SIG Speaks Blog

The Confection Connection Between Chocolate and Supply Chain: A Sweet or Sour Tale?

In the Mexican coastal town of Puerto Vallarta, where the weather is hot and the tequila flows like wine, a new trend is emerging from an old Mexican delicacy...chocolate. The town is host to a chocolate museum, chocolate tour and fancy tequila/chocolate-paired tasting. Last week I had the opportunity to attend to one of these tastings where I learned about the different types of tequila and how the chocolates amplify their flavors when properly paired.

This unique experience also came with a crash course on the history of Mexican cocoa, the main ingredient used to make chocolate. Cocoa was once only consumed by ancient Mexican royalty. According to my tequila sommelier and a report by the World Agroforestry Centre, the Olmecs – an ancient tribe in Mexico – were thought to be the first people to consume chocolate. These indigenous people crushed the beans, added water, spices and chilies and drank the delicious elixir.

Ironically, last week an article came across my desk about cocoa. What were the odds that in the same week that I learned about the origins and use of this delicious nut, I’d also circumstantially run across an article about its production? I found the correlation too good to be true until I read the article and discovered the unfortunate state of cocoa production. Sadly, this article did not come with tequila, but the bitter reality of a lack of ethics in the cocoa industry’s supply chain.

As supply chain practitioners know, it is critical to know where and how your products are being sourced, but the farther you are geographically from the beginning of the supply chain, the harder it is to control…and in countries where labor laws are lax, it becomes even more tragic. This gets tricky with products that can only be produced in very specific environments. Cocoa is one such product that can only be grown 10 degrees north or south of the equator with the majority of its production in West Africa, the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Hailey Corr, Junior Editor and Marketing Associate, Outsource and SIG

What Does Augmented Reality Mean for the Sourcing Organization?

Augmented reality (AR), or mixed reality, is a technology every sourcing professional should understand. It may seem tangential, but forward-thinking executives will take heed as AR will become more and more prevalent in the sourcing industry. AR differs from virtual reality in that virtual reality is a total replacement of your current reality. Augmented reality can be thought of as a digital addition, or supplement, to your current reality. A perfect example is the Snapchat face filters - which overlay illustrations on digital images, specifically faces. My Snapchat buddies send me pictures of their faces with doggie ears attached and so on. Another example is the app Pokémon Go, in which participants found digital creatures in the everyday settings of their reality - places like the park, campus, restaurants and so on. Augmented reality is a technology that can provide packaged experiences that feel real. There are two major types of applications of AR in the market today, consumer and business/industrial.

You are probably familiar with Snapchat filters and Pokémon Go, but what about the augmented reality app that helps you decide where you might place new furniture in an existing room like Ikea offers? Or how about an AR app that allows you to point your device to the night sky and interact with the stars? Or an app that helps healthcare workers find the most appropriate place to insert an IV?

Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG

A Case for Humanity in the Digital Age

In recent months, Warren Buffett signaled what many saw as the death knell for the future of retail by selling off his company’s position in Wal-Mart, which Berkshire Hathaway had held for ten years. Simultaneously, ten national restaurant chains with more than 1,000 locations in total have filed for bankruptcy protection since 2015, and others are reporting disappointing sales. In contrast to all of that, however, Amazon reports growing sales this year in their home delivery service for groceries, trumpeting the growing trend that many people are beginning to embrace of ordering anything and everything online.

Welcome to the Digital Age.

We now live in a time when a hefty 74% of customers rely on their social networks to guide their buying decisions, and 92% of customers feel that online information is more trustworthy than other sources. Digital technology is becoming omnipresent, and it’s doing nothing less than rewiring human society. The critical inflection point at which technological innovation and human experience converge is called Digital Singularity.

There is profound uncertainty in all this, but more importantly, there is profound, unparalleled opportunity. Up until recently, technology was simply a physical tool, like a phone or typewriter, that was used to supplement our lives. Today, however, our relationship with technology has become much more cohesive. Technology is becoming part of how we live, work and play.  In fact, it is becoming an extension of us.

Kevin Parikh,

Improve Your Supply Chain Management with Social Media

As a supply chain professional, you already know the value in establishing and maintaining relationships, but are you maximizing your communication strategy? For millennials, the use of social media is natural; it’s a part of our everyday lives. For other generations, it’s hit-or-miss. Some people are social media privy, some are experts and some avoid it like the plague. Whether or not individuals choose to use social media from a personal standpoint is their own prerogative. Whether or not companies use social media for their brands shouldn’t be a question at all. We live in a digital age where virtually (no pun intended) everything is online. So, it makes perfect sense for you to market your brand online. While having a website is absolutely essential, you also need vehicles to drive traffic to it—one major channel for that is social media. If you’ve totally been ignoring digital transformation for your brand, let’s make a U-turn, take the bull by the horns and start with the following seven steps.

Choose your Platforms

There are 1.5 billion people using social media. Exciting, right? There is a whole virtual universe out there for you to explore. Each social media platform was designed for a different (sometimes just slightly) purpose. In addition, each platform generally reaches unique (yet sometimes overlapping) audiences. Once you understand each platform, you can develop your segmentation strategy. Don’t underestimate the power of these platforms for connecting with your suppliers, vendors and customers. They are using them too and you can learn a lot by being on the platforms they are frequenting.

Create a Voice That’s Consistent Across All Platforms

Ashley Walsh, Digital Marketing Manager

3 Tools to Manage Your Sourcing Online Presence and Reputation

You work hard to build a reputation that’s trustworthy. You’ve created a beautiful logo, compelling marketing collateral, engaging online campaigns and held endless photo shoots – and the list goes on. However, all your hard work is in vain, if you don’t know what others are saying about you or your suppliers.  For example, most companies don’t know if there are slaves in their supply chains. It might sound far-fetched, but human traffickers target unskilled workers to fulfill shortages all along a supply chain and if you’re like most companies, you aren’t even aware of it. Monitoring your online presence, in addition to the reputation of companies you do business with, will provide valuable insights for your brand, and more importantly – will keep you in the know when the reputation of others in question.

These social media tools can help you better monitor your online presence and the reputation of others.

Mention - Paid Service

Mention is an online platform that provides real-time web and social media monitoring. Mention is very user-friendly and is a great way to stay informed every time someone mentions your name, brand or dedicated keywords. The platform is able to monitor billions of online sources in various languages, providing you with super rich data as to what is trending or popular. You can set the platform to receive daily alerts, instantly respond to social media alerts from inside the web portal, set priority status and collaborate with your social media team to improve customer support. This is a great tool for people looking to increase their brand’s awareness, monitor their reputation and grow relationships both online and through social media.

Google Alerts - Free

Daafram Campbell, Marketing Manager, SIG

Should We Care Where Our Products Are Made?

global-economy

It was Made in America Showcase Week recently, according to the current administration (funny that it also coincided with Russia Week on Stephen Colbert). Anyone, wherever they live, likes to see local people employed. Whether it is an American who likes to see products marked with “Made in America,” a Canadian who swells with pride for “Made in Canada” or a British person seeing “Made in the UK.” The fact of the matter is that very few people are willing to pay more for those items. According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, 70 percent of Americans think it is “very important” or “somewhat important” to buy U.S.-made products.

Despite that sentiment, 37 percent said they would refuse to pay more for U.S. made goods versus imports. Twenty-six percent said they would only pay up to 5 percent more to buy American and 21 percent capped the premium price at 10 percent.

In addition, it is the lowest of wage earners who like “Made in America” and yet they are the least likely to be able to pay the premium. The reality is that most of us feel a patriotism to our own country and kinfolk, yet we are actually beholden to our wallets. The same lower wage earners who say they prefer made in America, and per the Reuters article said, “Indeed, the biggest U.S. retailer is well aware of the priority buyers place on price above all else.” A spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said customers are telling them that “…where products are made is most important second only to price.”

Dawn Tiura, President and CEO, SIG

The Impacts of Artificial Intelligence on Medicine

Our world is shaped by technology. From the second we wake up until the moment our heads hit the pillow at night, we are constantly interacting with technology to manage our lives, to get us from point A to point B or to check in on our loved ones through social media. We interact with Artificial Intelligence (AI) so often that most of us don’t even realize that we’re doing it. And if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to get distracted or overwhelmed by the new, flashy inventions that seem to be released daily. AI makes our lives easier, can even make a person’s life safer and in some cases, it can extend it.

I’m currently seeking my nursing degree and in my Essentials of Nursing class, it was discussed that in the US alone, 50% of all adults are living with at least one chronic disease. These illnesses not only have an impact on a person’s overall health and their independence, but it can also pose an enormous financial burden. In 2015, the total national health expenditures were $3.2 trillion and those costs are continuing to increase, especially as our population ages. Within 10 years, the population of people above 65 years of age will exceed the number of children under five for the first time in human history.

Brittany Miller, Marketing Analyst, SIG

5 Considerations of Adult Learning

There is a story where a retiring home builder was asked to build a final home. He was known for building wonderful homes with every detail precise, and his boss wanted one last house constructed before his retirement. The builder was very reluctant and agreed despairingly.

The builder did not take his time with the home, the materials were not his usual top quality and his work was sloppy. He was tired, and it showed. At the end of the construction, the boss handed the builder the keys and said, “After all your years of service, I wanted to give you this home.”

In life, we are the home and we must make choices on how we want it constructed. One of the choices many people make is to go back to school to learn a new trade or enhance their skills. Working professionals must weigh the options and determine the best learning opportunity for them. I have worked with adult learners for over 12 years and have compiled five things adults should consider:

1. Learning platform/accessibility
2. Curriculum/content
3. Customer service
4. Continued education
5. Recommendations

The learning platform is the methodology of how the information is transferred from the educator to the student. Adult learners must potentially juggle obligations with work, family, social responsibilities and personal leisure, which could get in the way of knowledge transfer. Educators today are focusing efforts on building comprehensive online learning platforms that support the working adult learner. I would look for online education opportunities, but make sure that they have a thorough onboarding process where they provide the tools for a successful learning experience.

Mark Pollack, Vice President, SIG University and Chief Strategy Officer, SIG

It’s My Party, and I’ll Learn About Sourcing if I Want To

SIG Resources

Today is my birthday.  As commonly happens on birthdays, we tend to reminisce over the past year(s).  And because so much of our life is spent working, this is where my reminiscing takes me because I get to work with my best friend for a company I love, not only because I get to work from home, but because it’s existence is what I dreamt of many years ago when I was younger and (more) clueless.  Yes, I know… it sounds corny, but it’s true.  After all, it was a little less than 15 years ago that I landed in the sourcing world working for a small supply chain management and procurement solutions provider, Enporion.  I had no clue what acronyms like SCM, VMS, P2P, RFP, or SOW were, nor this strange idea of “Reverse Auctions.” 

I have such fond memories working at Enporion, but anytime I tried explaining my job to family or friends I got that “deer in the headlights” stare and I felt like I was a part of some small secret society.  Back then, Mary Zampino (fellow SIG-let) and I had virtually no resources available to us on how this whole “procurement” thing worked. We tried to come up with best practices, templates, and other tools to make our sourcing clients jobs easier and offer them the most process improvement and cost savings possible. We dreamed of creating a knowledge library of resources that we so desperately needed ourselves so that others wouldn’t have to work so tirelessly to do their jobs. 

Liz Mantovani, Senior Manager of Innovation, SIG

Getting Started with RPA

The Hackett Group, in conjunction with Symphony Ventures, recently published a whitepaper regarding Robotics Process Automation (RPA). (You may recall that Symphony Ventures conducted an excellent RPA proof of concept at the SIG 2017 Spring Summit with American Honda.) In this whitepaper, the authors provide a blueprint for selecting sourcing opportunities appropriate for RPA. Any sourcing professional worth their salt, should be considering RPA as a viable strategy after reading this statement, "Individual tasks of such processes may be fully automated with RPA, eliminating 100% of labor and up to 90% of cost. The total efficiency improvement achievable through holistic transformation using RPA across end-to-end transactional process can add up to 50% to 75% of baseline cost."

Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG

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