which is no mean feat considering there have been over 2M updates to HS classifications alone on a global basis so far this year and over 1M updates to the import / export document database were required to capture regulation updates, trade agreement updates, form updates, and new rulings.

Integration Point now has one of the best and most complete Global Content Solutions out there and should be included in your list of content solution providers as you endeavour to get your compliance under control because Content is a Cornerstone of Compliance.

Plus, based on this content, Integration Point is now able to offer innovative solutions around country of origin determination, product classification, tariff analysis, and supply chain costing. We will cover these in future posts in early 2015.

Procurement Trend #12. BYOD Mobile Procurement

Nine trumped-up trends still haunt us, and it’s probably best that LOLCat has been trapped in a box by the Futurists as these are nine trends he doesn’t want to waste any of his nine lives thinking about. Plus, at some point we’re probably going to have to call in Scooby Doo to sniff out whatever it is that the futurists have been smoking because it’s hard to believe that anyone lucid would utter such statements.

So why do so many historians keep rambling on about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Mobile Procurement? Did they all upgrade their old Nokia flip phones to iPhone 6s and Sony XPerias all at once and realize that you could do more on a digital phone than just send a text? I don’t know, but I do know that:

  • everybody in the corporate world has at least one portable device
    and most people have 2 or 3 (that they carry everywhere)
  • modern smart phones and tablets have more power than early laptops
    and much higher screen resolutions to boot
  • software providers have contracted mobile fever
    and this isn’t necessarily a good thing

So what does this mean?

A plethora of portables

Go mobile where mobile makes sense and go wired where it does not. What do I mean by this? The software, and the device it runs on, should support the workflow and not the other way around. For example, inventory and procurement software should support the creation of goods receipts on a mobile device in the hands of a warehouse worker on the floor and the creation of new spend cubes by an analyst at her desk with a big screen monitor, not the other way around. Busy executives need the ability to approve requisitions and invoices on their mobile devices when they are on the go and have five minutes, but I wouldn’t let a payable clerk set up ACHs on her smartphone just because she can (for many, many reasons).

Portable power

Portables are powerful, and you can take advantage of that to allow a team member visiting a supplier to take notes on her tablet as she walks the plant, view reports that need to be discussed with the supplier, use the collaboration components of the software to message and video conference with her peers, and so on. But, as per the last paragraph, only use the power when it makes sense to do so. Just like power often drives people mad, overengineering the software just because you can leads to a maddening experience for the end user. When I want to see the shipment error rate I just want to see the $%^&* shipment error rate — I don’t want a 3-D spinning infographic that I have to twist and twirl to try and find the one number I need.

Mobile Madness

Every time your employee gets a shiny new mobile device, he’s going to want every excuse to play with his shiny new toy. Don’t give it to him. Stick to your guns and make sure the software you use only supports mobile interfaces where those interfaces make sense. Your employees aren’t paid to play on mobile devices, they’re paid to get the job done in the most efficient way possible. Sometimes that’s on the phone. Sometimes that’s on the tablet. And sometimes that’s on the old-school desktop box hardwired into the LAN that is at, of all places, the employee’s desk! Imagine that!

Procurement Trend #13. The Cloud

Ten time tripping trends from the eighth dimension still remain, and as much as we’d like to assume that string theorists aren’t right and that those dimensions don’t all curl up and trap LOLCat in a box, we can’t. Thus, we must continue to follow the lead of the MythBusters and attack each claim made by the futurists, who are so deeply despised by LOLCat, one by one.

So why do so many historians identify The Cloud, which, to be blunt, has to be the single biggest piece of marketing malarkey of the past decade, as a future trend? Is it because they are dumb enough to believe that anything repeated enough times must be true? I don’t know, but I do know that:

  • computing is becoming ubiquitous

    and just about anything that can have a microprocessor shoved into it has one

  • on-demand computing can be bought with a credit card

    and can be bought from the same online store that you buy your books, clothes, and groceries from

  • cloud marketing is ubiquitous

    and even Oracle was crushed under the weight of the cloud craze and eventually buckled to the trend

So what does this mean?

Computing is not the Problem, Modelling is

These days, the average person has more computing power in her smartphone than she knows what to do with. Because so much computing power is wasted on unnecessary graphics and very poor algorithms, she may not know it, but the dual-core 1.4 GHz Apple A8 processor in your iPhone 6 with over 2 billion transistors can process hundreds of billions of instructions per second. This is 100 times faster than the first Pentium that revolutionized Procurement!

Computing is not expensive, Mindsets are

Computing used to be expensive, but it’s not anymore. You don’t need expensive Sun, IBM, or HP racks for most day-to-day business processing, and you certainly don’t need expensive machines for high-power computing. Remember, analysis and optimization is running data sets and models over and over again until you find a result. If you burn out a core, you can just buy a new one. The only place you really need to invest in redundancy and reliability is in the SAN (Storage Area Network) — you need multiple backups of raw data — not of temporary data sets.

Many Marketers are Morons, or, at the very least, think we are

The cloud is as vacuous as the real thing. It’s all about access to the software you need when you need it, not what you call it or where the application is hosted (and whomever is cutting the cheque should know where it is hosted). If you want to buy infrastructure as a service, with all the pros and cons, go for it. But it’s the applications and what you need to do with them that matters.