Daily Archives: October 10, 2023

To What Extent Can True Supply Chain Value be Created under Private Equity?

the doctor recently encountered a headline that implied that there could be supply chain value creation under private equity ownership, which, even before he made it to the tenth word, caused him to stop and ask just how much supply chain value could be created under private equity as the entire point of private equity is NOT to create supply chain value but to increase investment value in the short term for the fund contributors who are essentially the shareholders of the private equity firm.

And when we are talking short-term investment value creation, usually the biggest value creation levers are:

  • revenue / customer base increase
    (Wall Street Values this the most, so most investors value this the most as it gives them a better exit opportunity)
  • operational cost reduction
    (layoffs of the perceived dead-weight or high-earners, job consolidation, etc.; office space downsizing; cloud/SaaS infrastructure reduction/optimization; etc; as it’s an immediate reduction on the balance sheet which results in an immediate profit increase)

Supply chain is not the top two, and in many cases it’s not even in the top twenty, when you’re talking short-term. Mid-term (5 years), it gets up there (but not high enough for anything significant to be done), and long-term, it’s likely the second top value driver there is (as we must always remember that financiers will always put revenue first) as it can lead to cost reductions and value generation that can exceed any short-term operational cost reduction as the benefits from a supply chain improvement will be realized every year (and not just one time).

When the doctor got past these thoughts and returned to the article, the first thing the article noted is that private equity (PE) and the supply chain have been somewhat at odds with each other … due to what we could call a timeframe imbalance since PE typically aims to secure an exit within 3-5 years while supply chains … tended to operate on longer timespans. (Often much longer timespans.)

Now we must admit that, thanks to the pandemic, PE firms now realize more than ever that, without a functioning supply chain, any traditional business that needs to buy and sell physical goods to function is up Schitt’s Creek without a paddle. As a result, the smarter PE firms have started to give the supply chain some attention, but for the most part their focus and investments are usually limited to qualifying suppliers and carriers, not transforming global supply chains.

Moreover, the execution of this focus on qualifying suppliers and carriers is usually part of a broader strategy to make better decisions, which needs better data, so the focus ends up being a data, analytics, and BI (which is supposed to stand for Business Intelligence, but in some companies just ends up being BullSh!t Interpretation when they buy the wrong tool) strategy and an investment in the right SaaS tools to do that, and not on actual supply chain modelling, (re)design, or transformation. The best companies will procure modern S2P and ERP platforms which support real-time visibility into the location of all product — be they inventory, in transport, and ordered — by way of message and e-Document (EDI, XML, etc.) exchange with supplier platforms, but that’s as far as they’ll go on the “supply chain“.

And when the doctor finally brought himself to finish the article, it mostly admitted all of this, but finished by saying that there has been a surge in PE investment into supply chain technology, which he knows to be true.

In other words, PE firms do invest in supply chain technology and do utilize such to maximize the value in the supply chains of the companies they invest in, but they don’t actually invest in the actual supply chain, which is a much greater source of value (and carbon reduction, FYI) in the long term. And, as the doctor thought, the title was quite misleading. PE firms, if they took a longer term view (even 8 to 10 years would be enough), could totally transform supply chains, but, at least for now, all they do is tighten up what’s there in the hopes of making the company profitable enough to flip it to a bigger PE firm or take it public. So, to be brutally honest, there is no true supply chain value created under Private Equity today. (Hopefully tomorrow is a different story, but we’re not holding our breath.)

Disagree … contribute to the conversation on LinkedIn.