Monthly Archives: August 2015

Societal Damnation 43: Rapid Urbanization & Mega-Cities

There are a lot of societal damnations converging upon your organization and threatening ruin. To date, we’ve covered the sharing economy, crime & piracy, fraud & corruption, (the lack of) education quality, the utter lack of math competency, (mega) project management, and Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS). Today we’re going to cover rapid urbanization and mega-cities.

You’re probably wondering why this isn’t a good thing. More people in less area means the organization can sell more goods in a smaller area and this means Logistics has less areas to ship to and Procurement fewer areas to buy for. This is true, but it doesn’t mean that Procurement’s or Logistic’s task is any easier. In fact, while rapid urbanization can often make Sales’ and Marketing’s job easier, it can make Logistics’s and Procurement’s job harder. Much harder.

Typically when a city starts to rapidly urbanize, it’s infrastructure is not ready for the rapid urbanization. It’s water plants are stressed (and may not be able to accommodate the introduction of factories that require large amounts of water). It’s energy grids are stressed (and it’s not unreasonable that rolling brown-outs or blackouts could be temporarily required at peak periods). It’s public transportation is stressed (and even getting a taxi can be a 45 minute ordeal). It’s roads are stressed (and there can be regular delays to pick up and drop off goods at cross-docks and warehouses). Plus, it’s core roads may only be 2 or 4 lanes in many places, with large trucks prohibited – meaning that Logistics will have to secure, and use, a number of smaller trucks for pickups and deliveries — which means a need for more drivers in an industry where the driver shortage is in the tens of thousands in some countries. And then there’s waste management. The sewer system could be taxed (with the end result that the rivers are used to handle the excess until they run full of waste like the Mithi river). The capacity to collect garbage might not be there (which leads to stringent limitations on how much trash a home or business can throw out unless they haul it out of town to dump by themselves). And process and recycling stations could be overloaded (leading to a stench, unhealthy buildup of noxious fumes in the air).

Then comes a rapid increase in pollution, which can see a rapid increase in hazardous airborne (smog-inducing) particles to the point where it is almost triple the national air quality average (as is the base in Beijing). This will, of course, eventually result in legislation to limit the amount of pollution an organization can produce, which will, if the organization hasn’t planned for it, result in costly production plant and fleet retrofits that could easily cost millions of dollars. However, this probably won’t equal the increase in taxes that will come if the city, state, or country tries to clean up its problem and decides to spend billions of dollars doing so (as China is about to in preparation for its bid to host the 2022 winter olympics, an effort that will cost about $7.7B using the exchange rate of August 16, 2015).

But the trials and tribulations don’t stop there. Rapid urbanization is also typically associated with a rapid increase in crime (though often temporary from a long-term perspective, this temporary increase can still last decades), pandemics (as nothing spreads airborne and waterborne bacteria and virii faster than density), taxation to pay for the necessary improvements to infrastructure and social programs, a quickly changing political and regulatory environment, and a greater potential for mass hysteria and riots. Rapid urbanization can bring with it dozens of damnations, each of which will directly and indirectly affect Procurement on a daily basis.

Sales and Marketing may do the dance of joy, but they really ought to be shot in the foot for doing so as the good can often be outweighed by the bad in the short term, and the amount of rapid adaption that Procurement might be forced to deal with may not be worth it.

Regulatory Damnation 35: Health and Safety

Health and Safety, generally referred to as Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) or Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) in North America, refers to regulations and regulatory management concerned with the safety, health, and welfare of employees, be they full time, part time, contingent, day labourer, or unpaid intern. In an advanced organization, it’s a key component of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as the health and welfare of any person doing any task for the organization is a key concern of any responsible organization.

So why is this a damnation? Is this not only the right thing to do but something you want to do as an injured or unwell employee is not productive? It’s a damnation because in some countries of the world, it’s becoming a regulatory nightmare. And not only is failure to comply with the regulations, some of which may go beyond common sense, a huge fine, but if someone gets injured and your organization failed to comply with the regulations, in some countries (and the United States in particular) that’s a million-plus lawsuit waiting to happen.

It’s a massive risk management activity that often adds very little value to the organization.

First, you need to either have your lawyer spend cycles researching all relevant OSH laws to your business at the municipal, state, and federal levels and make sure you are fully compliant, or shell out thousands upon thousands (upon thousands) of dollars to an expert OSH law firm that will provide you a list of all regulations you need to adhere to, minimum requirements, and example programs.

Then you need to identify all hazards of the

  • physical and mechanical variety
    and make sure all personnel have the appropriate safety gear and safety training and supervision if they are new to the task
  • biological and chemical variety
    and make sure all personnel have the appropriate safety gear, training, and supervision and make sure that the risk of exposure is minimized as much as it can be (and only qualified, certified personnel are allowed in the lab where the deadly virii are kept)
  • psychosocial variety
    and make sure all personnel are kept as far away from them as possible (which may mean keeping the CEO away from general assemblies, as he* is likely a psychopath)

Then you need to document your research, your policies, your training methods, your enforcement methods, and your regular review activities in case the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) or its equivalent comes knocking at your door (as the result of complaints, injury, and/or lawsuits).

And if you’re in Procurement, not only do you have to worry about the safety and health of your employees (who might have to travel to dangerous regions for site visits of what could be danger-ridden factories), but of your supplier’s employees as well. If their practices aren’t up to par and a major disaster happens at one of their facilities, it’s your corporate brand that is going to take the hit when the dust settles and multiple worker’s rights group are quick to point out the failings in your supply chain.

It’s yet another time-sucking task that should be easy and obvious but isn’t thanks to mountains of legislation and suppliers who care more about money than people.

* Most CEOs are men. It’s probably because (considerably) more men than women have been diagnosed as psychopaths. (If most CEOs are psychopaths and most psychopaths are men, then we have a logical explanation for why most CEOs are men outside of sexism.)

Environmental & Sustainability Damnation 23: Food Shortages

So far we’ve covered natural disasters, EMPs, water, waste, rare earth minerals, and Greenpeace, but that still leaves four environmental damnations to discuss, and the next on the list is food shortages.

A few years ago, global food reserves hit a fifty year low.
With approximately 800 Million people, which is almost 11% of the global population, food insecure, and the increased rate of natural disasters, this is scary both from a social viewpoint and a corporate viewpoint. Every time there is a food shortage, the commodity prices spike, and contracts be damned.

If a significant portion of a supplier’s crops are wiped out and it doesn’t have enough to satisfy its contracts, it can claim force majeure, and unless your organization is paying the most, it’s claiming force majeure on you and your supply is out the window. If a considerable portion of its crops are wiped out, and it theoretically could meet demand, but a considerable portion of the global supply was wiped out and prices have skyrocketed, the supplier might choose to still claim force majeure and sell to the highest bidder, contracts be damned, and while you might be able to go to court and make a case that it should have fulfilled your contracts, that could take years, and you’re certainly not getting the crop this year unless you pay market price. If a major product line depends on that crop, your organization could be out of business before it won the lawsuit and recouped any damages.

Since most crops are still grown in fields, and not greenhouses (which are not as environmentally friendly as one might think if one is trying to grow crops in the summer), the right climate is needed for a good yield. Sun and warmth, but not enough to dry the plants (and bake them to a crisp), enough rain (and irrigation), a sufficiently long growing seasons, and an absence of pest swarms. A drought can quickly wipe out a crop. A fire can quickly wipe out a crop. An earthquake that can destroy irrigation systems and storage containers can wipe out a crop. And so on. Moreover, as the rate of natural disasters increases as a result of global warming (which is a bad term because it’s not just global warming, it’s global climate change on a broad scale), the rate of natural disasters that destroy crops and lead to food commodity shortages is going to increase. Diversified supply is no longer an option, but a must. Excess production and storage in diverse locations for eventual disasters is a must. Planning ahead years at a time is a must.

It’s another damnation that does nothing but increase the complexity of your job.

Happy 1,450th Nessie!

According to legend, One Thousand, Four Hundred and Fifty years ago today, Saint Columba, an irish abbot, supposedly banished a ferocious, unidentified, water beast to the depths of the River Ness after it had killed a Pict and then tried to attack Columba’s disciple. This unidentified water beast has been equated with the Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known by the locals as Nessie.

Many believers speculate that Nessie was a plesiosaur, which, if it had a metabolism similar to modern reptiles, could allow it to live for hundreds of years. (Of course, considering how long dinosaurs have supposedly* been extinct, it’s hard to know how long they could have lived.)


So maybe we should be saying, Happy Birthday Nessie VII!

* Cryptozoologists have found evidence that certain dinosaur species may have survived in remote places of the planet where the climate has not changed in tens of millions of years up until recent times, at least until the time of the middle Egyptians in one case and until the time of the Aztecs in another. As this is not a blog on cryptozoology, we won’t discuss such evidence here but encourage you to do your own research if interested.