Category Archives: rants

Five Years Ago We Told You to Blame the Bankers …

… for the biggest risks in your supply chain, as per our classic post where we told you don’t blame the lawyers, blame the bankers because they were ultimately responsible for three of the top four most likely risks to disrupt your supply chain.

(Even though the doctor can sympathize with William Shakespeare when he said the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers, the lawyers are not responsible for the current state of the global economy, the bankers are. And while it’s true that the lawyers are not innocent, happily taking the bankers money to do things that disrupt entire economies, it is the bankers that were the ringleaders here.)

But do we still blame all the bankers? Well, yes, we blame them for the economic risks that continue to persist to this day. But we no longer blame them for the top three risks in our global supply chains.

That honour goes to … The United States of America. Yes, that’s right. The root cause of the three biggest risks in your supply chain is the United States of America. (And not China, although there is a massive risk there as well. And if we wait a few more years, they might get their turn on top.)

How can it be? How can the United States be the single cause of the three biggest risks in your supply chain?

To explain that, we’ll start by repeating them for those of you that have not read The Global Risks Report 2019, 14th Edition, from the World Economic Forum.

According to this report, produced in partnership with Marsh & McLennan Companies and Zurich Insurance Group, the three biggest risks are:

  1. Extreme Weather Events
  2. Failure of Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
  3. Natural Disasters

and, as should be obvious, these are all interconnected.

Many (if not the majority of) natural disasters are the result of extreme weather events, and many (if not the majority of) extreme weather events are, whether your choose to believe facts or not, the result of the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

And why has climate change mitigation and adaptation failed? Because it hasn’t happened. And why hasn’t it happened? Because countries aren’t aggressively working toward it. And why is that not the case? Because only 175 parties, of 197, have ratified The Paris Agreement (the UN Convention on Climate Change) … and one party that initially accepted has withdrawn (and done so in a very public manner). Guess what that country is? You guessed it!

The United States of America has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement. If the country that is responsible for approximately 25% of global GDP refuses to support the most important initiative in the world (which still falls short of where we need to be to truly mitigate climate change, but would make a substantial impact on slowing climate change down), especially when it comes to preventing the three biggest risks in your supply chain, then that country is unilaterally responsible for those risks.

So next time a typhoon sinks the freighter carrying all your goods, don’t blame God, Poseidon, or Mother Earth. Blame the United States of America. Or, if you really want to, blame Trump. But don’t blame God or nature because, with the current rate of increase in the number of natural disasters annually, there will soon be a 90% chance that it the natural disaster is 100% the result of climate change brought on by the United States inaction to do anything about it.

We’re Still Stuck in 2009 … Why?

Five years ago, the doctor wrote a post about how the doctor’s 2014 Procurement Prediction is Going to Come True and that 2014 was going to be 2009 Part VI and

  • the focus will continue to be on cost-cutting and not value-creation,
  • valuable, high-ROI, technology will continue to be ignored, and
  • the training and new talent budgets will remain empty.

And it was a sad state of affairs. And he’d hoped that, by now, things would have changed. But if you check the latest Deloitte Global CPO Survey, 78% of CPOS are still PRIMARILY FOCUSSED on Cost Reduction!

Unless they’re Procurement team has been totally incompetent for the last five year, that’s not going to happen. We’re about to return to Depression Era Economics. We’re heading for a downturn a result of a global slowdown in GDP growth. China can’t keep building empty cities. The US can’t continue to build (defence) debt and grow without an immigrant workforce that will do the jobs Americans don’t want. Goods can’t continue to get cheaper when labour costs are rising and materials are becoming scarce. Outsourcing is not going to get cheaper when transportation costs have to rise as energy (oil) costs rise. And so on.

Also, the study found that, even in 2018, only one third of Procurement Leaders use modern technologies such as predictive analytics and collaboration networks.

And over half of Procurement Leaders believe that their current teams do not have sufficient levels of skills and capabilities to deliver on their procurement strategy … proving that they have, as expected, not been investing in training like they should have been.

Eleven years ago, Hackett published a vision of Procurement in 2020 where it predicted that, through a year-over-year evolutionary strategy, it would reach the point where it was harnessing the power of supply markets to maximize the value it is getting from its spend, enabling business strategy, and optimizing its tactical execution. But, in an average organization, Procurement is, at least for now, still overspending, still divorced from business strategy, and unable to react to unexpected disruptions or opportunities in the supply chain.

And it looks like 2020 is, not as everyone predicted in the noughts, going to be 2009 Part XI. Who will take the lead and change it?

Your Successful Supply Chain will NOT be Autonomous!

the doctor has recently seen a few pieces out there on the forthcoming autonomous supply chain and even a few pieces on the “self-driving” supply chain. Eek! Just like we’re not ready for AI-enabled self-driving cars that will drive us off a cliff as soon as they become self-aware (and that’s why you can have Carl and I’ll stick with Alfred), we’re not ready for self-driving supply chains that “predict” future demand, automatically order large numbers of products for you, and push them to local warehouses and retail stores without any human intervention.

Just because your demand sensing engine, which works well for established products, can use PoS data and other demand signals to auto-reorder staples with 98% accuracy doesn’t mean it can predict the success of an upcoming, or relatively new, product line — especially if it’s new for your business and you are, unbeknownst to your sensing engine, about to be beat to market by your nearest competitor — and it’s in the consumer electronics industry where first to market typically captures 10% to 30% just for being first. The last thing you want is for the platform to increase your initial order by 30%, ship straight to store, and then have it sit there for six months, and depreciate. Not a good use of cash.

Nor do you want your TMS automatically assigning shipments to carriers, intermediate warehouses, and ports without any human intervention. Software with limited data feeds often have no forewarning when a port might shutdown due to a strike, but humans might. Nor will a limited feed software algorithm know when a border might close and also close a supply route. But a human might. And so on.

And, despite what Amazon may think, you definitely don’t want to be thinking about anticipatory shipping. As we noted in our post five years ago, while predictive analytics is getting better by the day, it’s still hit and miss at a granular level. And individual purchases are quite granular. Just because 4 out of every 5 people who buy a Buzz Lightyear Cup also buy a Sheriff Woody Saucer, doesn’t mean the 4 people that your “AI” chooses will. One of them might not like saucers. Or Sheriff Woody. Shipping on an anticipatory nature guarantees that at least one out of every 20 units will be unwanted, and as many as one out of every 4. That’s a lot of returns. And, as we have noted again and again, including our recent article on how there is no free lunch, and there is no free shipping either, that could get quite pricey. How are you supposed to keep costs down if you have to budget for amortized high, wasted, return shipping costs across every unit?

So please, please, don’t try to give your supply chain autonomy. Automate it. Apply the best assisted intelligence solutions on the market to provide one-click recommendations, but always make sure there is a human check before any decisions are made that affect millions of dollars.

The Storm Clouds Are Still Here!

Twenty years ago, enterprise software was installed on-premise and managed locally. This required organizations with no knowledge of IT or IT management to create IT departments to manage servers and the software services that ran on them. For an organization that didn’t use software in it’s daily operations — such as a manufacturing organization that used manual production lines, an advertising agency that deals in existential image and not physical product, or a real-estate agency that only has to take listings and take cheques — it was an expensive proposition.

Then came the Application Service Providers, better known as ASPs. Using the power of the internet, these software solution providers built their own data centres and hosted the solution for their customers on dedicated machines in their own data centres. However, this solution was not optimal either, as the organization was not only paying for machines, energy, and administrators to run the software, but also paying for these through a third party that added overhead and markup.

This provided an opportunity for more enterprising software delivery organizations that were able to build their applications to be multi-tenant and host multiple clients on the same platform. This reduced the number of machines, kilowatts, and system administrators that were required and thus reduced the overall operating cost. This allowed this new breed of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendor to take business away from the ASPs and advance the state of the art.

But this wasn’t the end. New enterprising software delivery organizations, who realized that their expertise was software and not data centre management, decided that they could do even better if they designed multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service solutions that could be run on someone else’s platform. This would bring more economies of scale into play as not only could multiple solutions could be run on the same platform, but the platform provider could be replaced by another platform provider with a lower-cost at any time. Enter the Cloud, which, like a real cloud is ephemeral, suspended in space, and, in some cases, full of security holes.

Cloud services are ephemeral as any specific instantiation of cloud services last as long as the company behind it has the means and the desire to continue supporting the cloud services. Cloud services are suspended in space since the instantiations may move over time as the service owners switch to lower-cost and/or more secure data centres. And, the cloud is full of holes. Massive holes that can swallow even multinationals whole. Nothing has improved since the the revelations on the PRISM program five years ago when the EU Parliament has called for suspension of the multi-billion ‘Safe-Harbour’ deal over NSA spying because some cloud providers don’t, either because they don’t have the expertise or won’t spend the money, secure their part of the cloud properly. For example, the recent Marriott hack compromised 500 million accounts. That’s absurd.

As a result, supply chains are continually exposed to additional risks of disruption (if a cloud provider unplugs overnight), security breaches (as some platforms are significantly less secure than others), and privacy risks (as some governments claim the right to all data on servers on their shore that is not associated with citizens or entities of that country or that might pose a security risk under acts like the US Patriot Act).

And most companies choose to remain blissfully unaware of the fact that a relatively significant software-as-a-service provider could go dark overnight or that their major cloud-based ERP or S2P provider could be hacked, exposing all of their trade secret company information, private banking information, and personal employee data — potentially subjecting not only the provider to massive fines but them to law suits, wire theft, and additional fines.

In other words, when you are assessing, and preparing for your supply chain risks — don’t forget the information chain. It can disappear with the literal flick of a switch.

Where’s the Beef Coming From?

As with last year’s post with the same name, this isn’t about the beef supply chain, or the purity of the beef that you source, but yet another post about the pitch. We’re latching onto Wendy’s classic catch-phrase because it’s easy to remember and one that you should never, ever forget! Especially when you are being sold something that sounds better than it is, or what you are being sold is better than what you expect from the organization providing it.

Why must we talk about this again and again? Because it’s too easy to get suckered into a deal that is too good to be true or without substance. It doesn’t matter how big and fluffy that sesame seed bun is, how fresh that lettuce is, or how juicy that tomato is if there is no hamburger patty or the hamburger patty is mostly seaweed.

As proof of how easy to get suckered in to something that sounds better than it is, we point to the news (no, not the fake news) and the new round of coverage of the Fyre Festival fiasco as a result of recent documentaries which highlighted how hopeful attendees promised luxury meals, lavish accommodations, and the music festival of a lifetime got pre-packaged sandwiches, FEMA rescue tents, and the sound of the sea.

But it’s not just crooked festival promoters you have to look out for. It’s also sales reps who will send you their top-of-the-line product as the “demo” from their brand new factory when you actually get the bottom-of-the-line knock-off produced in their most outdated factory which has a 50/50 chance of short-circuiting when you flip the power switch. Or consultancies that trot their junior partners and senior talent in during the dog-and-pony sales show for your big platform implementation / customization project but then switch them out for recent college grads with no experience in your industry when you sign on the dotted line (as the junior partners were just the “project advisors” who don’t actually do any of the work). Or domain experts who scrape content from industry expert sources (like Sourcing Innovation and Spend Matters), repackage it, and pretend it’s their own and sell you niche advisory sourcing or I2P management services they actually know nothing about.

In other words, it’s very important to not only ask “where’s the beef?” and get to the core requirements of your sourcing and procurement project, but also where is it coming from because, otherwise, you don’t know if you’re getting Grade A Calgary Steak, Yield 5 Utility Beef from Mongolia, or Eastern European Horse Meat. And only one of these will ever be accepted by your luxury restaurant customers.

So just like reporting should be based on facts, Sourcing should be based on facts. Who is providing the product or service, from where, when, how, what production measures are being used and what quality measures are in place, and why, from an objective viewpoint, is it better. Otherwise, you could get sucked in by the fancy demo, the unrealistically low price point, the bundled services, or something else that is actually without value to your supply chain and customer and end up spending more money in the end on warranty costs, transportation costs, auxiliary support costs, and so on.