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Predictions for the Supply Chain in 2013

SC Digest has posted a round up of Supply Chain Predictions for 2013 :

Part 1: Predictions from Supply Chain Gurus for 2013 – 1

Part 2: Predictions from Supply Chain Gurus for 2013 – 2

The predictions from supply chain gurus span the gamut from Big Data, Analytics, Dealing with longer lead times, Talent, South America and Africa. And e-tailers?

Well, I have my prediction too for the supply chain of 2013 (and 14 and 15 too). If anything I’d call it the rise of the Supply Chain Currency Wars. The first shot of this new phase of global currency wars was launched by Japan a week or two ago. While it will start slowly, over the next few years, this sort of tit-for-tat devaluation will play havoc with global supply chains especially the one’s with finely tuned cost calculations justifying the location of factories and/or distribution centers.

Devaluation of currencies over a matter of couple of quarters and in-kind retaliation is going to drive up financing risk in the supply chain. Were such a scenario to come to pass, then supply chain operators need to nail down some other variables so as not to have all the variables in a supply chain in a volatile flux.

In summary, while global supply chains can tolerate some uncertainty, it isn’t quite clear to me whether it can tolerate the sort of volatility that global currency wars entail. The Gold standard of Supply chains might mean something entirely different in a couple of years time.

A brief history of the Supply Chain

SCM Operations has this wonderful assembled history of how the idea of a Supply Chain came to be through the years – in a little over a century.

The graphic is here: History of Logistics and Supply Chain Management and is reproduced below for your benefit.

Enjoy!!

Supply Chain Optimization – careful with those words now…

Abcoautomation has a post up on How Supply Chain Optimization can help you beat your competition. Except that, the sort of optimization that is referred to there is not Optimization. I suppose that I have to start making a distinction between Big “O” optimization and small “o” optimization. However, that is a topic for another day. The topic for today however is two fold – Ernst Haeckel and the effect of Dr. Haeckel’s pithy summation on almost every and anything that we engage in. In very broad and general terms.

Ernst Haeckel, for those of us who are not likely to be avid readers, was a contemporary of Darwin (Yeah, that Darwin) championed a notion in evolutionary theory that can be summed up as, “Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny.” I assure you that you’re perfectly within your rights as a blog reader to switch to another page right now. It’s about to get a lot worse.

The following is the clarification of the terms: Ontogeny – the development of the form of the creature and Phylogeny – the location of the creature in the general scheme of evolutionary descent. Dr. Haeckel proposed (hypothetical creatures, drawings etc al), that Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny, which is to say that creatures in development exhibit developmental characteristics associated with creatures situated earlier in its evolutionary descent. This was quite an assertion which however in time turned out to be entirely wrong.

The surprising thing is that while “Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny” has little support in the natural world, something quite akin to it can be readily observed in the world of intellectual ideas and their application.

Here’s the content from the above story:

I heard a story one time about a Vice President of Distribution for a very well-known health and beauty aid manufacturer who gave this talk about when he took over as VP.  He asked what is the cash to cash cycle line for a particular brand of shampoo?

What is the time from the point where we spend money on boxes bottles or whatever you need for the shampoo and the manufacturing process to the time you get the money back from Wal-Mart (their end customer). Guess how long that process was?

Really, write it down and make a commitment you might be surprised at the answer. Well despite the fact that I’m not Vanna White, here is the answer. 47 weeks, 47 weeks of time. From the time that they bought bottles of goop, and paint and to the time they got their money back from Wal-Mart.

Now the next question he asked was this of those 47 weeks how much time do you really take to add the value process?

That is to make the product. Surprise again. 90 minutes. So out of the 47 weeks of time they only spent 90 minutes actually producing the product, and the final question how much of the corporate attention was on the 90 minutes?

The Supply Chain as an idea or the very recognition of the idea of a supply chain occurs quite later in the development of the capitalistic economy. So, quite akin to Dr. Haeckel’s formulation, this is a prime exhibit of later forms of organization and complexity recapitulating similar variances of thoughts and problems that were exhibited in earlier forms of organization. So while “Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny” was the mantra of an age past, I offer that “Novel forms of organization repeat the same problems exhibited in earlier developmental eras.” Or in other words, “Ontology recapitulates teleological gaps”.

Ontology has to do with the “that which is” and in this case would be the idea of the supply chain or manufacturing or putting things together. Teleology is about the purpose or end driven action that one undertakes day in and day out. So all that the statement above is referring to is the gaps in purpose that often exist in the recapitulation of newer ontologies.

This is precisely what prompted this long winding post – You see in the article above from abcoautomation, there is the suggestion that 47 weeks of lead time can be improved such that the non-value added proportion of this lead time can be reduced. However, that can only be done to a certain point i.e. as far as there is slack capacity to drive down the lead time. However, is there really slack capacity?

My simple point is this – these are problems that has been discovered and addressed in manufacturing – sometime well and sometimes not so well. The supply chain as a newer ontology (vis a vis Manufacturing) seems to recapitulate the same gaps in purpose.

Avoiding this recapitulation and the associated costs of this recapitulation is the only free lunch available – the question is whether you even realize the free lunch offer.

Winning through Better Supply Chain Design

Supply Chain Design is an oft overlooked field of specialty because of the “math” involved. While several providers have come up with nice interfaces to hide that math – the truth of the matter is that without the math, you’re slipping constants into GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) mode.

Supply Chain Management Review and Logistics Management have made this free webcast available on this topic : Winning through Better Supply Chain Design.

Supply Chain Network Design – By the Book

This article by SC Digest: Supply Chain Network Design – By the Book is about a new kid on the block (a book: Supply Chain Network Design: Applying Optimization and Analytics to the Global Supply Chain) as far as Supply Chain Modeling and Optimization goes.

As you might be aware I’m not really that keen on the adoption of optimization in businesses even though I’m sold on the absolute necessity of it. I’ve outlined several reasons over several posts on this blog : Coming off a tough tough project (for starters).

Some of the ideas in the article are tried and tested – as in I was employing them in Supply Chain Consulting way back in 2004-06 timeframe.

Guest Post: Disney and Others Focus on Supply Chain Logistics with Jaxport

It was announced recently that Disney Parks and Resorts will be teaming up with Jaxport, the TracPac shipping terminal in Jacksonville, Florida. About 75% of Disney’s merchandise will now be going through this port as opposed to the one they were previously using in Savannah, Georgia.

When asked about the move, Senior VP and CFO of Disney Parks and Resorts, Anthony Connelly, had this to say:

“From a business decision for us, it’s about optimizing our supply chain and being able to minimize the cost associated with bringing freight here.  So to us, it was about saving money and we’re certainly excited to participate in growing Florida’s economy as well as Jacksonville’s economy.”

Although a quarter of Disney’s merchandise will still pass through the port in Savannah, the goal of the company is to eventually have Jaxport be the standalone terminal for all of Disney’s merchandise.

Jaxport – America’s New Logistics Center

Disney’s switch to Jaxport is a signal that this hub is becoming a major player in the import and export industry. What makes Jaxport so unique is its ability to serve as a terminal for both inbound and outbound cargo as well as the ease of distribution of goods to numerous parts of the United States.

Jaxport can also boast a new state-of-the-art container terminal, and the hub’s location in Jacksonville, Florida means it is the crossroads of global commerce, with multiple highway and rail options in and out of the city.

Disney is not the only company taking advantage of Jaxport’s superior capabilities. Brands like Coach, Michael’s, Bridgestone, PSS World Medical, Sears, Samsonite, Maxwell House and Unilever have all made the switch to Jaxport in an effort to better optimize their supply chains.

Rich Markovich, Director of International Logistics and Compliance for the Michael’s art supply chain, notes an advantage Jaxport has and why it is such an attractive choice:

“A real point of strength is the workforce in the Jacksonville area – on top of the dynamics that make Jacksonville a very attractive place when it comes to domestic transportation.”

The Decline in U.S. Manufacturing Leads to New Supply Chain Logistics Centers

Throughout the last decade, there has been a measurable decline in the manufacturing of goods on US soil as production has shifted to overseas markets where costs are much lower.

This shift has caused an increase in imported goods to this country and a need for new supply chain logistical centers that can handle the arrival and distribution of thousands of cargo containers.

Many ports throughout the country are trying to capitalize on this import trend, but it is the ports on the southeast coast in particular, such as Jaxport, that are in a position to reap the greatest benefits. This is in large part due to the fact that west coast ports are currently close to operating capacity and cargo moved from these hubs must absorb increasing expenses as fuel prices remain high.

From a First Coast Vision Report:

“Supply chain logistics centers are catalysts for further economic activity in the community. Clustering of these facilities is common because businesses feel more confident in their location decisions when they see companies with similar business needs thriving. As Jacksonville attracts more of these companies, others will seriously consider Jacksonville for their own relocations and expansions.”

As supply chain management executives continue to seek optimized and cost-effective logistical solutions, they must consider using ports of entry with established supply chain centers that have connections to major trade lanes, reliable containership services, and a qualified workforce. These considerations make Jaxport a natural supply chain logistics center choice despite intense competition.

Pete Kontakos is a contributor who writes about supply chain management certification online.

Why Apple makes iPhones in China and Why the US is screwed?

Two recent articles, one being the retelling of another, delve into some of the reasons why Apple makes iPhones in China and by implication not in the USA. The original article was from the New York Times, How the US lost out on iPhone Work and the retelling was recounted in This Article Explains why Apple makes iPhones in China and why the US is screwed.

There is no article about China which doesn’t recount some of the following snippets:

When one reads about these working conditions — 12-16 hour shifts, pay of ~$1 per hour or less, dormitories with 15 beds in 12×12 rooms

For Mr. Cook, the focus on Asia “came down to two things,” said one former high-ranking Apple executive. Factories in Asia “can scale up and down faster” and “Asian supply chains have surpassed what’s in the U.S.”

“The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”

“The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”

That’s because nothing like Foxconn City exists in the United States.

The facility has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day.

And lastly,

The answers, almost every time, were found outside the United States. Though components differ between versions, all iPhones contain hundreds of parts, an estimated 90 percent of which are manufactured abroad. Advanced semiconductors have come from Germany and Taiwan, memory from Korea and Japan, display panels and circuitry from Korea and Taiwan, chipsets from Europe and rare metals from Africa and Asia. And all of it is put together in China.

Summarizing, Chinese firms can scale up and down rapidly i.e. they have flexibility that the Chinese government and populace are willing to allow. Something that cannot be obtained stateside in whatever shape or form. The key takeaway is that it is not only scale but the willingness and ability to go either way with it. In the US, one finds that scale is directed one way towards growth but scaling down is an arduous, acrimonious and drawn out affair if it ever happens.

So here’s the first key to Smarter Manufacturing – Flexibility and Scalability.

About me

I am Chris Jacob Abraham and I live, work and blog from Newburgh, New York. I work for IBM as a Senior consultant in the Fab PowerOps group that works around the issue of detailed Fab (semiconductor fab) level scheduling on a continual basis. My erstwhile company ILOG was recently acquired by IBM and I've joined the Industry Solutions Group there.

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