Category Archives: Risk Management

Visibility is Key to Managing Suppliers

For the first part of this week, we have been talking about the significant overlap between sourcing and supplier management and the necessary platform elements needed to support both. Key elements included performance, relationship, and risk management, because all are necessary for sourcing and supplier success.

Spend Matters recently ran a 3-part series on a sub-set of the issue, based on a recent interview with Ecovadis, that talked about how Visibility is Key to Managing CSR Risks in Indirect Spend (Part I, Part II, and Part III). But visibility is needed for more than just addressing risks in indirect spend. It’s also needed for addressing risks in direct spend.

Direct spend has all the same risks, they just aren’t one step removed through an intermediary. And you have to trace all of the products down to the raw materials to identify not only in your supply base, but your supplier’s supply base, their supplier’s supply base, and their supplier’s down to the mine, the farm, or the harvester.

But it’s not just the suppliers you need visibility into, it’s the environment that surrounds them. After all, a natural disaster can cut them off. An economic downturn can render them bankrupt if the currency they do business in (and keep the majority of their cash on hand in) crashes. A geo-political uprising can cut them off at the border. A port strike can cut off their primary shipping routes. And so on. You need a full 360-degree view around the supplier to ensure success.

But how do you get that? You can’t watch everything everywhere, and when you consider the extent of the global supply chain, you almost have to.

That’s why it’s key to have a platform that can integrate with 3rd party sources as you will need to integrate dozens, if not hundreds, of data sources to keep on top of all of the data you need to populate the models to evaluate and track the risks.

And that’s why two of the key elements we look for in a platform are integration and dynamic data model extensibility. You never have enough data. Without the right data, you don’t have the visibility, and that’s key to success. Or at least to preventing major unexpected disruptions.

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.

Single Multi-Tier Risk Mitigation Strategies Don’t Mitigate Risk

Last year we penned a post on how single tier risk mitigation strategies don’t mitigate risk and that they may, in fact, increase risk. As we indicated in our previous post, the following standard single-tier risk mitigation strategies have the potential to increase risk:

    • Dual Sourcing
      without careful planning, both suppliers could use the same Tier 2 source
    • Alternate Design
      can simply reduce / eliminate the need for one rare raw material in favour of another material that ends up being more rare
  • Financial Risk Monitoring
    for shakey suppliers isn’t enough to catch production shortcuts that a supplier might be taking to cut costs that increase your risk when the product is used or sold
  • Replacement Product Lines
    can share parts and suppliers that actually increase risk from a disruption

We indicated that if you wanted to truly mitigate risk, you have to go multi-tier and work with your supplier to identify the most likely risks in their, and your, supply chain and how to mitigate them.

And this is a great start, but simply using the least risky supplier at each tier doesn’t help you if a random natural or man-made disaster takes out a supplier for a few months (or permanently). There needs to be a dual sourcing strategy, and a well planned one. Using two suppliers in the same region or that use the same raw material source is not dual sourcing. Alternate design that is specific to a small supply base that could be wiped out with a single disaster or single market event is not sound alternate design. Financial risk monitoring using third parties that don’t have deep insight into certain markets, regions, or mining operations is not enough — by the time an issue is detected, it could be too late. And of course, trading one product line with known risks for another with unknown risks is pretty much the opposite of risk mitigation.

That’s why you not only need multi-tier risk mitigation in a single supply chain, but multiple supply chains with multi-tier risk for any critical products or product lines. As per our recent post on how the risk disconnect is still big, Sourcing and Procurement need to place a much bigger focus on risk to ensure negotiated scenarios are actual scenarios to realize the savings and value the organization expects.

The Risk Disconnect is Still Big But …

As pointed out in a post a year ago on how there are at least 12 risk disconnects … but one you should never overlook! we talked about how the disconnect between risk and cost is one of the most critical in our view because:


  1. not only can one identifiable supply chain disruption wipe out all of the savings of a single sourcing event, but also increase costs well beyond that point

  2. only an understanding of the true cost of risk will convince most stakeholders and executives to look beyond cost, reliability, marketing differentiation, or whatever else matters most to them — money talks and (imminent) (potential) loss is the one thing that gets noticed

But that’s pretty hard as most sourcing and procurement solutions not only have no concept of risk, but neither do most platforms. And many of those that do are pretty basic — you can import third party risk scores, define risks to track, and query them occasionally. And that’s about it — and that is clearly not enough given that an organization’s chance of experiencing a significant disruption is now about 90%.

But that might change soon. Not that long ago (in late 2017 to be precise), Spend Matters released the Solution Maps for Strategic Procurement Technologies (Sourcing, Contract Management, Analytics, and Supplier Management) were released — with the Sourcing, Analytics, and Supplier Management maps designed (in entirety) by the doctor and the Contract Management map co-designed by the doctor and the maverick.

Each of these maps had a few elements of risk, but not many. And they were application-based, not platform based. But with the newly revised Solution Maps coming out in June, Risk Management will now be a key component of the common sourcing – supplier management component of the strategic procurement technology maps that measures the assessment, mitigation planning, [risk] model definition, monitoring & risk identification, regulatory compliance monitoring, and supplier risk management capabilities of the platform. Going forward, both Spend Matters and Sourcing Innovation will be putting a greater focus on risk management capabilities to help your organization cope with the turbulent times ahead.

Category Management: Getting it Right is Key to Surviving the Trade Wars Part III

The Trade Wars are here! Tariffs! Counter-Tariffs! Counter-Counter-Tariffs! Counter-Counter-Counter-Tariffs! Even online traders can’t trade that fast. It’s dizzying.

And if you’re planning didn’t start weeks ago, you have a lot of catching up to do. Because if you don’t, your business may not survive. Literally.

So far, we told you it was critical to:

    1. 1. Understanding your Current Costs in Detail
    1. 2. Understand your Tier 2 Supply Chain in Detail
    1. 3. Start By Identifying Alternative Supply Choices
    1. 4. Then Build Alternative Cost Models Around those Alternative Supply Choices

5. Re-Evaluate on Every Tariff Change

But this is not always enough. What if the majority of the rare earth metal comes from China and the cost is insurmountable for your business? You also need to:


6. Start looking at alternative designs that eliminate dependence on a single country.

You can’t be dependent on China, the EU, or any other locale that Trump is targeting. Costs could go through the roof.

Also, you can’t be dependent on certain transportation methods. If diesel costs go through the roof, long haul shipping is going to get considerably more expensive. It may actually be cheaper to do short-haul trucking from Mexico or Brazil if you’re selling in the US because you know that the US may subsidize your industry in other ways (with lower taxes or rebates for buying / shipping at home). Thus, you also need to


7. Start looking aggressively at near-shoring.

SI has been telling you for years that sometimes the best cost county sourcing is home country sourcing, and when that’s not viable, near-shore sourcing is becoming a better option again. Find alternative suppliers closer to home, just in case!

And, you better make sure their supply chains are secure.


8. Weed out near-shore suppliers that are actually getting most of their materials or doing most of their production remotely.

Remember, the entire point of trying to bring production closer to home to ensure affordable supply is to actually bring production back, not just source from a supplier that is just an intermediary that outsources on your behalf. That actually adds more time, risk, and cost to the supply chain.

Is this everything you can do? No, but it’s progress.